Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael face a rural backlash as rural voters are left counting the cost of the latest carbon tax hike in last week's budget.
There has been intense criticism of the hike from farm organisations and rural TDs.
IFA farm business chair Rose Mary McDonagh said farmers do not have an alternative to fossil-fuelled tractors and machinery. There is no viable alternative to agri-diesel. Therefore, she said, the carbon tax cannot achieve behavioural change and is unfair to farmers.
Declan McEvoy, head of tax at ifac, said as price takers, the tax hike can’t be absorbed by farmers.
“Those in rural Ireland again are the ones being hit. The idea of a Carbon Tax is there must be alternatives. In rural Ireland what alternative is there to a tractor? Going back to a horse?
"This is not practical. Very little public transport exists in rural Ireland.
The latest hike means in terms of just Carbon Tax:
Former Climate Minister and Roscommon TD Denis Naughten said he is opposed to the Carbon Tax structure because it fails to differentiate between those who can avoid paying this tax and those who do not have any choice but to pay it.
"I strongly believe that those living in rural areas, 37pc of our population, do not have alternatives available to them, particularly in relation to public transport, and thus cannot avoid paying this tax,” he said.
He claimed the tax is also regressive in that those living in rural communities will pay far more than those living in urban areas.
"A congestion charge designed around motor tax would be a far more effective tool in moving those who can from their cars onto public transport. That would treat rural areas — people driving long distances — far more fairly because they will have a much lower emissions profile than vehicles on congested streets," he said.
Agricultural contractors will have no option but to pass on a “28pc Carbon Tax cost increase” directly to farmer customers, the Association of Farm & Forestry Contractors in Ireland (FCI) has said.
This, it said, will equate to almost a 14pc increase for all farm and forestry contractors current annual charges. It said the tax hike will mean that farm and forestry contractors suffer a Carbon Tax burden of €13,455 per annum, based on a typical use level of 150,000 litres of annual diesel consumption, as the Carbon Tax now equates to 8.97c/L of the total cost of agricultural diesel.
Introducing the tax hike to the Dáil last week, Green Party Minister Roderic O'Gorman said supporting the implementation of the carbon tax is the acid test of our seriousness as a country in tackling climate change.
"Over the course of the next ten years, the Carbon Tax's application will help us to achieve 15pc of our CO2 emission cuts compared with a situation where we did not apply it," he said.
In the debate on the tax hike — in which no Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael TD made a contribution — the Green Minister said €20m of the revenue would be used to pilot environmental programmes in agriculture.
Meanwhile, Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice dismissed the impact of a relief on Carbon Tax provided to farmers as “in reality, farmers will pay the price to contractors, who do 90pc of their work” while the IFA said the income tax deduction was cumbersome and not open to all farmers.
"There are no alternatives. Show me where there is an electric tractor that will bale, mow and put out slurry for farmers," Fitzmaurice said.