Assembly votes to tax farmers over carbon emissions

Farmers should be taxed on greenhouse gas emissions and all state subsidies for peat extraction should end, the Citizens’ Assembly will tell the Government as part of its final report on tackling climate change.

Thirteen recommendations will make up the report, to be finalised in the new year. It will make clear concerns that the State is not doing enough to encourage, require, or lead the public by example in trying to create carbon-neutral homes, industries, workplaces, and transport. The 75 members of the assembly, who wrapped up a second weekend on the climate change agenda yesterday, voted overwhelmingly for a range of measures aimed at cutting carbon emissions.

They said they wanted a new body, or beefed-up existing body, to vet all proposed new laws for impacts on climate change, and to take legal proceedings against the State where it fails to fulfil its obligations on climate change.

They want the State to show example through the retrofitting of all public buildings, and electrification of all public transport. They also want a scheme to allow householders generating electricity though domestic solar panels and wind turbines to feed their excess into the national grid for a fee.

Incentives for the public to buy electric cars and more bus lanes, cycle lanes, and park and ride facilities were also urged, and 89% voted in favour of taxing farmers on their carbon emissions, while also rewarding farmers who succeed in carbon-capture initiatives.

Some 97% voted to end all state subsidies for peat extraction from bogs, although most said that should happen over a five-year phased basis rather than immediately. The lowest yes vote recorded was the 80% in favour of higher carbon taxes on solid fuels.

Assembly chair, Ms Justice Mary Laffoy, said: “This weekend we have made important recommendations to encourage greater ambition from the State and from the Government.”

Earlier, the assembly had heard from John FitzGerald, chair of the Climate Change Advisory Council, the last of a dozen experts to address the gathering over the weekend.

He said the Government needed to act urgently to put the country on track to meet its climate change targets.

“To date Ireland has taken limited measures to halt the progress of climate change,” he said.

“Current climate policy means that Ireland will miss its agreed emissions reduction target for 2020 by a substantial margin. Without major new policies and measures Ireland will also miss its 2030 EU target and its national objective of reducing our emissions of carbon dioxide by at least 80%, on 1990 levels, by 2050, by a very large margin.”

The Environmental Protection Agency, meanwhile, has warned that the country’s love affair with fossil fuels is posing a public health hazard.

In findings published today, the EPA says the widespread use of solid fuel home heating systems and over-dependence on petrol and diesel for transport are the key culprits compromising air quality here.

While Ireland met all the EU legal standards for air quality in 2016, it repeatedly breached the more stringent limits set by the WHO, designed to protect our health.

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