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U-turn on carbon tax would be 'two fingers to younger generations'

9 Oct 2018

Budget a key test of Taoiseach's credibility on climate change, one day after stark scientific call for action

Reacting to reports that that the Government may drop plans to raise the carbon tax by €10 in today's Budget, Friends of the Earth Director, Oisin Coghlan commented:

"Today's Budget is a key test of Leo Varadkar's credibility on climate change. On the night he was elected Taoiseach he announced he wanted Ireland to have a new ambition on climate change. This January he conceded to the European Parliament that Ireland was a laggard and he wasn't proud of our record on climate change. In August the Taoiseach told an interviewer 'if we are going to meet our climate change obligations then we will have to grasp the nettle in increasing the carbon tax'."
"If Leo Varadkar can't even deliver a modest €10 increase in the carbon tax, his credibility will crumble. Were all his fine words of the last 18 months just hot air?

"It's just one day after the starkest warning yet from climate scientists commissioned to advise the world's governments. Yesterday's IPCC report has been described as a final clarion call to action.

"A Government u-turn now on the carbon tax would be 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.

"We hear a lot about how we are failing younger generations on housing. Well, Earth is our only home, we have mortgaged it to the hilt, and our Government seems unconcerned that it is failing into such disrepair that much of it will become uninhabitable.

"Ireland is the third most polluting country in Europe per person. What value is any increase in overseas aid today if we also send a signal we have no intention of curtailing, let alone reduce, our rampant climate-changing emissions?

"The message of yesterday's IPCC report is that we need political leadership on climate change. Instead our Taoiseach seems to be caving at the slightest wheeze of resistance.

"If some Fine Gael backbenchers are opposing a carbon tax increase, has the Taoiseach reached out to the leaders of other political parties to pass a carbon tax increase on a cross-party basis? That would be demonstrating the kind of political imagination and leadership we need.

"The carbon tax is not a sliver bullet. It is essential but not sufficient. But it does incentivize every other investment decision towards cleaner, less polluting options. And it can be done without penalizing rural households or lower income families. Other taxes can be reduced, the income can be recycled to support the transition and in the most radical model the revenue can be repaid as a dividend to every adult, giving a cash reward to everyone who reduces their own carbon footprint."

The Citizens' Assembly called for an increase in the carbon tax just under a year ago. Both the ESRI and the Climate Change Advisory Council, chaired by Prof John Fitzgerald, have called for an increase in the carbon tax. One member of the Climate Council proposed by an immediate €50 increase balanced by reductions in income tax. The Climate Council has indicated it should rise to €80 by 2030. Peter Thorne, climate scientist in Maynooth University has calculated that the actual cost of carbon pollution is actually between €150-€200 a tonne, when the current tax only makes the polluter pay €20 a tonne.


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