Wednesday 17 July 2019

French lesson: Focus on carbon tax could spark yellow vest protests, warns FG TD

Fine Gael TD Hildegarde Naughton. Photo: Tom Burke
Fine Gael TD Hildegarde Naughton. Photo: Tom Burke
Conor McCrave

Conor McCrave

Fine Gael TD Hildegarde Naughton has warned a coherent plan is needed for future carbon tax hikes in order to meet climate change targets without inciting 'yellow vest' protests in Ireland.

Planned fuel hikes sparked unrest in France last year and brought thousands to the streets in angry protest over government policies.

Ms Naughton chairs the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Change, which is due to deliver a series of recommendations this month.

She said caution should be taken on any carbon-pricing measures to avoid sparking similar unrest here in Ireland.

"The most talked about aspect of our report is carbon pricing," she said addressing a crowd at the DCU Climate Change Conference yesterday.

"I'm on record as saying that I hoped the committee would adopt a cross-party consensus on the need for an increase in price on carbon.

"Taxes or carbon pricing is not an easy issue in any country and we see what happened in France in relation to the protests in relation to that.

"We're all very conscious of what happened in France and what we don't want, or I don't want, is that when we report, is that the focus will be on the carbon tax and that's all that will be covered in the media."

Last October, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe shied away from huge tax hikes on fuels such as diesel, a move for which he came under fire from environmental groups.

Ireland has lagged behind other EU countries in the race to meet EU climate change targets and is facing huge fines as a result.

Ms Naughton said the the committee's report would end up drawing attention to the carbon hikes despite proposing a range of measures for the agricultural sector as well as driving renewable energy.

"The focus is often on the negatives, so that would be my fear at the end of this, that we're all going to hear about the carbon tax when all of our discussions now really are around everything else," she said.

Irish Independent

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