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Cap and Dividend: A Way to Save the Climate that Can Succeed

Extract from a seminal report.  Find it here


What It Will Take to Counter Extremism and Engage Americans in the Fight against Global Warming

by Theda Scokpol Political Scientist,  Harvard, US :

” Politically speaking, the cap and dividend route has a number of advantages. Instead of building political support by bargaining with industrial interests about how many permits they may get cheaply or for free, the cap and dividend approach makes it possible to speak with average citizens about what they might gain as well as pay during the transitional period of increasing prices for energy from carbon sources. Cap and dividend is simple to spell out (the Collins-Cantwell bill was 39 pages, compared to over a thousand pages for cap and trade) and it is also relatively transparent. Citizens could understand and trust this policy. Like Social Security, taxes or proceeds from auctions are collected for a separate trust fund – and the revenues are used to pay for broadly valued benefits for each citizen and every family. No opaque, messy, corrupt insider deals. The dividend payments also deliver a relatively greater economic pay-off to the least-well off individuals and families, precisely the people who, as energy prices rise, would have to spend more of their incomes as home heating, electricity, and gasoline. Popularly rooted organizations like labor unions, churches, and old people’s associations might rally behind such an approach, because it is economically just in its impact.158
Indeed, for some years after it started, a cap and dividend system would reduce the expanding income inequalities that have plagued American society and politics in recent decades.159 Some environmentalists speak as if social benefits and economic fairness are not “their issues” (remember the contempt USCAP leaders expressed toward health care reform, which provides major new protections for low and middle-income  Americans). But all U.S. environmentalists should recognize that they have a stake in combating income inequality. Environmentalism has a reputation for appealing mostly to white, upper-middle-class educated citizens, even as stagnating wages for less privileged Americans have made it easy for right-wing forces to demonize carbon-capping as a new tax that will burden already hard-pressed families. Cap and dividend would allow anti- global warming advocates to say – loud and clear, and very truthfully – that promoting cleaner energy will also boost the economic fortunes of average Americans. The claim would not have to rest only on pie-in-the-sky green energy jobs. Those jobs will appear, indeed are already appearing in the tens of thousands, but the promise of future jobs for some people is not going to be enough to counter right-wing scare campaigns that stoke the well-founded economic anxieties of the majority. Reformers who want to remake energy use in the United States need to deliver concrete economic help to ordinary families along the way, and ideally they should do it in easy-to-understand, transparent ways.
A cap and dividend approach could be advantageous for many environmental activists and green businesses, too. Each year, when the dividend checks go out, environmental advocacy groups could ask their supporters to donate a portion of the dividend to their causes, thus rechanneling some of the money raised by capping carbon emissions to pay for complementary kinds of environmental advocacy. Environmental groups, along with nonprofits, religious groups, and citizens’ groups could encourage local businesses, nonprofits, and families to install energy-saving devices that would, in effect, allow more of the rebates to go for purposes other than offsetting higher electricity and gasoline prices. Furthermore, the yearly arrival of the dividends would allow green businesses to advertise energy-saving appliances, cars, and home-heating solutions. They could say to Americans that “an investment in new green technology is a good use for this year’s dividend check, and it will allow you to keep more of next year’s check.” The ads practically write themselves.
All of the examples listed here are instances of what political scientists call “positive feedback loops” from a policy breakthrough. The most powerful kind of reformist policymaking uses an initial law to create material benefits and normative claims that, in turn, reinforce and enlarge the supportive political coalition behind the new measure. A classic example is Social Security, which in addition to furthering the economic wellbeing of older Americans, also enhanced their capacities and willingness to be active citizens – who in turn have lobbied and voted to sustain Social Security over the decades.160 Cap and dividend has the clear potential to launch such reinforcing feedback loops as well, attracting voter support and enhancing the leverage of the businesses and reform organizations that have an interest in completing America’s transition to a green economy. Cap and dividend is a deal with the angels, not the devils.”

C&D is very similar to the Cap and Share (C&S) proposal developed by Richard Douthwaite with Feasta, the Irish NGO I helped found over 16 years ago.  Feasta campaigned against the ETS,  for Europe back in the 2006-9. The campaign is still quietly working away see  also see for more in depth reports.  Our work was more focused on a global solution than national but to illustrate, we undertook individual studies for Ireland, India and China.  Feasta lost the struggle to get C&S taken seriously in Europe because the powerful climate network, CAN supported the ETS for the same reasons as the US green NGOs supported Cap and Trade.  They thought they could work with corporations to deliver incremental but steady change.  In the event, the ‘grandfathering’ of carbon credits made millions for dirty industries paid for by the public in higher charges and millions in the financial sector gaming its complicated rules and regulations.  ETS made no friends for the environmental movement; few ordinary people understood it and when they did, they were furious.  Europe is now revisiting the design of the ETS because it has manifestly failed to deliver discernible results.

