Ireland should phase out diesel and petrol vehicles but the Government must inform people of the costs involved in the change, according to the State's climate change watchdog.
The independent body said there should be a “phase-out of the internal combustion engine in private transport” but warned that there is no point in electrifying cars if they are run on “dirty” or fossil-fuelled power including electricity from coal-fired generating stations.
This call comes as Britain announced on Wednesday it would end the production of petrol and diesel cars from 2040. France made a similar announcement last week.
The Climate Change Advisory Council also warned that the Government will lose up to €6 billion in revenue if electric cars become the norm with the loss of income such as excise on petrol and diesel and lower car taxes.
This will have to be replaced with higher car tax for climate friendly vehicles and people need to be “prepared” and told in advance that while it would be cheaper going electric “it is not going to be free”, according to chairman of the advisory council Professor John FitzGerald.
The State will have to find a new way of raising revenue. “The council had not considered congestion charges but this would seem to be the way to go,” he said at the launch of the independent statutory body’s 2017 interim report.
The Government advisory group of 11 experts also gives farmers and their belching cows a reprieve. Ireland’s high emissions rate in agriculture - 32 per cent of the total - is linked to methane and nitrous oxide produced by belching cattle and fertilisers. The advisory council describes it as “enteric fermentation in animals and manure management”.
Professor FitzGerald said agriculture needs to reduce its emissions. They have to look at the long-term effects of methane “and the science is more complicated and it is not final”.
He said the UN was looking at the issue and “what the impact of the belching cattle is on the climate” must be scientifically proven.
“Until this is clear we are not making a specific recommendation.” But he said there are “easy wins for agriculture”. Changing the fertiliser farmers use could make a very significant reduction in emissions, he added.
The advisory group of 11 experts, rapped the Government on the knuckles over its failure to deal with its climate change commitments and to put effective measures in place to make Ireland a low-carbon economy.
The council said Ireland is likely to miss its 2020 targets by a “substantial margin”, one of five EU members expected to fail to meet the UN-agreed goals.
It is calling on the Government to introduce workable measures across all sectors of the economy so that the State will have an 80 per cent reduction in emissions by 2050.
It criticises the “lack of a framework” for policy priorities and says that while there are many “bright ideas” in the National Mitigation Plan launched earlier this month, “they are bright ideas, not decisions”.
The chairman also criticised the EU for failing to set electricity at a price that will drive out carbon. He said Germany and Britain were running coal-fired stations as is Ireland but if the EU “decides to make it uneconomic to use fossil fuels all of Europe will convert to renewable electricity in some form”.
The report recommends the removal of subsidies for the use of fossil fuels, particularly the price supports for electricity generated by peat. This should be done “as soon as possible”, while also providing supports for those who will lose their jobs.
The Climate Change Advisory Council is an independent, statutory body was established by legislation in 2015 and formally set up in January 2016. Its role includes advising the Government on national policy relating to climate change.