Ireland’s leading environmental coalition has repeated its call for the State to increase excise rates for diesel as a progressive step towards the inevitable ban on the internal combustion engine.
The Environmental Pillar – a coalition of 26 national environmental organisations – also welcomes the UK’s decision to ban the sale of all diesel and petrol cars from 2040, and the recommendation of our own Climate Change Advisory Council to follow suit. 
Increasing excise tax on diesel to equal the price of petrol would be a step in the right direction toward this lofty goal, while also bringing in €110 million in revenue, according to the Pillar. 
The measure is one of three key budget policies outlined in the Pillar’s pre-budget submission, together with an aggregates levy and a single-use non-compostable item levy. 
Diesel is charged at 11c less per litre than petrol and as a result, we have one of the highest percentage sales of diesel cars in Europe.
The OECD has recommended equalising the rate, while the European Commission has called Ireland’s policy of taxing diesel less than petrol “environmentally unjustified” and encouraged the equalisation of price. 
This could be done over five years to allow diesel drivers time to buy new electric or fuel efficient petrol cars. It also puts new buyers on notice that diesel will no longer receive beneficial treatment.
As farm vehicles comprise only five per cent of the diesel fleet, and as most tractors are diesel only, the Pillar suggests that these are excluded from this change.
The phase out of diesel cars will also have a positive impact on our climate change goals as diesel fuel exhaust is one of the leading emitters of automotive greenhouse gases and particulates.
Particulates from diesel engines also cause a range of health problems, with the World Health Organization clear that diesel exhaust fumes can cause cancer and emit ten times more health-damaging pollutants than petrol cars. 
The Environmental Protection Agency recently found that a high proportion of Ireland’s urban population is now exposed to harmful levels of air pollution, with traffic the key pressure. 
Mindy O’Brien, spokesperson for the Environmental Pillar, said:
“The UK’s pledge to join France in phasing out the sale of petrol and diesel cars in the coming decades underscores the current global shift away from the internal combustion engine.
“Our Government needs to take a serious look at the progressive steps being made by our neighbours, and stand up and be counted for, or risk being left behind on the international stage.
“To start, we must do something to equalise the cost of diesel and petrol now. The excise on diesel in Ireland is currently 22 per cent less than on petrol, yet diesel causes more air pollution than petrol.
“Poor air quality in Ireland is causing more than 1,200 premature deaths every year, as well as poor health for many thousands more, and diesel fuel is a key contributor to this problem.
“With this in mind, it is a no-brainer that we must remove the beneficial treatment diesel fuel now enjoys, and join the UK and France in taking progressive steps forward, instead of playing catch up later down the line.”
 UK Government, Plan for roadside NO2 concentrations published, 2017: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/plan-for-roadside-no2-concentrations-published
 Climate Change Advisory Council, Periodic Review Report 2017: http://www.climatecouncil.ie/media/CCAC_PERIODICREVIEWREPORT2017_Final.pdf
 Equalising the cost of diesel and petrol would bring around €110 million in revenue, assuming that diesel costs around €.11 less than petrol per litre and there were sales of 1 billion litres of diesel sold based on 2014 Revenue figures.
 Environmental Pillar Proposals for Budget 2018: http://environmentalpillar.ie/wp/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Proposals-for-the-2018-Budget.pdf
 European Commission, 2017 European Semester: Country Report – Ireland: https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/2017-european-semester-country-report-ireland-en.pdf
 International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) (which is part of the World Health Organization), Diesel Engine Exhaust Carcinogenic: https://www.iarc.fr/en/media-centre/pr/2012/pdfs/pr213_E.pdf
 Environmental Protection Agency, State of the Environment Report 2016: http://www.epa.ie/media/Chapter2_Air.pdf