The Green Party leader has vowed that the Government will spend at least one million euro every day on walking and cycling infrastructure.
Eamon Ryan told his party’s national convention on Saturday that the Government needs to give climate change the same urgent response as the pandemic has received in recent months.
Mr Ryan said: “In the upcoming budget I expect us to deliver further on our commitments by spending at least one million euro each day on active travel and to target three quarters of the massively enhanced retrofitting budget to low income and social housing.”
The Transport Minister said he believed the Government took the right approach by introducing a 5.2 billion euro stimulus package in July, adding that he was pleased that they were able to target emergency funding for active travel and retrofitting measures.
“If Covid-19 has reminded us of anything it is surely that we are not immune to threats that come from stress to our natural world,” he said.
“We need to show the same urgency in our response to the climate and biodiversity crisis that we used in response to the pandemic.
“The next year is a critical point in time.”
The Dublin Bay South TD said Ireland would attend the 26th meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Glasgow to “either to change the course of history and introduce a sustainable economic system or else fail and allow the destruction of our natural world”.
“In this bigger crisis there is no vaccine or recovery plan that can protect us,” he said. “We have to act now, and I am confident that the Irish People and our Government will be up to it.”
He said reflecting on the last year there were signs of such hope, despite the hard times.
He added: “For the most part we pulled together and acted in social solidarity to try and keep the virus at bay – the exceptions only going to prove the rule that we are a caring and compassionate country.”
He said seven months on that solidarity was being tested, but that he believed the core commitment of the Irish people to work together through this pandemic is still intact.
“We have a particular challenge in Government to try and get the balance right between saving lives and protecting livelihoods,” he said.
“No doubt we have made mistakes, and in all likelihood we will not get everything right in all the hard calls ahead but I still have faith in our people and our public administration and democratic system to get us through.”
Mr Ryan described the establishment of a commission on the future of media as one of the most important tasks that the Government has to undertake.
He said, in tandem with the media commission deputy leader Catherine Martin, they would be advancing the online safety and media regulation bill and plans for an Online Safety Commissioner in the coming weeks.