All-party climate action committee reaches agreement on carbon tax rises

Last-minute amendment agreed to support those on low income before taxes imposed

Hildegarde Naughton, chairwoman of committee. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons / THE IRISH TIMES

Hildegarde Naughton, chairwoman of committee. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons / THE IRISH TIMES

 

The all-party Committee on Climate Action have reached agreement on a far-reaching series of actions to scale up Ireland’s response to global warming. It includes proposals for a series of carbon tax rises up to 2030 – with the first increase likely to be in the 2020 budget.

The report follows seven months of scrutiny by committee members on how the State can lead on climate action and embrace recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly. It was placed before the houses of the Oireachtas on Thursday night after a last-minute stumbling block on carbon tax was overcome.

An amendment was agreed by Labour, Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Green Party members minutes before the committee was due to go into its last public meeting. It required the Government put in place “an evidence-based plan” to support those on low income, or experiencing “fuel poverty”, before the carbon tax on fossil fuels is increased.

The amendment adopted by majority decision also agreed revenues gathered from carbon taxes should be ring-fenced for climate actions, and it endorsed the recommendation of the Climate Change Advisory Council that the tax would be increased from €20 per tonne of CO2 to €80 over the next decade.

Sinn Féin and Solidarity-People Before Project voted against the report because of the carbon tax measures.

Fianna Fáil on Wednesday had refused to set a figure that would have increasingly penalised fossil fuel usage but its climate spokesman Timmy Dooley said he was pleased by the compromise.

Sinn Féin’s representatives led by TD Brian Stanley accused the four parties of undermining the non-partisan approach of the committee.

It published a minority report which recommended no increase in carbon taxes and argued such a tax did not reduce emissions. “Carbon tax hasn’t worked. Increasing it won’t work. The proposals from the other parties will impact harder on ordinary working people and families,” it added.

The report, however, has been strongly welcomed by climate campaign groups and international aid organisations. Stop Climate Chaos Coalition said it “represents an historic mandate for the Government to immediately step up climate action to cut Ireland’s rising emissions”.

It warned, however, that Ireland, “must now urgently play catch-up if it hopes to achieve the immediate deep emissions reductions called for by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to prevent catastrophic climate change”.

IFA president Joe Healy said the support in the report for the Teagasc climate roadmap for Irish agriculture “was a victory for common sense”.

Labour TD Seán Sherlock said the report was the “most comprehensive response to climate change undertaken by this Dáil”.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said while the members divided on some key issues it was an impressive collaborative effort. “The key thing now will be to help turn the ideas into action. This committee will continue until the end of the year. We should have a key role in analysing the new National Energy and Climate Action plan that the Government has to agree with the European Commission by December.”

Minister for Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton welcomed the report and thanked the committee, “and in particular Deputy Hildegarde Naughton for her leadership as chair”, for achieving cross-party consensus on a number of difficult issues.

He said he would consider its recommendations in the context of the all of government climate plan. “Climate disruption can no longer be ignored, we must respond. The climate plan will set out how this Government intends to take the lead and will set out a range of actions, across all sectors . . . to step up Ireland’s response to climate change.”