Speaking at a press conference to outline the positive environmental and economic implications of a carbon tax, party leader Trevor Sargent said insurance hikes would be inevitable as flooding and weather changes cause increasing damage.
“The Government and the Irish people will face further massive insurance hikes that will come with the floods and weather changes predicted by the Environmental Protection Agency.
“The State faces a massive bill for our continued breach of the Kyoto agreement, either from the direct fines for our excess emissions or through the cost of buying into the flexible mechanisms which are allowed for in the agreement,” he said.
The Green Party yesterday insisted that carbon taxes should be seen as a positive development, which would provide revenue for developing alternative energy resources.
Carbon taxes proposed by Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy are being strenuously opposed by businesses, which have launched a substantial lobbying campaign against any environmental taxes.
However, if Ireland does not succeed in reducing its emissions, tax payers will have to foot hefty fines. Under the Kyoto Protocol Ireland must reduce carbon dioxide levels by 15m tonnes before 2012 or face up to €5 million in fines.
According to a recent report from the European Environmental Agency (EEA), Ireland is now the worst environmental emissions performer in Europe, with greenhouse gas emissions exceeding allowable levels.
Far from being reduced, the EEA report found Ireland’s emissions had increased by 24%.
But the Green Party yesterday insisted a renewable energy drive funded by carbon taxes could quickly turn the situation around. Mr Sargent said a renewable energy target of 20% could be achieved by 2010 with 100% of the target achieved by the year 2050.
Green Party energy spokesperson Eamon Ryan said further investment was needed in alternative energy in advance of fossil fuels running out.
“A carbon tax would ensure that we develop our own strategic energy sources in advance of having to do so when fossil fuels run out,” he said.
“Carbon tax revenues will provide the resources to develop alternative energy technology properly and effectively,” Mr Ryan added.
Mr Ryan said a Government commitment to use the revenues from an energy tax to reduce labour taxes and VAT, the lobbying efforts against environmental taxes would cease.
The Department of Finance estimates that if the Cabinet sanctions the proposed carbon taxes, €1bn could be raised by 2008 with €160 million of this coming from household bills.