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Varadkar confirms there won't be 'carbon cheques' in the post to offset green tax hikes


Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Picture: Collins

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Picture: Collins

Colin Keegan

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Picture: Collins

Households won't get a cheque in the post to offset the cost of carbon tax increases after the Budget, Taosieach Leo Varadkar has confirmed.

Mr Varadkar is to tell the UN Climate Action Summit that Ireland its to ring-fence the funds raised by carbon tax hikes for efforts to fight climate change and help people who may be impacted by the move away from fossil fuels.

However, he confirmed that the government does not plan to return these revenues to households in the form of a dividend cheque as had previously been mooted.

Mr Varadkar will also also tell other world leaders that exploration for oil in Irish Waters is to be ended.

Starting his five-day mission to the United States Mr Varadkar rejected suggestions from Solidarity TD Ruth Coppinger that his efforts at the UN this week amount to "showboating".

In his speech to the UN he will also outline how any extra money raised from carbon tax "will be ploughed back into climate action".

"Whether it's retrofitting buildings, whether it's renewable energy, whether it's greener farming, all of those things, and I think that's a very serious commitment to say that any money raised from carbon tax the future will be reinvested in climate action"

Asked about the issue of carbon cheques for households, Mr Varadkar said the government does not intend to do this.

He said this option had been considered - but like the water conservation grant would be "quite expensive to administer"

He said there are a number of downsides including determining how much each household would get.

"So it can be done but it's quite expensive to do it, quite tricky.

"So the alternative that we went for was to give the money back to people in a different way...

"To give the money back to people in communities, specifically to take actions that will reduce our emissions."

He gave examples including the insulation of homes, use of LED lighting, greener farming and renewable energy.

"We think on balance, that's the right way to go.”

Mr Varadkar said the decision to halt oil exploration was taken after advice received from the State's Climate Advisory Council, however efforts to find natural gas reserves will continue.

He said it the ending of oil exploration will be a "big move" as Ireland will be one of the few countries in the world to start phasing it out.

Mr Varadkar added: "We will continue to explore for natural gas given that it's a transition fuel that we are going to need for the next few decades, as new technologies are developed and deployed."

He said the government is committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.

"I know for some people they will say we're not going far enough, other people are saying we're going too far that's often the way it is in politics. But crucially what we're doing here is we're relying on scientific advice, the advice of the Climate Advisory Council chaired by Prof John Fitzgerald."

Mr Varadkar was asked if a Budget increase in the fuel allowance is being considered as a way of mitigating the impact of carbon tax increases?

He said it is a "possibility" but that decisions haven't been made yet and will be announced on Budget day.

But he added: "when I say that the extra money being raised from the increase of carbon tax will be ring-fenced for climate action, I include within that just transition.

"So that's helping people who may lose their jobs in old industries to find new ones.

"It also means protecting those most vulnerable to fuel poverty, from increased energy charges. So that would include, for example, the possibility of an increase in the fuel allowance."

‘But again, all that has to be worked out and finalised on Budget day, and budget announcements will be made on Budget day."

Climate campaigners have welcomed the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s announcement that oil exploration will be phased out in Irish waters but have questioned why he did not go further to end gas finds too.

Oisin Coghlan, director of Friends of the Earth, said the move sent an important signal to investors that Ireland accepts the majority of fossil fuels have to stay in the ground if climate change is to be contained.

But he added: "However, Ireland is still running the risk of carbon lock-in by not phasing out gas exploration now also. There is no room for gas in the European energy system beyond 2035 so there is no justification for bringing any new gas into production.”

Catherine Devitt, policy head at the Stop Climate Chaos coalition said the argument that gas was needed during the transition to a zero carbon society was not backed by the science.

"The idea of using fossil gas as a bridging fuel in the transition to a low carbon economy is no longer credible,” she said.

“Gas is not clean, is not cheap and further investment presents considerable climate and financial risks going forward, especially as the cost of renewables continue to fall."

Mr Varadkar made the announcement in at the United Nations emergency summit on climate change in New York. He said the decision followed advice from the Climate Change Advisory Council.

The Government has been repeatedly lambasted by campaigners since issuing new exploration licences within days of the Dail declaring a climate emergency last May and for using the controversial ‘money message’ mechanism to block debate on a People Before Profit bill seeking a moratorium on new licences.

In his advice to the Taoiseach, the chair of the Climate Change Advisory Council, Professor John Fitzgerald, allowing for further exploitation of gas finds would ensure energy security.

But he said: “The recovery of natural gas reserves should be contingent on the associated deployment of decarbonisation technologies.” He added that the continuation of gas exploration should be kept under review.

Online Editors

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