The Green Party will seek a €20 increase in carbon tax in the budget, twice the amount that is being considered by Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe.
Party leader Eamon Ryan told the party’s elected representatives at its think-in in Cork at the weekend that the party wanted the carbon tax to increase to €90 per tonne (from the present €20 level) by 2030.
A €20 per tonne increase in the budget would add about 6 cent to each litre of fuel and increase the size of a bale of peat briquettes by 60 cent. Mr Donohoe is said to be focusing on an increase of €10 per tonne of carbon emitted. The Climate Change Advisory Council has suggested an increase of €15.
Mr Ryan said action needed to be taken immediately and not at the end of the decade when it will be too late. The system should be a “pay and dividend” one, which would not be regressive and would protect the most vulnerable.
The party made large advances in the recent elections, winning two European parliament seats, and 49 seats in the local elections. It is poised to make substantial gains in the general election next year.
On Saturday, the party leadership indicated strongly that it will draw up tough red lines, and impose strong preconditions, before going into coalition with any party.
Leading party figures said at its think-in in Cork that if the next government involved the Greens it must be prepared to tackle the huge challenges of climate change immediately.
Party chairman Roderic O’Gorman said it would include a reversal of the two-to-one ratio of spending prioritising roads over public transport. He and the party’s finance spokesperson, Neasa Hourigan, also said it would involve a complete rewriting of the National Development Plan.
“Ireland 2040 is a busted flush. It is not carbon budgeted. By 2040, Ireland is going to look a very different place and operate very differently,” said Mr O’Gorman.
The party announced the Offaly councillor Pippa Hackett as its candidate in the byelection caused by the election of its sole senator, Grace O’Sullivan, to the European Parliament.
Ms Hourigan said: “This has to be about system change and that will be a big ask and an ambitious programme. Other parties will have to move with us on that.
“At the very least we need to seriously change the amount we subsidise fossil fuels and carbon heavy industry.
“There is little discussion about the fines we are facing for missing our 2020 EU climate emissions targets,” she said.
Dún Laoghaire councillor Ossian Smyth said experts and groups across the environmental and sustainability spheres have been making 15-minute pitches to it on what its policy priorities should be.
Dublin City councillor Caroline Conroy said the Greens would be determined to be solutions-focused: “We found on the doors [in Dublin North West] a lot of people were really annoyed with Sinn Féin, saying it was always giving out and not coming up with solutions,” she said.
Mr Ryan said the party would be emphasising a green, new deal in its budget submission. The party will also table a Private Members’ Bill on a “just transition” this week which will outline how those impacted by climate change, or societal change to lower emissions, will be protected. It will look at alternative income streams for farmers cutting down on dairy and meat production, workers at fossil-fuel power generators, and other impacted by climate change.