The recent complete breakdown of confidence in the current mechanisms to enforce or foster global efforts to address climate change UN climate process in Warsaw has created a vacuum for more radical ideas.  It mirrors the failure of the Obama administration to make even the smallest progress to address the problem.  The time is opportune to promote a financial/fiscal mechanism to protect the climate commons and in tandem address inequality and poverty throughout the world.

That mechanism is Cap and Share/Dividend – Lets grab it and run with it.

Posted in Cap & Share, Land Taxation, News.

Put Ireland’s Natural Resources in Trust for the People

Tipperary farmland

Ireland’s natural resources

Submission to the Constitutional Reform Forum

4 December 2013

Smart Taxes Network

The Constitution does not reflect contemporary knowledge of the importance and role of the environment as the basis of enduring social and economic wellbeing. It most serious flaw and oversight is that it permits the alienation of the Nation’s natural resources by the current generation of the people of Ireland by actions of the organs of the State against the interest of the common good of generations to come of the people of Ireland.
It is extremely unlikely that the drafters of the Constitution supported the seriously depletion, degradation or permanently alienation i.e. sold to third parties of the nation’s natural resources to benefit only one generation of Irish people. They lived in a time when resources appeared bountiful and whose use was severely constrained by the technologies of the day.
This is not the world we now inhabit where the forces of technological change and financial power have overcome all obstacles to exploit both non-renewable and renewable natural resources. Only the will of the people working through their democratic institutions can stand in the way of their capture by local or foreign elites. It is vital that the value of our natural resources – our commons – is retained in our ownership and permanently protected in the Constitution to provide for the well being of future generations of Irish people.
Article 10 should be amended as follows

1. All natural resources, including the air and all forms of potential energy, within the jurisdiction of the Parliament and Government established by this Constitution and all royalties and franchises within that jurisdiction are held in Trust for the people of Ireland by the State subject to all estates and interests therein for the time being lawfully vested in any person or body.
2. All land and all mines, minerals and waters which belonged to Saorstát Éireann immediately before the coming into operation of this Constitution jurisdiction are held in Trust for the people of Ireland by the State to the same extent as they then belonged to Saorstát Éireann.
3. Provision may be made by law for the management of the property which belongs to the State by virtue of this Article and for the control of the alienation, whether temporary or permanent, of that property. This does not include the natural resources held in Trust by the State for the people of Ireland, which can never be alienated.
4. Provision may also be made by law for the management of land, mines, minerals and waters acquired by the State after the coming into operation of this Constitution. and for the control of the alienation, whether temporary or permanent, of the land, mines, minerals and waters so acquired.

The Constitution does not clearly discriminate between public resources such as ports, hospitals and roads etc. and common resources created by nature. It conflates revenue from economic activity such as income taxation, VAT, company taxes etc. with that of revenue from natural resources such as sale income, rents, fees etc. for the use of those resources. It then puts all these mixed revenues into a single undiscriminating pot.  If the State is to properly perform its responsibility as Trustee of the natural resources for the people of Ireland, it must differentiate the revenues from natural resources from that derived from labour and capital.

Therefore Article 11 should be amended as follows; –

All revenues of the State except that arising from natural resources, subject to such exception as may be provided by law, form one fund, and shall be appropriated for the purposes and in the manner and subject to the charges and liabilities determined and imposed by law.

The stricture of non-alienation does not mean that our non-renewable fossil fuel or mineral resources can never be developed and sold. The difference will be that the revenue from such sales cannot be used for general government purposes but they must be invested in a ring-fenced fund such as the Norwegian Oil Fund or the Alaska Permanent Fund and managed prudently in trust for the people. In other words, the natural resource may be transformed into another capital resource of equal value, if it is democratically decided to do so in a referendum, but it can’t be spent by the current generation to leave less for the next.
It might well be decided by the people that fossil fuel resources such as fracked natural gas is more valuable to current and future generations left stored in the rocks rather than converted into a national fund given its potential to destroy the atmosphere on which we vitally depend.
Renewable resources such as wind and wave energy could never be permanently or substantially alienated but must be used for the good of the people of Ireland. Only after all need for such resources are fully met at home, could sale of the products of the renewable energy be considered such as in Top up and Spill arrangements into the electricity grid of the UK or other nation state.
Clean fresh water is only partly renewable and is increasingly scarce. The revised Constitution as above will prevent any future government from alienating this natural resource from the ownership of the people of Ireland. This will allay the fears of many people that charging for water use and treatment will lead to the privatisation of the resource.
These Constitutional amendments will prevent our natural resources from being used as collateral for borrowing by the State as it will have no right to do so in its role as trustee for the people of Ireland. In the same way, 3rd parties such as the ECB, IMF and EU Commission or private hedge fund or sovereign fund could never demand the sale of our national common resources to satisfy a public financial debt.


