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Sustainability, the Environment and Rural Communities
Budget 2020 does not contain the ‘bold and new decisions’ required to meet the ‘defining challenge’ of climate change.
There was no move to introduce a levy on single use coffee cups, to introduce a commercial air transport tax or to invest in the circular economy. We welcome the increase in carbon tax and ringfencing commitments (see page 3). However not everyone who will be most impacted is entitled to the fuel allowance and little progress was made on delivering a scaled up National Retrofitting Programme. The Midlands Fund is welcome, but must be replicated across all regions.
There was no progress on examining subsidies that the CSO has highlighted as potentially environmentally damaging. At the very least Budget 2020 should have committed to reporting to the Oireachtas on this in 2020.
The Brexit fund targeting agri-food, fishing, SMEs, and tourism is welcome, although a proportion of the funding announced is contingent on a no-deal Brexit. It is important to remember that Rural Ireland has needed and continues to need investment regardless of Brexit.
The lack of a regional development and transition programme to ensure that rural Ireland can adapt not just to the impact of Brexit, but the challenges that reducing our emissions and adapting to new technologies pose is disappointing. Such a programme would have ensured that sufficient investment was made in areas such as rural transport and in particular broadband which is crucial to support diversifying the rural economy. Without this investment it is difficult to see how rural communities will meet these challenges.