That Dáil Éireann:
— the regressive carbon tax was introduced by the Fianna Fáil/Green Party Government in 2010;
— the tax initially applied to liquid and gaseous fuels at the rate of €15 per tonne of carbon dioxide (CO2);
— the tax was extended to solid fuels in 2013 under the Fine Gael/Labour Party Government;
— there were phased increases of the tax to reach €26 per tonne in 2020;
— Budget 2021 further raised the tax to €33.50 per tonne of CO2 on automotive fuels in October 2020, and on all fuels as of May 2021;
— the Finance Act 2020 legislated for annual increases in the rate of carbon tax out to 2030, which will bring the tax rate to €100 per tonne;
— the 2022 hike alone is €7.50, bringing the overall rate of carbon tax to €41 per tonne, with this increase being applied from 13th October, 2021, for diesel and petrol and from 1st May, 2022, for all other fuels;
— the estimated additional yield from the current €7.50 increase in the carbon tax is €108 million in 2022, and €147 million in 2023;
— the carbon tax currently adds €7 to a 60-litre fill of petrol, and this will increase by an additional €1.28 each year to 2030;
— the carbon tax currently adds €8.10 to a 60-litre fill of diesel, and this will increase by €1.48 each year to 2030;
— from 1st May, 2022, the carbon tax:
— on a 900-litre fill of home heating oil will increase by €19.40, bringing the total carbon tax applied to €106.07;
— on 11,000 kilowatt-hours of natural gas will jump by €16.95, bringing the total carbon tax to €92.62;
— applied to a bag of coal (40 kilogram (kg)) will increase by 89 cents, bringing the total carbon tax applied to €4.90 per bag; and
— applied to peat briquettes (12.5kg bale) will jump by 20 cents, bringing the carbon tax applied to €1.07 per bale; and
further notes that:
— the primary purpose of the carbon tax is to act as a disincentive, which can only be effective if members of the public are using more energy than they require and if alternative options are available, however, this is not the case in Ireland as many people across all sectors of the economy are desperately trying to reduce their energy usage and despite this are struggling enormously to pay crippling existing charges;
— the Fuel Allowance is only paid to a relatively small number of households, meaning that the majority of households do not benefit from the modest payment and are therefore not shielded from ongoing drastic energy price increases;
— the carbon tax is a central contributing factor to Ireland's record cost of living increases, with the tax increasing the direct costs of everything from food and fuel to other goods and services;
— the carbon tax does absolutely nothing to address the infrastructure needed for a low carbon economy, infrastructure like a smarter grid or a network of electric vehicle charging stations;
— Ireland's carbon taxes are costing our people an increasing amount of money each year and are clearly not working from a public policy standpoint; and
— inflation is one of the key economic issues facing Irish families, farmers and small businesses and the carbon tax is making these tough times much tougher by making it more expensive to drive to work, run a farm, haulage, transport or any other type of business, or to heat a home or community facility; and
calls on the Government to:
— fully acknowledge that the carbon tax is first and foremost a tax plan and not an environmental plan;
— make life much more affordable for all Irish people by scrapping the carbon tax and only reintroducing any form of carbon taxation following the passage of a democratic referendum, supported by a majority of the people;
— commission and publish an independent financial analysis, which would determine the household and sectoral impacts of the carbon tax to Irish society, together with any possible benefits, prior to a referendum;
— recognise that a more effective climate change strategy would harness the full potential of new and emerging technologies, to spur innovations like the ones that have made solar one of the cheapest forms of energy in much of the world and electric cars a viable alternative to petrol and diesel-powered ones; and
— fully accept that this Government's climate policy logic, in which carbon pricing is the central policy response, is deeply flawed.
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak on behalf of, and with, my colleagues in the Rural Independent Group. This matter is most important because it is only now that the carbon tax is hitting home. Members of the Government might like to say that the war and other issues beyond their reach have caused the large spike in the increase in the cost of living, but what is happening in May shows why my colleagues, including Deputy Mattie McGrath, and I have always been so forceful in our concerns about the carbon tax.
