Householders and motorists must face higher taxes - climate council
CARBON levies on home heating fuels, petrol, diesel and electricity generation will have to increase to encourage a shift to greener living, according to an expert review.
The Climate Change Advisory Council has warned that carbon taxes must be "sufficiently high" and "evolve" over the coming years to reflect the cost of de-carbonising the economy.
And it warns that the Government does not have sufficient measures in place to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and tackle climate change.
Its first report says a range of additional policies are needed to bring about behavioural change, including education.
An independent statutory body established under the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015, the council reviews national climate policy and advises the Government on how we can move to a low-carbon economy by 2050.
The first report aims to help the development of the National Mitigation Plan which will be published later this year and set out the types of policies needed.
It says the Government will have to ramp up investment in home energy retrofits to at least 75,000 per year to reduce residential emissions - this is three times the number expected to be completed in 2017. It also says that while renewable energy was helping reduce emissions, the carbon intensity of electricity generation was rising.
This is because cheap coal and peat is being used to generate power. Subsidies for peat generation should be phased out as quickly as possible, with supports put in place for affected communities, it said.
Council chair Professor John FitzGerald said Ireland should aim to have "no further negative influence" on the climate by the middle of the century.
Putting an appropriate price on carbon, which is already in place in the carbon tax which is levied at €20 per tonne of carbon emitted, was required.
"This report lays out the council's thinking on the necessity for effective climate action," he said.
"An adequate price signal for carbon emissions at EU and national level is needed for this to happen.
"The National Mitigation Plan should address the effectiveness of the current national carbon price and make proposals for its development to 2050.
"However, price signals alone are not enough and other measures including regulation, education and information are also needed." The council says that official projections of greenhouse gas emissions indicate that the State will not meet its 2020 targets, and may not achieve 2050 goals.
"Progress on emissions reductions in Ireland arising directly from climate policy is at best mixed," the report says. "There are areas of considerable concern."
The EU Emissions Trading Scheme had "so far failed" to deliver a price signal to move to less-polluting forms of fuel for industry and power generation, it says. It also says:
• "Appropriate price signals", modelled on the restructuring of the motor tax system which rewarded owners of lower-emitting cars, should be developed to influence transport choices.
• "Unmanaged growth" in transport generated congestion and health costs, which needed to be taken into account when developing national policy.
• Agriculture, in combination with forestry and other land use sectors, will need to outline a pathway to carbon neutrality in 2050.
The report says a well-structured research programme is required as part of the national response to climate change, and that clear policies are required to provide "confidence" to investors, and should operate at the least cost to the economy.