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Positives in Programme for Government must be underpinned by legislation

15 Jun 2007

Carbon duty should replace existing Kyoto stealth tax immediately

Friends of the Earth has welcomed the commitments on climate change in the Programme for Government, but urged the new Government to put them into law. The environmental pressure group highlighted the commitment to 3% year-on-year reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and the decision that the Minister for Finance will present an annual Carbon Budget in conjunction with the financial budget.

Friends of the Earth Director, Oisin Coghlan, commented:

"If implemented, the Programme for Government can move the fight against climate change to the heart of public policy-making. The most significant step is that Brian Cowen, the new Tanaiste, has agreed that as Minister for Finance he has a central role to play in cutting Ireland's climate pollution. In the years ahead the annual Carbon Budget will become as much a centrepiece of public life as the financial Budget is now.

Friends of the Earth believes strongly that the new targets and arrangements for tackling climate change should be underpinned by legislation.

"The Government is promising a cross-party approach to climate change. The best way to institutionalise such an approach to target-setting and policy coordination would be to put it into law. We need all parties and in all governments over the next 20 years to address climate change and energy with the same focus they addressed unemployment and emigration over the last 20 years," Mr Coghlan continued.

California has already put its pollution reduction targets into law and the British government has now published a comprehensive climate change bill. Friends of the Earth has recently published a Climate Protection Bill for Ireland and just last week sent a copy to each of the 166 TDs in the 30th Dáil along with a copy of Al Gore's documentary on global warming, An Inconvenient Truth.

Friends of the Earth is very concerned, however, about the vagueness of the commitment on a carbon levy, given the history of efforts to put a price on carbon pollution in Ireland.

"A carbon duty should be introduced from January 2008, when our Kyoto target kicks in. Don't forget that the Government has already put aside 290 million euro of taxpayers' money to buy our way into compliance with Kyoto. Far better that the polluter pays through a transparent carbon duty, offset by VAT reductions, than to pay our Kyoto costs from general taxation, in what amounts to a stealth tax on PAYE workers. A carbon duty would encourage behaviour change just as the plastic bag levy has done. The existing carbon slush fund just fuels resentment," Mr Coghlan added.

Friends of the Earth also welcomed other provisions in the Programme for Government, including:

* Making Ireland a GM-Free Island.
* Improving energy efficiency requirements in building regulations by 60%.
* Introducing a 100m euro insulation scheme.
* Moving the National Sustainable Development Council (Comhar) to sit alongside NESC in the Department of the Taoiseach.
* Bringing environmental organisations into social partnership.
* Implementing the Arhus Convention in full.

"The next steps are delivery, delivery and delivery", Mr Coghlan concluded.

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