The Departments of Finance and Climate Action have not carried out a fuel poverty review to determine how an increased carbon tax would affect low-income households – with just a fortnight to go before the increase is expected to be announced in the Budget.
Members of the Oireachtas Climate Action Committee responded angrily to the admission by officials from both departments that they had not met each other to discuss the issue.
A review was a key recommendation of the committee’s much-lauded report which became the template for the Government’s Climate Action Plan. The members had asked for it to be completed by July this year.
Fianna Fáil TD Jack Chambers said it was clear the departments were taking a “siloed” approach to the issue, in contrast to the all-party committee which had worked to achieve consensus.
Matt Collins, assistant secretary at the Department of Climate Action, said the department had data collected from a 2016 study it carried out, the ESRI had done a lot of work on the issue and the CSO was also currently gathering information.
But Mr Chambers and other members said this was not good enough. “If the recommendations we have made on key issues are collapsing on day one, it doesn’t really fit with the high-level principled rhetoric we are seeing elsewhere on this issue,” he said, referring to the Taoiseach’s recent statements about protecting those in fuel poverty.
The officials conceded they had not acted on another recommendation either, which was to examine the possibilities of transferring the burden of carbon tax from consumers to producers.
The committee heard from the Society of St Vincent de Paul that the charity had serious concerns about plans to increase the carbon tax from its current level of €20 per tonne to €80 by 2030.
Tricia Keilthy, policy officer with the charity, said 400,000 people in Ireland had to scrimp on fuel at times.
She said the charity spent €4m on assisting families with fuel needs last year.
Caroline O’Doherty – Irish Independent
September 26 2019 2:30 AM