"A staggering failure of political leadership" environmentalists voice fury at carbon tax U-turn

Ireland is set to miss its carbon reduction targets by a big margin in the coming years

"A staggering failure of political leadership" environmentalists voice fury at carbon tax U-turn

Picture by: Robin Utrecht/SIPA USA/PA Images

Environmentalists have reacted angrily to the lack of climate action in the Budget.

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe was widely expected to introduce an increase in carbon tax alongside other measures aimed at offering Ireland hope of hitting its carbon reduction targets.

Following a split among Government TDs on the plan, it was eventually left out of today's Budget announcement.

Instead, Minister Donohoe said he aimed to put in place a “long-term trajectory for carbon tax increases out to 2030.”

He said he was allocating €103.5m to grants and premium rates for planting forests and pledged an increased focus on and integration of climate measures in future budgets.

The Budget announcement came a day after a major UN report warned that "rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society" were needed to limit the level of global warming.

On the Hard Shoulder this evening, Friends of the Earth director Oisin Coghlan said the failure to take budgetary action showed a “staggering failure of political leadership.”

“The Government trailed an increase in the carbon tax themselves,” he said.

“The Taoiseach himself said publicly there would be an increase; he said he wanted a new ambition on climate change.

“It is kind of two fingers to the Paris Agreement and they have just walked away from the promises they made very, very recently.”

Ireland is set to miss its carbon reduction targets by a big margin in the coming years – with the country likely to face large annual EU fines as a result.

The Environmental Protection Agency predicting a 1% reduction by 2020 – far short of the 20% the country agreed to.

Over the summer, a report from Climate Action Network (CAN) on behalf of the European Commission warned that without immediate and substantial efforts to reduce emissions, Ireland could be faced with annual non-compliance costs of around €500 million in the coming years.

Mr Coghlan said the future fines show up the “fallacy” surrounding the debate about carbon taxes.

He said the country can either pay through the “polluter pays” principle by introducing carbon taxes or it can wait until the fines roll in at which time, “the fines are higher because the pollution is higher and they will take it from your PAYE and your USC.”

“So it doesn’t matter how good you are, you are just going to get hammered to pay the fine,” he said.

“So it is a short term political calculation that flies in the face of both economic logic, social logic and obviously environmental logic.”

This afternoon, the Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said the Budget showed an “Appalling & infuriating lack of leadership on climate action from the Government.”

“Yesterday, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change sounded the alarm for those world governments who are still asleep at the wheel to this crisis but today, Minister Donohoe hit the snooze button,” he said.

“They are following a business as usual model which is not going to work and which will cost us dearly inside of ten years.

“We have a Government which has no vision for the long-term future of this country. The budget reflects that sad reality.

“Fine Gael have shown their true colours; they have not one thread of green in their outlook.”