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European elections 2019

Question: Should Ireland increase its carbon tax?

Successful candidates will be involved in developing European climate policies.

In our audit of the Midlands North West European election candidates, we asked candidates to answer questions on nine of the most pressing issues facing Ireland and Europe in the coming years.

Should Ireland increase its carbon tax? What other climate change measures should Ireland introduce?

Saoirse McHugh

There is no point in increasing a carbon tax without there being existing infrastructure to move to. We need nationwide retrofit and huge investment in public transport to reduce consumption.

We need cities where people can afford to live to take the pressure off urban sprawl. All new renewable projects should be state or community owned. We should pay farmers and people cutting turf to re-wet peatlands.

Ireland should pursue an ambitious native forestry policy that has communities, biodiversity, and carbon sequestration at its core. We need to entirely refocus our agricultural system away from export of commodity products and refocus around farmers on the land producing food for local consumption in an environmentally positive manner.

We should not entertain the building of the LNG terminal in Shannon.

We should not grant any new drilling licenses. I could go on and on.

Mairead McGuinness

Creating a price for carbon ensures that the polluter pays. The Joint Oireachtas Climate Action Committee voted for the inclusion of a provision on a carbon tax in its Climate Action report which will feed into Minister Bruton’s Climate Plan. Fine Gael supported this approach which sets up a long-term price for carbon of €80 per tonne by 2030, up from the current €20.

Carbon tax isn’t the only way we price carbon – we’re also part of the EU’s Emission Trading Scheme (ETS), which covers sectors of the economy that use a lot of energy like manufacturing or electricity production (about 45pc of EU greenhouse gas emissions are covered).

We need to look at how the carbon tax is applied in conjunction with other EU climate actions. At EU level we’ve agreed to ambitious legislation and targets to cut our emissions. Now we need to implement those decisions and meet our targets.

We also need to ensure widespread public buy-in. There were huge protests in France when a carbon tax meant higher fuel costs. We’re very car dependent in Ireland, so we should also invest in measures that help people reduce their dependence on carbon, like public transport and electric vehicles. We should have a positive message to encourage individual and societal change, investing in innovation and green technology.

But a just transition to support vulnerable sectors and communities is also important. The burden cannot fall on those least able to carry it.

Peter Casey

While I agree with the tax in principle, there needs to be viable alternatives available for people to switch to and until then, I don’t think carbon tax should be introduced as motor fuel and travel will go through the roof. We’re facing an international emergency crisis with regards to climate change and Ireland should be leading the way on banning plastic bottles. As your MEP, I will promise that Ireland takes action and ban single use plastics. I am calling on drinks companies to return to the use of glass or to embrace biodegradable bottles. I believe it is a solvable problem and wouldn’t it be great if Ireland was the one to lead the way?

Matt Carthy

Sinn Féin wants to see real climate action, not carbon taxes. We oppose any increase in the carbon tax, which will punish ordinary families who are already struggling with the cost of living. Climate change is the defining challenge of our generation. The depth and breadth of change we require to decarbonise our economies and societies is such that it can only be dealt with by an emergency plan, led by governments, and coordinated at the international level. Leaving this challenge up to ‘market forces’ is a recipe for disaster.

Proposals such as carbon tax hikes not only punish the poorest, they are ineffective at reducing emissions. The international evidence in conclusive on this fact; market measures do not work, and emissions have continued to rise. Last year saw an EU record high in emissions.

What we need at the EU and Irish level is a coordinated and unprecedented government-led roll-out of a major capital investment programme that massively expands public transport, retrofits homes and public buildings, invests directly in renewable energy, builds bike lanes and local gardens, and much more. At the same time we need a binding phase-out date for fossil fuels.

Cyril Brennan

No – carbon taxes do not work. We need to invest in public transport and cut the fares to get people out of cars. We need public investment in a renewable programme rather than subsidising private corporation in the hope that they will develop a renewable industry.

Patrick Greene

The answer is no, we should not increase carbon tax. I think it is a scam and an alternative plan should be put in place.

