Ireland would need to introduce a carbon tax as high as €70 on coal, turf and other products, to improve emissions targets - which the State is currently set to miss, the Citizen's Assembly has heard.
Ireland currently has a carbon tax comparable to €20 per tonne of carbon emitted by turf, coal and other fuel.
That tax would have to be increased as high as €70 per tonne to be in line with 2020 emission targets, the chairman of the Climate Change Advisory Council, Professor John Fitzgerald has said, told the Citizens’ Assembly today in Dublin.
Prof Fitzgerald said as matters are, the State will fail in meeting its 2020 emissions targets by more than the Government predicts.
While there was “no silver bullet” in solving climate, the State was currently facing “many distractions,” from Brexit to the tracker mortgage scandal, Prof Fitzgerald said.
“Politicians are human and can only work 24 hours a day. Getting necessary attention is difficult,” he added.
“Ireland will not achieve 2020 targets,” and with “higher growth” in the economy there was now a “risk of even higher emissions” and this was making achieving the State’s 2013 emissions target more difficult.
The National Mitigation Plan published by the Government in July was welcome, Prof Fitzgerald noted - but the Government could do better and needed to work harder to address the climate change issue.
The Assembly is preparing to vote on 13 recommendations to be made to the Oireachtas on Ireland’s climate change policies. The results are expected later this afternoon.
Ireland was a very long way from its 2030 and 2050 targets and the longer policy changes took to be implemented, the more expensive this would be for the State, the Assembly heard.
Higher carbon taxes would offer an important measure to kickstart improvements, Prof Fitzgerald stated.
The proposals include the immediate ending of subsidies for peat extraction, vital to fuel fire-powered stations in the Midlands.
The citizens will also vote on whether farmers should be taxed for greenhouse gas emissions they generate. But the group are also examining if farmers should also be rewarded for land management that captures and stores carbon.
The Assembly is also considering if the public are willing to pay higher carbon taxes. And a discussion has been held on whether annual taxes should be introduced to discourage the use of carbon intensive vehicles.
Vehicles that would be affected would include petrol and diesel and motor tax for these vehicles. The Assembly is also considering if incentives could be introduced to encourage a switch to low carbon vehicles, including electric cars.
Other suggestions for more climate friendly governance, included the possibility of community ownership of renewable energy projects and a new agency to spearhead climate change as a priority in policy making.
However Friends of the Earth said that despite the 13 recommendations on climate change policy, this would not go far enough to bring about change.
Director of Friends of the Earth, Oisin Coughlan, said the proposals wouldn’t get Ireland from a position of “laggard to leader” but they would assist the State in becoming “average”.
He said the Assembly’s recommendations were “mostly about catch up” with the rest of the EU and that if enacted the proposals would at least help “end nearly a decade of Government inaction.”