I will share time with Deputy Marc MacSharry.
It is widely understood economic prudence is at the forefront of this budget, given the possible impact of the UK leaving the EU without a deal in the coming weeks. As this is the first budget since the declaration of a climate and biodiversity emergency, the Government will equally be judged on the priority it gives to taking action in the face of this defining challenge. This is clear from the major protests taking place outside this House today. We have had many such protests in the past and I suspect we will have more of them in the future. The budget has not moved Ireland from laggard to leader on climate action. This was dubbed a climate budget. The Minister called it "a watershed moment". Ireland's laggard status stems from Fine Gael's decision to abandon the climate legislation proposed by Fianna Fáil and the Green Party when we were in government together. Subsequently, the Government failed to introduce any sort of coherent climate plan until this year.
The Government has a long way to go. The State will have to pay millions of euro for failing to meet its EU 2020 climate commitments. Our 2030 targets are at significant risk, even at this stage. This budget is very much the start and not the finishing line when it comes to climate and biodiversity loss. The Government has merely started facing in the right direction. Its decision to focus on climate action, energy poverty and just transition is years overdue. Carbon taxation is a small subset of overall climate action. Responsibility for climate leadership cannot be regarded as resting with individuals. As the carbon tax trajectory increases, it is vital that we see an increasing and urgent delivery of transparent and progressive measures in accordance with the landmark report of the Joint Committee on Climate Action. In this context, I call on the Minister to commit to enacting before the next election the necessary legislation to introduce a net zero target by 2050 and to ensure improved accountability across the Government.
We have to be clear that from a strict climate perspective, the €6 per tonne increase in the rate of carbon tax is relatively modest. It is the first increase in years. Following the excellent work of the joint committee, which achieved a consensus across a majority of its members, it is important that citizens, businesses and stakeholders are clear that we are moving towards a carbon price of €80 per tonne by 2030. We welcome the Government's decision to support Fianna Fáil's approach to new revenues raised by the increase in carbon taxes. Such revenues will be ring-fenced to pay for climate action measures and ensure vulnerable households are better protected. Perhaps it would have been more sensible if the Government, having placed such weight on consensus at the joint committee, acknowledged that this approach to the use of these revenues was not its own. The Taoiseach seems to be taking full responsibility for this policy approach. Up to a number of days ago, he had a completely different idea on how the moneys collected from the carbon tax would be spent.
Fianna Fáil is mindful of the impact of the carbon tax increase on low-income households and on people who are at risk of fuel poverty, particularly those in rural areas who might not always have ready alternatives. I appreciate and commend the expert analysis of the ESRI and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, both of which made important inputs at the Joint Committee on Climate Action. If we are to ensure the Government's approach to decarbonisation is rooted in climate justice, such independent and transparent assessment must continue. It is concerning that the Government failed to produce a review of energy poverty prior to the carbon tax increase. Such a review was demanded of it and was a requirement of the joint committee. However, it is welcome that €21 million has been allocated to the fuel allowance scheme to increase the weekly allowance by €2 per week. Given that we have a trajectory towards the €80 per tonne price, it is important that we also see an increasing trajectory of support. This, again, has to be the start; it must not be seen as the finish line. The Government should be clear that the protection of the most vulnerable people is a first-order priority and will remain so throughout the introduction of additional protective measures.
Ring-fencing is important because it provides transparency that moneys are being used specifically to support climate action on the ground. It is important that we have additional investment for home insulation, particularly in the case of social housing. We welcome the additional €13 million that will be allocated to the warmer homes scheme to facilitate the retrofitting and insulation of the homes of people who are living in, or are at risk of, energy poverty. It is important for the Government to come forward with detailed plans to ensure the SEAI is in position to assess applications and co-ordinate delivery in a timely manner. We are clear that this is a small step. We have not yet seen the sort of scaled-up investment that would allow for the delivery of a real national retrofitting programme. Ring-fencing will also allow for additional investment in new electric vehicle charging infrastructure, cycling, peatlands rehabilitation and greenways, all of which are important elements of the joined-up approach to climate action. It is particularly important that we get a transparent breakdown of the exact nature and level of the support for all of these activities. We cannot have a repeat of the Government's climate plan, which was hot on announcements but cold on steps and on the funding to deliver them.
