Thursday, 15 October 2020
Financial Resolutions 2020 - Financial Resolution No. 7: General (Resumed)
I welcome some of the positive announcements in the budget in the areas of climate action and transport. Investing in our public transport system, active travel options and improving the quality of our roads and rail lines are all vitally important in addressing our emissions obligations and improving the quality of life of our citizens. Unsurprisingly, I also want to address a number of the areas where we believe the Government has failed and set out why we believe these issues should be approached differently.
Sinn Féin's position on a carbon tax is well known. It is not that we do not want to address the use of fossil fuels in our homes and cars, but we believe targeting people with a punitive tax is not a fair or just approach and it will not actually help. In fact, it will do the opposite. The carbon tax applies to all the things people cannot do without, such as petrol to get them to work, gas to cook their dinner and home heating oil to keep them warm.
The 29% increase announced is inherently unfair as the richer a person is, the easier this tax is to avoid. Those who have the money can buy electric cars, install a fleet of solar panels on their roofs and retrofit their homes, thereby avoiding the tax increase in all of these areas. Most people simply cannot do this. Yesterday, the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, said the carbon tax will help people to choose the right thing. The Labour Party said the carbon tax is the litmus test of our commitment to our climate obligations. That reflects the starting position for individuals. I was genuinely astonished by those statements.
Many people would love to choose an electric car and have their homes retrofitted so their heating bills would not be sky high. They would love to choose to have solar panels on their roofs or take a train or a dependable bus instead of sitting for hours in traffic. Most people do not have a spare €50,000 to buy a larger vehicle or retrofit their home and get a heat pump.
By pushing up their bills through a carbon tax, they will have less money tomorrow to do all these things. The Government is punishing people for not being able to afford the cost of upgrading to greener alternatives. That is a punitive and brutal approach that will hamper our transition to a low carbon society and will really hurt people in the process. The people who are being targeted are the most vulnerable and will bear the most significant burden.
The carbon tax increase is already going to impact some of the industries already on the floor due to Covid-19. Taxi drivers and bus operators are going to be hit with significant additional fuel costs all while their businesses have been decimated. Again, these industries want to transition to cleaner and greener alternatives but affordable, realistic alternatives are simply not there yet. Punishing them with higher bills now will make their precarious financial situation worse and will not actually help the environment. As my time is limited I will conclude on that point.
I look forward to the Government and the Ministers publishing more details on their budget proposals, particularly in the area of retrofitting which was light on detail. We know that there are very significant delays and waiting lists and the figures in the budget need significantly more scrutiny which I look forward to giving.