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Proposed petrol and diesel car ban in towns and tax hikes - how climate change action strategy will affect you

Proposed petrol and diesel car ban in towns and tax hikes - how climate change action strategy will affect you

  • City centre ban and tax hike for petrol and diesel vehicles
  • Oil and gas boilers will be banned in new buildings
  • Single-use plastics to be hit with higher taxes

Almost every aspect of our daily lives will be affected by a new climate strategy launched by the Government today.

Motorists and businesses will feel the brunt of tax hikes unless they actively invest in going green. The Government plans to force petrol and diesel cars off our roads, introduce new buildings regulations and change the school curriculum in a bid to counteract climate change.

The plan has a major emphasis on the transport sector. Proposals include banning petrol and diesel cars from town centres around the country.

A car-scrappage scheme is under consideration for next year in a bid to promote a move toward electric vehicles (EVs).

Other measures include:

  • Phasing out oil and gas boilers.
  • Doubling electricity tax on businesses.
  • New levies on single-use plastics (similar to plastic bag tax).
  • Loans for retrofitting homes to be repaid through property tax.
  • And changes to private pensions.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the government wants to “nudge” people and businesses to change their behaviour in order to tackle climate change.

Mr Varadkar said the government favoured this approach over a “coercive” one as he launched the plan he described as “our call to action in the fight to change the planet”.

Speaking at the launch of the Climate Action Plan in Grangegorman today, Mr Varadkar said the government would establish a Climate Action Delivery Board in the Department of the Taoiseach to oversee its implementation.

The plan published following today’s cabinet meeting sets out 180 actions to reduce the country’s reliance on carbon. With Ireland currently 85 per cent dependant on fossil fuels the plan aims to put the country on a trajectory to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

This will be done, Mr Varadkar said today, by seeking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by two per cent a year each year for the next ten years. Mr Varadkar said young people’s greatest fear was “that the world will be destroyed in a climate apocalypse”. He said: “It doesn’t have to happen it’s not inevitable, it can be stopped, action can be taken.”

Mr Varadkar said ministers would not support a plan to make people poorer or less secure in their jobs but said the government is “making changes now before it’s too late”.

“Our approach is not a coercive one,” he said. "It’s to nudge people and businesses to change their behaviour.”

Also at the launch today, Tánaiste Simon Coveney outlined the absolute necessity for the government to tackle climate change, saying: "We are stealing a future from our children if we don't respond in a way that is credible and real."

Climate Action Minister Richard Bruton has attached clear timelines for when he expects decisions to be taken, particularly in relation to taxation measures overseen by the Department of Finance. Over "an appropriate period of time" the current 11c gap in the price of diesel and petrol is to be closed.

The plan recommits the Government to raising carbon tax from the current rate of €20 per tonne to €80 by 2030.

If the tax stood at €80 per tonne, based on today's prices and including Vat, a litre of petrol would be around 17c dearer and diesel 20c.

While a "congestion charge" for traffic in central Dublin has been floated in the past, this plan goes much further with a suggestion for legislation banning petrol and diesel cars from town centres altogether.

The Government hopes to "provide local authorities with the power to restrict access to certain parts of a city or town to zero-emission vehicles".

Ultimately, legislation will be introduced to ban the sale of new fossil fuel cars from 2030 and to stop granting NCTs from 2045. A series of incentives are in the pipeline for people willing to transfer to EVs, including a car-scrappage scheme. It is hoped to have a charging network capable of catering for 800,000 EVs in place by 2030.

Local authorities will have to provide 200 on-street public charges per annum.

And drivers of low-emission cars could also get cheaper parking in towns.

The potential for a car-sharing programme for towns in rural Ireland is to be assessed. The action plan also sets out an ambition that all new public buses will be electric. The National Transport Authority is to set up a 'Park and Ride Development Office' to make life easier for commuters.

Large sections of the plan deal with home construction, renovations and retrofitting. It states there is a need for a "major house retrofitting programme in the Midlands".

This is to be considered in the context of a scheme that will allow householders to take out small loans which can be repaid over time through their electricity bill or an increase in the local property tax.

Every home will have to obtain a Building Energy Rating Certificate (BER) to certify the property's efficiency by a date yet to be agreed.

In one move that could prove controversial, it is proposed all buildings undergoing a major renovation (affecting more than 25pc of the premises) must bring the rest of the building up to a minimum BER of B2.

Meanwhile, the installation of oil boilers is to be banned from 2022 and gas boilers will be outlawed from 2025 in all new dwellings. Plans will also be developed for ways of having oil and gas boilers replaced in existing homes - but no new regulations will be introduced before 2026.

Carbon tax changes will also affect how we heat our homes. By 2030, the price of a bale of briquettes will rise by around €1.60 and a 40kg bag of coal would increase well over €7 before natural inflation is factored in.

Homeowners, along with schools, farmers and industry, are to be encouraged to engage in microgeneration of electricity.

By 2021 people should be able to "sell excess electricity they produce back to the grid".

Mr Bruton is also engaging with his Cabinet colleagues on a number of initiatives that will affect the business sector. They are to consider the merits of equalising electricity tax rates for business and ordinary consumers to €1 per mega-watt hour (MWh). The report notes electricity tax applied here since October 2008 is set at the minimum rate under EU rules at 50c/MWh for business and €1 for non-business. "This is significantly lower than the EU average of €4.76 per MWh for business use and €11.30 per MWh for non-business use," it says.

The Government wants to specifically engage with "the cement and food and drink industry sectors" to identify ways they can reduce their carbon footprints.

Officials are also to explore the feasibility of allowing local authorities to link the commercial rates they charge business to their property's BER.

Another initiative involves a potential new requirement being placed on pension providers to disclose what portion of any fund is made up of fossil fuel assets.

The idea is to provide pension-holders with the option of choosing a fund that does not include fossil fuels.

There are 35 action points for agriculture, including bringing forward the Teagasc GHG Emission report and reviewing education material on climate change, agriculture and land use in second and third-level institutions.

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