There would be "no immediate benefit" to delaying the planned carbon tax increase on home fuels because it "won't affect anybody struggling through this winter", according to the environmental group Friends of the Earth.
An increase on the carbon tax on home heating fuels is due to come into effect on May 1st, with an increase on transport fuels scheduled for October 12th. Sinn Féin is to table a motion in the Dáil on Tuesday calling on the Government to scrap the plans to increase the tax.
The party's spokesman on finance, Pearse Doherty, said workers and families were facing "a cost of living crisis" and called on all parties to support the proposal.
Director of the environmental group Friends of the Earth, Oisín Coghlan, said the carbon tax was “a distraction when it comes to the issue of protecting the most vulnerable from energy price rises right now”.
Deferring the increase in carbon tax for home heating fuels “isn’t going to help anybody get through this winter and the price rises we’re already facing now,” he said.
Friends of the Earth believes the Government “must do everything required” to ensure those at risk of fuel poverty and those living in poverty are not disadvantaged by the rise in international energy prices, but “changing the carbon tax isn’t going to solve it,” Mr Coghlan said.
A delay to the increase in carbon tax would forgo income the State can use to help alleviate fuel poverty through the fuel allowance and to invest in retrofitting, he said.
In the Programme for Government, the Coalition said it would increase the tax on carbon by €7.50 per annum to 2029, and by €6.50 in 2030, in order to bring it to €100 per tonne. The tax currently stands at €33.50 per tonne of CO2 produced.
The additional tax revenue to be raised in the period to 2030 is to go into a €9.5 billion Climate Action Fund, with €3 billion to be used to target fuel poverty by way of social welfare.
The solution was to “get rid of our dependence on fossil fuels,” Mr Coghlan said.
Carbon taxes were supposed to encourage people to seek alternatives, but Sinn Féin did not believe the alternatives were there, a spokesman for the party said.
“If the alternatives were there, we would support it,” Mr Doherty said. The party is not seeking the reduction of the carbon tax that is already in place.
Economist and former chairman of the State's Climate Change Advisory Council John FitzGerald told RTÉ Radio One on Sunday morning that the retrofitting package "may need to be tweaked" to target houses that are reliant on oil.
Retrofitting houses would be a “big issue” for the Government and managing it going forward would be “very difficult”, he said.
A key area the State could take action on tomorrow to reduce emissions was forestry, he said.
The latest data on emissions from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), published in October, shows that Ireland's greenhouse gas emissions decreased by 3.6 per cent in 2020, less than the reduction seen in 2019.
Lockdown measures in response to the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in a 15.7 per cent decrease in transport emissions, the largest sectoral emissions reduction, while peat fuelled electricity generation decreased by 51 per cent.
Together with a 15 per cent increase in wind generation, this led to a 7.9 per cent reduction in energy industry emissions.
Residential greenhouse gas emissions increased by 9 per cent, with a substantial increase in intensive fossil fuel use driven by low fuel prices and working from home at the time.
While the overall reduction in emissions at the time was “welcome”, the majority of the reduction was due to the short-term decrease in transport emissions which was “likely to be a once-off”, the EPA said.
Laura Burke, the EPA’s director general told the Business Post on Sunday it was “hard to see” how carbon emissions would fall this year based on latest information.
New data from the EPA is to be published in the coming weeks, the agency said.