To spur the economy and save energy, the government has opted to tax the use of fossil fuels in homes, offices, cars and factories. The more carbon dioxide the Irish emit, the higher their bills – all the more encouragement to those who don’t bother to sort their rubbish and rein in their waste (the rubbish is systematically checked and weighed at kerbside, and charges calculated every quarter).
It’s a strategy that automatically translates into an increase of 5 to 10 per cent in the cost of oil, natural gas and kerosene. That forces the Irish to choose: either continue to pollute and throw away their money in taxes, or go green. The Irish have gone for the second option. Not only is the country now emerging from the crisis, but it is showing a record rate of clean energy use.
Carbon dioxide emission levels have fallen 15 per cent since 2008, including a 6.7 per cent drop in 2011 alone, the year that saw the first signs of recovery in Ireland’s economy.
Only a few years back the country was one of the worst performers in the EU when it came to per capita greenhouse gas emissions, which were at the levels of other countries where environmental concerns seemed absent, such as in the United States.
“We’re not saints, like those Scandinavians”, Eamon Ryan, Minister of Energy from 2007 to 2011, told the New York Times. “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.”
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