MOTORISTS could be hit with a raft of new tolls and higher taxes to get them out of their cars and onto public transport.
Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said that policies and measures including "taxation" will be needed to make the transport sector less polluting and reduce our dependence on imported fossil fuels.
The comments are contained in a paper called 'Climate Change Mitigation' published by the Department of Transport. They come as new EU figures show Irish people have the second highest car usage rate and rarely use public transport.
The Eurobarometer survey shows that 68pc of people admit driving every day, with just 8pc using public transport on a daily basis. Only Cyprus uses the car more -- and public transport less -- than us.
We are also the least likely in the EU to travel daily within cities (13pc), with 50pc of respondents believing lower public transport fares would increase travel.
Transport and agriculture are the primary sources of carbon emissions and Mr Varadkar said that while tackling climate change should not result in a reduced standard of living, it would require "changes to the way we live and where we live".
"Addressing climate change is one of the major challenges of our generation. There is no doubt that climate change is real and that it is largely caused by human activity," he said.
"Reducing our dependence on imported fossil fuels will be beneficial in its own right. Developing a roadmap for the transport sector will be challenging. We will need to employ many policies and measures such as land use planning and taxation to effect this change."
Ireland has to meet EU targets to reduce overall carbon emissions by 20pc by 2020. It must source 20pc of all energy from renewables and reduce energy use by 20pc by this date.
A report from the National Economic and Social Council last year said that taxation could be used to incentivise people to buy more efficient and less-polluting cars, with higher taxes for more polluting vehicles.
The Department of Transport report says that encouraging people out of their cars and onto public transport could also be achieved through the introduction of 'user pays' charges.
"One option for managing travel demand is the application of user pays or polluter pays principles to the transport sector," it says.
"This would be expected to result in significant reductions in emissions relative to a 'business as usual' case.
"The exact level of emissions savings would depend on the type of measures applied, and the extent of users and road types covered by any such measure."
"Potential negative impacts" include increased transport costs for businesses and increased costs for personal travel, it adds.
The options for 'user pays' measures include additional tolls, higher motor taxes and congestion charging.
The prospect of any additional tolls is likely to cause outrage among motorists. Mr Varadkar ruled out new tolls on Dublin's M50 motorway earlier this year after the National Roads Authority said it was in danger of becoming congested at peak times.
Submissions on the plan should be emailed to lowcarbonroad- email@example.com by February 7.