The transition to a decarbonised society in Ireland must be made in a just and fair manner. We need to be much more ambitious and responsive in helping the industries and communities affected by this transition. A just transition is a key element of a climate justice approach. A just transition means policies that are focused on providing security and opportunity to citizens. A just transition model means new jobs, new industries, new skills and new investment. Fianna Fáil has placed particular importance on the need for a just transition, starting with the midlands. We believe just transition measures must support regions where fossil fuels are being phased out, including the Moneypoint area. I am disappointed that the Minister did not include in his Budget Statement any funding for the transition away from the burning of coal at Moneypoint. Nevertheless, I am hopeful that he will recognise the merits of including Moneypoint in subsequent announcements this year. The community there has suffered significantly. Significant job losses have taken place and all of this is having a negative impact on spending in local communities.
I have mentioned some of the initial steps that are recommended within the next six months. The Government's response has been characterised by a refusal to engage. We are, therefore, calling for the establishment of a just transition commissioner as soon as possible. The just transition fund, which is a litmus test for how this Government supports communities that are highly dependent on fossil fuels, must be used to support other areas that will be affected by decarbonisation. I have mentioned Moneypoint, which is relevant in this context. As decarbonisation proceeds, I am sure there will be job losses in places where equipment is made, etc. We need to be mindful of that. The allocation of funding must be targeted and transparent to prevent the politicisation of grant making. The major priorities for this funding are training and support for the affected communities and investment in retrofitting, renewables, community energy and public transport for rural areas. There needs to be a focus on vulnerable and lower-income families at all times.
I will move on to the area of communications. Despite the fanfare with which the national broadband plan, NBP, was again announced in May, it was not even deemed worthy of mention in the Minister for Finance's Budget Statement. The repeated claim that the project will start within weeks is simply no longer believable. The Taoiseach said there will be another delay in the project because maps for the plan are covering areas already covered by other providers. If just under half of the premises within the intervention area are covered by a commercial roll-out, as some people have claimed, this will be a major challenge and not a minor one. What will happen if a broadband provider that is planning to roll out to the intervention area refuses to enter into a concession agreement with the Department but instead continues its roll-out? What will happen if a challenge is made by a company that believes the State is supporting a company to compete unfairly with a commercial roll-out? How long would rural broadband be delayed by such a case? The €119 million that is provided for in budget 2020 is less than the amount considered necessary for the provision of this service. I have great reservations about when or if we will ever see broadband rolled out, notwithstanding the numerous announcements that have been made by the Government.
It appears that the crisis in public service broadcasting will not be addressed by budget 2020. While Fianna Fáil recognises that some reforms will result from the Broadcasting (Amendment) Bill 2019, it appears that no concerted help is on the way for the public service broadcasting sector. Some reforms of the licence fee are due in the coming months, but the fundamental challenge has not been tackled. RTÉ has made it clear that it is in a financial crisis. I understand that it needs to do some restructuring but it must move beyond voluntary redundancy. It is going to have to look at compulsory redundancy. In return, the Government will have to put appropriate funding in place.
If we believe in the principle of public journalism and broadcasting, then we must pay for it. The licence fee is not enough to meet that challenge and commercial advertising has collapsed. We in the House have a responsibility to stand by independent journalism, protect democracy and not be in the say of the big conglomerates, which drive the social media agenda and have a negative impact on democracy through their failure to reduce or eliminate the fake news that circulates in those environments. I would like to have seen money set aside for a digital safety commissioner, but the document does not seem to have any information whatsoever on the matter.