Carbon gas emissions
Madam, - There is no way that Ireland can meet its commitments under the Kyoto protocol, unless the economy implodes and large-scale emigration ensues. The baseline was set at the wrong time and did not take into account the Celtic Tiger era; hence the allowed 13 per cent increase for Ireland has already been breached and cannot be reversed in the time left.
The proposed carbon taxes will not change this situation, since it is well known that fuel costs are "price inelastic"; most commuters have no public transport alternatives to their car, most goods are carried by road. Agriculture is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for some 30 per cent of the total; it is difficult to see how taxing cows will help at all. So if carbon taxes are applied across the board, the resulting inflation will make industry and agriculture less competitive, resulting in job cuts, etc. Is this what we want? What can we do? We could always renege on Kyoto, following the lead of the US. A better solution is to take positive lifestyle and political measures to reduce usage. Thus we could encourage, through an enlightened taxation policy, renewable energy generation of electricity and fuel efficiency in new housing estates (triple glazing, heat exchange and solar panels as standard; discourage natural gas or oil-fired central heating). In transport, have registration taxes proportional to the cube, say, of the engine size: thus a 2 litre engined car would pay eight times more than a 1 litre, a 3L would pay 27 times more. A recent study on carbon-neutral passenger transport concludes that improvements to current internal combustion engine vehicles can cut energy and environmental costs by 50 per cent; Ireland should be promoting measures within the EU to force manufacturers into producing higher-quality engines.
Meanwhile here at home we need radically to improve public transport in cities and the countryside so that people have genuine alternatives.
All of these measures will gradually reduce greenhouse gas emissions without causing irreparable damage to the economy; indeed, if Ireland follows the lead of Iceland and opts for a more radical long-term solution based on a hydrogen society, there are real prospects of future growth and employment. Carbon taxes, on the other hand, will not work, except maybe to pay the fines that will be levied on us if we continue adhering to Kyoto. - Yours etc.,
JOHN SIMMIE, Furbo, Co Galway.