Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said he will fast-track new measures to break Ireland’s dependence on fossil fuels within the lifetime of this Government.
peaking at the party’s annual convention in Athlone on Saturday night, Mr Ryan indicated that by 2025 it should be possible to generate enough solar energy on sunny afternoons to power the entire country.
Previously, the Government had targeted 2030 as the year it would be able to reach similar solar targets.
Urgent action is needed “because at home and abroad we are witnessing catastrophic climate change”, the Environment, Climate and Communications Minister said.
“I’m signalling that we can bring forward our solar power targets by five years so that we will have installed 5,000MW of capacity by the time this Government finishes its term.
“What that means is that by 2025 there will be sunny afternoons when we are generating enough solar electricity to power the entire country.
“Just think about it – when the Green Party joined government in 2020, the country was powered by gas on those warm, summer days. By the time we finish in office, we will be powered by the sun.”
He also signalled a greater focus on wind energy, saying the electricity system was being transformed to power homes with renewables “so we are no longer held to ransom by Mr Putin or any other fossil fuel interest”.
He said the party was determined to put the “country’s long-term interest first even if you might have to take a short-term hit”.
Mr Ryan also used his speech to name-check the party’s ministers, their achievements in Government and to pitch targets for the next local and European elections, saying he would like to see support reach 10pc and achieve 100 council seats across the country.
This would more than double the party’s current representation at local level.
The 2024 elections were in focus for many attendees at the convention this weekend, with a 90-minute workshop held on getting election ready looking at campaigning, planning and canvassing.
“I am confident that one in ten will cast their vote for the interests of the next generation,” said Mr Ryan of the 2024 elections, “for their grandchild, niece or nephew, son or daughter or child next door.
“I am setting a goal tonight that one in ten Irish people will vote for this Green future in those next elections. Such a result would bring in 100 Green councillors, a new generation ready to serve both our people and the planet.”
Introducing Mr Ryan before his speech, the party’s deputy leader Catherine Martin used her address to focus on the theme of change, saying the party is “fulfilling and honouring our mandate to make it happen”.
She cited commitments to reduce emissions, the delivery of public housing on public lands in Dublin and Cork, and increased childcare, forestry, night-time culture, transport and online safety as areas where the party has delivered.
“This is real change. Not soundbites, not empty promises, but real, meaningful, long-lasting, impactful change and this change is happening because the Green Party is in Government,” she said.
Ms Martin also signalled she will soon be bringing proposals to Government for a new short-term letting register, to be operated by Fáilte Ireland, which it is hoped will lead to accommodation in the short-term letting sector being freed up for housing.
It is understood the proposals will require anyone offering accommodation for a period of up to three weeks to register with the tourism body.
Fáilte Ireland estimated up to 12,000 properties would be moved from short-term letting to long-term housing under the scheme.
If legislation underpinning the plans progress through the Oireachtas and EU notification procedures, it is envisaged the register could be in place by the end of March.
Ms Martin also welcomed TDs Neasa Hourigan and Patrick Costello back into the parliamentary party during her address.
Both TDs had lost the party whip for six months after voting against the Government earlier this year after a disagreement in relation to the location of the new National Maternity Hospital.
Earlier in the day there were a number of small pickets and protesters outside the convention venue, with people raising concerns about restrictions on turf cutting, the impact of climate restrictions on farmers and others calling for more restrictions on hare coursing.
The party’s convention continues on Sunday.