AA Ireland has warned that the increase in carbon tax announced in Budget 2020 will do very little to reduce Ireland’s over reliance on the private car, criticising the move as little more than a government cash-grab dressed up as a green initiative.
The announced increase in Carbon Tax is expected to add approximately 2c to a litre of petrol or diesel, equivalent to an increase of approximately €36 per annum in fuel costs for a typical motorist. However, the AA warned that the increase alone will do little to encourage commuters to leave the car at home on its own and government must now follow through on plans to invest in sustainable transport, particularly in rural areas.
“Fuel prices naturally fluctuate as a result of international factors and, if you go back to 2014 and 2015, we were seeing prices in the low-to mid 1.50s for a litre of petrol with these high prices having no impact on car usage as many simply didn’t have an alternative. Increasing the price today and in future years through increases to carbon tax will only achieve one thing, which is to generate additional revenue for government without having any impact on our overreliance on the private car,” Conor Faughnan, AA Director of Consumer Affairs. “Government have cynically taken advantage of the climate crisis to justify a tax increase, instead of outlining measures which would actually lead to reductions in our carbon emissions. Investing in public transport infrastructure, LUASs like systems across our main cities, quality cycle lanes, all these measures would do far more to get people out of the car than a tax increase ever will.”
“Instead, what the taxpayer is being asked to swallow today is a government saying ‘we’ll increase the tax now, and we promise that we’ll invest it in climate change measures in the future – trust us.’ While the Government have vowed to increase funding in sustainable transport, which the AA has been calling for, both the current Government and their predecessors have received significant revenue annually from fuel taxation and have time and time again failed to invest in proper alternatives to the car. Even the measures announced today, particularly the investment in cycling infrastructure, fall a long way short of what is needed to provide viable alternatives to the car.”
The AA welcomed the plans replace the diesel surcharge introduced last year with a NOX-emissions based charge – a move which the organisation claims could actually have a significant benefit in reducing Ireland’s carbon emissions. As the number of second hand cars being imported from the UK continued to rise in recent years, older and poorer quality cars with higher emissions were making their way onto Irish roads as some motorists sought to find savings on the cost of replacing their car.
“The moved to NOX-emissions based charging will help to close the gap in terms of the cost of a new car versus a second-hand UK import, which is one of the main issues facing efforts to make Irish transport cleaner. The relative poor performance of the Sterling in recent years made UK imports an enticing option for many, but unfortunately the cars being sold into the Irish market by the UK tended to be old vehicles with high CO2 emissions,” Faughnan added. “While targeting these vehicles is a smart climate change initiative, and one likely to be effective in comparison to simply increasing carbon tax, stopping short of improving on the existing incentives to push people towards electric vehicles feels like a missed opportunity yet again.”