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Varadkar: Green Party demand for 7% emissions cut ‘extremely ambitious’

The Taoiseach said any pledge by the next government to cut carbon emissions must be made with the economy in mind.

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(Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland/PA)

(Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland/PA)

(Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland/PA)

Leo Varadkar has said the effects on the economy must be considered if the next government is to cut carbon emissions.

The Taoiseach was speaking after the Green Party demanded a pledge for a 7% cut in annual carbon emissions to go into coalition with Fianna Fail and Fine Gael.

The two parties have tabled a framework document to a number of smaller parties to convince them to join a coalition administration.

On Tuesday night, the parties sent a joint letter to the Greens addressing the 17 points the party raised about the blueprint for coalition.

Speaking in Dublin on Wednesday, Mr Varadkar, the Fine Gael leader, said: “The Green Party are meeting today to discuss their response to our letter and it is also being shared with the Fianna Fail and Fine Gael parliamentary party.

“I hope they give the letter close consideration. We are very keen to enter formal talks on forming a government as soon as they are willing to do so.

“The target they set of 7% is extremely ambitious and we accept we need to be ambitious when it comes to climate change.

“We will be interested in talking to them about how we can achieve more ambitious targets than the current one and maybe even the 7% one.

“We don’t want to commit to a target that can’t be done. We want to understand what impact achieving that target would have on poverty and unemployment and the economy – particularly the rural one.”

Meanwhile, Junior Minister John Halligan said that Government may have to “push” the Green agenda to the side as the country grapples with its finances after the pandemic.

He told a press conference on Wednesday that investment should go into maintaining current jobs and creating new roles.

He added: “I’m not privy to the negotiations that are taking place, but I will say this. I think that when this crisis is over, or as we are coming to the end of this crisis whenever it will be, the financial implications due to Covid-19 will be severe.

“I think whatever finance we have, whatever investments we’re going to have to make, will have to be directed to the sustainable jobs that are there, creating new jobs and a whole heap of people that will be on social welfare.

“I think that we have to think very carefully as to where we invest the money that we would have.

“Will it be in the Green agenda? We may have to push some of that aside for the next couple of years.

“I think the people of Ireland will respect that and accept that.

“Our job now will be to protect the jobs we have, create new jobs and protect those that have lost their jobs.

“If there is a huge cost to what the Greens are looking for, well, if I was in government I wouldn’t be accepting it.”

He also said he believes the current Government should “stay the course” for another few months.

PA