The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has said Ireland should introduce water charges, whilst also raising carbon taxes and waste charges, in order to improve its environmental record. 

The OECD’s Environmental Performance Review of Ireland paper warns the State that carbon emissions are likely to rise following the Covid-19 pandemic, and that waste generation and pollution from agriculture would also rebound to pre-lockdown levels.

Politicians in Ireland are told in the report to act quickly to “alleviate the growing pressures from intensification of agricultural practices, demographic development, urban sprawl and road traffic.”

The Paris-based agency also advised the government to introduce road charges to discourage private travel and make public transport more popular, as well as bringing diesel prices in line with petrol prices and introducing levies on those who are given free parking at work.

The report notes that 74% of all passenger journeys in Ireland take place in private cars.

Reacting to the report, Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan said the country’s environment had “deteriorated dramatically” in recent decades and that carbon taxes would be increased in the coming budget.

“There is no avoiding the fact that our environment has deteriorated dramatically in recent decades, particularly in our water quality… but also in our use of fossil fuels. That all needs to change,” he said.

In contrast, Paul Murphy TD warned that the anti-water charge movement would reassert itself if the government pushed ahead with the OECD’s recommendation in that regard.

“If the government are considering this, they would be advised to re-watch last night’s Reeling in the Years show on 2014 to remind themselves of the kind of mass opposition which defeated water charges then,” he insisted.

“Any attempt to reintroduce them now would be met with a similar mass movement.”

The OECD claims that water charges are needed to fund investment in sanitation and supply, as “Ireland still suffers from high water losses, hot spots of low drinking water quality and inadequate wastewater treatment.”

Furthermore the report recommends raising the current landfill levy and imposing a levy on the incineration or export of recyclable waste.