Budget just one small step on climate action. Bigger decisions to come later this month

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Increase in fuel allowance to tackle energy poverty essential given rising prices

Friends of the Earth has welcomed a number of measures in Budget 2022 but emphasised that it is just one small step on the path to eliminating climate pollution. The environmental justice organisation particularly welcomed the measures to protect those at risk of energy poverty and the introduction of half-price public transport for 19-23 year olds.

Commenting, Friends of the Earth Director, Oisín Coghlan said:

“We have to cut our emissions in half by 2030 and it is imperative we do that in ways that reduce poverty and inequality.

“Friends of the Earth welcomes the immediate increase the in the fuel allowance, given rising energy costs, but it is disappointing that the eligibility criteria haven’t been widened to include those on the Working Family Payment.

“Almost half of the increased carbon tax revenue will be spent on increasing the fuel allowance. That is an essential short-term measure. In the longer term the best protection from energy poverty is warmer homes, with lower bills, healthier air and reduced pollution. Therefore we call on the Government to focus their increased expenditure on retrofitting on social housing and the 20% of households in energy poverty.

“The Government committed today to ensuring that the poorest 30% of households will be better off thanks to how carbon tax funds are spent. And that the poorest 40% will be no worse off. We will hold them to that, it is essential for public support. It is therefore welcome that the latest increase in the carbon tax will not apply to home heating fuels until next summer. The Government must now also move to keep its promise to put the ringfencing of the carbon tax revenue into law, that is essential to build public trust.

“The increased funding for retrofitting through carbon tax revenues is welcome. However, taxation is only one tool in the toolbox when it comes to retrofits. The volatile energy market shows that fossil gas is an increasingly expensive and risky energy source and further price increases are making more people vulnerable to energy poverty. We need to move the billions Ireland’s spends subsidising fossil fuels to 100% community and renewable energy sources and urgently roll out heat pumps in homes. We urgent need to renovate Ireland - with government incentives and subsidies to provide urgent, massive and deep building renovations - targeting first those that need them most.

The introduction of half-price fares on public transport for young people under-23 is welcome, as is the €360 million for cycling and walking infrastructure, and the increase in VRT on the most polluting cars. Now the Government must get on with providing public transport options for many people as possible across the country.

Budget 2022 is just one small step on the path to eliminating climate pollution fast enough to avoid the worst impacts of climate breakdown and fairly enough to leave no one behind. The real test of the Government’s commitment to climate action will come in the next few weeks with the announcement of the Carbon Budget – our pollution limit to 2025 – the sectoral targets that flow from that and the Action Plan to meet those targets.

“Much has been made of the fact the recent decision to change our corporate tax rate is the biggest change in Government policy in decades. If the new Climate Action Plan is going to achieve the transformation required it will need to drive the biggest change in Government policy since the Whitaker Report over 60 years ago.”