Government climate pledge will save taxpayers 500 million
Friends of the Earth has described the climate change commitments in the Programme for Government as "a new departure". Analysis by the environmental pressure group shows the shift in policy will save taxpayers and consumers at least 100 million euro a year. The findings, to be presented to the Environment Ireland conference later today, reflects the impact of the Programme for Government commitment to cut Ireland's greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 3% a year for the next five years. Minister for the Environment, John Gormley, re-iterated the 3% commitment when he opened the annual Environment Ireland conference for the first time on Monday.
In advance of addressing the conference this afternoon, Friends of the Earth Director, Oisin Coghlan said:
"The Programme for Government represents a new depature for Irish climate change policy. For the first time since we signed the Kyoto Protocol 10 years ago the Government has decided to cut our climate pollution here at home, rather than let our emissions rise and spend taxpayers' money overseas on pollution permits. A 3% a year reduction not only puts us on the path to meet our Kyoto target, it prepares Ireland for the steeper carbon cuts that will be needed in the next phase of the fight against climate change".
In April, the previous Government published a National Climate Change Strategy (NCCS) which would have seen emissions continue to creep up over the 5 years of our Kyoto commitment, from their already high levels. The NCCS projected that gross greenhouse gas emissions for 2008-2012 would total just over 350 million tonnes (Mt) of carbon dioxide equivalent, a 26 per cent rise on 1990 levels. Our Kyoto target is to limit the rise to just 13%, or a total of 315 Mt. The NCCS planned to deal with the 35 Mt overshoot in two ways: 10 Mt would be absorbed by "carbon sinks" in Ireland, such as forests. And Governmnt and businesses were expected to buy pollution permits overseas to cover the other 25 Mt. With the price of such carbon permits hovering at around 20 euro a tonne Ireland faced a Kyoto bill of 500 million euro, 100 million euro a year.
In contrast, an annual 3% reduction will see emissions fall from an estimated 70 Mt this year to 60 Mt in 2012. Ireland's emissions will total 320 million between now and 2012, a cut of 30 Mt compared to the NCCS. Emisssions will still be one million tonnes a year above our Kyoto target but that can easily be dealt with by our carbon sinks, so the taxpayer will not have to fund any overseas purchases of extra carbon credits.
"Taxpayers can breathe a sigh of relief. The Government decision to cut emissions by 3% a year and introduce a carbon levy means that the polluter will pay our Kyoto compliance costs rather than the PAYE worker. The 270 milllion euro set aside in last year's Budget for a carbon fund to buy overseas permits can now be spent on supporting pollution reduction here at home, or reducing other taxes such as VAT," Mr Coghlan continued.
"The commitment to annual cuts of 3% is a step in the right direction, but the science suggests that after 2012 the required cuts will be closer to 5% a year until 2050. Governments come and go but we need to sustain the effort to cut our pollution if Ireland is to do its fair share to prevent climate change running out of control. Friends of the Earth will continue to press the Government to put their new approach into law to make sure they and their successors deliver what has now been promised," Mr Coghlan concluded.