By Joanna Gough
Ireland previously had a reputation for being one of the least environmentally friendly countries in Europe.
Eamon Ryan, former Minister of Energy (2007 to 2011) stated: “We were lapping up fossil fuels and buying bigger cars and homes – very American. But slowly, progressively, we’re taking a fresh look at our lifestyle.”
The Irish government tackled the problem by raising taxes for the use of fossil fuels in the home and workplace in an effort to save energy and boost the economy. The carbon tax is based on the carbon dioxide emissions of fossil fuels such as oil and gas.
The logic behind the strategy is that the more carbon dioxide the Irish people use the more they are charged. Introduced in 2010, it has raised nearly 1 billion Euros since its implementation.
The tax means a 5 to 10 per cent increase in the price of oil, natural gas and kerosene, so the Irish people face a choice between the more expensive option of continuing to pollute and waste resources, or, choosing more environmentally friendly and cheaper options.
The majority have chosen the eco-friendly route and Ireland is now reaping the benefits of clean energy use and an increase in tax revenue which is contributing to economic recovery.
With carbon dioxide emission levels falling 15 per cent since 2008, the country is now one of the greenest in Europe. Some people even argue that the 25 per cent tax on oil is too low meaning the country could be losing vital revenue, at a time when the economy is only just recovering from the recent worldwide financial crisis.
The Irish people have also been encouraged to recycle their rubbish which is checked and weighed at the side of the road. People are then billed for the amount of non-recyclable waste that they produce per quarter.
Renewable energy and recycling are just some of the ways the Irish public are becoming more eco-friendly. Renault-Nissan has recently signed an agreement with Dublin and EBS, Ireland’s main electricity provider, which will see more electric cars on Ireland’s roads. New car purchases will include a purchase tax and registration fees will rise in proportion to the car’s emission levels.
The new environmentally friendly Ireland may not be set to last though, following the discovery of large oil reserves in the Irish Sea. It is believed that the Barryroe oil field off the coast of Cork could contain 1.6bn barrels.
While this would bring more jobs to the area, there are fears that there could be environmental damage to the region and that the discovery may stall Ireland’s green revolution.
One thing is certain, the future looks brighter for the Celtic Tiger.