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19 May 2022

OPINION: Turf ban would hit the most vulnerable households

OPINION: Tipperary community activist says turf ban would hit the most vulnerable households

OPINION: Tipperary community activist says turf ban would hit the most vulnerable households

Op-Ed by Brendan Murphy

The proposed ban on the sale of turf, which the Government has currently suspended beyond September, would, in my opinion, be an attack on rural Ireland as well as the more vulnerable households in society if introduced. 

In a recent survey, it was highlighted that approximately 4,000 households in Tipperary use turf for heating their homes. In Offaly, it’s on a much larger scale as up to 38% of households’ still use turf, so it goes without saying that this proposal if introduced, will have a massive impact. 

The tradition of cutting and burning turf is a long-established tradition in Ireland, and as a country, 14% of households still rely on turf to heat their homes. It is still a rich rural tradition, with many families still going to the bog each year to cut, foot and bring home turf to heat their home for the winter.

We are all aware of our responsibilities when it comes to climate change, and it is not only the responsibility of the Government but of each, every single one of us as collectively, we can have a huge impact.

The measure to ban the sale of turf, which is been driven by the greens and supported by the Government, is a part of Ireland’s climate action plan. 

This reminds me of the emission-based motor tax bands introduced in 2008. The motor tax system, which was based on the vehicle engine cc, was replaced by an emission-based assessment instead. This meant that if you purchased, for example, a brand new VW Golf 2.0L diesel in January of 2008, you were on the old tax band system and had to pay in the region of about €710 annual motor tax for that vehicle, but after July 2008 when the new emission-based tax bands were introduced if you were to purchase the same car after that period, you paid significantly less, up to €400 less in fact. So really, the only people that benefited from that at the time were those who could afford to go out and purchase a brand new car after July 2008, meanwhile, the rest of us had to keep on paying the higher motor tax rates on our pre-2008 vehicles.

Fast forward to 2022, with the proposed turf ban, again, it’s those in society who can’t afford the alternatives that will just have to pay the extra carbon tax on coal and other solid fuels if they can no longer purchase turf to heat their homes. 

The heating systems in most of the homes that burn turf are open fires and stoves, and the cost of retrofitting a more modern and environmentally friendlier system is just not realistic and, in some cases, and is certainly out of financial reach for most of these householders.

In my opinion, climate change action should take into consideration the effects of such proposals on everyone in our society, they should be balanced and fair, climate action should be encouraged and should not be based on affordability as we all strive to make the world a cleaner place. 

The Governments climate change action plan, although ambitious, will make Ireland a better place, but I feel our approach needs to be more inclusive, particularly for the more vulnerable in society, and this proposed ban, along with the proposed increase on carbon tax will put increased pressure on householders at a time when the cost of living is increasing at a rapid pace and families are already under financial pressure.

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