Wednesday 18 September 2019

FG and FF at war on report about carbon tax increases

Concerns: Fine Gael party chairman Martin Heydon. Photo: Karen Morgan
Concerns: Fine Gael party chairman Martin Heydon. Photo: Karen Morgan
John Downing

John Downing

Tensions between the "big two" parties over continuing Government co-operation have again surfaced - this time on the key issue of climate change and major hikes in the carbon tax.

Fine Gael TDs and senators on a special all-party committee considering actions against climate change, whose report has been repeatedly delayed, say they suspect Fianna Fáil is trying to delay necessary tough decisions.

Some Fine Gael members fear the effort may be to push the issue beyond local council and European Parliament elections on May 24 next.

But Fianna Fáil climate change spokesman Timmy Dooley has utterly rejected the Fine Gael claims. Mr Dooley said his party, Labour and Green Party were making common cause on the issue and he believed Fine Gael was actually behind the delays.

The climate change action pressure group 'Stop Climate Chaos' has noted that the all-party committee has been operating and considering recommendations from the Citizens' Assembly since the middle of last year.

The group said a report with strong recommendations is now urgently required, especially given the report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which warned that rapid, unprecedented and far-reaching action across all aspects of society is needed.

"The outcome of the committee is a litmus test on whether our political representatives are up to the task of responding to the crisis. The committee must deliver clear recommendations for specific new actions the State should take," said Cliona Sharkey, policy adviser with Trócaire, adding that these must be enacted by Climate Change Minister Richard Bruton.

The TDs and senators are contemplating a fourfold increase in carbon tax in belated efforts to put Ireland back on track to meet its 2030 climate change targets, bringing the levy to €80 per tonne.

The committee report was originally due to be published in late January, but the deadline has slipped back and back, and many Fine Gael members fear delays will continue.

Contacted about the issue, Fine Gael party chairman Martin Heydon confirmed there were concerns about Fianna Fáil's attitude.

"The real issue is that Minister Bruton must take this report on board in formulating his co-ordinated Government response to the issue and time is of the essence," Mr Heydon said.

Such increases to be phased in over the coming decade would, in today's price terms, add €12 to the cost of filling a car with diesel or petrol, and €7.20 to a bag of coal. These will be difficult for any party to sell - even though the Government has pledged to offset them either through a cheque-in-the-post refund, increased welfare such as fuel allowances or child benefit, and incentives to help people switch to other energy.

John FitzGerald, chairman of the Climate Change Advisory Council, has warned Ireland is increasing emissions at a rate of two million tonnes a year instead of the required one million tonne reduction.

Irish Independent

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