Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Committee on Budgetary Oversight

Budgetary and Fiscal Implications of Climate Change: Discussion

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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I thank the different groups for their contributions. I simply do not understand the obsession with the carbon tax being imposed on households. If I understand the testimony given by the ESRI representatives correctly, it seems even though they favour it they acknowledge that it is regressive. Reference was made to a strong trend towards regression. It was stated that low-income households spend a far higher proportion of their income on transport and energy than high-income households. The ESRI also pointed out that more affluent households have higher emissions. That is in page 6 of the ESRI paper. The centrepiece of the Government strategy is to have a regressive tax that will hurt people generating lower emissions who are most vulnerable to the regressive character of that way of approaching it.

I am keen to hear the response from the ESRI on this. I am arguing that it flies in the face of at least some analysis of the application of carbon taxes elsewhere. Notably, Food and Water Watch examined the British Colombia carbon tax. The organisation produced a report arguing that after the implementation of the carbon tax in British Colombia, taxed emissions increased while untaxed emissions decreased. The implementation of carbon taxes on certain emissions did not actually impact. Moreover, insofar as there was an overall slight reduction in emissions, it was more to do with the fact that there was a recession in 2008-09. Where is the evidence? In fact, there is counter-evidence to the effect that imposing what the ESRI seems to acknowledge as a regressive tax on people will not do anything.

Then, I asked myself another question. Where are we looking at the alternatives? All of this has been about carbon taxes imposed on households. Where is the costing, economics and analysis of what the impact would be if we had public transport subsidies in this country up to the level of the highest in Europe? What would the impact on behaviour be if we had free public transport? What would the impact on people using cars as opposed to public transport be if we had 1,000 extra buses in the public transport fleet? I would like to see those data because I wager the impact would be far greater than-----