Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Tuesday 16 January 2018

Tax farmers for producing greenhouse gas emissions - Citizens Assembly

Margaret Donnelly & Laura Lynott

Farmers could face taxes for greenhouse gas emissions produced from farming, if the views of the Citizens Assembly are considered by the Government.

This weekend 100pc of the Assembly recommend that the State should take a leadership role in addressing climate change and 89pc recommended that there should be a tax on greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, while there should be rewards for the farmer for land management that sequesters carbon.

They also voted (97pc) that the State should end all subsidies for peat extraction and instead spend that money on peat bog restoration, phased out over five years, while 99pc called for a State review of supports for land use diversification, with attention to supports for planting forests and encouraging organic farming.

The Assembly voted on 13 recommendations to be taken forward to the Oireachtas in the new year with 80 per cent recommending they’d be willing to pay higher taxes on carbon intensive activities.

Any such measures implemented by Government is likely to spark fears the agricultural sector could be financially penalised as Ireland attempts become a climate change leader.

In a move showing strong support for a greener Ireland, 93pc voted for bus and cycle lanes, along with park and ride facilities, being “greatly increased” within five years.  These voters stated that much “greater priority” should be given to environmentally-friendly transport over private cars by the State.

Some 96pc want to see an expanded network of charging points to support the transition to electric vehicles.

The same number voted for the introduction of incentives, including help-to-buy schemes, reductions in motor tax, and lower or free motorway tolls, particularly in rural communities, to transfer to electric vehicles. 

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This would be followed by the implementation of disentivisation schemes against carbon intensive vehicles, such as petrol and diesel.  Suggestions included annual increases to petrol and diesel tax and on motor tax.

Some 92pc supported the expansion of public transport spending as a priority over new road infrastructure spending at a ratio of no less than two-to-one to facilitate the uptake of public transport, with attention to rural areas.

While 98pc recommended a new or existing independent body should be resourced appropriately, operate in an open and transparent manner, and be given a broad range of new functions and powers in legislation to urgently address climate change.

And 100pc recommended the State should take a leadership role in addressing climate change through mitigation measures, including, retrofitting public buildings, having low carbon public vehicles, renewable generation on public buildings and through adaptation measures including, for example, increasing the resilience of public land and infrastructure.

96 per cent recommended a “comprehensive assessment” of the “vulnerability” of all “critical infrastructure,” including energy, transport, built environment, water and communications, with a view to building resilience to ongoing climate change and extreme weather events. And spending on infrastructure should be prioritised to take account of this, the Assembly felt.

Some 93pc voted for a mandatory measurement and reporting of food waste to reduce food waste.

Ms Mary Laffoy said the “ambitious” recommendations were “likely to have the support of the public and in turn allow us to meet our existing international and European obligations.”

She added that it was “clear” the Assembly “believe there is a path for the State to make Ireland a leader in climate change however it would require significant changes in current policy and activities.”

The recommendations will be brought forward to the Oireachtas in the new year.  The Citizens’ Assembly will meet again on January 13 and 14 to make recommendations on the fourth topic the Assembly is tasked with considering, the way referendums are held.

Independent TD for Roscommon/Galway Michael Fitzmaurice said the proposals were "totally out of touch".

IFA President Joe Healy has said that suggestions put forward by retired Trinity Professor Alan Matthews to consider increased carbon taxes on farming are impractical and would be unlikely to make any real environmental difference.


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