89% of Citizens’ Assembly Members recommended that greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture be taxed
The recommendations were reached by ballot paper voting and follow two weekends of deliberation which focused on the energy, transport and agriculture sectors, international best practise, and existing national policies and activities.
8 November 2017
The Citizens’ Assembly has recently concluded its consideration of the topic: “How the State can make Ireland a leader in tackling Climate Change”. The the member made recommendations will now form the basis of a report for submission to the Houses of the Oireachtas.
A total of 13 questions appeared on the ballot and the recommendations were reached by majority vote.
The following recommendations were made by the assembly:
1. 98% of the members recommended that to ensure climate change is at the centre of policy-making in Ireland, as a matter of urgency a new or existing independent body should be resourced appropriately, operate in an open and transparent manner, and be given a broad range of new functions and powers in legislation to urgently address climate change.
2. 100% of the members recommended that the State should take a leadership role in addressing climate change through mitigation measures, including, for example: retrofitting public buildings, having low carbon public vehicles, renewable generation on public buildings, and through adaptation measures.
3. 80% of the members said they would be willing to pay higher taxes on carbon intensive activities **
4. 96% of the members recommended that the State should undertake a comprehensive assessment of the vulnerability of all critical infrastructure including: energy, transport, built environment, water, and communications, with a view to building resilience to ongoing climate change and extreme weather events. The outcome of this assessment should be implemented. Recognising the significant costs that the State would bear in the event of failure of critical infrastructure, spending on infrastructure should be prioritised to take account of this.
5. 99% of the members recommended that the State should enable, through legislation, the selling back into the grid of electricity from micro-generation by private citizens (for example energy from solar panels or wind turbines on people’s homes or land) at a price which is at least equivalent to the wholesale price.
6. 100% of the members recommended that the State should act to ensure the greatest possible levels of community ownership in all future renewable energy projects by encouraging communities to develop their own projects and by requiring that developer-led projects make share offers to communities to encourage greater local involvement and ownership.
7. 97% of the members recommended that the State should end all subsidies for peat extraction and instead spend that money on peat bog restoration and making proper provision for the protection of the rights of the workers impacted with the majority, 61% recommending that the State should end all subsidies on a phased basis over five years.
8. 93% of the members recommended that the number of bus lanes, cycling lanes and park and ride facilities should be greatly increased in the next five years, and much greater priority should be given to these modes over private car use.
9. 96% of the members recommended that the State should immediately take many steps to support the transition to electric vehicles. ***
10. 92% of the members recommended that the State should prioritise the expansion of public transport spending over new road infrastructure spending at a ratio of no less than 2-to-1 to facilitate the broader availability and uptake of public transport options with attention to rural areas.
11. 89% of the members recommended that there should be a tax on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from agriculture. There should be rewards for the farmer for land management that sequesters carbon. Any resulting revenue should be reinvested to support climate friendly agricultural practices.
12. 93% of the members recommended the State should introduce a standard form of mandatory measurement and reporting of food waste at every level of the food distribution and supply chain, with the objective of reducing food waste in the future.
13. 99% of the members recommended that the State should review, and revise supports for land use diversification with attention to supports for planting forests and encouraging organic farming.
Voting took place by secret ballot and the voting process and counting of the ballot papers was overseen by former Returning Office for County Dublin, John Fitzpatrick, and his team.
The Chair of the Assembly, the Honourable Ms Mary Laffoy said: “This weekend the Citizens’ Assembly was charged with the task of offering citizen insight to Government on feasible ways of addressing the issue of Climate Change that would be likely to have the support of the public and in turn allow us to meet our existing international and European obligations.
“Today the Members of the Assembly have made a series of ambitious recommendations which make it clear that they believe there is a path for the State to make Ireland a leader in climate change however it would require significant changes in current policy and activities.” Laffoy concluded.
As was the case with the voting on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, the Members of the Assembly were also invited to write down any other issues which they felt should be included as Ancillary Recommendations of the Assembly. Any emerging consensus on themes or issues will be included as recommendations in the final report which will be prepared by the Chair of the Assembly.
The full ballot paper, presentations and associated papers made to the assembly are available on the assembly website.
The Citizens Assembly meets again on the 13th and 14th of January to make recommendations on the fourth topic the Assembly is tasked with considering, namely the way referenda are held.
*Such functions and powers should include, but not be limited to those outlined below:
- To examine any legislative proposals, it considers relevant to its functions and to report publicly its views on any implications in relation to climate change; the relevant Minister must respond publicly to the views expressed in a report prior to the progress of the legislative proposal.
- To propose ambitious 5 year national and sectoral targets for emissions reductions to be implemented by the State, with regular review and reporting cycles.
- To pursue the State in legal proceedings to ensure that the State lives up to its legal obligations relating to climate change.
** Subject to the following qualifications:
- Qualification 1: Any increase in revenue would be only spent on measures that directly aid the transition to a low carbon and climate resilient Ireland: including, for example, making solar panels more cheaply and easily available, retrofitting homes and businesses, flood defences, developing infrastructure for electric vehicles.
- Qualification 2: An increase in the taxation does not have to be paid by the poorest households (the 400,000 households currently in receipt of fuel allowance).
- Qualification 3: It is envisaged that these taxes build year-on-year.
*** Electric Vehicles:
- Develop an expanded national network of charging points;
Introduce a range of additional incentives, particularly aimed at rural communities, to encourage motorists towards electric vehicle ownership in the short term.
- Such measures should include, but not be limited to, targeted help-to-buy schemes, reductions in motor tax for electric vehicles, and lower or free motorway tolls.
- Measures should then be introduced to progressively disincentives the purchase of new carbon intensive vehicles such as year-on-year increases in taxes on petrol and diesel, motor tax, and purchase taxes for petrol and diesel vehicles.