Climate Change Advisory Council: Carbon tax needed in Budget

Chairman says without higher price on carbon, Irish CO2 emissions will continue to rise

The Government needs to introduce a carbon tax in the Budget and more than double it by 2030, if it is to have any chance of decarbonising Ireland in coming decades, according to the Climate Change Advisory Council.

A substantial tax on the burning of carbon-based fuels, such as coal, oil and gas, would require broad support in the Oireachtas if it was to be accepted and sustained, the council's chairman Prof John FitzGerald told the new Oireachtas Committee on Climate Change.

While other policy measures focused on “concrete actions” were urgently needed, without a higher price on carbon Irish CO2 emissions would continue to rise, he predicted.

The tax should be set at €30 per tonne of carbon produced and increased to €80 per tonne over the next decade, he told the committee, which is examining how to implement recommendations of Citizen’s Assembly on addressing climate change. It is also reviewing national policies in light an EU requirement that a draft “climate and energy plan” be completed by the end of 2018.


The tax was necessary to drive investment in low-carbon technology; adoption of renewable energy and the heating of homes without fossil fuels, Prof FitzGerald said, and help ensure cheaper energy for consumers.


He underlined the scale of investment required to retro-fit up to two million private homes, at an estimated cost of €30,000-€50,000 per house, by 2050. It would require subsidies and a suite of supporting policies if householders were to pursue the option.

“Co-benefits” needed to be stressed, he said. For example, if “Mrs Murphy from Mayo” was considering retro-fitting her home, she should know that doing so could save her significant amounts of money; make her home more comfortable, enhance her health and enable her to contribute to saving the planet.

The State, as landlord for 150,000 tenants in social housing, would need to spend some €5 billion to retro-fit its own housing stock. “It’s a lot of money. The Government will need all the help it can get from carbon tax,” he said, noting that some revenue would be needed for social welfare recipients facing higher energy costs in the short-term.

Generate electricity

Meanwhile, Minister for Climate Action and Environment Denis Naughten has said "low-carbon technology" will replace coal-burning to generate electricity at Moneypoint, Ireland's biggest power plant. Use of coal is to be ended at the ESB-run facility in Co Clare by 2025.

“We know that the science on this is clear. Coal phase-out must happen quickly if we are to meet the Paris Agreement objectives,” he told a meeting in San Francisco of signatory countries to the Powering Past Coal Alliance.

The alliance, which is leading a move to phase out coal use in developed countries by 2030, met at the Global Climate Action Summit being hosted by California governor Jerry Brown.

Mr Brown has brought together thousands of international delegates – including politicians, corporate leaders and NGOs – committed to cutting emissions. Mr Naughten is due to address the summit on Thursday.

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times