Ibec warns that past economic growth came at an ‘environmental cost’

27 Feb 2020

Image: © fireglo/Stock.adobe.com

Ibec’s first quarterly report for 2020 has advised the next Government to bring together all stakeholders in the Irish economy to tackle the climate crisis.

With a new Government yet to be formed, business and employers’ body Ibec has published its first 2020 quarterly report, offering four key issues that the next Taoiseach and ministers will need to address.

Among these was the issue of tackling the climate crisis, with the organisation now calling for industry, trade unions, environmental groups, local representative groups and political parties to work together to meet our international obligations.

There was also a call for better planning in the roll-out of both smart energy systems and sustainable infrastructure. This would include the development of public transport, afforestation and carbon sequestration.

Furthermore, supports and incentives for businesses and households are needed to boost energy efficiency and spark encouragement for new renewables technologies.

In its assessment of climate action so far, the Ibec report said that while Ireland has prospered in recent years following the 2008 crash, “it has come at an environmental cost”.

“Decisive action is needed in Ireland to decouple emissions and economic growth and build the foundations of a sustainable, competitive low-carbon economy,” the report said.

Urgent need to fill STEM roles

On the issue of jobs, while the unemployment rate sits at 4.8pc – close to full employment – the largest sector vacancy rate is in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). At 2.7pc – as a percentage of total employment – it is more than three times the average rate for all jobs.

There are currently 2,500 unfilled positions in STEM, representing 15pc of all vacancies. It is also difficult to fill certain high-skill roles in finance and IT.

Elsewhere, one of Ireland’s key economic pillars was also brought into question, with incoming global tax rules expected to have a major impact on the country’s foreign direct investment (FDI) model. Adding that while Ireland is an easy place to start a business, it’s “a difficult one in which to grown one”.

For this reason, Ibec said that the next government will need to set up a new commission for taxation to ensure the current FDI model is sustainable, including providing certainty on the 12.5pc corporation tax rate.

Critically, the report added, the surplus of this State revenue should be ring-fenced for the country’s wellbeing, including key infrastructure, education and overall quality of life.

“We remain a rich country,” it said. “There needs to be a social dialogue process and commission on taxation to help us manage the trade-offs involved in beginning to act like one.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic