Report urges congestion charges, fuel carbon tax


Congestion charges for motorists and a carbon tax on fuels are among the recommendations included in a new report on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The report from the Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA) states that Ireland needs to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions to avoid damaging the economy. It also claims a major rethink of the Government's National Climate Change Strategy is needed.

The IIEA report, The Climate Change Challenge: Strategic Issues, Options and Implications for Ireland,was unveiled by Minister for the Environment John Gormley this afternoon.

Many of the recommendations are concerned with emissions from the transport sector, which are up by at least 160 per cent since 1990.

In addition to introducing congestion charges to encourage people to leave their cars at home, the report calls for the immediate introduction of a carbon tax on all fuels purchased by consumers.

It also pushes for the implementation of workplace parking levies, the abolition of VRT and motor tax on electric vehicles and a move towards making all new buildings carbon neutral by 2020.

While it notes that some of these options would be unpopular, it claims that they would "set the country on a long-term trajectory to break the economy's dependence on fossil fuels and move it towards a low carbon future."

Over 60 experts from the public sector, academia, environmental organisations and the social partners contributed to the 170-page report.

Speaking at the launch of the report, Dr Peter Brennan, chairman of the IIEA's Climate Change Working Group, said the EU's proposals to reduce carbon emissions by up to 30 per cent by 2020 "will have profound implications for the Irish economy".

"Not only businesses, but farmers, commuters and households will have to start adapting to a new way of life as Ireland will have no option but to reduce - in the most fundamental manner - its current over-dependency on fossil fuel," said Dr Brennan.

The report calls for a rethink of the Government's climate-change strategy to avoid what it calls a "distance to target" on emissions ahead of an anticipated agreement to the EU's Climate Change Strategy.

The IIEA research claims "minimum compliance" options to cut emissions would leave Ireland completely unprepared for the transition to a low-carbon economy, reduce quality of life for all and damage the country's attractiveness as a destination for foreign investment.

Employers group Ibec called on the Government to update the National Climate Change Strategy to ensure that addressing the problem of climate change becomes the shared priority of the State, businesses and consumers.

“Government must pursue the right policies, so business will invest and deliver the required low carbon and energy efficient products and services that are needed. The enormous potential of business to tackle climate change has yet to be fully exploited. Prioritising energy efficiency can deliver real competitive advantages, while simultaneously reducing emissions,” said Ibec head of Business Infrastructure Donal Buckley.

“Choices made by the public influence over 50 per cent of emissions. They require information, incentives and the opportunity in order to make the low carbon choices,” he added.