€4 billion fossil fuel subsidies should be reinvested in Just Transition

Published by Shamim Malekmian on

September 3rd, 2019

Ireland will fail to achieve a Just Transition if the State continues to provide billions in environmentally harmful tax subsidies, a new report from Social Justice Ireland (SJI) has warned.

The National Social Monitor: Sustainability Edition report cites Central Statistics Office (CSO) data that indicates the Government’s annual €4 billion expenditure between 2012 to 2016 on fossil fuel and other subsidies that may be harmful to the environment. 

Expressing concern about the CSO’s data, SJI warned that these subsidies equate to 80 per cent of revenue collected through environmental taxes such as the plastic bag levy, undermining “any impact they might have”.

Calling on the State to stop providing subsidies that may harm the environment, the SJI suggested that the support could be reinvested into supporting a Just Transition fund. 

The social justice advocacy group said: “€4 billion a year would go a long way to supporting a Just Transition fund for low-income households and households in rural Ireland most affected by the implementation of necessary changes to support climate action.”

“By Ending environmentally damaging tax breaks and investing this money into people, communities and regions that will be most affected by climate adaptation Government can ensure a Just Transition,” the statement read. 

ESB's West Offaly plant in Shannonbridge, County Offaly Photo: Sarah777
ESB’s West Offaly plant in Shannonbridge, County Offaly Photo: Sarah777

Just Transition and inclusivity 

Just Transition, a chief principle outlined in the new All-of-Government Climate Action Plan, refers to systems and practices that are in place to ensure that a clean environment and a healthy economy coexist.  

The process to achieve this vision must ensure that a shift toward a healthier environment will not unfairly impact any groups or communities. 

SJI has urged the State to consider low-income families and workers in its Just Transition plan, underscoring the significance of protecting underprivileged groups that are most likely to be impacted by climate change. 

“Protecting the vulnerable and those most at risk of impact from the changes required to transition to a low carbon economy is vital,” the SJI said.

“Climate policy and mitigation must be delivered simultaneously for a just transition. People and communities must be supported to make the required changes in the move to a more sustainable future.”

Pressure is mounting on the Government to push forward with its Just Transition plans after the refusal of ESB plans to convert its Shannonbridge peat plant to co-fire with biomass last month left the facility’s future in doubt.

The future of the ESB’s second Midlands peat plant at Lough Ree in Co Longford is also on a knife-edge following the plant’s indefinite shutdown over recent EPA compliance issues.

3rd anniversary SDG event in Ireland

The Sustainable Development Goals

SJI also warned that a failure to achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is another significant obstacle in the way of a Just Transition.

The SDGs were adopted by the United Nations in 2015 and lay out a sweeping vision for the improvement of living conditions around the world by 2030.

These goals range from ending poverty, hunger, gender inequality to improvement in various areas such as education, water and sanitation as well as climate change action and sustainability.  

Earlier in February, the Sustainable Progress Index for 2019, prepared by the SJI, revealed that Ireland is falling behind on environmental commitments required to achieve the SDGs. 

The index ranked Ireland third-last ahead of only Greece and Luxembourg for its performance in meeting the environmental targets outlined in the global goals. 

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Shamim Malekmian

Shamim is a Senior Reporter at The Green News and a contributing writer to the Irish Examiner, Cork Evening Echo and the Dublin Inquirer.