Emer O’Siochru – 39 Windsor Road Dublin 6 –

Posted in News, Wind Energy.

No to Minister Rabbitte’s Plan to Sell Off the Irish People’s Wind Power to the UK

No to Export of Wind Energy

Response to Consultation Call for “Renewable Energy Export Framework”

Sent 22nd November.  Edited 25th November 2013

Attn: Mr. Alan Duggan, Sustainable and Renewable Energy Division, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources,

See below comments under your headings:

‘Set out a clear national policy context for the export of renewable energy’

The context of ‘exporting’ renewable energy raises many issues that do not exist in the context of renewable energy consumed in Ireland.  Export presupposes a sale that in turn raises the issue of ownership or the bundle of rights attached to renewable energy resources.  This issue has never been discussed in the public domain.  There is no shared understanding of the structure and assignment of property interests in Irish renewable energy resources, neither in the consultative document nor any other government policy document.

We can look only to Bunreacht nahÉireann, the Constitution of Ireland for direction.  Unfortunately, the Constitution is less than fully clear in assigning ownership rights to natural resources within the nation.  But if one follows the logic of the various Articles closely and in sequence, one can establish some answers.  In brief, Articles 1,2,3, 4, 5 & 6 state that; the Irish nation comprises the people of Ireland who share the territory of the Island; the State derives from the people of Ireland and the organs of the State must deliver for the common good; all natural resources belong to the State (the people of Ireland sharing the island).  Article 10 then says that the State (the people of Ireland sharing the island) claims all natural resources subject to pre-existing claims for the time being.  We see that the State (the people of Ireland sharing the island) can do pretty much as it pleases with these natural resources including ‘alienation’ either temporary or permanently.  Article 11 requires that all revenues including those from natural resources shall go into a single pot, unless law decides it otherwise.

The Constitution as it stands does not reflect contemporary knowledge of the importance and role of the environment as the basis of enduring social and economic wellbeing.  Its most serious oversight is that it appears to permit the alienation of the Nation’s natural resources by the current generation of the people of Ireland by actions of the organs of the State against the interest of the common good of generations to come of the people of Ireland.

The Constitutional Convention should address this issue as a priority.

Until the Constitution is brought fully up to date, consultation for a national policy context for the export of renewable energy is dangerously premature.  The issues that need to be resolved before public consultation can be fruitful include the following:

  1. Who can morally and lawfully claim rights to and value from our common wind energy resource?

Is it the land owners that give access to it; the local authority that gives it planning permission and imposes development levies and commercial rates; the developer of the wind turbine sites; the final owner of the energy generator assets e.g. wind turbine owners or wind company shareholders; the financiers of the wind turbines e.g. banks, or bondholders providing loans to the developers or investors: the local community living or working in the area the wind turbines are sited and if so how far does that area extend; the government of Ireland; or as the Constitution asserts, only the people of Ireland collectively? This question has important ramifications for planning and economic policies governing RE development.

It seems on the face of it that landowners have no prior claim to the value of wind energy simply because their land gives access to it.  Neither does the local community appear to have a prior claim over the people in Ireland in general.  The local authority however, could make a convincing claim to the wind energy value arising from its lawful powers to tax the operators of the turbines under commercial rates.

The accepted purpose of, or rationale for, commercial rates to fund local services has been overtaken by user charges like motor taxes, bin collections, and water charges.  Rates are now more akin to a general property tax that pays for wider public services by capturing a portion of the rental value of the site.  There is a strong argument for commercial rates to be levied on the owner rather than the occupant or operator of the building or facility in question, as he/she is the ultimate beneficiary of the rental value of the site as is now recognized in the local property tax.  But leaving that argument aside for the moment, rates are levied on the occupier/operator of the building/facility; in the case of wind turbines, the wind turbine owner is liable for Rates.

  1. How much of the value of the wind energy should be taxed or charged by the local authority and to whom do the revenues belong?

The first part of the question if we are guided by the Constitution is easy.  The State has no right to assign the value of wind energy to any individual or group except to its rightful beneficiaries, the Irish people on the island of Ireland.  All of the wind’s value therefore, and other natural resources, should be recouped through fees or taxes; – less the minimum necessary incentive to develop and maintain the energy technology to access the wind energy and less the portion that recognizes existing private property rights.  Rates per turbine should be based on the most suitable size and MW capacity for the site and the best available technology i.e. the least negative impact and the fee/rates amount should be consistent in all local authorities areas throughout the country.  This value translates into commercial rates per single 2MW turbine p.a. nearer €30,000, rather than the €5000-€8,000 variously levied by local different authorities.

