Speaking during the Budget debate in Dáil Éireann, Denis Naughten pointed out that allocating the €49m due to the farming community out of carbon taxes would have been a way not only to reduce carbon emissions in agriculture but across the economy.
“Of the total €412 million to be collected in carbon taxes next year, there will be little or nothing allocated to actual carbon reductions which will it far more challenging for our economy and farming in particular in the remaining years left to the end of the decade when we are to reduce overall emissions by 51%,” said Denis Naughten.
“In Budget 2022 farmers should have seen an allocation of €49 million but this is to be ‘postponed’ until CAP is agreed, which to me is just another way of saying that the carbon taxes to be allocated to agriculture are just to replace Government funding up to now allocated for co-financing of CAP measures.
“In fact, this already seems to be happening with Government funding committed for the retrofitting of homes just being replaced with money from carbon taxes. What is really frustrating is if the carbon taxes had been allocated to agriculture, it could have made a real impact on our country’s emissions.
“Carbon taxes should be used to fast-track research on practical carbon sequestration on our pasture lands and in our hedgerows. The fact is that better grass management alone could help to address our air quality, ammonia and nitrates problems as well as reducing methane emissions and promoting greater carbon sequestration in our soils.”
He added: “My colleagues and I, as Regional Independent TDs, in our pre-budget submission proposed investment in a suckler cow environmental scheme that would pay out €200 per annum on up to 20 cows for sustainable suckler beef production, along the lines of the very successful smart farming initiative. In some instances, farmers have seen a 20% reduction in their environmental emissions, which is twice the current target set by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine for the agricultural sector.
“We also proposed that carbon taxes should be used to support a strategy for the import substitution of fresh foods and protein right across the food chain. Doing so would not only reduce our carbon footprint but could provide alternative sustainable income sources for some farm families.
“But even if carbon taxes had been set aside to deal with a very simple contradiction; we have 3.7 million sheep in this country, with farmers giving away wool for nothing – one of the greatest natural insulators on our planet – yet there is a global shortage of insulation to retrofit homes.
“Why could our carbon taxes not be used to connect up the dots within agriculture or between farming and the wider economy. This is the talk we heard from the climate agenda but is it not about time that we start to put the money where it can actually make a real difference?” asked Denis Naughten.
Speech by Denis Naughten TD on Budget 2022
Dáil Éireann 13th October 2021
Inflation makes everyone poorer, particularly those who are on fixed incomes. I want to focus on one aspect of inflation, that is, energy inflation. Gas prices, based on the Department of Finance documentation, are projected to rise by another 50% over the coming months and will then settle at a rate approximately 10% higher than the current prices in the second half of next year. That is going to have a significant knock-on impact on electricity prices here in Ireland. Electricity prices have gone up far more significantly than any other fuel cost in this country so far this year. That is partly a result of the speculative data centre development for companies that are not employing anyone here in Ireland, including the cost of providing green electricity and grid connections to them.
In addition, we have speculators who are profiteering on renewable energy developments. Only last month, there was a newspaper report regarding an Australian infrastructure giant called Macquarie which is buying up the rights to develop an offshore wind farm 5 km off the Connemara coast. Those rights were handed over by the Department of Environment, Climate Action and Communications to the previous developer. What is the State getting for that licence? Absolutely nothing. Who will pay for it ultimately? Families and electricity customers throughout this country will pay the price for it. The families who are struggling to pay electricity bills today are paying for the development of these speculative data centres. They are paying for the speculation in terms of renewable energy projects off our coasts.
On top of that, we have the impact of carbon taxes. Taxes on electricity are levied at EU level through the emissions trading system but we are disproportionately penalised for the use of fossil fuels – oil, coal and gas – in the generation of our electricity.
At the same time, electricity customers here are losing €176 million in charges they have already paid for the two power stations in Lanesborough and Shannonbridge, which could be burning biomass for the next decade, helping to address the electricity shortfall in this country over the winter period while also reducing the carbon tax levied on electricity, just as the two plants’ older sister, the Edenderry plant, is doing today. Doing this would require the Minister of State, Senator Hackett, to take a very different approach to the bottleneck in felling licences for forestry. Doing so would release the brash by-product, the branches and so on, to fuel those three power plants across the midlands. It would also give local farmers time to establish biomass crops, which could have a big impact on their financial sustainability while also having a significant impact on our overall agricultural emissions.
The carbon taxes collected here in Ireland were supposed to have been invested in reducing overall emissions, but what is going on with the carbon tax fund is little more than a three-card trick. Next year, €412 million in carbon taxes will be collected. Some €174 million of that will go towards social welfare payments. That will not take one additional tonne of carbon out of our atmosphere. Some €36 million will be invested in a just transition and greenways. This will have a minimal impact on our carbon emissions. Some €202 million will be invested in retrofitting in 2022 but, back in 2019, €90 million was allocated. That was profiled to ramp up dramatically from 2021 onwards and that was before the Green Party increased the carbon tax.
The key question is how much new money is going into retrofitting. What is going in now, in 2022, represents a 50% shortfall compared with what was profiled when I was Minister. Project Ireland 2040 set out a commitment to retrofit 45,000 homes per annum from 2021. Yesterday’s budget announced that 22,000 homes would be retrofitted. Just 4,500 of these are the homes of people who are in receipt of the fuel allowance, of which there are 370,000. In fact, there are 7,000 families who are in receipt of the fuel allowance on the waiting list for retrofitting. They will wait 26 months to have that carried out. How much of the €412 million collected in carbon tax will provide new Government spending to bring down carbon emissions? Zilch. Absolutely nothing.
With regard to the carbon fund, farmers are going to lose out to the sum of €49 million. This is the one area in which we could actually have a real impact on emissions. Better grass management alone could help to address our air quality, ammonia and nitrates problems as well as reducing methane emissions and promoting greater carbon sequestration in soil. The carbon fund should be used to fast-track research on practical carbon sequestration on our pasture lands and in our hedgerows. Nothing is going into that. We should be investing in a suckler cow environmental scheme. We proposed that this scheme should pay out €200 per annum on 20 cows for sustainable suckler beef production, along the lines of the smart farming initiative. In some cases, farmers have seen a 20% reduction in their environmental emissions, which is twice the current target set by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine for the agricultural sector.
Finally, we have 3.7 million sheep in this country. Farmers are giving away wool for nothing and yet there is a shortage of insulation to retrofit homes. Surely it is time to connect the dots.