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Stop Passing the Buck

28 September 2007

JP at all-island conferenceThere was anger at the all-island infrastructure investment conference when Jonathon Porritt reacted to a statement by the republic’s finance minister, Brian Cowen, when he said that Ireland didn’t need to spend billions on sustainability because its size means its carbon footprint is comparatively low.

In response Jonathon Porritt said: “We get this in Whitehall as well – politicians saying that the UK contributes only 2% of global emissions and therefore we don’t have to worry about it. It’s a bad position because instead of making citizens think about their lifestyle and carbon intensity they’re letting them off the hook.”

The all-island infrastructure investment conference was held to discuss the ways in which the cross-border National Development Plan will plough a 100 billion euro into Ireland over the next 10 years.

As the keynote speaker Jonathon Porritt was concerned that Ireland is spending 270 million on carbon credits in the international market rather than using the money to reduce its own emissions. He stated: “A rich nation can always buy its way out of changing policy, a more inappropriate way of dealing with Ireland’s carbon emission is hard to imagine. Things aren’t much better in Britain.”

He told conference delegates that the reason green construction wasn’t taking off is because the industry is locked into what he called the property cycle of blame. He explained: “You have occupiers saying we want to live in green buildings, but there aren’t any. So contractors say, we can build them but developers don’t want them. Developers say we want them but investors won’t pay for them. The investors say, we would pay for them but there’s no consumer demand.”

The answer he said is implicit in the words of Sir Digby Jones: “It may be climate change that is driving this agenda but it’s business leadership that will get it sorted.”

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