Today’s news report by Harry McGee in the Irish Times will come as a shock to those of us who had hoped against hope that the runaway carbon emissions train was at least being brought to a halt, whatever about being turned around.
Latest estimates from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) are that Ireland’s CO2 emissions shot up by 4.6% in 2007. These estimates have been developed by Prof Richard Tol of the ESRI using a mathematical model he developed.
The Programme for Government’s target for a year-on-year rolling emissions reduction of 3% now looks in serious trouble. Prof Tol’s model suggests Ireland’s emissions in 2007 were of the magnitude of 73 million tonnes, that’s close to 18 tonnes for every man, woman and child in the land.
Somehow, we have to turn that around and get emissions down to 64 million tons by 2012 if the Government’s own target, within the framework of EU guidelines on emissions reductions, is to be met. The silver lining, such as it is, is that 2008 emissions are expected to be down 2.2% on this year’s total. This has nothing to do with Government policy and everything to do with the slowdown in consumer spending and economic activity generally.
These figures may give some political impetus to get the idea of a Carbon Levy back on the agenda in time for this December’s Budget, but in a time when people are anxious about an economic slowdown, is a Fianna Fail Finance Minister really going to have the gumption to tell the Irish public that a carbon tax is on the way?
He can expect to be savaged in the press, especially the right-leaning Oirish editions of UK papers that are are busily importing the lynch mob style of journalism into Irish public affairs.
And it’s not just the tabloids: last weekend the Sunday Times’ lead story was a Green “plot” to reduce speed limits. Plot? Normally a phrase associated with criminal activity is here used in a broadsheet to describe an exceedingly modest proposal aimed at both reducing emissions and saving lives (it might even save road users in fuel bills). The same newspaper gave Phelim McAleer a free plug for his odious anti-environmental vendetta documentary just a week or two earlier.
So yes, Brian Lenihan will be treading lightly when it comes to a carbon tax. Labour’s energy spokesperson, Joanna Tuffy will presumably continue to cover herself and her party in shame in its attempts to oppose every environmental measure this Government has floated in the last year. Who’ll forget her embarrassing performance in opposing the introduction of low-energy bulbs?