Landowners have a right to full compensation for disturbance and inconvenience and for the reduction of their current use rights under their land’s previous designation.  They also need an economic incentive of a minimum rental income sufficient for them to accept turbines on their land.  This rental income, I suggest is considerably lower than the figure of €18,000 p.a. per turbine that the IFA has negotiated on behalf of landowners from developers Mainstream and Element.  A fair recompense rent per turbine payable to the landowner is likely to be nearer €5,000 p.a. per turbine.

The natural monopoly nature of land might lead to landowners demanding more than their fair share of the value of the Nation’s wind resource which is why a fee/rate on the landowner of suitable wind sites whether or not the wind turbine is developed and operational should be considered.  This change is not advisable or feasible until a democratic renewable energy plan with widespread Irish ownership of energy assets is in place.

The Department of Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources would be acting against the Constitution if it accepted special pleading from the farmers, a small sector of Irish people, over the common good of the people of Ireland.  The last time this was allowed to occur was in respect of compulsory purchase compensation for farmland required for road building.  The result of bowing to the farmer lobby is the most expensive roads in Europe, a higher debt burdens on taxpayers and unsustainably high farmland values to this day.

The Constitution is clear in regards the second part of Question 2.  The nation’s natural resources, including its wind power, belong solely to the people of Ireland – not the county council / local authority nor the residents of the local authority area.  The local authority must therefore act ‘in trust’ for the people of Ireland and distribute the RE revenue for their common good, less reasonable expenses.

This does not mean that local property owners and community should not get their fair share.  The local authority should use wind energy revenues to give lump sum compensation all families living within 1.5 Kilometers of a turbine whose wellbeing is seriously affected.  The compensation should be sufficient to allow families to relocate to a similar house in a safe settlement if their health is at risk from flicker, noise or low frequency vibrations or other RE impact.  Their previous rural dwelling should be demolished as part of this deal.

Landowners should be given an annual sum to compensate for any out of pocket losses directly due to the wind farm development; for their loss of access to wind energy on their land that often results, and their loss of tourism potential on their land; all which reduces the capital value of their property.  Ditto homeowners living further than 1.5 Kilometers, whose property value is reduced due to the loss of views and of the peace and quiet that they previously enjoyed, but not sufficient to cause health impact, should be given a commensurate annual sum in compensation.

The local villages through their development association or other local group should be given an annual sum of compensation for the loss of potential tourism development or other impacted business opportunity due to the destruction of views and peace and quiet of the local area.

Owners of Natura designated sites within the relevant local authority area with high wind speeds that can never be developed because of their biodiversity riches must also be compensated and rewarded for the services they provide for the people of Ireland by the local authority using revenue from the turbine rates/wind fee.

Finally, the surplus following compensation and no more than a l.a. 15% management fee should be given to a central fund to provide investment funds for public, cooperative, community and personal development of energy assets to avail of RE resources in the short term to accelerate the transition from fossil fuel dependence.  In the longer term or if decided democratically at any time, the surplus should be distributed as part of a basic income on an equal per capita basis to the people of Ireland.

None of the above compensations should be attached as a condition to planning permission.  The planning authority should judge the wind farm solely on proper planning and sustainable development criteria and no other.  The wind-farm developer should have no role in deciding compensation so it cannot buy the support of local landowners with overly generous rental contracts, or local community compliance with a swimming pool or buy the withdrawal of planning observations from vulnerable people with empty promises.  Developers should be legally prevented from applying pressure on any person to support their application even if that person has contracted with them to host turbines, underground cable or provide habitat to offset impact to wildlife.

This regulation is needed to prevent the current situation where close communities have been divided into a few winners and many losers mediated by the wind farm applicant who is most likely to flip the planning permission to another unknown developer who in turn will sell on to a hedge fund or other super rich investors.  The system is especially cruel to nearby farmers and local residents who don’t make an planning observation/objection in order not to upset family and neighbours who stand to gain from the wind-farm, and who as a result reduce their chances of being compensated in favour of more educated and outspoken objectors.

Leaving developers to decide compensation is a completely unacceptable abdication of responsibility on the part of the government and local authority.

  1. What else is being exported sold as a consequence or in addition to the electricity?

The carbon credits that attaches to the renewable energy by virtue of avoided emissions has a both a political and monetary value.  Ireland has to reach a target for RE as outlined in the consultative document.  In the case of export of RE to the UK, does the UK get the political credit for reaching its RE targets using Irish based RE or does Ireland, bearing in mind that the energy is consumes in a separate country.?  Secondly, we must ask again, who owns the value of the carbon credits; the Irish or UK government or the developer such as Mainstream Energy or perhaps the Sovereign Fund that buys the wind-farm from Mainstream?

