Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Committee on Budgetary Oversight

Pre-Budget 2022 Scrutiny: Irish Fiscal Advisory Council

Mr. Sebastian Barnes:

I agree with the Deputy that there is a complex situation with energy supply nationally. It is driven by a number of things. One relates to the impact of climate change and the policies that have been put in place for that transition. That is why the climate action plan is extremely important. The stakes are high, both with regard to safeguarding the climate and also the potential economic impacts. The costs of doing the wrong things will make that situation worse. That is why the climate action plan is important both from an economic and fiscal perspective. None of us on the council is an expert on these issues. Perhaps Dr. Bergin is - I do not know. This is not really our area of expertise but it is something we follow closely because it is important. There are some big risks associated with it and some big costs on the baseline. These are important issues and things that we will look at increasingly carefully.

To the council's credit, two years ago, our annual conference was on fiscal policy and climate. When we first set it up, it looked like we were maybe ahead of the curve and maybe not many people were thinking about the question. We learned a lot from that and it underlined how important these issues are. It has prepared us to look at them. One of the problems is that other problems are being dealt with at the same time. At the same time as climate change, there is also population ageing and other issues. Many things affect public finances, which is why good planning is so critical. If you try to fix one problem without thinking about how it interacts with other things, which the Deputy gave examples of, we could end up making some bad decisions.


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