New taxes and more forests proposed in battle against climate change

New taxes, more forests, “smarter” homes and more public transport are just some of the proposals to battle climate change which have been mooted.

Reduced use of fossil fuels, lower speed limits, better insulated homes and more cycling facilities will all help Ireland become a less carbon reliant society, the national mitigation plan suggests.

While there are several areas in the plan, there are no bold commitments made by the Government and mainly just suggested ideas.

Ministers decamped from Dublin to Celbridge, Co Kildare, yesterday to debate the report and what might be included in the autumn budget or ministerial plans to battle climate change.

Some of the 106 actions and measures will be considered after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said at the outset of his tenure that he wanted a road map to tackle climate change.

Environment Minister Denis Naughten yesterday confirmed that incentives would encourage more environmentally friendly transport modes, but outdated and polluting transport would be taxed more.

He said everything was being considered for the budget and no decisions had been made. But he also confirmed that taxes on fossil fuels cars will increase as alternatives become available, such as electric vehicles. “Taxes will increase on existing motor fuels,” he said.

Grants, which amount up to €5,000 for a new electric car, would increase, he said. Furthermore, the Government is considering introducing a new electric car scheme, similar to the Dublin bike scheme, for the capital as well as for Cork, he told RTÉ radio.

The mitigation plan covers the sectors of agriculture, building, transport, electricity and climate.

Opposition TDs gave a lacklustre response to the proposed measures.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan called for radical and stronger commitments, including an immediate timeline for the end of use of coal and peat in power generation. Mr Ryan said farms, householders and small business should be allowed to sell solar power back to the grid. Furthermore, the Government should increase spending on cycling and walking routes to 20% of the transport budget, as recommended by the international think-tank, the OECD.

Eamon Ryan

Fianna Fáil’s Timmy Dooley noted how there were only 2,000 electric cars here compared to 150,000 in Norway and he argued that measures to make houses “green” had been rehashed.

Social Democrats TD Róisín Shortall said more commitment was needed on large scale projects, in transport and elsewhere, to help battle climate change. There were no bold moves, she said.

However, Transport Minister Shane Ross said the report recommended more measures to support better car efficiency, more bus fleets, electric rail networks and facilities for cycling. It is expected that Mr Ross will address some of these recommendations in the budget.

Forestry groups welcomed the proposal to increase planting to reduce Ireland’s carbon loads. “Irish forests planted in the 30 years from 1990 to 2020 will capture 4.5m tonnes of CO2 from the air during the period 2021 to 2030 alone,” said Mark McAuley with the Irish Forestry and Forest Products Association.

Some of the proposals

  • Better smart metering in homes so households can use energy off peak and monitor usage
  • Minimal thermal standards in properties, including for landlords who would not be allowed rent properties unless they had a minimum BER level
  • Voluntary housing upgrades, including walls, doors, attics or windows, all paid by the State
  • Better grants for low-emission vehicles, which currently see purchasers of electric cars get several thousand euro when buying new models
  • Further public transport initiatives, including more bus fleets, more electric rail as well as more cycling facilities
  • Stronger biofuel obligations for fuel suppliers, which would increase the blend of crop-sourced fuel mixed with fossil fuels
  • Lower speed limits for drivers, which releases fewer emissions, and potentially less parking facilities in urban areas
  • More inspections of farms, education of farmers and modernisation of methods to help reduce methane from cattle
  • Increase forest expansion, through grants and more incentives to plant trees
  • Ensuring all new cars and vans sold from 2030 be zero emission or zero-emission capable
  • A commitment to carbon taxation as a key driver of behavioural change with a message that increases in the tax will be phased in over time
  • Renewable heat incentives and building changes, including grants to adapt structures and therefore save on energy costs
  • Moves to invest more in wetlands and moves to carbon neutrality in agriculture by 2050
  • Increasing the use of electricity and also reducing the use of coal across society

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