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Farming foots small environmental tax bill despite huge footprint


Energy taxes contributed €3.1bn last year. Photo: Stock image

Energy taxes contributed €3.1bn last year. Photo: Stock image

Energy taxes contributed €3.1bn last year. Photo: Stock image

JUST 1.4pc of the environmental taxes collected last year came from farming, despite the sector being the country’s biggest carbon polluter.

Households bore the greatest burden, paying 58pc – or €2.8bn of the €4.8bn – in environmental taxes collected by Government in 2021.

Farmers, however, paid just €70m despite being responsible for 36pc of national greenhouse gas emissions.

Households are directly responsible for about 17pc of national emissions.

Even taking into account that they are also behind much of the emissions from transport, which account for 18pc of national figures, the high tax portion paid by households is still striking.

The next biggest portion was collected from services industries, which paid €1.4bn or 28pc of total environmental taxes.

Other industries collectively paid €600m, or a 12pc share.

The figures were compiled by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) and come as agriculture continues to be the main obstacle to agreeing sectoral carbon reduction targets.

Under the terms of the Climate Act, the Government is legally bound to set national carbon budgets and individual sectoral ceilings but the process is being held up by rows over the level of cuts farming will accept.

The figures show energy taxes such as the carbon tax on fossil fuels, excise duties on oil and petrol, the public service obligation (PSO) levy and National Oil Reserves Agency (NORA) levy were by far the biggest source of environmental tax revenue, contributing €3.1bn, or 64pc of the total.

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Within that category, the carbon tax, which has been increasing annually in recent years, showed the greatest increase, generating €301m in 2011 and €659m last year.

Transport taxes, mainly vehicle registration and motor taxes, air travel tax and the National Car Test levy, contributed €1.7bn, or approximately 36pc.

Pollution and resource taxes, such as the plastic bag and landfill levies, generated €13m, or 0.3pc of the total.

Cash raised by the levy on plastic shopping bags has dropped to a quarter of what it was 10 years ago, the figures reveal.

This illustrates the considerable impact a levy can have on changing consumer habits to more sustainable practices.

The Government is currently facing opposition to plans to introduce a similar levy on disposable coffee cups.

As with the shopping bag levy, the idea of the so-called “latte levy” is to encourage the use of reusable containers, in this case long-life keep cups.

The aim is to reduce litter, waste, pollution and the carbon emissions associated with plastics which are produced from fossil fuels.

The plastic bag levy was introduced back in 2002 at a cost of 15c per bag. It raised €170m in its first 10 years in operation.

The CSO data shows that from 2011 to 2021, however, total revenues fell to €100m despite the charge per bag increasing to 22c in 2007.

On an annual basis, revenue raised by the tax has reduced from €16m in 2001 to €4m in 2021.

It still means that around 18 million new plastic shopping bags were used last year but that compares to the estimated 1.2 billion used annually before the levy.

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