smoke from chimneys. Photo: NUI Galway

Greens question Left’s opposition to carbon tax hike

March 14th, 2019

The Green Party has questioned the opposition of Sinn Fein and People Before Profit to the proposed carbon tax plan in a special Oireachtas Committee’s pending landmark report on climate action.

The Climate Action Committee is currently leaning toward a revenue-neutral tax with a refund of revenue to each household via a carbon cheque system, ring-fencing of finances raised to go toward climate projects, or a combination of both.

Speaking following the leak of the much-awaited report last week, Brian Stanley TD said that Sinn Féin will dissent from any carbon tax recommendations that fail to protect low and middle-income earners.

Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan also voiced her concern from Europe, calling the carbon tax a failed policy that will have a negative impact on working families and ordinary people.

People Before Profit’s (PBP) Brid Smith said that the leaking of the draft report is “a transparent attempt to sell a carbon tax as inevitable and good”.

“Increasing carbon taxes when we have done nothing to give people access to alternatives in public transport, retrofitting their homes or investing in renewable energies is a cop out that won’t reduce our emission,” she said.

Eamon Ryan interview Photo: The Green Party

Green Party Leader Eamon Ryan TD said that his party agrees we need to be proactive in retrofitting the homes of low-income families and to provide low-carbon rural public transport systems.

In addition, he agreed that some of the largest polluters “need to be tackled”, as does “Ireland’s part in allowing big fossil fuel companies avoid tax”.

However, he said that to completely rule out any form of carbon pricing, including those which provide a net cash benefit to those on low incomes, “make no sense whatsoever”.

“How can [Sinn Fein and PBP] be saying they support the climate strikers this Friday when they are ruling out one of their key demands which is for us to adopt the recommendations of the Citizens Assembly?” Mr Ryan asked.

He said that Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) modelling analysis shows that increasing the carbon price along the lines of the Greens proposal – €20 per tonne increase in 2020 and €5 per tonne each year thereafter – would “contribute a 17 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030”. 

New ESRI analysis shows that a fee and dividend model that returns all the revenue directly to citizens is “cash positive for those on lower incomes”, Mr Ryan added.

A report from the research body released last December found that households will face limited increases in costs in the event of a higher carbon tax that the report’s author, Kelly de Bruin, said is needed “to ensure a transition to a low carbon economy and to meet the EU emissions targets”.

In the case of a €5 increase in carbon tax, costs would increase by €0.45 per week for the poorest households and by €2.30 a week for the richest, the report found. However, in terms of shares of income, the ERSI said that the impacts on poorer households will be more than double that of richer households.

For a €5 increase, for example, the ERSI analysis shows that the poorest households will spend 0.16 per cent more of their income to continue the same level of consumption while the richest will have to spend 0.07 per cent more.

About the Author

Niall Sargent

Niall is the Editor of The Green News. He is a multimedia journalist, with an MA in Investigative Journalism from City University, London

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