We have a long way to go when our state is addicted to the tax take from the building industry and transportation. The very, very, very, low percentage tax on international corporations needs to be reversed to allow for proper introduction of incentives for families and businesses to reduce carbon emissions.

There is plenty of scope with proper management but yet again the traditional two-party system has failed our nation. Hemp can be used to create a new industry for farmers and industrialists alike drastically reducing carbon emissions and through the use of hemp in the building sector we can sequester carbon into the buildings for long-term if not permanent storage. But the tax take for the state would be lower mismanagement by parish pump politics being an encumbrance to our nation’s carbon strategy.

Digester plants for production of heat and electricity for large-scale building complexes esp. hospitals and state buildings should have been built years ago.

Carbon is not the only issue, cotton being one of the most polluting products on the planet needs to be managed on a global scale with a carrot and stick approach in order to manage our water resources better, water usage being but one of cottons darker sides.

Citizen initiated referenda can force the State to act more responsibly by allowing the people to have the ability to correct State misdemeanours.

Michael O’Dowd

No we should not introduce a carbon tax until we put in place proper public transport.

Fidelma Healy Eames

No to carbon tax but I want to see incentives to change our behaviour environmentally e.g. renewable energy schemes that allow us seek the energy we generate onto the grid i.e. make renewable energy a tax-free income.

No to plastic e.g. I have a ‘no plastic poster’ campaign.

Introduce walkways and cycleways for ease of connectivity.

Good public transport connectivity a must.

Brendan Smith

Seeing the climate change response just in terms of taxing carbon is to misread the urgency of the situation and depth of the actions needed.

I fully support the EU’s climate change targets and believe that climate change must be at the heart of all EU actions and policies.

I back the establishment of both a new EU Climate Bank to finance carbon transition projects and a Just Transition Fund. We must also develop Carbon EU policies and expand the powers of the ECB, so it can publish the exposure of financial institutions to climate change.

Here at home, Fianna Fáil has ensured that the Government must introduce specific measures to protect those in fuel poverty prior to any carbon tax increase and that money raised be ring-fenced to assist people not in a position to immediately transition from fossil fuels.

Maria Walsh

Extra revenue generated through the carbon tax can be used to fund measures directly aimed at low-income families such as the winter fuel allowance and the Better Energy Warmer Homes scheme. The recent report on Climate Action by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action recommended that the Government should consider the impacts of any future Carbon Tax increase on low-income families.

I want the EU to lead on implementing the Paris Climate Agreement. It is vital to protect our planet for future generations. This will require bold action – now – and changes to the way people live their lives. I will work to support ambitious emissions reduction targets for 2050.

Anne Rabbitte

Climate change is something people have repeatedly raised as an issue on the doorstep and there’s no denying that people recognise it for the potential disaster that it is. Indeed, it was a Fianna Fáil amendment to the Oireachtas report on Climate Action this week that saw Ireland become only the second country in the world to declare a climate change and biodiversity emergency.

The truth of the matter is that the situation has gotten to such an extent now that it’s likely to have an economic impact because we’re essentially playing catch-up.

The government need to ensure that any carbon tax increase would be introduced in tandem with specific measures to protect those vulnerable to fuel poverty. Revenues generated from this need to be ring-fenced in legislation to assist people who may not be in a position to immediately transition from fossil fuels. We need to be serious in our strategy to tackle growing emissions and delayed action is only going to result in much greater burdens on the next generation.

As a legislator, I would like to see all policies, at both Irish and EU level, subjected to a carbon cost analysis, which would make it clear what the cost of an individual policy is in terms of the future consequences of climate change of the carbon created or displaced by the policy.

On a European level, a new EU Climate Bank should be established, tasked with financing the wide array of climate transition investments needed over the coming decades. This would be open to both public and private bodies and offer low-interest rates.

The establishment of a Just Transition Fund would also offer support to areas and communities that may be disproportionately affected as we transition from carbon intensive activities, such as loss of Bord na Mona jobs in the midlands. This fund would help attract new industries, local employment initiatives and finance educational opportunities.

Kathleen McNamee
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