The Constitution would suggest that the people of Ireland own these credits and they should not be attributed or sold to another state, sovereign fund or private interest even if the energy is consumed and fossil fuel energy displaced elsewhere.  There are only so much suitable land for wind energy generation, attributing carbon credits to another state, leaves Irish people at a disadvantage but without the resources to address  that disadvantage.

  1. What is our agreed policy for the development of renewable energy in Ireland under which we can consider its export and sale?

The NREAP is not a publically agreed policy because the Irish public was not invited to contribute to its formulation.  Instead, industry insiders and a limited number of associations were asked to contribute to a poorly drafted, highly technical document that did little to clarify the major policy issues that needed to be discussed and resolved.

The recently ratified Aarhus agreement requires full participation in strategic decisions on environmental issues.  Even though the NREAP was submitted to the EC prior to the Aarhus agreement taking effect in Ireland, it is against the spirit of the government’s commitment under Aarhus to proceed to build on the NREAP without revising it following a wide public information and consultative process. The government cannot therefore rely on the existing NREAP to frame the discussion for an export policy. 

Broadly identify strategic areas in Ireland for renewable energy generation for export’.

  1. Without first addressing the issue of property title to renewable energy as outlined above, it is impossible to fruitfully engage with this question.

For instance, offshore wind has a different ownership profile.  No landowner can lay claim to it unlike on shore wind.  Presumably the wind energy developer will claim stronger title and higher claim to the receipts from the sale of electricity from an offshore turbine.  Can the local authority claim development contributions and commercial rates on an offshore wind turbine?  What claim has the local community?

Secondly, what are the particular ownership and therefore export / sale conditions attaching to RE generated on land owned by a public body or semi state company such as Coillte or Bord Na Mona relative to land owned by private individuals and companies?  Will Bord Na Mona retain all the income from electricity generation on its lands or will it be required to remit part of it to the government.  As public bodies and charities currently are not liable to for commercial rates, the question arises whether Bord na Mona will required to pay rates on its turbines to the relevant local authority.  Will Bord Na Mona be permitted to retain the rental income for turbines on its lands whether it sells its interest in a wind farm to private investors or it does not?

Provide guidance to planning authorities, including An Bord Pleanála, when considering any proposals for renewable energy export.

  1. An Bord Pleanala should consider only the proper planning and sustainable development issues and the environmental, social and economic impact of the proposed physical application.

It does not have the remit, nor should it have its remit extended, to adjudicate on national economic and social policy issues that are properly decided by Dáil Éireann.  In other words whether the electricity generated is exported under contract directly to the UK or other State, exported following local consumption under ‘top up and spill’ arrangements as surplus to Irish requirements or completely consumed in Ireland should not affect An Bord Pleanala’s judgment of the application.

The ownership structure of the RE asset should not be a valid planning issues under best practice Town and Country planning theory.  This golden rule was ignored in Ireland regrettably, in the case of one-off, rural houses where the particular bloodline of the applicant e.g. of urban or rural stock, their employment type and other personal circumstances was made a valid planning consideration under the Sustainable Rural Housing Guidelines.  If the folly of that planning policy change by the Department of the Environment is now not apparent as evidenced by the vast numbers of empty rural dwellings whose occupants have emigrated because of the lack of local jobs in part the result of poor settlement structuration and the mal-investment of scarce resources into consumption over productive enterprise, it should be.

  1. RE policy, ownership and export issues should be fully resolved before an application comes to An Bord Pleanala.

An Bord Pleanala’s consideration of the environmental, economic and social impact of the application should be blind to the destination of the electricity produced and of the distribution of the receipts from that energy because these important issues should have been satisfactorily and clearly resolved in a national RE policy outlined in legislation enacted by Dáil Éireann.  Disputes concerning on matters of detail and interpretation should be resolved by the Courts.  Substantial divergences of understanding of the policy or policy conflicts should be resolved through amending legislation.

This will include guidance to planning authorities, in consultation with the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government, on the preparation of appropriate development contribution schemes for such types of development.

  1. The response to the question re remit and discretion of An Bord Pleanala above also applies to planning authorities.

It is unwise and unjust that local authorities be given the discretion whether or not to grant an application based on a development contribution (or bribe to call a spade a spade) for the local authority itself, for a local community or for an individual.

Development contributions are a mechanism to recoup the cost of providing infrastructure and services that enabled the proposed development or that are needed for the proposed development to go ahead or to provide for the sustainable development of the local area and community.  Section 27 and 28 of the 2000 Act were not designed and should not be used to buy acquiescence of local interests or to compensate property owners for loss of property value on foot of the development.  To clarify with an example; it is not acceptable for a local authority to grant permission for a wind farm whether for export of energy or local use, whether owned by the public or a hedge fund, that would cause a significant negative impact on the health of the local people, on biodiversity, or on the quality of water in return for building a swimming pool.

