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Members of the Citizens’ Assembly voting on the wording of ballot questions today Maxwells
Going Green

Higher taxes and more bus lanes: How the Citizens' Assembly wants Ireland to tackle climate change

The voting took place after two weekends of deliberation that focused on the energy, transport and agriculture sectors.

THE CITIZENS’ ASSEMBLY has made a number of recommendations on how Ireland should tackle climate change.

Members’ recommendations will now form the basis of a report for submission to the Houses of the Oireachtas.

A total of 13 questions appeared on the ballot paper and the recommendations were reached by a majority vote. The following recommendations were made by the Assembly:

  • 98% of members recommended that, to ensure climate change is at the centre of policy-making in Ireland, as a matter of urgency a new or existing independent body should be resourced appropriately, operate in an open and transparent manner, and be given a broad range of new functions and powers in legislation to urgently address climate change.*
  • 100% of members recommended that the State should take a leadership role in addressing climate change through mitigation measures, including, for example, retrofitting public buildings, having low carbon public vehicles, renewable generation on public buildings and through adaptation measures including, for example, increasing the resilience of public land and infrastructure.
  • 80% of members said they would be willing to pay higher taxes on carbon intensive activities.**
  • 96% of members recommended that the State should undertake a comprehensive assessment of the vulnerability of all critical infrastructure (including energy, transport, built environment, water and communications) with a view to building resilience to ongoing climate change and extreme weather events. The outcome of this assessment should be implemented. Recognising the significant costs that the State would bear in the event of failure of critical infrastructure, spending on infrastructure should be prioritised to take account of this.
  • 99% of members recommended that the State should enable, through legislation, the selling back into the grid of electricity from micro-generation by private citizens (for example energy from solar panels or wind turbines on people’s homes or land) at a price which is at least equivalent to the wholesale price.
  • 100% of members recommended that the State should act to ensure the greatest possible levels of community ownership in all future renewable energy projects by encouraging communities to develop their own projects and by requiring that developer-led projects make share offers to communities to encourage greater local involvement and ownership.
  • 97% of members recommended that the State should end all subsidies for peat extraction and instead spend that money on peat bog restoration and making proper provision for the protection of the rights of the workers impacted with the majority 61% recommending that the State should end all subsidies on a phased basis over five years.
  • 93% of members recommended that the number of bus lanes, cycling lanes and park and ride facilities should be greatly increased in the next five years, and much greater priority should be given to these modes over private car use.
  • 96% of members recommended that the State should immediately take many steps to support the transition to electric vehicles. ***
  • 92% of members recommended that the State should prioritise the expansion of public transport spending over new road infrastructure spending at a ratio of no less than two-to-one to facilitate the broader availability and uptake of public transport options with attention to rural areas.
  • 89% of members recommended that there should be a tax on greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. There should be rewards for the farmer for land management that sequesters carbon. Any resulting revenue should be reinvested to support climate friendly agricultural practices.
  • 93% of members recommended the State should introduce a standard form of mandatory measurement and reporting of food waste at every level of the food distribution and supply chain, with the objective of reducing food waste in the future.
  • 99% of members recommended that the State should review and revise supports for land use diversification with attention to supports for planting forests and encouraging organic farming.

Voting took place by secret ballot and the voting process and counting of the ballot papers was overseen by John Fitzpatrick, former Returning Office for County Dublin, and his team.

The voting took place after two weekends of deliberation that focused on the energy, transport and agriculture sectors, international best practise and existing national policies and activities.

‘Ambitious recommendations’

The Chair of the Assembly, the Honourable Ms Mary Laffoy, said: “This weekend the Citizens’ Assembly was charged with the task of offering citizen insight to government on feasible ways of addressing the issue of climate change that would be likely to have the support of the public and in turn allow us to meet our existing international and European obligations.

Today the members of the Assembly have made a series of ambitious recommendations which make it clear that they believe there is a path for the State to make Ireland a leader in climate change however it would require significant changes in current policy and activities.

Laffoy thanked everyone who contributed to the committee’s work, including those who gave presentations and made submissions.

As was the case when voting on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution — which the majority of members in April recommended be replaced or amended — members were invited to write down any other issues which they felt should be included as ancillary recommendations. Any emerging consensus on themes or issues will be included as recommendations in the final report which will be prepared by Laffoy.

More information can be read on the Assembly’s website.

The Assembly is due to meet again on 13 and 14 January to make recommendations on the fourth topic it is tasked with considering, namely the way referenda are held.

*: Any increase in revenue would only be spent on measures that directly aid the transition to a low-carbon and climate resilient Ireland: including, for example, making solar panels more cheaply and easily available, retrofitting homes and businesses, flood defenses, developing infrastructure for electric vehicles.

**: An increase in the taxation does not have to be paid by the poorest households (the 400,000 households currently in receipt of fuel allowance).

***: It is envisaged that these taxes build year-on-year.

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