Sunday 24 February 2019

Water charges debacle prompts FG to 'take great care' on carbon tax hikes

Paschal Donohoe, Minister for Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, pictured speaking to the media at the Fine Gael Think in at the Alex Hotel, Dublin. Photo: Frank McGrath
Paschal Donohoe, Minister for Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, pictured speaking to the media at the Fine Gael Think in at the Alex Hotel, Dublin. Photo: Frank McGrath
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Fine Gael's water charges nightmare has influenced how the party is approaching plans to increase the carbon tax.

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said he believes carbon tax increases can be "mostly revenue neutral".

Fine Gael's parliamentary party discussed tackling climate change at a meeting ahead of the resumption of the Dáil today.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar revealed he is cutting back on meat in a bid to reduce his own carbon footprint. He admitted he's probably not the best example given the amount of travel he is doing.

Mr Varadkar said tackling climate change is the "next big progressive cause" that the party wants to champion.

The Government has signalled increases in the carbon tax are on the cards in the coming years in a bid to switch people away from fossil fuels as Ireland struggles to meet its targets to cut CO2 emissions.

Mr Varadkar has floated a possible 'carbon cheque' for households or, alternatively, hikes in welfare payments or tax credits to offset increased tax on petrol, diesel and solid fuels. The Government is to seek cross-party support for such proposals.

Mr Donohoe said: "My experience of water charges was one of the reasons why (we) have taken such great care in relation to this... which is the right approach to take."

He said that before committing to what a higher level of carbon tax could be he wants to ensure the Government and citizens are "clear on the mechanics for ensuring that this is mostly revenue neutral".

Earlier, Communications and Climate Action Minister Richard Bruton said the purpose of the carbon tax is not to raise revenue, but rather to "nudge people to change their behaviour". He said the Government doesn't want people making decisions about their home or cars that lock themselves into a high-carbon lifestyle. He added: "This isn't a money grab to take money out of your pocket. This is trying to help people to make decisions that are for the long term."

Separately, Mr Bruton said he hopes to bring recommendations to Cabinet on the National Broadband Plan (NBP) soon, but is not setting timelines as "we have to make sure that we have this right".

Irish Independent

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