The government should decide through a revised RE policy how to apportion the value or ‘planning gain’ of granting PP for a wind farm or other RE facility.  The local authority should then simply apply the policy not as a planning gain but as compensation for the use the RE resource.

‘The main principles underlying the policy and development framework will include’:

  1. 1.     Maximising the sustainable use of low carbon renewable energy resources. Maximizing substitution of fossil fuel energy generation by low carbon renewable energy.

Increasing RE without a matching reduction of fossil fuel energy is not desirable but is unfortunately likely to result from the current policy of supporting the Big Power from RE and balancing fossil fuel generators feeding into the transmission grid instead of Distributed Power i.e. small and medium scale RE producers and consumers connected with electricity storage and to the local distributed grid.  The local distributed grids then ‘top up’ and ‘spill’ s to each other and the transmission grid.

  1. 2.     Any trading of renewable energy between member states must be sustainable 
in the long term and reduce dependence on fossil fuels  Any trading of renewable energy between member states must be surplus to Irish requirements to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

In these uncertain times on the brink of calamitous climate change while the 1% elite are frantically grabbing real resources in exchange for their spurious financial claims on the future, it is dangerous to commit to the permanent alienation of any Irish RE resources.  That means that while ‘top up’ and ‘spill’ is acceptable, the ‘dedicated’ RE export of electricity to the UK or any other State bypassing the Irish grid and consumer is not.  It is a time of accelerating technological development in wind and wave turbines, in electricity storage systems, in smart grid design which means that decisions can be disadvantageous in ways that simply cannot be foreseen by policy makers with all the good will in the world.  Here the precautionary principle should apply with force.

  1. Fostering economic growth and increasing investment and employment 
opportunities; Fostering sustainable development and increased investment and employment 
opportunities in Ireland;

Economic growth is not a suitable indicator for a secure and healthy future based on its record to date. Other indicators must be prioritized.  Ireland needs higher yielding, more secure investment opportunities for its people in Ireland just as much as we need jobs.  Both can be delivered with Distributed Power and the widespread Irish ownership of RE assets.  This aim should be the basis for Irish RE policy.  Exporting Irish RE is the equivalent of exporting cattle on the hoof with matching loss of local wealth creation, production expertise and employment that entailed.

  1. Achievement of Irish renewable energy targets not to be compromised; Surpassing of Irish renewable energy targets not to be compromised;

RE targets have been shown to be low bar in the latest terrifying climate change reports.  We must be able to do better.

  1. No net cost burden on the Irish consumer; Long term improvements to infrastructure in Ireland; Least cost burden on the Irish consumer is delivered by developing Distributed Power following best practice not Big Power feeding the Transmission grid; Long term improvements to infrastructure that benefit of Irish citizens;

Recent studies in the US show that Distributed Power is threatening the financial viability of utilities that still work on the old model.  The Irish consumer will not accept subsidizing an out-of-date electricity generation and distribution system that requires fossil fuel back up to offset RE intermittency and that discourages local generation and consumption.  The much-vaunted European transmission grid linking wing generators has been tried in Australia and found disappointing. It is a Big Energy and Big Grid solution to RE generation that suffers all the faults of Big Banks and Big Insurance of too big to fail requiring public supports that destroy risk reward systems and co-opt government and regulators.

  1. Any infrastructure built is to facilitate interconnection to other European 
member states, either immediately or in the future, with minimum disruption; Any infrastructure built is to facilitate top up and spill interconnection to other European 
member states, in the near future because we have very little time and limited resources; Only having secured Ireland’s immediate 100% RE needs will greater electricity exports be considered.

For the reasons outlined in No.1; – we live in dangerous and uncertain times.

  1. Protection of the natural, built and cultural environment, particularly residential 
amenity, to be a priority; and Protection of the natural, cultural and built and environment, particularly residential 
amenity, to be a priority subject to rapid transition to RE from fossil fuel – because residential amenity will be very low when the lights don’t work.
  1. Provision of real community gain or benefit to be essential. Full recognition of the people of Ireland’s ownership of RE resources is essential including the distribution of its value fairly in respect of existing property rights and the remainder equally to the people of Ireland.  Democratic and widespread Irish ownership of energy assets is also essential or else the 1% elite will still be able capture much of the value of the RE resource.


There is no time to respond under your Table given the short consultation period allowed.  But I cannot let the fact that the Department is already developed a cost benefit analysis go without comment.  This is a vital part of any consultation procedure and should have been shared with the public in this consultation.  The structure and nature of the ownership of the wind resource and energy assets is vital in a thorough cost benefit analysis.  If the wind turbines are owned by foreign sovereign, hedge funds or private investors of any kind, much of the advantage of RE resources is immediately is lost to the Irish people in terms of the balance of payments.  Instead of paying outsiders for fossil fuel imports we will be exporting wind energy profits to foreign interests; one is as damaging as the other.


