Environmental groups are calling on the government to tax environmentally damaging practices to change behaviour and raise government revenue.
Three simple measures, a levy on single-use items, a levy on the aggregates, and a levelling of the excise duty on petrol and diesel, would net the government in the region of €415m every year.*
And these measures are achievable as they are policies that are already in place by other European countries.
In a Budget Submission released today the Environmental Pillar, which is an advocacy coalition of 28 environmental groups, is calling on the government to broaden the tax base and move taxation away from income and onto consumption.
In addition to the call for tax reform to limit environmentally harmful practices the Environmental Pillar is also calling for the following measures to improve our environment and promote a more sustainable future with people and the environment as its core.
- Incorporate the legally binding Polluter Pays Principle into all aspects of the taxation policy
- Tax environmental bads and remove subsidies that have negative impacts on the environment
- Greening the VAT system
- Increase Capital Expenditure that focuses on climate mitigation and adaptation actions, e.g. public transport and modal shifts, and habitat restoration including peatlands
- Introduce new mandatory feed-in tariffs for the purchase of electricity from domestic and community renewable energy sources
- Restore the Environment Fund to at least its 2008-2010 level of c.€60m pa by introducing new polluter-pays levies
- Allocate 16% of the National Lottery funds to the Natural Environment with a focus on its protection and restoration which would boost employment in rural Ireland.
Mindy O’Brien, spokesperson for the Environmental Pillar said:
“If we want to build a sustainable future our Budget needs to do more than just raise taxes. It needs to change behaviour and the behaviour of business as well.
“What we are proposing is a shift in the thinking around tax in Ireland. We know that certain practices are not sustainable in the long term and if we act now to change the way people and business work then the transition to a sustainable future will be significantly easier.
“Every year we delay laying out our vision for the future of our country, the less we will be able to cope in a low carbon society. This future is coming whether the government wants to admit it or not. If we want our fleet of cars to be majority electric in ten years then we must bed in the incentives now, if we want less waste in five years’ time then we need to make it less profitable for businesses to generate it.
“Ireland needs to protect its ecological assets which are at the core of our long-term wealth, health and well-being. Greening the entire economy will be a driver for competitiveness, security of supply, including energy independence, and for sustainable employment.”
The suggestion of a levy on single-use items would be applied on disposable plastic food wrapping or containers, aluminium foil and disposable utensils. A similar scheme is in place in Belgium and Denmark.
The aggregates levy would be a tax on every tonne of sand, gravel, crushed stone or other aggregates extracted from the ground or lifted from the surface and used in construction. A rate of €2.50 per tonne would mirror the UK tax and would encourage the recycling of construction and demolition waste.
The plan to level the excise on motor fuel by increasing the price of diesel to match petrol is based on the idea that diesel emits 15.5% more greenhouse gases than petrol so an incentive to use it is not justified. The OECD have recommended equalising the rate.
* This figure is based on: 1. Matching the aggregates levy as the UK which would deliver around €80m per annum to the Irish economy. 2. Bringing the excise duty on diesel to the same level as petrol which would bring in close to €330m. 3. A single-use disposables tax similar to Belgium which made around €15m in 2010 worked out conservatively per capita would take in around €5m.