It has been proposed that the Government should bring the retail price of motor diesel to at least the same level as that of petrol by increasing the excise rates on diesel on a phased-in basis.
In its pre-budget submission to Minister Paschal Donohoe, the Environmental Pillar said apart from the climate impacts of burning fossil fuels, particulates from diesel engines are causes of a range of human health problems.
It says that according to the World Health Organization, diesel exhaust fumes can cause cancer, and that diesel cars emit ten times more health damaging pollutants than petrol cars.
The Environmental Pillar says around 1400 people die annually with many more suffering severe debilitations and associated medical and social costs, as a result of air pollution.
It says if the excise on both fuels was equalised, a diesel vehicle would still pay less tax than the petrol on the basis of greater fuel efficiency.
Due to this fuel efficiency, a car will travel further on a litre of diesel when compared to petrol but will produce more harmful emissions.
According to the Environmental Pillar, our closest trading partner, the UK, has already equalised excise rates on petrol and diesel.
It says a number of countries, notably France and Belgium, have also moved to equalise the excise rate on petrol and diesel.
The excise on diesel in Ireland is currently 22% less than on petrol. It is also noted that London is proposing a £21/day congestion charge for older diesel cars coming into the city; this is £10 more than normal cars.
The Environmental Pillar calculate that equalising the cost of diesel and petrol would bring around €110m in revenue, assuming that diesel costs around €.11 less than petrol per litre and there were sales of 1 billion litres of diesel sold in 2014.19
As farm vehicles comprise only 5pc of the diesel fleet and most tractors are only diesel, it says it supports the continuation of the agricultural diesel subsidy.
The Environmental Pillar outlined two other key proposals to protect our natural environment, bring additional revenue into the government and bolster an ailing Environment Fund, namely:
1. Implementation of a single-use non-compostable item levy
2. Adoption of an aggregates levy
These policies together with the equalisation of petrol and diesel have the potential to net the government over €200m every year, as well as changing consumer and industry behaviour and protecting our natural environment, it says.
The Pillar - a coalition of 26 environmental organisations - sees Budget 2018 as a chance to make amends for last year's missed opportunity to prepare our economy for the impact of climate change and protect our environment into the future.
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