Sinn Fein opposes carbon tax rise in climate action report

Published by Niall Sargent on

March 11th, 2019

Sinn Féin has said that the party will dissent from any carbon tax recommendations included in a much-awaited report from the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action.

Speaking following the leak of a draft of the report to RTE, Committee member Brian Stanley TD said that his party will not support a carbon tax proposal that fails to protect low and middle-income earners.

In January, The Times reported that the party’s leader Mary Lou McDonald had called on other parties to back an increase in the carbon tax to ensure that we tackle our growing emissions.

The Committee – made up of 16 deputies and six senators – was established last July to consider the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly on how the State can lead on climate action.

The Assembly voted for a higher carbon tax with revenue ring-fenced for the likes of solar panel grants, retrofitting homes and flood defences.

The Assembly recommended that any increase in taxation would not have to be paid by the 400,000 households currently in receipt of fuel allowance.

The Committee is currently leaning toward a revenue-neutral tax that will increase from €20 to €80 per tonne by 2030 with protections for those in fuel poverty as per the recommendation of the Climate Change Advisory Council.

MEPs Lynn Boylan and Mairead McGuinness at Brexit and Environment Conference in Dundalk, 2017 Photo: Niall Sargent
MEP Lynn Boylan (left) has come out against carbon tax rise without protection for low income families Photo: Niall Sargent

 ‘Something we can’t support’

The increase in the flat rate of the carbon tax by 2030 is Sinn Fein’s “most pressing” concern with the Committee’s proposals, Mr Stanley said.

“We already have high fuel costs, and the current carbon tax it has not lowered emissions. They have in fact increased. Loading another layer of tax will not change behaviour,” he said.

“People need to be able to switch to the alternatives, of heat pumps, electric vehicles and microgeneration. We need also investment in public transport.”

Mr Stanley said that the party will produce its own proposals this week to include a recommendation to ensure that big polluters pay their fair share.

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.

“What the Government is doing is very unfair. It is also going to fail because unless you put in place measures to give families the alternatives, a carbon tax is just a punitive tax and it should absolutely be opposed,” she said.

The party, she added, wants to see “progressive” climate action that takes into account social justice and fairness for families “pinned to their collars trying to afford basic necessities”.

She said that holding multinational corporations such as corporate airlines to account for their emissions would be a fairer first step in terms of enhacing the carbon tax scheme.

The idea of a wealth tax for wealthy individuals and corporations should also be considered, she said, with any revenue ring-fenced for investment in public transport, retrofitting, and green infrastructure projects.

The vote counting team sort and count votes at the meeting of the Citizens Assembly Photo: Maxwells

Fulfil Citizens’ Assembly mandate

Stop Climate Chaos, a civil society coalition, said that the final report must fulfil the mandate of the Citizens’ Assembly for action to cut emissions in line with the Paris Agreement mandate to limit global warming to 1.5 °C.

SCC policy coordinator Catherine Devitt said that the Assembly’s recommendations “can go a significant way to closing the [emissions] gap”, adding that Committee members who want to reject recommendations, must replace them with ones that is “equally or more ambitious and effective”.

“The considerable increase in public awareness and concern on climate change in recent years now means that anything less than a radical shift in ambition and action will short-change the Irish population, and betray the young people now clamouring for a future with some level of climate stability,” she added.

Cliona Sharkey, a policy advisor with Trócaire, said that the Committee’s deliberations are “a litmus test” for whether our politicians are fit to respond to the climate crisis.

“[The Committee’s recommendations] must put substantial flesh on the bones provided by the Citizens’ Assembly’s high level recommendations,” she said.

“Failure to do so will be a sad and final indictment of policy makers’ unwillingness to live up to their duty of care on this unprecedented threat.”

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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