The BUDGET DAY hype has come and gone, offering more money here and there to seemingly please everyone.
However, in reality, the budget gave us little vision for the country’s long-term future. Mostly absent was how the economy and society will need to transform to tackle climate change. Really, we should be thinking about the long term future of the economy, society and climate when deciding public spending.
A quick overview of global politics shows that there is a public appetite for bold and ambitious policies that address long- and short-term challenges, from climate change and energy prices to supply chains. disturbed.
Ireland is no different. Beyond all of these challenges, the country also faces the never-ending Brexit saga, a much-loved corporate tax rate hike and a host of long-standing issues highlighted as a result of the pandemic. , like the staff crisis at HSE and long waiting lists.
Fulfill our obligations to future generations
Instead of ambition, however, the budget focused on fiscal prudence.
In his budget statement, Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath said he wanted Ireland to become a “better and fairer place to live”.
At the same time, the minister warned those “who think we should spend more” that the state must reduce the deficit because “we owe it to our children and to future generations to be careful how we manage public finances. “.
I would answer that his argument makes no sense. It is precisely for our children and future generations that the government should invest in a new Ireland, without restraining spending.
We need an Ireland where indigenous industry is thriving, social inequalities are diminishing and climate action is advancing rapidly.
If the government is to replace the low-tax, business-friendly model currently under pressure around the world, a good choice would be to invest in becoming a global example of climate justice.
A chance to lead
Ireland could use public spending to show other countries how to help businesses and national communities engage in climate action in a way that reduces carbon emissions while producing a more just society and healthier.
A policy move like this would deliberately contrast with that of much larger countries like China, which has chosen to rely on coal-fired power plants to meet current energy demand while rethinking its timeline for targets. carbon emissions.
Earlier this year, the government pledged in the revised National Development Plan to spend â¬ 12.9 billion over the next decade to improve energy efficiency, transport and connectivity, as well as helping farmers reduce their emissions. Part of this investment is also going to higher education and training, with the promise of creating thousands of new jobs.
However, in the short term, increasing the carbon tax risks pushing some of the public away from climate action, especially middle and low-income families already strapped for cash, despite the additional income promised. by the budget.
To avoid negative reactions to this type of global, top-down decision-making, the government should link investment in climate action to community development, with the aim of giving local stakeholders more control over their own futures. This approach would in turn become the Irish framework for climate justice.
Climate justice in Ireland
The approach would certainly require the government to spend more at national and local levels, but also to regulate private investment to protect the public interest, with public input and clear public benefit.
The establishment of an offshore wind farm would probably be more welcome if its benefits were shared by local residents and if the investment created jobs for young people and generated better services. Conversely, data centers that consume energy and water without creating jobs can put residents at a disadvantage.
The government should also spend more to encourage changes in individual lifestyles that reduce both emissions and inequality. Climate justice would then become more inherent in being a citizen or resident of this island.
For example, the government should encourage customers, through measures such as taxes and vouchers, not to buy trendy or cheap meat in supermarkets. Both are harmful to the environment and are produced in environments often dependent on abusive working conditions.
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Instead, the government could help Irish consumers buy better quality local food and clothing that will last.
I am not optimistic that all of this is happening. The balanced budget playbook will win for now. However, this will not create a fairer future.
Shana Cohen is the director of Tasc, the think tank for action on social change.
This work is co-funded by Journal Media and a grant program from the European Parliament. All opinions or conclusions expressed in this work are those of the author. The European Parliament has no involvement or responsibility for the editorial content published by the project. For more information, see here.