Cross-party approach to carbon tax to be sought at committee

Fine Gael TD says time for talking on carbon tax is over as public wants politicians to act

An attempt to agree a common position on increasing carbon taxes while protecting those on low incomes and experiencing fuel poverty will be made by TDs and Senators on the All-Party Committee on Climate Action on Thursday.

If a compromise is reached the committee’s report will be published and submitted to the Government despite a last minute standoff on setting a rising carbon tax level up to 2030, and criticism of failure to spell out how those worst affected by rising taxes on fossil fuel usage would be supported.

The committee will, however, not set a figure as had been advised by independent climate experts – a tax of €20 per tonne of CO2 already exists but the Climate Change Advisory Council recommended it be increased to €80 per tonne by 2030.

Fianna Fáil led opposition to specifying a figure, and at the last minute tabled a motion excluding the €80 figure. A counter amendment supported by Fine Gael, Green Party and Labour members was defeated.


Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley said on Wednesday they accepted the expert view that there was a need to increase carbon taxes, but it was unclear how those most affected would be supported.

He accepted Ireland needed to wean off fossil fuels but what the Government intended to do for those who could not afford to retrofit or insulate their homes needed to be made clear. In many cases these were people already struggling with mortgage or rent payments.

Four-fold increase

During the committee meeting in public session he was supported by Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley, who said a four-fold increase in carbon tax was being proposed without consideration of its impact on low-income households and rural people in particular, “without firm international evidence showing this works”.

Fine Gael and the Green Party has favoured a “fee and dividend” approach, under which all revenues would be returned to households by way of a cash payment, with supports for the less well-off. ESRI analysis predicted it would achieve a 17 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030, and be effective in penalising fossil fuels usage while increasing adoption of renewable energy sources.

Fine Gael TD Pat Deering said the time for talking on carbon tax was over as the public, including recent student climate strikers, wanted politicians to take action.

“It’s important we have a figure. If we don’t we will never be able to achieve anything. We are playing catch-up. Somebody has to pay for this. We have to take responsibility for our action.”

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said the political system needed to act collectively "and not heap responsibilities on individuals". Carbon tax was not the key measure in the report, but was needed in helping to decarbonise Ireland while doing everything possible to protect people on low incomes.

Big ticket items

He said agreeing a figure would provide certainty and allow the committee concentrate on the delivery of big ticket items, such as reaching a target of 70 per cent renewable energy use in power generation and creating a new future for Irish agriculture.

Labour TD Sean Sherlock said he had further amendments in mind that may help reach a common position on carbon tax.

The committee agreed to adjourn this aspect of the report to allow for further discussions overnight.

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

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