50% of people say they would, to some extent, welcome increases to the carbon tax, according to the results of a new survey.

The AIB Sustainability Index, based on research conducted in December 2020 by Amárach Research, was released today (Wednesday, December 30). The survey focuses on Irish attitudes, behaviours and intentions regarding climate and environmental sustainability.

53% of the survey respondents stated that their New Year’s resolutions will include living more sustainably.

33% said they will switch to businesses that are doing more about sustainability in the coming year, along with 49% aiming to become better informed about impacts of what they buy on the planet.

62% of people said that positive sustainability credentials of a business have an impact on their decision to buy that firm’s products or services.

However, price is still a key consideration, with 48% saying they would be willing to pay a little more for greener home heating and 44% willing to pay a little more for greener electricity, while half would not be willing to pay more for these utilities.

One of the factors that will impact future products and services demand will be taxation and costs associated with making greener choices. In terms of support for increases to the carbon tax, 50% of people would welcome this to some extent or more, but 44% wouldn’t.

67% said they will be likely to reduce the amount of packaging and single use plastics they use, while 48% said they will demand more sustainable food options from their supermarket.

Half of people don’t take the environmental impact of deliveries from online shopping into consideration when buying online, yet 53% of people said sustainability has become more important to them since the start of the pandemic.

Covid-19 a ‘catalyst for positive change’

37% of people said they are already being personally affected by climate change, while another 36% said they expect to be impacted in the next 10 years.

The impact of Covid-19 on attitudes towards climate and environmental sustainability has been “muted”. In some cases, it has been a catalyst for positive change, with 42% of people saying they are doing more to live sustainably than they did before the pandemic began, while 44% haven’t changed.

94% believe human activity is having a negative impact on the planet, with 56% believing that human activity is mainly responsible for climate change. 81% think that collective effort is more important than individual behaviour when it comes to tackling climate change.

With more people working from home and the other changes that have come about due to the pandemic, 37% expect that the quality of their life after the pandemic will be better than it was before its onset, 19% expect it will be worse, with the remaining third expecting no major change compared to pre-Covid-19.

‘Encouraging as the country prepares for a more sustainable recovery’

Commenting on the research, Colin Hunt, AIB chief executive said that it is “heartening” that the index shows that people are planning to live more sustainably.

Gerard O’Neill of Amárach Research added that the trend in research confirms that sustainability has become more important to Irish people since the start of the pandemic.

“This is especially encouraging as the country prepares for a more sustainable recovery in 2021,” O’Neill said.

The findings also show that we are taking responsibility for change in our own lives through the choices we make about energy efficiency and waste reduction.

“The research is a wake-up call for those businesses who need new ways of relating to Irish consumers in a post-Covid world.”

The AIB Sustainability Index is calculated based on a number of questions, which are then combined to give a score that is anywhere between zero (neither interested in nor practicing sustainability) and 100 (interested in and practicing sustainability).

The AIB Sustainability Index score for December 2020 is 67, compared to 66 in June 2020.

‘Farmers get no money from carbon tax in agri-sector’ – Naughten

While the above research states that there is significant support for carbon tax, there is still much opposition.

In the context of agriculture and rural life, independent TD Denis Naughten recently said that carbon tax funding acquired from the agriculture sector, is not reinvested in the sector.

The Roscommon-Galway TD is leading the charge calling for the agri-sector to be exempt from increases in carbon taxes.

Deputy Naughten stated: “Farmers will pay in the region of €27 million in carbon taxes in 2021 but not one cent of these taxes will go back into the agriculture sector to help reduce its emissions or address the impact of these taxes.

This approach goes against the stated policy of the current government on carbon taxes that the funds are to be ringfenced and reinvested in measures to reduce carbon emissions.

“As the farming community does not have an alternative to avoid carbon taxes, and because government is not putting any of those taxes back into the sector to reduce carbon emissions, then the agri-sector should not be liable to pay these taxes,” the deputy said.