Wednesday, 14 October 2009
Dáil Eireann Debate
Deputy John Gormley: As announced in the 2008 carbon budget and confirmed more recently as part of the supplementary budget in April 2009, there is an unequivocal commitment that a carbon levy will be introduced in 2010. This commitment is reflected in the renewed programme for Government. The recent recommendations of the Commission on Taxation of course must be considered in formulating the carbon levy.
The principle of carbon pricing is accepted by virtually all economists and analysts as the most effective way to secure emission reductions. It is the basis of the EU’s emission trading scheme, which applies to the bigger emitters such as power generators and industrial plants. The carbon levy will enable us to harness its benefits in the rest of the economy and will deliver a further reduction in emissions, which will be reflected in the forthcoming carbon budget projections. In accordance with the two previous carbon budgets, this year’s carbon budget will demonstrate that climate change considerations now are integrated into the Government’s budgetary policy and the decision-making process across all sectors. It also will demonstrate that decisions on expenditure and taxation are informed as much by the climate impact as by the financial and economic impacts.
The carbon budget will outline the preliminary emissions figures for 2008; the projected emissions for the 2008 to 2012 Kyoto Protocol period, taking account of the measures already adopted through the National Climate Change Strategy 2007-2012 and in the two previous carbon budgets; the effects of additional measures being put in place; and the projected emissions to take account of these measures. Essentially the carbon budget will demonstrate Ireland’s progress towards meeting its targets for emission reductions.
Deputy Phil Hogan: I thank the Minister for his response. Will he indicate how much money he expects to raise through the carbon levy? Has an estimate been generated by his Department for the Department of Finance’s budgetary calculations? Second, there has been a shift in emphasis from roads to public transport in the programme for Government. I understand that 94 road projects will be deferred and that the money will be put into public transport. The Minister should provide some details in this regard.
Deputy John Gormley: While this issue falls into the domain of my colleague, the Minister for Transport, that certainly is the intention. I hope the Deputy agrees this shift in ratio is essential and must be made as we were out of kilter with regard to sustainability for far too long. In other words, we were investing far too much in roads and not enough in our public transport system. Thankfully, the new programme for Government recognises for the first time that this must change. This is a real commitment and there must be change. I also am glad to note in respect of public transport that at long last, real-time information will be provided for passengers. This information can be acquired from a computer screen at the bus stop or, even better, from one’s mobile telephone.
The Deputy will be aware that I cannot reveal the budget’s contents. While I cannot tell him what will be the rate of the carbon levy, it will be introduced. Moreover, I hope it can be introduced in a manner such as has been outlined in the report by the Commission on Taxation, whereby those people who suffer from fuel poverty can be protected and that the money can be directed towards reducing carbon dioxide emissions. That is the purpose of a carbon levy. It must change behaviour and must do what it says on the tin.
Deputy Phil Hogan: Surely the Minister has an estimate as to how much income a carbon levy is likely to generate to meet other objectives in the work agenda as indicated by him. The Minister also should comment on the progress that has been made in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the transport and agriculture sectors.
Deputy John Gormley: On the latter question, we are making progress. Many might state that progress is being made in respect of transport simply because there are fewer cars on the road. However, substantial progress is being made in Dublin city, for example, in respect of other modes of transport. I am pleased to note that cycling has increased substantially and visibly throughout the city. Although the bike to work scheme was derided at the time of the last budget, it has proved to be enormously successful and popular.
Deputy John Gormley: Were the Deputy to examine the report of the Commission on Taxation, he would find therein an outline of what a carbon levy might look like. That is the closest thing to an estimate I can provide to him at this point.
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