No time to waste: Budget 2023 must Prioritise Biodiversity, Climate and Protecting the Vulnerable
23 September 2022
The Government must prioritise biodiversity, climate and protecting the vulnerable in Budget 2023 according to the Environmental Pillar, Ireland’s largest coalition of environmental groups.
The dual climate and biodiversity crises require urgent action and serious investment if we are to have any chance of meeting our emissions targets and reversing biodiversity loss. At the same time, the rising cost of energy is placing a real financial burden on households, in particular those who have the least capacity to shoulder it.
Budget 2023 has presented Government with a complex task: ease short-term hardship while ensuring that that our long-term goal of a sustainable, equitable and biodiversity-rich Ireland is reached.
In its pre-budget submission for 2023, the Environmental Pillar is proposing a number of measures and policies which will help us reach this goal.
- Tackling the rising cost of living in an environmentally sustainable way, through social protection increases and retrofitting for those at risk of poverty and hardship rather than cuts in carbon taxes or delays in climate action measures
- Incentivising sustainable development through a Site Value Tax
- Investing in nature through adequately funding the NPWS and creating a fund for nature
They are just some of the actions proposed by the Environmental Pillar in its 2023 pre-budget submission to achieve a a more sustainable, resilient and equitable Ireland.
Tackling the rising cost of living in an environmentally sustainable way
Measures to ease the burden of the rising cost of energy and its impact on the cost of living must focus on those who are most at risk of poverty and hardship this winter.
Calls to cut carbon tax or delay removal of fossil fuel subsidies are misguided and risk compromising progress towards a climate safe world.
Social protection measures are a more targeted and cost-effective means of meeting the needs of lower-income and vulnerable households. In Budget 2023 the Environmental Pillar is calling on Government to:
- Use carbon tax revenues to fund measures which target energy poverty and mitigate the impacts on low-income households, through both social protection measures and retrofitting homes.
- Increase social protection payments to directly address energy poverty and deprivation.
- Benchmark and index all future social protection payments
Speaking about their budget proposals, Environmental Pillar spokesperson and Director of Friends of the Earth Oisín Coghlan said:
“Achieving environmentally sustainable energy security, warmer homes and a sustainable food system has never been more urgent.
Cutting carbon tax or delaying any climate action is equivalent to kicking the can down the road and is risking our future welfare and safety.
We need policies which work together to protect vulnerable households from the cost of living rises while ensuring that our long-term goal of a sustainable and biodiversity-rich Ireland are not compromised.
Focusing on increasing social protection payments now and benchmarking future ones, coupled with retrofitting for lower income households means we know our money is going towards those who will most need it this winter.”
Incentivising sustainable development
Ireland’s settlement patterns make addressing the climate and biodiversity crises and providing key public services, such as transport, more difficult. A Site Value Tax can help tackle this by encouraging a more efficient use of land and disincentivising the under-use of valuable land.
With a Site Value Tax the state can capture gains made by the land owner from increasing prices due to improvements locally and state infrastructure investment rather than their own efforts.[i]
Caroline Whyte, Environmental Pillar and Feasta spokesperson, commented:
“Ireland’s housing system is broken, unable to provide the most basic of human needs, secure and affordable shelter for all.
At the same time decades of bad development have seen the expansion of urban sprawl across our towns and cities, damaging the environment and making the provision of public services such as transport much more difficult.
The current system does not work – it’s time for a new approach to how we treat land. We are calling for a Site Value Tax to encourage the sustainable use of land and regeneration of town centres and to discourage land hoarding and dereliction.”
Investment for Nature
Ireland is in the midst of a biodiversity crisis and suffering from decades of underinvestment. This can be seen in the poor and declining status of many of our habitats and species, with the NPWS reporting that 85% of habitats and 30% of species under the EU Habitats Directive are in an Unfavourable condition.[ii]
There has been an ongoing dereliction of duty towards nature by successive governments which has seen Ireland spend a paltry 0.13% of GDP on nature,[iii] far below what is required to halt biodiversity loss, let alone restore it. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature, an international organisation of which the Department of Housing and Local Government is a member, has called for OECD countries to spend at least 0.3% on nature protection.[iv]
Swingeing cuts to the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) during the financial crisis has left it under resourced and understaffed and despite the very high calibre of people working there, underequipped to meet the challenge of halting biodiversity loss.
Earlier in the year the Government committed to increasing the spend on the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) by €55m over the coming three years and hire 66 extra staff.
The Environmental Pillar is calling on the Government to make good on this promise and furthermore, to set up a €1.5 billion Nature Restoration Fund as recommended by the 2021 Prioritised Action Framework to begin the process of restoring nature in Ireland.[v]
Speaking about the crisis Oonagh Duggan, Environmental Pillar and BirdWatch Ireland spokesperson, said:
“The outlook for nature over the coming years is bleak unless the Government acts and prioritises spending on biodiversity, starting with Budget 2023.
This island’s nature and biodiversity are an important part of who we are as a nation and in this, the decade of centenaries, we call on Government to do what is necessary to protect and restore them for future generations.
Promises to adequately fund the National Parks and Wildlife Service must be met if we are to have any hope of halting biodiversity loss.
But, it’s not just about funding the NPWS, crucial as it is, we also need a dedicated fund of €1.5bn to bring about nature restoration so that it is not lost for future generations.”
[[i]] For the benefits of Site Value Tax: https://www.socialjustice.ie/content/policy-issues/site-value-tax-should-form-part-next-programme-government ;
Macroeconomic Case for a Land Value Tax Reform in Ireland. http://smarttaxes.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/macroeconomic-impact-of-a-land-value-tax-c-gurdgiev.pdf
[[ii]] According to the NPWS 2019 report 85% of habitats protected under the EU Habitats Directive are in Unfavourable (inadequate or bad) condition and 46% are showing declining trends. The condition of species assessed showed that 30% of are in the Unfavourable status and 15% show declining trends. NPWS (2019). The Status of EU Protected Habitats and Species in Ireland
[[iii]] The balance of this spending was itself heavily weighted towards DAFM schemes, with 80% allocated to agriculture between 2010-2015 and only 10% to the NPWS. R Morrison and C Bullock (2018), A National Biodiversity Expenditure Review for Ireland, https://research.ie/assets/uploads/2018/05/NBER-FINAL-COPY.pdf
[[iv]] International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is a membership Union composed of both government and civil society organisation, including the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage.
[[v]] “The Prioritised Action Framework (PAF) is a strategic multiannual planning tool, aimed at providing a comprehensive overview of the prioritised measures that are needed to manage the EU-wide Natura 2000 network (which comprises Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas) and its associated green infrastructure.” https://www.gov.ie/en/consultation/8513e-public-consultation-on-the-draft-prioritised-action-framework-for-ireland-2021-2027/
us challenges to policy-makers, however, it should be acknowledged that underlying
these challenges is the fact that we are living beyond our ecological boundaries and that policy
solutions which ignore, or worse exacerbate, ecological pressures will ultimate fail to solve these
issues in the short term and fail to create a resilient, flourishing and fair society in the longer-term.
Achieving environmentally sustainable energy security, warmer homes and a sustainable food system
has never been more urgent. We need policies which work together to protect vulnerable households
from the cost of living rises while ensuring that our long-term goal of a sustainable and biodiversityrich Ireland are not compromised. In our pre-budget submission for 2023, the Environmental Pillar is
proposing a number of measures and policies which will help us reach this goal.
Read our full document here: Environmental Pillar Budget Proposals 2023