'We want to force private motorists out of their cars'
Ross targets drivers as public transport and electric cars at centre of climate emergency strategy
Motorists are to be forced from their cars under a plan the Government says is necessary to avoid a "climate apocalypse".
A revolution in transport is planned over the next decade, with Transport Minister Shane Ross saying the policy is "to get people out of private cars because they are the biggest offenders for emissions".
The excise duty on diesel is to be hiked, while all fossil fuels will be repeatedly slapped with increases in carbon taxes. As an alternative to using private cars, the Climate Action Plan commits the Government to investing in public transport and cycling infrastructure.
For those who insist on having a car, the plan is to make electric vehicles (EVs) the only viable option. There are currently fewer than 5,000 EVs in Ireland - but this figure is set to rise to one million over the next decade.
Meanwhile, the Irish Independent understands the head of the Government's Climate Change Advisory Council (CCAC) will today call for carbon tax to be increased to at least €35 per tonne in the next Budget.
This would immediately push the price of petrol and diesel up by around 4pc. The expectation is that Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe will hike the current €20 tax by €10.
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But CCAC chairman John FitzGerald says we should go further, while warning that without urgent action "we are facing a global climate disaster".
"There is a massive body of evidence from across the world showing that carbon taxes are essential to tackling climate change," Mr FitzGerald will tell the Oireachtas Budgetary Oversight Committee.
At present, 36pc of vehicles on Irish roads use petrol while 62pc operate on diesel - but the sale of new diesel or petrol cars is to be banned in 2030 and they will be outlawed completely in 2045.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said motorists were wrongly told in the past that diesel was an environmentally friendly fuel.
He claimed a decision by the Fianna Fáil/Green coalition to cut motor tax on diesel cars was in the "top 10 list of policy mistakes" by an Irish government.
The Climate Action Plan predicts the price of vehicles using battery technology will fall over the coming years while at the same time carbon taxes will rise.
By the middle of the 2020s it will cost the same to own an EV as a diesel car.
A "rapid acceleration" in the purchasing of EVs "is expected from about 2024".
Government sources admitted to the Irish Independent that the move could spell the death of many petrol stations in rural parts of the country. It is expected most EV charging will be done at home, although thousands of charging points are to be installed in every county.
Mr Varadkar admitted there will be cost involved in going green - but said the process should not be about money.
"Our approach will be to nudge people and businesses to change behaviour and adapt new technologies through incentives, disincentives, regulations and information," he said.
"We are going to change how electricity is produced and consumed, how our homes and workplaces are heated; the way we travel; the types of vehicles we purchase; and how food is produced.
"It's about vibrant, populated city centres, liveable, with excellent amenities and transport as we embrace higher densities."
The plan says Ireland will reduce its overall carbon emissions by 20pc over the next decade and become carbon neutral by 2050.
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It includes more than 180 measures, such as the end of single-use non-recyclable plastics, increased renewable energy targets, and new building regulations.
Primarily responsibility for its implementation falls to Climate Action Minister Richard Bruton, who has based the document on the Action Plan for Jobs he introduced at the height of the economic recession.
Every public body will be given a climate action mandate by their line minister to prioritise climate action, and new letters of expectation will be issued to semi-state bodies.
There will also be a system of five-year carbon budgets and sector targets, with the relevant minister responsible for delivering on the target, with penalties if they are not met.
The Green Party has accused the Government of "fudging" its plan, saying it lacks ambition, clarity and urgency. Party leader Eamon Ryan said it was welcome in that it showed climate had moved up the political agenda.
But he said the National Development Plan (NDP) has to change "if we're going to take climate change seriously" as the current NDP is "all about roads and doesn't tackle climate change". He also said there needed to be a new land use plan to outline where new forests will be planted and what bogs will be preserved. He said the phrase "consideration will be given" is used 67 times in the document.
Fianna Fáil gave a "guarded welcome" to the plan, but outlined concerns it has not been costed and said the Government needed to do more than hold "a big set-piece event".