24th January 2020 | Climate Change, Press Releases

Cost of climate inaction is €7.6bn a year, time to act is now


Climate change isn’t just bad for the planet, it’s also bad for our pockets. And the cost of inaction is already starting to add up. In 2020 alone, we will have to spend over €7 billion more than we should have to in just a few areas.

The figures below outline a number of ways in which we are paying for not dealing effectively. The costs are immediate and are in some way in the control of national government.

While the changes to reduce these costs will take time delaying climate action means the taxpayer continues to pay.

We need to tackle this we must invest in infrastructure that reduce these costs over time.

Green Party Finance spokesperson and Dublin Central Dáil candidate Neasa Hourigan said:

“If you have a leaky bucket, do you keep filling it with water or do you fix the holes in the bucket?

We have to ask do we continue to pay people to heat inefficient homes or do we retrofit them and make them warm and health. Do we continue to treat people for respiratory illnesses, or do we scale up emission free public transport and cars?

The government continue to discuss the costs of climate action as a major burden, but inaction is costing us dearly and that needs to be acknowledged.”

David Healy, Green Party Climate spokesperson and Dublin Bay North candidate, said:

“What we want to highlight are the major economic benefits of tackling climate change. Retrofitting homes ends the need for support for people in fuel poverty and makes people healthier. Tackling emissions in transport improves health. Meeting our emission targets will stop carbon fines. The list goes on.

You can’t claim you are a party of fiscal responsibility and rectitude and stand over this level of waste. The figures show instead a party that has done little to prevent huge wastage of public money, and that has failed to spend now to save later.”

The figures

  • Energy poverty payments: €400m is the amount the Irish state has allocated to help Irish people heat their homes properly in 2020. Last year (2019), it was €361m. The year before that (2018), it was €356m, it’s going up.
  • Air quality: In 2013, the European Environment Agency estimated that poor air quality costs Ireland €2 billion every year, in the form of health-related costs and lost workdays. On top of that, air quality causes 1,600 premature deaths every year in Ireland, at a cost of €2.6 billion.
  • Carbon fines: Ireland will have to buy €150m in carbon credits to make up for missing its 2020 climate target. That comes on top of the €125m in fines we will have to pay for missing the target. Total = €275m
  • Traffic congestion: A study by the Department of Transport using data from 2012 found that traffic congestion cost the economy of the Greater Dublin Area €358m. Since then, traffic numbers have increased, putting the current cost closer to €500m. The study estimates that the annual cost of traffic in the capital could increase to over €2 billion by 2033. Congestion increases commuting times, slows down deliveries, and reduces the competitiveness of our economy.
  • Harmful subsidies: The Irish State continues to subsidise fossil fuels. support for peat extraction through the PSO levy is completely at odds with the government’s commitments to reduce emissions. This forms part of an overall energy policy that misses out on the enormous economic benefits of harvesting offshore wind energy.

Indirect subsidies also pose a substantial cost to the exchequer. Chief among these are the reduced rates of excise on auto diesel, marked diesel, fuel oil and kerosene. A recent report by the ESRI puts the value of these indirect subsidies at €1.73 billion.