Thursday, 7 December 2006

Environmental sustainability central to Government economic policy?

This is what the Dept of the Environment said after the Budget speech:

"The comprehensive package of environmental measures contained in the Budget demonstrated that the environment is now at the centre of Government economic policy," stated the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Dick Roche, T.D. (today, 6th December '06). The Minister was commenting on Budget 2007.

"We saw today the bringing together of the most comprehensive package of environmental measures ever announced in a Budget. This package cuts across all major economic sectors. It shows that the environment, and in particular Climate Change, is not just an issue for one Government Department but is a matter which extends across the full breadth of Government.

"As we have seen today, sound fiscal management right across the economy has allowed this Government to generate unprecedented resources for improved public services. Likewise a sound approach to environmental and sustainable development will ensure that we protect Ireland's high quality environment, while strengthening the long-term sustainability of the economy.

"That's why today's Budget contains a whole range of environmental measures across transport, agricultural, industrial policy as well as in the area of Environment and Local Government.

"We have never seen a Budget with such a focused approach to the environment:

ü Proposals for linking VRT and the motor tax system to carbon emissions and mandatory carbon emission labelling;

ü A new tax break of 50% VRT relief for electric cars building on last year's initiative on hybrid cars;

ü Abolition of excise duty for kerosene and LPG used in home heating;

ü A commitment to purchase up to €270 million Carbon Credits;

ü A new enhanced Rural Environmental Protection Scheme, including a 15% increase in Forest Premiums (another contribution to our Climate Change objectives) and 17% in REPS payments to assist the implementation of the Nitrates Programme in support of improved water quality;

ü New support for bio-energy crops including (i) New establishment grants for Willow and Miscanthus (Elephant Grass), (ii) a huge increase in support for growing bio-fuel crops – an Exchequer top-up of €80 per hectare on top of the EU support of €45 per hectare, and (iii) new grants for the purchase of harvesting machinery for bio-crops.

ü A continuation of bio-fuels relief.

ü Additional funding, amounting to €20 million between now and 2009, for the very popular Green Homes initiative which support the installation of new energy technologies such as solar panels, bio-mass burners and heat pumps.

ü The extension of the bio-heat scheme for the commercial sector to include the provision of grants for other technologies such as solar panels and an extension of the scheme to community and sports centres at a cost of €4 million in 2007.

ü The introduction of a new pilot scheme by Sustainable Energy Ireland for energy efficiency programmes in the Small and Medium Enterprise sector at a cost of €3 million.

ü Corporation Tax relief for investment in renewable energy is being extended for a further 5 years.

ü Additional Local Government Fund support for certain local authorities for the operational costs of new water services infrastructure – in support of national policy which has seen Ireland's waste water treatment standards surpass 90% from only 25% 6 years ago.

"The broad thrust of the Government's approach to Climate Change is demonstrated in this Budget. Ireland can best meet its Climate Change obligations by working on a wide range of initiatives:

ü Major industry plays its part by the obligations placed on it by the European Emissions Trading System;

ü The Government in turn is taking action across the economy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions elsewhere, for example, through today's incentives for the production of bio-fuel crops, the proposed readjustments to the VRT and Motor Tax system and enhanced Green Home incentives and so on, and

ü Through the long-term commitment to purchase Carbon Credits, allowing Ireland to support clean technology in developing nations while cutting down on global greenhouse gas emissions.

"Approaches must be adopted under all three headings if we are to meet Ireland's green house gas reduction commitments in a sustainable way. Closing down Irish industry or damaging the economy, as the Opposition would have us do, is not a logical option."

"As Minister Cowen stated last year this Government has put in place in a significant number of environmental measures to help put Ireland to the forefront of environmental innovation in Europe.

"This Budget accelerates that process. It lays down an approach, which will ensure that we remain on the path to sustainable development. It shows that we are real about addressing real environmental issue. It shows that this Government is about making sure that our environmental polices work in tandem with our economic success – not against them," concluded Minister Roche.

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