Irish government accused of favouring investors and ‘punishing individuals’ with its new climate action plan

Photo of a power station and smoke coming from its stacks.

The Irish government has launched its ‘Climate Action Plan’ on how to tackle climate catastrophe. It lays out a number of steps that it plans to take to make Ireland carbon neutral by 2050. But the plan also argues for an increase in the carbon tax and for a tax on single-use plastics. And because of this, some have declared that it will “punish individuals with taxes, levies”.

Critics such as Solidarity-People Before Profit (PBP) have previously argued against a carbon tax that targets individuals and not companies.

Ireland is failing the climate

The action plan begins by noting Ireland’s failure when it comes to tackling climate breakdown. It argues that “climate disruption must be arrested”; but that “Ireland is way off course” in this regard. This is in spite of the fact that the country has felt the effects of “extreme weather events”. And given this, it declares that “decarbonisation is now a must”.

It also points out that Ireland has “a strong foundation on which to build” a carbon-neutral society. This includes the recent declaration of a climate and biodiversity emergency by the Irish parliament.

On the other hand, the report also notes the extent of Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions. It reveals that 32% of greenhouse gas emissions come from the agriculture sector, in contrast to 11% in Europe. Ireland also has “a higher carbon footprint per head of population” compared to the rest of Europe. And it’ll miss its renewable energy targets for 2020.

Proposed solutions

Given this, the report puts forward a number of solutions for combatting rising CO2 levels. A “Carbon Budget” will ensure different sectors of the economy are meeting decarbonisation targets. Larger amounts of electricity, meanwhile, will come from renewable sources, with the goal being to increase the use of renewables from 30% to 70%.

It also argues for “community participation in renewable generation”, introducing a scheme that’ll pay individuals to sell power back to the electricity grid. The Climate Action Plan also pushes for “stricter requirements for new buildings” and the upgrading of 500,000 homes.

Read on...

On transport, the report recommends increasing the use of electric vehicles. By 2030, it’s planned that 100% of new cars will be electric. And it states that targets should be set “for the conversion of public transport fleets to zero carbon alternatives”.

Getting it wrong?

But some aspects of the report are likely to be controversial. Because it calls for an increase in carbon tax “of at least €80 per tonne by 2030”. The current rate is €20 per tonne. According to the Irish Independent, a litre of petrol would then be 17 cents more expensive using today’s prices. A litre of diesel, meanwhile, would cost 20 cents more. Similar tax proposals in France sparked mass protests in late 2018, which continue today.

As for the recommendation to ban “diesel-only purchases from 1 July 2019” for the public bus fleet, this has already been undermined. Because in October 2018, the National Transportation Authority announced it would buy 200 diesel-fuelled buses before the ban takes effect in July.

The report also says the government should:

provide local authorities with the power to restrict access to certain parts of a city or a town to zero-emission vehicles only.

Bríd Smith of PBP previously argued against the proposed increase in carbon tax. She insisted that:

This is about implementing a carbon tax on ordinary people that will rise fourfold in the next ten years without taking into consideration the circumstances in which they live.

The report also states that the government will investigate introducing “environmental levies”. This includes “a possible levy on single use plastics”.

On Twitter, Smith argued that the report shows:

the role of the state is only to incentivise investors or punish individuals with taxes, levies etc

What lies ahead?

It’s difficult to predict the effectiveness of the report’s recommendations, because climate breakdown seems to be accelerating. In the last week, temperatures in parts of Greenland were 40°F higher than normal. Add to this the fact that CO2 in the atmosphere has reached a level never before seen in human history.

By comparison, the report offers no radical solutions. And it appears not to consider people who can’t afford electric cars or to upgrade their homes.

What we need is something radical that targets the big polluters in society. If that doesn’t happen, it won’t matter what kind of car you drive or how little plastic you use. And instead, we’ll be left with a situation where the poorest pay for the crimes of the rich as the climate continues to collapse.

Featured image via geograph – Albert Bridge

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us