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Budget 2022 comment piece for the Irish Daily Star

Posted by Oisín Coghlan on October 13, 2021 at 11:37 AM

Oisin op-ed Daily Star 2021-1013

The most important news in Budget 2022 when it comes to climate action is something that isn’t happening. The increase in carbon tax won’t apply to home heating fuels – coal, peat briquettes, oil and gas – until next summer. Thankfully then, the Budget won’t add to the increasing energy costs we are all facing this winter.

In fact the carbon tax will help poorer households heat their homes this winter. Over 50 million euro of carbon tax revenue is going straight back to people who get the fuel allowance, which is going up immediately by €5 to €33 a week. The Government could and should have done more, however. The Society of St Vincent De Paul (SVP) called for the fuel allowance to be extended to those on the Working Family Payment and to everyone on Jobseekers’ allowance, not just those who have been unemployed for over a year.

The fuel allowance should just be an emergency stop-gap, however. The way to really beat rising energy prices is to renovate our homes and replace fossil fuel heating with electric heat pumps. That’s why it was good to see that €202 million of carbon tax revenue is going to help retrofit 22,000 homes next year. And more than half of the funding will be for free upgrades for low-income households at risk of energy poverty. They can look forward to warmer homes with healthier air, lower bills, and less pollution.

But it is disappointed to see nothing for renters living in energy inefficient homes. The SVP and Threshold published a report just last month which showed how renters are at a much higher risk of energy poverty than homeowners. And they can’t apply to retrofit schemes because that’s a decision for their landlord. There was nothing in yesterday’s Budget to ensure renters aren’t left behind during The Great Renovation we need to see over the next decade. That’s got to be addressed in the National Retrofitting Plan due in the coming months.

The most eye-catching news in yesterday’s Budget is half-price fares for 19 to 23 year olds on public transport. Now we need to invest in buses, trams and trains so as many people as possible can easily choose to use public transport.

Overall Budget 2022 was just one small step for climate action. We have to cut our polluting emissions in half by 2030. And we can and must do it in ways that reduce poverty and inequality.

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