Budget speeches: No mention of carbon, emissions or climate

State likely to miss 2020 greenhouse gas targets, but Budget 2016 has little to say about it

A search of budget speeches made by Ministers Michael Noonan and Brendan Howlin on Tuesday, October 13th, 2015, failed to locate any of the words “carbon”, “emissions” or “climate”. File photograph: Carlos Jasso/Reuters

A search of budget speeches made by Ministers Michael Noonan and Brendan Howlin on Tuesday, October 13th, 2015, failed to locate any of the words “carbon”, “emissions” or “climate”. File photograph: Carlos Jasso/Reuters

 

Budget 2016 has been a surprise for what was not mentioned - if you’re interested in the environment.

A search of the budget speeches made by Ministers Michael Noonan and Brendan Howlin failed to locate any of the words “carbon”, “emissions” or “climate”.

It would seem the road tax imperative was to level the playing pitch between the Republic and Northern Ireland for commercial hauliers.

While hauliers have sought this every year since it was raised by Wexford haulier James Somers in 1973, policy-makers might have considered the timing an opportunity to clear up the mess that is our current road tax/emissions policy.

From January next, it will be cheaper to tax a six-wheel lorry than to tax many 10-year-old SUVs.

Particulate matter

While it may be a good thing to phase out older SUVs, the question of the particulate matter emitted by newer diesel engines, which carry less road tax, has not been considered.

Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe recently announced a public consultation on the development of a national policy for alternative fuels in transport, but we have been here before.

In the lifetime of the last government, hauliers were being assisted to turn to biofuels. That approach is not now encouraged because of the use of arable land for growing fuel in the developing world.

It was left to post-budget briefings to tease out an environmental policy. Minister for Energy Alex White announced €68 million for “energy-efficiency and renewable energy in 2016, supporting 2,750 jobs”.

Ocean energy research

He also announced €4.5 million for ocean energy research activities. “We are continuing to roll out better energy programmes, which are creating jobs, tackling fuel poverty, and contributing to reduced carbon emissions and major energy cost savings,” he said.

Among the initiatives he listed were:

* A pilot energy efficiency programme, targeted at people who suffer from acute health conditions and live in poorly insulated homes, to be launched as part of a new Affordable Energy Strategy in 2016.

* Businesses to be incentivised to switch to renewable energy through a Renewable Heat Incentive to be introduced in 2016.

* Grants for motorists who switch to electric vehicles to be maintained at their current levels, but an extra €1 million has been allocated for the scheme to reflect an anticipated increase in sales .

The Environmental Protection Agency has warned on many occasions that fiscal policy should firmly separate economic growth from rising levels of emissions. Ireland has emissions problems in agriculture, transport and the built environment, according to the consecutive reports from the agency.

The State is likely to miss its greenhouse gas reduction targets for 2020, and as a result is failing in its objective of becoming a low carbon economy, the agency has said. On this, Budget 2016 appears to have little to say.

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