Government to push 'green' agenda


The Government will unveil a major document on sustainable development today that it has said will put the ‘green’ agenda at the heart of all future policy.

The document, which will be launched by Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan, has listed 70 actions to be implemented over the course of the next decade. The actions range across all policy areas including health and education.

They comprise expected legislation such as the long-awaited climate change bill and policy measures such as water charges and the establishment of Irish Water.

But the paper has also proposed a number of new – and potentially controversial measures – principally, new environmental taxes that will replace labour taxes.

The key proposal is for a shift of the tax base away from investment and labour, towards taxing pollution.

“This would help contribute to the Government’s objective of creating a resource-efficient and smart, green economy,” the report has stated.

“The Carbon Tax already in place is an example of the effective use of environmental taxes for revenue-raising purposes.”

However, it has concluded that these new tax measures will not be implemented until well into the future.

“The scope for action on taxation over the short to medium term is limited by the budgetary constraints currently facing Ireland.

“The longer term aim should be to have a tax system which is sustainable both from the standpoint of raising revenue and supporting national development,” it has stated.

The 115-page framework, entitled Sustainable Future will Ireland’s main national contribution to the Rio + 20 Conference on sustainable development which takes place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil later this month.

That conference is the successor to the conference held in the Brazilian capital in 1992, that first highlighted how continuing human development was creating a global problem that could not be sustained.

Mr Hogan said last night that keeping Ireland clean and green, and putting sustainability at the heart of policy decisions, would be central to the Government’s plans over the next two decades.

He said there was sound reasoning behind the plan and it would help attract new jobs, expand the tourist sector and would also ensure that Ireland retained an international reputation as a ‘green’ country.

Another major plan will be what is described as shifting the fiscal focus towards the green economy. The report says that shift will mean a phasing out any subsidies that are harmful, including those on fossil fuels.

The Government will also try to expand on more positive measures such as the green hospitality programme.

This programme is already running in the tourist industry and has achieved – by means of practical steps - major environmental efficiencies.

Another goal is for big improvements in recycling, including a substantial reduction in the practice of exporting recycled materials such as plastics because they cannot be processed within the State.

The report will be launched by Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Tánaiste Éamon Gilmore and Mr Hogan this afternoon.