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Financial Resolution No. 2: Excise - Mineral Oil Tax: Motion (Continued)

Tuesday, 13 October 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 999 No. 2

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Deputy Denis Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten I am opposed to this carbon tax structure because it fails to differentiate between those who can avoid paying this tax and those who do not have any choice but to pay it. Carbon taxes must be about driving change to a more sustainable country which is far less dependent on imported fossil fuels. It is not supposed to be about increasing Government income. It is about getting people out of cars and onto buses and trains.

I strongly believe that those living in rural areas, 37% of our population, do not have alternatives available to them, particularly in relation to public transport, and thus cannot avoid paying this tax. In addition, this tax is also regressive in that those living in rural communities will pay far more in carbon tax than those living in urban areas and yet the people living in our cities will have jobs locally and alternative transport solutions available to them. By the time 2030 comes along and we have a carbon tax of €100 per tonne, half the households in Dublin will be paying less than €9.11 per week in transport costs when the Dublin Bus subsidy is taken into account while rural commuters will be paying €39.50 a week - up to four times more being paid by people who do not have an alternative available to them than by those with a bus passing their door every few minutes.

When one looks at the heat aspect of this, based on current rates a typical rural household will pay €1 more per week in 2030 than those living in Dublin. In practical terms, the difference will be greater because the Government will subsidise carbon removal from the gas network through biomethane whereas families in rural areas will have to borrow substantially to move away from oil.

A congestion charge designed around motor tax would be a far more effective tool in moving those who can from their cars onto public transport. The alternative, which I put forward, would be to use the national car test and revise that regime to provide for an actual emissions profile of individual vehicles. That would treat rural areas - people driving long distances - far more fairly because they will have a much lower emissions profile than vehicles on congested streets. It would act as an effective congestion charge in this country and would encourage the retrofitting of vehicles and the use of alternative fuels.

We need to look at taxation models in this country that suit an Irish situation, rather than copying and pasting a model coming from continental Europe that will not drive the type of change we need to see here.

This penalises 37% of our population who live in rural areas and do not have alternative modes of transport. They are not getting their broadband delivered more quickly on foot of today's announcement and they are not bring provided with any new supports to work remotely. As a result, I will be opposing this provision.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin We have very little time to deal with what is a very important resolution before us. I will try to be as brief as I can.

The Labour Party fully participated in the all-party committee on climate change. We subscribed, after immense amounts of work by all parties, to its conclusions. Part of that, a comprehensive suite of measures, was an increase in carbon taxes. That is why we will not resile from that now. That is the acid test of seriousness about altering the build-up of carbon in the atmosphere and we must play our part in that. Part of that deal was that its cost would not be borne by people who could not afford it. That was the deal. We proposed not only a ring fence for the increases in carbon taxes but that the full carbon taxes would be rebated to those who needed them most, and that there would be a national retrofitting programme.

Those of us who strongly support the integrated strategy to achieve our greenhouse gas emission targets will find it difficult if the mitigation that was promised is not delivered upon and this particular set of proposals will undermine public support for that. There is a notion that it is enough to give a tokenistic increase in social welfare free fuel, but there are hundreds of thousands of low-paid workers who will not benefit from that and there are people who cannot avail of public transport, etc. We need to have the spirit of the all-party committee commitments met in full. We will support this tonight but we will need to return to this issue.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett I am amazed at the disconnect that seems to exist between the Green Party - and to be honest, the position the Labour Party has just announced - and the reality that huge numbers of working people inhabit. There is nothing discrediting the climate change agenda more than these kinds of regressive taxes. The Greens are signing their own death warrant with this kind of stuff. I am amazed it does not get through to them how damaging this is to the climate action agenda when climate action means punishing working people who are struggling. A group I talk about all the time is the taxi drivers, who are on their knees. The Minister wants to increase their fuel costs, which is hardly a good way to get them on board for the climate agenda.

Musicians are a group that many people were talking about. Does the Minister know how most jobbing musicians get to jobs when they are available? They drive around the country. That is how they do it. Even more of them will have to do it after the Government cuts the Expressway routes. It is unbelievable that one of the first actions of the Green Party in government is to cut back on public transport - exactly what the party did on the previous occasion in the Fianna Fáil-led Government when it cut the Dublin Bus budget. Do they really think this is the way to endear people to the climate action agenda that we need urgently? Where is the just transition in this? It is only a token that never gets acted upon.

It is just a stupid mistake that does incredible damage to the climate action agenda when the Government should be putting forward policies where climate action will make a better life for the majority who are struggling, delivering the retrofitting programme that would reduce their heating bills and delivering the additional and subsidised public transport that will make moving around the place easier and cheaper. I hope at some stage they will cop on. We will be opposing this.

Deputy Claire Kerrane: Information on Claire Kerrane Zoom on Claire Kerrane I, too, want to voice my opposition and that of my party to this regulation. Last week, I raised the growing issue of energy poverty. We all know that energy prices and bills have increased. We have seen an increase in the public service obligation levy. Electric Ireland customers saw an increase earlier this month and now we have a further increase of €7.50 in carbon tax. A fuel allowance today of €3.50 pales in comparison when we look at the mounting utility bills and, indeed, debt that many workers and families are facing. I am still waiting for the Department's report on the impact of increases in the carbon tax on low-income families. Of course, we all know what that impact is but the report still has not seen the light of day. That speaks for itself.

From midnight tonight, every driver in the State will be impacted by increases in diesel and petrol. This measure will be felt nowhere more greatly than in rural areas. The alternatives, as has been said, are not there. There are no public transport links and in many cases, it is not safe to walk or cycle. Aside from the suggestion by the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, that we can all maybe carpool in rural areas, there has been no regard whatsoever for the impact of this increase on rural towns and villages and there has been no alternative. Briefly, I will give an example of the public transport we are dealing with in rural areas. I was dealing with a college student. She is taking up a course in Tubbercurry, 40 minutes down the road. To get to college for 9 a.m., she would have to get the LocalLink bus from Frenchpark at 4.30 a.m., get to Charlestown, and wait there for two and a half hours for a connecting bus to Tubbercurry. That is the level of public transport we have in rural areas. If everyone in the morning could buy an electric car, the charging points and infrastructure are not there anyway.

Farmers will be extremely penalised by this measure. In relation to increased costs, we all know they are already struggling. This increase will lead to further hardship. It will lead to further energy poverty. That is why we are opposing it here this evening.

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