The government needs to develop a “package of measures” to meet Ireland’s climate change targets without bringing protesters out on the streets, the taoiseach has said.
Leo Varadkar said that he had learnt from the water-charge protests in Dublin and the yellow-vest demonstrations in France that measures must be implemented with public support.
He said that the government did not introduce carbon taxes in the most recent budget because it would have placed a heavy burden on citizens when coupled with the recent VAT increases.
“Nobody wants the cost of living to go up and the decision the government took was that we did not want to increase carbon taxes at the same time as we were increasing VAT on services,” he said.
“But I do actually believe in carbon tax as one of the means in meeting our commitment on climate change . . . It will take a package of measures including investment in renewable energy and infrastructure, insulating houses, changes in agriculture, and also carbon tax. You have to do all of them if we are to meet our commitment to decrease emissions and help to save the planet, frankly.”
Mr Varadkar was speaking from Mali as he continued a week-long visit to Africa. He said that he would develop a proposal with Paschal Donohoe, the finance minister, and Richard Bruton, the climate action minister, which he hoped would be ready “before the first quarter of this year”.
Opposition to carbon taxes led to Emmanuel Macron, the French president, suspending increases in diesel fuel and electricity after rioting on the streets of Paris. Last August Malcolm Turnbull, the Australian prime minister at the time, was forced to drop measures to lower carbon emissions following a public backlash.