February 7th, 2020
As we enter the final day of the election cycle, we are finishing up our series on where the parties stand on climate and biodiversity. Next up, we delve into People Before Profit’s manifesto that is also supported by its partner parties Solidarity and Rise.
We also look at its standalone and succinct Planet Before Profit climate policy platform that is pushing for an ambitious 50-plus per cent reduction in emissions by the end of the decade. Here’s how they want to do it.
Climate and Energy
The party wants no further licences issued for both oil and gas and to follow in the mold of Norwegian and bring all natural resources into public ownership. The party also wants to develop a smart grid for storage and interconnection, and would support community energy cooperatives, in particular, local wind enterprises.
The party wants to see Moneypoint and the three peat-fired power stations closed down immediately, with front-line workers protected, retrained and employed to work to protect bogs and to work in the renewables sector where the party wants to invest €25 to €30 billion over the next decade to build out wind capacity to power 90 per cent of our electricity needs.
The party maintains its stance that it is not in favour of a carbon tax that hits ordinary working people, but would be in favour of more heavily taxing the profits of large fossil fuel corporations. It is also against fracked gas imports and plans to move legislation to ban imports in the next Dail.
The party wants to roll out a very ambitious national retrofitting scheme to upgrade 1.5 million houses over the next 20 year. This would start with 50,000 retrofits in the first two years of Government, with a gradual increase to 100,000 by 2030 at an estimated cost of €1.5 billion to €2.5 billion annually. To meet demand, the party wants to establish a state building company tasked with training workers and managing the retrofitting plan.
To ensure affordability, the party would establish interest-free loans for householders, 80 per cent of which be paid back to the state over time as the cost of heating bills decline. The scheme would be fully funded for the 140,000 local authority houses. Similar policies are outlined by the Social Democrats and the Green Party.
The party plans to move Ireland in line with the levels of forestry in other EU states – the current average is around 35 per cent compared to 11 per cent at home – by planting 125,000 hectares of trees and other carbon-absorbing plants per year over the next decade.
While Coillte would deliver a portion of planting, the party wants to see the majority of planting take place on farmland, with family famers receiving guaranteed payment every year for taking up the option. The party supports a native species continuous-cover forestry model.
The party would offer farmers €3,000 annually for every hectare of land used as a carbon sink, including for forestry, hemp production, hedgerow planting, and restoration or rewetting of peatland.
This would cost €560 million annually, or around 20 per cent of the profit made in the agricultural sector that stood at €2,849 million in 2018. It is from this profit that the party wants to fund the carbon sequestration scheme through an anti-pollution tax on the profits of big agri-business.
The party also wants to nationalise the major agri-corporations, however, it is difficult to see how this proposed radical change in the agricultural model would not get caught up in years of litigation.
The party wants to cap the Basic Payment Scheme at €50,000 per annum and increase eco-service payment under the reformed Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to further support farmers to plant trees or move to other forms of sustainable farming under the afforestation scheme.
While media commentary on climate measures in the agricultural section has focused on the potential reduction in the beef suckler herd, PBP are focused on the dairy herd that the party wants to see reduced by 50 per cent. Farmers in the sector earning less than €100,000 per year would be compensated. The party also opposes the Mercosur deal that would see the EU open up to Brazilian beef.
It also wants to incentivise an increase in tillage farming from 10 per cent to 40 per cent of production, and would also support organic farming for local consumption and direct selling at farmer markets and through cooperatives.
People Before Profit has laid out a vision for a radical rebalancing of priorities toward a new low-carbon, public and active-led transport model for Ireland. It wants ramped up spending on public transport, walking, and cycling infrastructure in both urban and rural environments, including the adding of 500 new electric buses to the fleet annually until 2030 at an estimated annual spend of €350 million over the next decade.
Its tent-pole transport policy is free public transport for all that would cost around €570m annually based on current fare rates and travel frequency. The party has outlined the proposal in its previous two costed alternative budgets proposals.
It also wants to heavily invest in electrifying the rail network, including high-speed rail service joining cities and towns from Cork to Donegal. PBP wants far better support for cyclists, including a one-off payment of €165 million to create major cycling lanes across the country.
It also want to see taxation brought in on aviation fuel, specifically calling for a 33 cent per litre levy on airline fuel in conjunction with legislation to ban companies from passing the cost on to consumers. This would bring in €900 million per year.
Some of those taking flights would not be left off the hook for flight emissions, however, as the party want to add on a 20 per cent charge to the costs of tickets for anyone flying more than four times a year.
The big question that has been asked of the party during the election cycle is how it will fund all these ambitious schemes, with the party pointing to its Alternative Budget 2020 that includes proposals it says will bring in an extra €20 billion in revenue annually.
The budget proposals outlined include closing corporation tax loopholes, increasing taxes on those earning over €100,000 per year, bringing in a wealth tax of 2 per cent on households with over €3.4 million in assets, as well as targeted measures on the profits of bank profits, financial firms based in the IFSC, and the pharmaceutical industry. The party would also bring in targeted measures to tax major polluting corporations in agriculture, aviation, energy, and major supermarkets.
It says that such measures will allow it to allocate €6 billion to climate action, with further funds raised by redirecting the €4 billion in subsidies that the Government provides every year for activities that are potentially damaging to the environment. This figure, however, includes €230 million in fuel allowances to households to alleviate fuel poverty.