I propose to take Questions Nos. 531 and 532 together.
The Government published the first Climate Action Plan on 17 June. The plan sets out, for the first time, the actions Ireland needs to take to reach our 2030 targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and also puts Ireland on the right trajectory towards net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
I welcomed the report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action which worked for months to establish a broad cross party consensus on a number of difficult issues, including a recommendation in favour of increasing the carbon tax to €80/t by 2030. The Government then adopted a similar commitment in the Climate Action Plan, as one action of the over 180 actions in the Plan. In so doing, the Joint Oireachtas Committee and the government are acting on the best advice of the Climate Change Advisory Council.
At a recent meeting of the Budget Oversight Committee, the Chair of the Climate Change Advisory Council stated that "a massive body of evidence from across the world shows that carbon taxes are essential. There are very few carbon tax deniers in the economics community. A recent statement by a large number of American economists, including 27 Nobel prize winners, identified carbon taxes as essential for the US and the world."
The government has been taking a number of steps to combat energy poverty:
- €26.3m funding between 2016 and 2019 for the Warmth and Wellbeing Scheme which targets those suffering from chronic health conditions.
- The eligibility criteria for the Warmer Homes Scheme was expanded to capture more people suffering deprivation. Deeper measures are also now provided under the scheme. A total of €105.7m has been provided for this scheme between 2016 and 2019 supporting over 20,500 energy efficiency upgrades during that period.
- €79m in funding has been provided to the Better Energy Community Scheme between 2016 and 2019 which has supported innovative, community-led initiatives, some of which have helped to address energy poverty.
- The Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) has ensured that competitive energy markets are working for all consumers, including those in, or at risk of, energy poverty.
The Climate Action Plan commits to reviewing ways to improve how current energy poverty schemes target those most in need. That work is underway.
The Department of Finance is also completing a distributional analysis of an increase in the carbon tax trajectory and the impact this will have on different groups, including those in poverty.
The question of how the carbon tax will impact on different income cohorts was examined in the recently published ESRI report titled ‘Carbon taxation in Ireland: distributional effects of revenue recycling policies’. This report is available at: https://www.esri.ie/publications/carbon-taxation-in-ireland-distributional-effects-of-revenue-recycling-policies.
A public consultation to ascertain the views of the public on the options for the use of revenues raised from increases in the Carbon Tax recently concluded. The Department of Finance consultation paper identified a range of potential options including a number of fuel poverty options. A copy of the consultation paper can be downloaded from: https://assets.gov.ie/9384/b078dbb6c7614c748b897ba01b481532.pdf