I am not a climate change denier or someone who says that we should not be taking measures to protect our environment, but it amazes me that there is a simple measure that no one seems to be considering. How many plastic bottles of milk are going from shops to people's homes today? The people who were there before us were very smart. They did not put milk into plastic containers when it started being sold in shops. It was sold in glass bottles and a levy of a couple of pence was put on them. They were washed, returned and used again. If we were to stop using plastic bottles tomorrow morning, imagine the significant saving that would make for our environment. This would be a meaningful measure.
When the Green Party entered government, we believed that there would be many sensible ideas. Instead, all there seems to be is one stupid idea after another. Some of the ideas are stupider than one could have imagined, for example, the reintroduction of wolves, carpooling and shorter showers. I could go on forever. We have a Minister of State in charge of forestry who managed to plant 360 ha of forestry last year instead of the 8,000 ha mentioned in the programme for Government. What is that, only politicians asleep at the wheel at the head of their Departments? The forestry sector is in an absolute shambles. The national chairman of the forestry committee of the Irish Farmers Association, IFA, has publicly stated such. No notice whatsoever is being taken of big issues like that when it comes to trying to reduce carbon. Instead, we are getting nonsensical and stupid suggestions, such as stopping people from going to the bog and saving turf or selling turf to help other people to heat and fuel their homes.
This is why my colleagues and I are anxious that the carbon taxes should no longer be applied. A stay should be put on any further such tax. Sensible measures that would protect our environment and help us to reduce our carbon emissions should be undertaken, but all of these pleas and requests seem to be falling on deaf ears.
To me, our farmers are the real environmentalists. It is not someone in the Green Party or someone with a badge on his or her chest who is from an environmental agency or group. The real environmentalists are our fishermen and farmers and the people who own land. I use the word "own" in a sparing way because no one actually owns land. Someone is the custodian of a farm if he or she is lucky enough to be given one, has the wherewithal to borrow money to buy it or has struggled and worked his or her way up. We only own land while we are on this Earth, and we hope to pass it on to future generations in a better shape than we got it. The same applies to fishermen. There are traditional fishermen who have worked hard and had a hard living trying to survive on our waters. They are the real people who understand the environment. They are the real people who know what is good for the environment. They do not do harm to the environment. They do the exact opposite – they try to protect, enhance and improve it. Look at how many farmers have been involved in agri-environmental schemes down the years, be it the various rural environment protection schemes, REPS, or any of the other schemes where they planted hedgerows, put out bird boxes, protected streams by fencing them off and put in more effluent storage facilities. They operate their farms to the best standard they can. What thanks do they get for it? All they get is kicked by the Government and accused of being a part of the problem. They are not a part of the problem. They are the solution. To me, they are the absolute solution.
That is why this motion is so important. It is why we want to highlight what is happening and the folly of what is coming out of the Government and the three parties in it. Between the lot of them, they have done more harm to the environmental movement in Ireland and throughout the rest of the world by making us a laughing stock. For instance, we desperately need a liquefied natural gas, LNG, facility. In 2019, Fine Gael appointed a committee to determine what we should do about energy security. That happened under the then Minister, Deputy Bruton. The committee said that we should have an LNG facility and that it should be non-commercial. We have an ideal place for it in north Kerry at the Shannon Estuary in Tarbert and we want to see an LNG facility being provided there, but what the Tánaiste came out with completely contradicted what his own party's committee said we should have. Talk about mixed messages. Last week, there was the debacle of the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Deputy Eamon Ryan, going on radio to say that he would be banning the sale of turf from 1 September, the Tánaiste saying the following morning that the ban was being delayed and the Minister going on radio again the next day to say that it was not being delayed. If the Government was a dog with rabies chasing its tail, it would not appear as confused as it actually is. It is no wonder that people have lost confidence. I will tell the Minister of State one thing that I know for a fact. Be it down to the carbon issue or the various workings of the Government over the past number of years – the Green Party does not come into the equation in rural Ireland – my strong message for Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil is that they have lost rural Ireland. I mean that. No matter what twisting and turning they do tonight with Sinn Féin's motion-----