All-party committee signs off on ‘Good Friday Agreement’ for climate action

29 Mar 2019155 Views

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From next year, a series of increases for a carbon tax will be introduced as the all-party Committee on Climate Action finally came to an agreement.

Despite the appearance of a major stumbling block at the last minute, last night (28 March) a deal was signed among the country’s largest political parties that will begin Ireland’s path towards redemption in the eyes of climate activists.

The Committee on Climate Action has spent the past several months debating aspects of the report based on a number of proposals put forward by the Citizens’ Assembly. Now, according to The Irish Times, the committee has given the green light for the introduction of increases to a carbon tax.

These increases are expected to be introduced in the 2020 Budget – set to be put to the public later this year – and will run until 2030. This will see the carbon tax gradually increase from €20 per tonne of CO2 to €80 over the course of a decade.

Speaking after the announcement, Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton, TD, said: “Creating a price for carbon, the most prevalent greenhouse gas, will mean that the cost of the damage will be paid for, by the person who is polluting.

“The committee have also agreed with the 70pc renewable energy target by 2050, which I set out earlier this week.”

Under the agreement, the money raised from the carbon tax will be ring-fenced exclusively for climate initiatives.

It is worth noting that minutes before the committee was expected to begin its last public meeting on the agreement, an amendment was agreed by Labour, Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party. This will require the Government to put in place an “evidence-based plan” that those earning low incomes will not be forced into “fuel poverty”, with any support systems to be agreed before the carbon tax increases are implemented.

‘Kyoto for slow learners’

Not all parties agreed to the carbon tax increases, however, with Sinn Féin and Solidarity-People Before Profit voting against the report. A minority report published by Sinn Féin representatives said that these taxes will not reduce CO2 emissions.

“Carbon tax hasn’t worked. Increasing it won’t work. The proposals from the other parties will impact harder on ordinary working people and families,” the minority report said.

In contrast, climate advocacy groups have strongly welcomed the report, with Friends of the Earth Ireland director Oisín Coghlan describing it as the “Good Friday Agreement for Irish climate action”. However, he added that he “can’t help also thinking this is ‘Kyoto for slow learners’”.

“We have a climate emergency because we now have to do in 10 years what we should have started 20 years ago,” he said. “None of the committee’s recommendations are rocket science. Few are radical or new. All are overdue.”

From a political perspective, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, TD, said it was worth celebrating the cross-party collaboration on such an important topic.

“The key thing now will be to help turn the ideas into action,” he said. “This committee will continue until the end of the year. We should have a key role in analysing the new National Energy and Climate Action plan that the Government has to agree with the European Commission by December.”

Colm Gorey is a journalist with Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com