Calls for carbon taxes and congestion charges to cut emissions

Carbon taxes, parking levies and congestion charges should be rolled out to help slash Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions, it was claimed today.

The Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA) warned the country must be weaned off its dependence on fossil fuels, a move which would have profound implications for the economy.

The leading think-tank also called for a radical overhaul of the Government’s strategy for tackling climate change to meet ambitious EU targets, with bold action urgently required.

Dr Peter Brennan, IIEA climate change working group chairman, said: “The EU’s proposals to reduce carbon emissions by as much as 30% by 2020 will have profound implications for the Irish economy.

“Not only businesses, but farmers, commuters, and households will have to start adapting to a new way of life as Ireland will have no option but to reduce - in the most fundamental manner – its current over-dependency on fossil fuels.”

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has warned Ireland faces a major battle to cut its greenhouse gas emissions and meet international commitments.

At best, it predicts carbon dioxide (CO2) levels are expected to be five million tonnes higher per year than the country’s agreed targets under the Kyoto agreement.

The watchdog highlighted the potential of carbon sinks, such as afforestation, in cutting emissions.

The IIEA has come up with a series of options to deal with climate change – the do little approach and watch our emissions spiral, or make drastic changes now and set a target to slash emissions by at least 60% by 2050.

This would involve a carbon tax on all fuels, ensure all buildings are carbon neutral by 2020 and help low-income families improve energy efficiency in their homes.

Workplace parking levies, discounts on public transport, congestion charges, abolition of VRT and motor tax on electric cars are also proposed.

Revenues from carbon taxes could be as high as €1.5bn by 2020, the study predicts.

The body also suggests a debate on the possible role of nuclear power, and investing far more in the country’s forests for use as carbon sinks.

The IIEA report, launched by Environment Minister John Gormley, states: “These are radical and in some cases unpopular policy options to cut domestic emissions but they will set the country on a long-term trajectory to break the economy’s dependence on fossil fuels and move it towards a low carbon future.”

Dr Brennan said the Government’s National Climate Change Strategy is not ambitious enough and should be revised by as early as next year.

“We will not be able to achieve the 30% emission reduction target by small incremental steps,” he said.

“Bold action and imaginative thinking are required.”

Dr Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, described the report as a road map showing what Ireland can do to emerge as a leader in the fight against climate change.

“In this respect this report will provide a source of knowledge that should be of great value not only to those in Ireland but also to other countries around the world.”

The report is to be distributed to the Taoiseach and members of the Dáil.

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