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SVP speaks out on fuel poverty versus carbon tax

By Ann Marie Foley - 26 September, 2019

The Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) has called on the government to tackle energy poverty in advance of any carbon tax increase.

“SVP is fully supportive of efforts to reduce our carbon emissions and invest in sustainable and renewable energy generation. However, without addressing energy poverty, it will not be possible to meet our climate obligations, as energy poor households will be unable to change their behaviours in response to measures such as an increase in carbon tax,” said Dr Tricia Keilthy, Head of Social Justice, SVP.

The charity stated that if revenue is raised from carbon taxes in Budget 2020 it must be ring-fenced for a ‘Just Transition Fund’ and measures to protect low income households from energy price hikes. It welcomed “the Taoiseach’s commitment to do so during his speech at the UN Conference on Climate Change on Monday”.

At the SVP submission presentation to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action on 25 September 2019, Dr Tricia Keilthy said: “If a decision is made to increase carbon taxes on consumers without increasing taxes on the profits of the fossil fuel Industry, there is a direct conflict with the principles of climate justice.”

In 2017 SVP spent more than €4 million on fuel and utilities for energy poor households. Over 70 per cent of this expenditure was on solid fuel and oil. Dr Keilthy added: “Our work across the country demonstrates that energy poverty remains a major issue affecting large volumes of households. The combination of increased energy prices, poor quality housing and the persistence of low income significantly impacts on the households SVP assists.”

According to the Survey of Income and Living Conditions, in 2017 almost 400,000 people went without heating because of costs.

SVP Budget 2020 submission includes measures that would help in tackling energy poverty, including the provision of Community Energy Advisors, increased investment in the retrofit of social housing, measures to support the introduction of minimum energy efficiency standards in the private rented sector and investment in the Rural Transport Programme.

“If these measures were properly implemented, they would not only improve the living standards of low income households, it will also upgrade the energy efficiency and quality of our housing stock, reduce health related costs and help meet our climate change obligations,” said Dr Keilthy.

SVP’s pre-budget submission 2020 recommends:

– that a pilot initiative of Community Energy Advisors working in partnership with the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) would engage and inform energy users who would most benefit from energy efficiency schemes across all housing
– publication of a strategy for introducing minimum efficiency standards in the private rented sector which ensures all accommodation will meet an energy rating of least C or higher by 2030
– extend the Warmer Home Scheme/incentives to landlords who agree to rent their properties to HAP tenants with a 5- to 10-year lease and increase funding for inspections and enforcement
– increase the Fuel Allowance to a value of €830 to restore purchasing power to 2010 levels. This can be achieved by increasing the rate to €25.95 per week and reintroducing the 32 weeks payment period.

Full submission on carbon taxes is available at: SVP.ie/carbontax19.

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