So the Greens end the political season with a big militant demonstration on climate change. But at what political price for one’s own national standing and for future relations with the other coalition parties?
The main difficulty for the parties in any coalition is maintaining identity, often by branding specific achievements or actions with the party’s hallmark.
It’s difficult to manage. If you claim profits too often, you are abusing your partners in government. But if you don’t see yourself making gains in government, you risk losing the support of your activists and core supporters – and your party identity will be weakened nationally too.
Visibility is key to sustained popular support – and when you’re out of sight, potential voters tend to question what the point of their support is, as they never learn of a particular party’s machinations.
We’ve already seen a cohort of Fianna Fáil TDs, and the senators hoping to win seats in the Dáil warn their party is losing its identity in the coalition. She and some within Fine Gael speak of the Green Party as “wagging the tail that wags the coalition dog”.
It might actually be a good time to take the summer break and get back to things with calmer heads in September.
Realpolitik will tell the Greens that few people in the rural heartland, and even fewer farmers, will ever vote for them
But the budget day scheduled for September 27 also brings with it a set of intertwined issues that only postpone the day of reckoning.
Compared to the other two coalition parties, climate change is an absolute concern for the Greens. It is a central part of their raison d’être.
When Eamon Ryan and his colleagues last entered government in June 2007, they identified climate as a priority and put forward some ambitious plans to address it.
Then the economy spiraled out of control as our banking system fell apart amid a catastrophic real estate crash. When the Green Party left government buildings at the end of January 2011 and ended the coalition with Fianna Fáil, it was all about losing economic gunfights – and climate change was sidelined.
So there is a sense that it is now or never for the Greens in government. Admittedly, just like 2008-2011, other disasters – like the war in Europe and the Covid congestion – fill some of the space that should be allocated to this challenge.
Mounting evidence of a planet that is literally on fire and Ireland’s international and EU commitments mean that dealing with climate change cannot be brushed aside this time.
It must also be said that this time the Greens have significant legal and moral rights on their side.
The climate protection plan provides 125 billion euros to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 51 percent by the end of 2030. Two five-year carbon budgets aim to achieve this 51 percent reduction. A third budget will continue the transition to net-zero emissions by 2050 – but for this decade the focus is on the first two.
The outcome of this process and the standoff will eventually tell us whether or not we are serious about doing anything more than talking about the problem with concern.
It really is – terrible pun intended – the acid test.
Agriculture is not the only problem. But as it is responsible for 40 per cent of Ireland’s CO2 emissions, it has always been the main battlefield.
Some of the rural independents and elements within Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have fired some pretty cheap shots at the Green Party in general and Eamon Ryan in particular.
By contrast, the Green Party has not excelled at communicating with rural residents, and some of its ill-conceived messages have fostered the stereotype of the urban eco-fanatic.
But Mr Ryan and his senior colleagues know that the only realistic option for the Greens right now is to tackle climate change hard – and push for cuts in farm emissions by as close to 30 per cent as possible.
Only in this way can they maintain their central support and the belief of their activists – and only in this way can they maintain national visibility and respect.
Realpolitik will tell the Greens that few people living in the rural heartland, let alone farmers, will ever consider voting for them. On this occasion, there is very limited scope for a significant rollback.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/coalition-needs-cool-heads-on-climate-change-but-day-of-reckoning-cannot-be-postponed-forever-41872979.html Coalition needs cool heads when it comes to climate change – but the day of reckoning cannot be postponed forever