‘We won’t solve climate change without carbon tax,’ Taoiseach says

Varadkar rejects claims the charge would increase fourfold in next budget

Schoolchildren during a global protest for action to tackle climate change by school children at Leinster Houseearleir this month. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Schoolchildren during a global protest for action to tackle climate change by school children at Leinster Houseearleir this month. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

Carbon tax will not solve the problem of climate change, but “we won’t solve climate change without carbon tax”, the Taoiseach has told the Dáil.

Leo Varadkar emphatically rejected claims that the carbon tax would increase fourfold in the next budget. “There is absolutely no prospect of a carbon tax increase of that scale or anything remotely approaching it.”

He said “if there is an increase in the carbon tax it is my strong view that the carbon tax should be ring-fenced and the money given back to people in the form of increases in the fuel allowance” and in increased tax credits and in the form of a dividend model.

He was responding to Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald who said the way to fight climate change “is not to penalise ordinary families and working people by increasing their fuel charges or utility bills”.

Her party would not support any carbon tax increase that does not protect low and middle-income earners and did not ensure that polluters carried their responsibilities and pay their way.

She said “we already have high energy charges in this State and the current carbon tax has not lowered emissions”.

The Dublin Central TD said that loading another layer of tax on people is not going to change behaviour.

Unless the Government put in place measures to give families alternatives the carbon tax was a “punitive” tax on ordinary people.

Mr Varadkar hit out at Sinn Féin and said Ms McDonald should like the hard Brexiteers. “We know what she’s against but we don’t know what she’s for.”

He said the Government took the decision not to increase the carbon tax at the last budget because it was “very aware of the impact higher fuel taxes can have” on people who have to use their cars to commute to work, and on the cost of home heating.

But he said Ireland is way behind on its climate targets.

“We need to catch up and we also need to be honest with people,” he insisted.

“Carbon tax will not solve the problem of climate change, but we won’t solve the problems climate change without carbon tax. It is and has to be part of the solution. It involves three things regulation, investment in public transport and renewable energy and a carbon tax.”

He said the whole point of carbon tax “is that it’s done in a way that nudges people and corporations to change their behaviour”.