Budget 2019: Green campaigners reveal their fury over carbon tax freeze

10 Oct 2018

Image: © kamilpetran/Stock.adobe.com

As the fallout from Budget 2019 continues, here is some of the loudest criticism regarding the Government’s decision to not bring in a carbon tax increase.

At least for another year, carbon tax will remain the same, with the announcement in Budget 2019 by the Government surprising almost everybody.

In his speech to the Dáil yesterday, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe, TD, said that €164m will go towards achieving energy efficiency and renewable energy directives. Additionally, €103.5m will be allocated to grant and premium rates for planting forests, €70m will go towards a scheme to reduce carbon emissions in beef production, and €70m will be for a waste management programme.

But much of this was largely forgotten about after Donohoe contradicted the assumption that Ireland’s position as one of Europe’s biggest polluters would see the introduction of a €10 increase in carbon tax.

Rather, Donohoe said it will be something for the future. “It is my intention to put in place a long-term trajectory for carbon tax increases out to 2030 in line with the recommendations of the Climate Change Advisory Council and the special Oireachtas Committee, which are examining climate changes.”

How the Government came to the decision to postpone its introduction remains to be seen, but pressure on Ireland is only going to increase from the EU and environmentalists following the publishing of the near-apocalyptic global climate report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Even on a national level, Ireland was shown to be one of the worst offenders for emissions in all of Europe, with the Climate Change Advisory Council stating in July that the country was “completely off course in terms of achieving its 2020 and 2030 emissions reduction targets”.

‘A giant two-fingers to younger generations’

Unsurprisingly, criticism of the decision has come from multiple groups, most notably the Irish environmental coalition called Environmental Pillar, which said it was “shocked” and that the Government sent “a very clear message to the world and the people of Ireland about its lack of commitment to tackle out-of-control emissions”.

Oisín Coghlan, budgetary spokesperson for the Environmental Pillar, said: “The Government’s U-turn on the carbon tax is a giant two-fingers to younger generations who will face climate chaos unless we act to drastically cut pollution.

“A two-fingers to everyone under 35, a two-fingers to the Paris Agreement and a two-fingers to the hundreds of millions of people already living with the devastating impacts of climate change in Africa, Asia and Latin America.”

The Green Party, meanwhile, claims that the Government has hit the “snooze button” as it attempts to sleep through the climate change crisis. The party’s deputy leader, Catherine Martin, TD, said: “Fine Gael have given in to the short-sighted populism of the Independent Alliance because the truth is that this Budget suits them every bit as much.

“Ireland will thrive under a green economy – nobody in Government gets that.”

Defending the move

From a consumer perspective, however, some have said they welcomed the decision to not introduce the increase, saying it would have added significant pressure to household budgets.

Daragh Cassidy, head of communications at price comparison site Bonkers.ie, said: “Depending on the supplier, the recent energy price increases over the past few months have added up to €255 to the average customer’s annual gas and electricity bill, which is huge.

“As such, the Government was probably wise to decide to leave the carbon tax unchanged for this year as any increase would have put further strain on household finances and led to even higher energy bills.”

A survey published by the Irish Independent would appear to back this claim, with 84pc of respondents saying they could not have afforded the €10 increase.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic