Law centre warns carbon tax hike could exacerbate fuel poverty

Law centre warns carbon tax hike could exacerbate fuel poverty

Rose Wall

The government’s planned carbon tax hike risks exacerbating fuel poverty in the absence of affordable clean energy and reliable public transport, Community Law & Mediation (CLM) has warned.

The community law centre and charity, which opened a Centre for Environmental Justice earlier this year, is calling on the government to develop and implement an interdepartmental strategy to tackle fuel poverty before introducing any increase in the rate of carbon taxation.

“Research has shown that when citizens have access to affordable and reliable low-carbon alternatives, a carbon tax can provide reductions in emissions,” said Rose Wall, chief executive officer of Community Law & Mediation.

“However, without significant interventions in Ireland, an increase in carbon taxation is likely to result in an increase of the proportion of households experiencing energy poverty, with those who are unemployed or retired, one parent families and members of the Traveller community at particular risk. Such measures targeted at individual households also risk alienating the public from climate action.”

CLM says a number of people who access its services are “locked into emissions due to factors beyond their control”. If carbon taxes are increased, they “will be forced to pay a higher burden out of necessity”.

Ms Wall said: “We know from recent research by the ESRI that the three drivers of energy poverty are low income, inefficient homes and high energy prices – each of which falls within the remit of the Departments of Social Protection, Housing, and Environment respectively.

“An inter-departmental strategy must be introduced as a matter of priority and data collection on energy poverty must be improved so that we can effectively monitor progress in tackling the issue. Such data can also assist in the targeting of retrofitting programmes and income supports.

“Economic justice must underpin our collective response to the climate and biodiversity emergency. In its current form, carbon taxation places an over-emphasis on private, household consumption, and not enough emphasis on high-polluting industries.”

CLM’s Centre for Environmental Justice will shortly launch the findings of research conducted in partnership with DCU (funded by the Irish Research Council) into the ways in which environmental injustice is experienced by vulnerable and marginalised communities in Ireland.

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