Carbon tax about changing behaviour not revenue, says Minister

Window to address to climate action rapidly closing, Richard Bruton tells party colleagues

Minister for Climate Action Richard Bruton said the Government aimed to deliver a network of charging points for electric cars across the country. File photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Minister for Climate Action Richard Bruton said the Government aimed to deliver a network of charging points for electric cars across the country. File photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

The window is closing rapidly to address climate action in this country, Minister for the Environment Richard Bruton said on Monday before discussing climate initiatives, including an increased carbon tax, with Fine Gael TDs.

The party is meeting in Dublin in advance of the new parliamentary term which begins on Tuesday when the Dáil meets after the Christmas break.

“It is going to be the defining issue of this century,” Mr Bruton said. He said he was working on a “whole of Government plan” and intended to consult widely.

He acknowledged the Government was “well off-target” but pledged to make Ireland a leader in climate action, despite the lack of effective action so far.

Mr Bruton stressed that the point of any carbon tax increase – which has been widely signalled as a key part of the Government strategy to cut carbon emissions – was not to raise revenue, but to “change behaviour”.

“The important thing is that money will be recycled back, so people will be either getting a cheque in the post or getting rebate through the social welfare and tax system that compensates them,” he said.

“This isn’t a money grab to take money out of your pocket. This is to help people to make decisions for the long-term,” Mr Bruton added.

While an increase in the carbon tax is seen as inevitable, the Government is desperate to avoid a repeat of the water charges controversy where the introduction of a new charge sparked widespread protests and a subsequent retreat on the issue.

Mr Bruton said he had bought a hybrid car himself, but he understood many people especially in rural areas were anxious about the driving range of the cars.

He said the Government aimed to deliver a network of charging points for electric cars across the country.

Mr Bruton sidestepped a question about property tax which followed his Cabinet colleague Josepha Madigan suggesting that areas where there are higher property prices should have a lower rate of property tax. On broadband, Mr Bruton said he expected to bring a recommendation to the Cabinet on the national broadband plan “very shortly”.

Fine Gael TDs will be briefed on Monday afternoon by the chair of the all-party climate change committee, Hildegarde Naughton.

TDs will also discuss preparations for Brexit, the health service and forthcoming European and local elections in advance of the opening of the Dáil.