Please note that the environmental movement has few resources and what they have is very stretched responding to many current issues not least the Climate Summit in Warsaw that is taking place this week and last.


The paucity of submissions is not due to their lack of interest and concern but the short time given for what is a very complicated and vital issue.






Articles 1 & 2 & defines the Irish Nation

The Irish nation hereby affirms its inalienable, indefeasible, and sovereign right to choose its own form of Government, to determine its relations with other nations, and to develop its life, political, economic and cultural, in accordance with its own genius and traditions.

It is the entitlement and birthright of every person born in the island of Ireland, which includes its islands and seas, to be part of the Irish Nation. That is also the entitlement of all persons otherwise qualified in accordance with law to be citizens of Ireland. Furthermore, the Irish nation cherishes its special affinity with people of Irish ancestry living abroad who share its cultural identity and heritage

It is the firm will of the Irish Nation, in harmony and friendship, to unite all the people who share the territory of the island of Ireland, in all the diversity of their identities and traditions, recognising that a united Ireland shall be brought about only by peaceful means with the consent of a majority of the people, democratically expressed, in both jurisdictions in the island.

ARTICLE 4, 5 and 6 defines the State

The name of the State is Éire, or, in the English language, Ireland.

Ireland is a sovereign, independent, democratic state.

All powers of government, legislative, executive and judicial, derive, under God, from the people, whose right it is to designate the rulers of the State and, in final appeal, to decide all questions of national policy, according to the requirements of the common good.

These powers of government are exercisable only by or on the authority of the organs of State established by this Constitution.

Article 10 states that all natural resources belong to the State

1.    All natural resources, including the air and all forms of potential energy, within the jurisdiction of the Parliament and Government established by this Constitution and all royalties and franchises within that jurisdiction belong to the State subject to all estates and interests therein for the time being lawfully vested in any person or body.

2.    All land and all mines, minerals and waters which belonged to Saorstát Éireann immediately before the coming into operation of this Constitution belong to the State to the same extent as they then belonged to Saorstát Éireann.

3.    Provision may be made by law for the management of the property which belongs to the State by virtue of this Article and for the control of the alienation, whether temporary or permanent, of that property.

4.    Provision may also be made by law for the management of land, mines, minerals and waters acquired by the State after the coming into operation of this Constitution and for the control of the alienation, whether temporary or permanent, of the land, mines, minerals and waters so acquired.

Article 11 states that revenues from all sources generally go into a single pot

All revenues of the State from whatever source arising shall, subject to such exception as may be provided by law, form one fund, and shall be appropriated for the purposes and in the manner and subject to the charges and liabilities determined and imposed by law.

Emer O’Siochru and

EOS Future Design (

& Smart Taxes Network (

39 Windsor Road


Dublin 6

Tel: 01 4972564

Mob: 0868267555


Posted in Land Taxation, Wind Energy.

Site Value Tax Petition to Minister Noonan

Finance Minister, Michael Noonan: Stop the government imposing an unfair residential property tax in the 2013 Budget.

Sign Here

This residential property tax will be collected on every home in Ireland. The rate you will pay, under this system, depends on the full value of your property including the building. The square footage, the number of bedrooms in your home, energy rating, are some examples of the features that assessors will use to set your taxation rate. Under this type of residential property tax, your payable tax will rise alongside any improvements you make to your home and garden. You will also pay more under this kind of property tax because the owners of development sites and zoned land are excluded.

There is an alternative, smarter and fairer tax system available, but the current government is not considering it. We are asking that this alternative be seriously considered before the 2013 Budget is implemented.

The alternative is called a Site Value Tax (SVT) and is based on land value alone.

The amenities available in a local area give zoned land and house sites their value. These amenities can include: sea views, nearby jobs, schools, public transport, shopping centres, good neighbours as well as the obvious infrastructure services of road access, connection to sewerage, water and electricity supplies. None of this value is created by the site owner but is created by nature and the broader community, both public and private. Site Value Tax is levied only on this unearned amenity value – never on the improvements made to the site by the current or previous owners. Those site owners with the most amenities, pay the highest tax. Those with the fewest amenities pay the least tax. That includes zoned land and development site owners where all of the property value is due to the amenities provided by the community. That makes it fair.

Benefits to the tax payer under Site Value Tax (SVT):

·      Broadens the tax base therefore lowering the tax burden on homeowners by around 30%.
Enables reductions in tax for those who overpaid in the boom times.

·      Taxpayers can see what they get for their payment in terms of the amenities they enjoy.

·      Does not penalise those who energy upgrade their homes – good for the environment and the construction industry.

·      Is lower for apartment owners sharing a site than under a property tax – fairer as they also have to pay service charges.

·      Encourages the development of unused and dilapidated properties – which is good for their neighbours.

