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Friday 22 February 2019

Hard to see why sensible climate actions weren't taken in Budget

Analysis

There was no hike in the carbon tax as expected, but a 1pc surcharge was imposed on the purchase of new diesel cars as a sop to environmentalists. Stock image
There was no hike in the carbon tax as expected, but a 1pc surcharge was imposed on the purchase of new diesel cars as a sop to environmentalists. Stock image
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

It was a Budget which promised much, especially in light of a Government commitment that Ireland would step up and take meaningful action to address climate change.

But, in the end, parish pump politics prevailed. There was no hike in the carbon tax as expected, but a 1pc surcharge was imposed on the purchase of new diesel cars as a sop to environmentalists.

The Government seems to be out of step with the public mood. But in the absence of a carbon tax hike, what should have been done in Budget 2019?

Increasing funding to retrofit homes, public sector and commercial buildings - particularly older stock - should have been a priority. This both reduces emissions and creates jobs. The 2018 budget is just over €161m, which rises by just €3m to €164m for next year. By contrast, funding for broadcasting increased by €9m to €264m.

A second progressive move would be to spend more on sustainable transport (walking, cycling and public transport) than roads. The former gets €788m; the latter more than €1bn next year. How will people move away from the car if alternatives aren't funded?

What about plastic packaging? Imposing a levy would have generated cash while sending the message that single-use plastics - often made using fossil fuels - are being phased out. Consideration should have been given to installing public drinking water fountains, as are in place in London, Zurich and Vancouver, to reduce plastic bottle usage.

Another sensible suggestion in pre-Budget submissions was to reduce or remove the VAT on repairs of shoes, bicycles and electronic goods to encourage a move away from a throw-away culture while supporting job creation.

While grants remain for electric cars, there was nothing in the Budget around investment in the charging network. Feedback from motorists is that it's not the range of the car which is of concern, but rather whether a charging station will be available and working when needs be.

Finally, rainwater harvesting. Treating water to drinking standard is expensive and energy intensive. There is no need to flush the toilet with drinking water. So why isn't rainwater harvesting standard in new buildings, particularly commercial structures and apartment blocks?

Most of these ideas could be sold politically, and it's hard to see why the Government didn't take them on. A lack of interest in addressing climate change could by the reason why.

Irish Independent

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