Taoiseach accused of being ‘green poseur’ in carbon tax Dáil row

Varadkar accuses SF, left-wing parties of being out of touch with facts and science

The Taoiseach told the Dáil that the carbon tax   aimed to incentivise behavioural change and 27 Nobel prize winners backed the tax. “Carbon tax on its own won’t stop climate change but we won’t stop climate change without it.” Photograph: iStock

The Taoiseach told the Dáil that the carbon tax aimed to incentivise behavioural change and 27 Nobel prize winners backed the tax. “Carbon tax on its own won’t stop climate change but we won’t stop climate change without it.” Photograph: iStock

 

There were sharp exchanges between Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald in the Dáil on Wednesday over climate change and the Budget carbon tax increase.

Ms McDonald accused the Taoiseach of being a “green poseur” and not serious about climate change.

She said the increased charge was a “hoodwink, a ruse, an attempt to dupe people into believing your Government is taking the climate crisis seriously”.

The Dublin Central TD said the charge would impact the poorest households most, those dependent on social welfare, people on low incomes, and those in rural areas with poor public transport.

Ms McDonald said carbon taxes had not succeeded in reducing carbon emissions which affect global warming. “It’s been patchy - but the trajectory is going in the wrong direction.”

She said “€400 million is being spent every year since 2015 without changing behaviour and emissions aren’t dropping”.

But the Taoiseach told Ms McDonald “you are out of touch with the facts. You are out of touch with the science,” and he accused her and left-wing parties of being opportunistic.

“You and your party aren’t serious about climate action and neither are the far-left parties,” he said.

Better off

In a staunch defence of the charge he said the research showed the tax would cost the poorest households €44 a year but there was a €56 increase in the fuel allowance, €2 a week for 28 weeks, so the 20 per cent on the lowest incomes would be better off with the charge. He added that more than half of carbon tax is paid by business.

The charge aimed to incentivise behavioural change and 27 Nobel prize winners backed the tax. “Carbon tax on its own won’t stop climate change but we won’t stop climate change without it.”

The carbon tax income would be ring-fenced for reducing emissions.

Mr Varadkar rejected a call from Labour leader Brendan Howlin for a supplementary budget to increase welfare for those who would be most affected by a hard Brexit.

Mr Howlin, who was in office with Mr Varadkar in the 2011-2016 administration, claimed that this Government had done nothing for poorer people, even though it had far more funds than when he was in the Fine Gael-Labour coalition.

He also said the Government should have increased the current €150 million bank levy and he warned “the cost-of-living increase yesterday means the freeze on welfare payments is an effective cut to the income of the poorest people of the land”.

But Mr Varadkar said “we have no plans for a supplementary budget or an emergency budget”.

The budget was framed on there being a no-deal Brexit with growth of 0.7 per cent next year as opposed to 5.5 per cent this year.

“Since this is the budget that protects Ireland from the worst consequences of no deal, there will be no need for a supplementary budget or an emergency budget next year,” he insisted.