Escalating carbon tax increases on the way, says Richard Bruton

Minister for Environment’s plan will need co-operation of Government and Oireachtas

The new Minister for the Environment Richard Bruton (left) says Project Ireland 2040 was designed to ensure that future growth is “compact, connected and sustainable”. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

The new Minister for the Environment Richard Bruton (left) says Project Ireland 2040 was designed to ensure that future growth is “compact, connected and sustainable”. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

New Minister for the Environment Richard Bruton will set out a proposed trajectory of rising carbon taxes early next year going up to 2030.

In setting out what the level of carbon tax will be in five years and in 10 years, it would need the co-operation of both Government and the Oireachtas, he acknowledged. The measure was against a backdrop of the recent UN report that showed risks from climate change were “on an escalating scale”.

“Increasing carbon taxes will have a strong role to play, and I believe that we need to set a trajectory for increasing carbon taxes between now and 2030. It is important that people have this certainty,” Mr Bruton told the Climate Innovation Summit in Dublin Castle.

The move would allow people to start to make decisions in light of the trajectory. The decision not to increase the carbon tax in last month’s budget acknowledged that people were often locked into fossil fuel use and had experienced a sharp rise in prices recently, he said, but that could not alter necessary long-term climate actions.

In his first statement on climate change since taking office, Mr Bruton announced, with the Taoiseach’s imprimatur, that he is to lead the development of an “all of Government” plan which set out what actions every department must take in response to climate change.

Ireland is far off course to achieve the CO2 [reduction] targets which we have committed to. I want to make Ireland a leader in responding to climate change, not a follower. That will require a significant step change across government,” he added.

Ireland as a leader

Being a leader meant “acting now, stretching ourselves and seizing the enterprise opportunities in a low-carbon economy ... Being a follower means the final costs of adjustment are much higher and opportunities much lower or completely lost”.

He added: “It will require a revolution in how we live. Every person, every community, every business, every home and every school will have to make changes in the way we live and work and learn.”

Given the scale of the challenge, there was a need for growing political consensus on this, Mr Bruton said. “I intend to work with all parties and none, and with the Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action.”

The National Mitigation Plan was an initial first step to set Ireland on its way to decarbonisation but “by its own admission it was not a complete roadmap. We now need to move to undertaking that more detailed mapping of the journey we need to travel will be done”.

The Government plan would follow the approach of the Action Plan on Jobs deployed after the economic crash. He said he would seek to work with colleagues in Government to develop new initiatives across electricity, transport and heat, as well as a range of other sectors and Government bodies.

Housing and cars

Project Ireland 2040 was designed to “ensure that future growth is “compact, connected and sustainable” and required a profound shift in behaviour patterns.

There was a need to “discourage new private or public investments being made now which lock us into high-carbon patterns of living”, he said.

Pricing mattered when it came to choices, he said. “Smart use of pricing can encourage easy changes in behaviour quickly, whether it be ride-sharing, night-time appliance use or simply more resource-conscious choices.”

In terms of immediate priorities, he cited the case of Dublin, which was not a low-carbon city, and his intention to scale up roll-out of electric vehicles and deep energy retrofitting of houses. He hoped the public sector would play a role in setting an example in the use of electric and hybrid vehicles.

A UN-supported programme that encourages global financial centres to place sustainable and green finance at the heart of their operations and help fight climate change is establishing its European base in Ireland.

The new European secretariat of the global Financial Centres for Sustainability (FC4S) network was launched by Mr Bruton at the conference, which is organised by Climate-KIC, the European climate innovation body. The network will co-ordinate from Dublin a network of pan-European cities committed to expansion of green and sustainable financial services.