Fianna Fail has tried to portray Budget 2007 as the ‘green budget’. Putting aside the issue of Fianna Fail’s vigorous courting of the Green Party, the question is: does this budget have real environmental merit?
I would argue no, for 3 main reasons.
1. Spending money overseas to solve Ireland’s carbon problems
Over the last two years, Minister Cowen has allocated almost €300 million to buy carbon credits so Ireland will avoid fines when we breach our allocated targets for reducing carbon dioxide pollution set out under the Kyoto Protocol. In doing so, instead of making those who create the pollution pay, the burden of buying our way out of the environmental problems created by this Government is being put on taxpayers. This money is being spent in other countries who have not used up their carbon targets under Kyoto. It would appear that Ireland will be spending much of the €300 million in Kazakhstan, leading the Green Party to term this massive waste of money ‘the Borat Buyout’.
This money would be much better spent investing in large scale energy efficiency projects here in Ireland, along with funding a public transport alternative to cars, which are the fastest growing source of CO2 pollution.
2. Greener Homes, but only for some
The budget sees an extra €5 million being allocated for the Greener Homes scheme, which gives grants for householders who wish to install solar panals or woodchip burners. However, due to intensive lobbying from the building industry, the Government still refuses to legislate for higher energy efficiency standards in new homes.
If the Green Party were in Government, we would introduce new building regulations setting out high standards in the areas of energy efficiency, carbon output and the use of renewable energy. This will protect our environment and save householders money.
3. Fudging car tax
Minister Cowen has finally followed Green Party policy by agreeing to link vehicle registration tax (VRT) and motor tax to the emissions from cars. However, this plan won’t be implemented till 2008 at the earliest. This means that those drivers who make the change to more energy efficient vehicles are not being rewarded.