January 31st, 2017
The big changes motorists can expect to transform Ireland to a 'low-carbon economy'
A 50pc hike in the carbon tax, reducing the maximum speed on motorways and removing public car parking spaces are among the measures proposed to transform Ireland to a low-carbon economy.
A briefing note prepared for Government sets out a range of options which could be brought in to reduce use of fossil fuels and move to a 'green' economy.
They include reducing the maximum speed limit on motorways from 120kmh to 110kmh to help reduce transport emissions by more than 100,000 tonnes a year, and removing public car parking spaces in cities by a "small percentage" every year to give more space for pedestrians, cyclists and public transport services.
But a suggested 50pc hike in the carbon tax from €20 per tonne at present to €30, which would add to the cost of motoring and home heating, will prove politically divisive.
Designed to discourage use of fossil fuels in favour of cleaner energy, some €400m a year is currently collected in the tax which was introduced in 2009.
An analysis from Professor Brian Ó Gallachóir from UCC's Centre for Marine and Renewable Energy suggests that increasing the rate by 50pc would provide a "clear and timely signal" on Ireland's commitment to tackling climate change and reducing use of fossil fuels.
But it would add around 3c to the price of a litre of petrol or diesel, and up to €45 on annual home heating bills.
The move would also impact on the cost of a bale of briquettes, which would rise by around 14c, with 60c added to a 40kg bag of coal. While both are among the most polluting fuels, they are commonly used by low-income households and any measures will have to factor in the risk of making fuel poverty worse.
Communications, Climate Action and Environment Minister Denis Naughten will tell cabinet colleagues today that he intends to publish a briefing document for public consultation on the National Mitigation Plan in the coming weeks, which will set out the measures needed to address emissions from transport, agriculture, power generation and other sectors of the economy.
The final plan must be submitted for Government approval by next June.
The briefing document includes an "indicative list" of possible measures, but none has been decided, but does say that the carbon tax has a "key role" to play.
"Consideration of certain taxation elements will be necessary to underpin a clear pathway and positive policy environment for an early transition to alternative, cleaner fuels," it said. "One measure could involve an increase in carbon tax on petrol and diesel from the current level of €20/tonne to €30/tonne."
This could yield savings of more than one million tonnes of carbon between 2017 and 2030. Ireland currently emits almost 60 million tonnes a year, and they are rising. Unless emissions are reduced, Ireland can expect to endure more extreme weather events and increased risk of new pests and diseases.