·      Encourages the renovation and letting of empty homes – thereby reducing rents by increasing supply.

·      Actively discourages land hoarding and speculation by reducing windfall gains – directing investment to productive activities.

·      Actively discourages lobbying and corruption in planning – and as a result, premature and excessive re –zoning

·       Enables plan-led development – thus empowering residents in their local community.

·      Steadies the cost of housing and keeps it affordable.

Benefits to the Government under Site Value Tax (SVT):

·      Recovers value created by public investment in infrastructure and services without impacting on construction activity.

·      Taxes the wealthiest in a way they cannot avoid – there is no clever loophole escape.

·      Provides a steady known income to local government – better for sustainable planning.

·      Easier, faster and less costly to implement than the proposed property tax because site values for each area are easy to assess compared to individual assessments of every home in the country

·      With every property owner contributing their fair share, the government will be in a position to lower taxes on labour and transactions that are a drag on the economy.

The government has refused to engage in a public discussion of what kind of residential property tax we should have. They seem to think that Irish people would not be able to understand a Site Value Tax and will not notice that developers, speculators and bankers will get another bail-out under their property tax.
Prove them wrong!  Contact the Finance Minister, Michael Noonan, to express opposition to their property tax and demand a smarter and fairer tax system in the 2013 Budget.

Make our voices heard and influence the outcome – it is not too late. Sign this petition today and make your government work for you.

Posted in News, Site Value Tax.

It isn’t too late…a plea to make a decision in favour of Site Value Tax

The Irish government has covered discussion of the proposed property tax in a blanket of silence.  We fear the worst. 

The developers, speculators and banks are set for another bail-out by the ordinary citizen. 

But it is not too late yet if we wake up and demand a Site Value Tax instead of a property tax that will exempt the 1%. 

Site Value Tax (SVT) what is it?

On the basis that it is the activity of the community that makes land valuable  SVT is a tax designed to maximize return of value to the community.

The tax is levied on the site occupied by each dwelling based on the amenities provided by the community to that location.

Because the tax would apply equally to undeveloped zoned land it would ensure no hoarding or overnight “killings” so no “bubbles”.

The benefits to Ireland and its citizens of Site Value Tax

*Because SVT would levy a tax on the footprint of all homes and zoned land, whether developed or not, it would provide a steady known income to the government and avoid future bubbles.

*As this footprint would be rated to reflect the amenities provided by the community those with the most would pay more and those with less would pay less making it a fair tax.

*SVT seen as a fair tax is likely to be more acceptable to citizens.

*As SVT would include undeveloped zoned land it would broaden the tax base reducing the burden on homeowners.

* SVT will not penalize owners who improve their properties thus stimulating the market.

* By holding the land values steady SVT will reduce the costs of new housing thus stimulating the market.

*SVT would seriously discourage empty or derelict sites again a stimulus to the market.

*SVT does not allow the shelter of tax havens; everyone pays for what they have there is no clever loophole escape.

*SVT means that increase of values through zoning or increase in amenities flows back to the community immediately, no hoarding

*SVT would be easy to implement using existing databases

* SVT would be easy for everyone to understand on the basis that everyone only pays their community in proportion to what they get from their community.

* SVT By steadying the cost of housing reduces inflation.

* SVT By contributing to lower wage and housing costs makes Ireland more competitive.






























Posted in Land Taxation, News, Site Value Tax.

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Environmental Pillar policy on Site Value Tax

Environmental Pillar policy on Site Value Tax



October 18, 2012

The Environmental Pillar has added its weight to the growing push for a Site Value Tax in Ireland. Today (18 October) it released a policy on Site Value Tax, outlining the social, economic and environmental benefits that would be delivered by its implementation.

A Site Value Tax is a tax on the unimproved value of land, and so does not include the value of any buildings on the site. Instead it is a charge on the value of a site created by location and community investment in services such as roads, schools and jobs.

While it is clear that a property tax of some description will be introduced into Ireland, the Government has not yet announced what form the tax will take. The two options under consideration are a property tax based on market value (including the value of the buildings and any improvements) or a Site Value Tax.

‘We support a Site Value Tax for many reasons,’ said Emer O’Siochru, speaking on behalf of the Environmental Pillar. ‘It will promote much-needed development without contributing to urban sprawl or the loss of valuable agricultural land. It will also encourage good environmental outcomes.’

A Site Value Tax promotes efficient use of land and discourages land speculation or the hoarding of idle sites.

‘This tax would encourage the infill of derelict or underused land in urban areas,’ said Ms O’Siochru. ‘This will open up more housing options for people who want to live closer to jobs and core community services. It also means that local authorities can provide more efficient and cost-effective services such as public transport and water supply.’

Unlike a conventional property tax, a Site Value Tax will not penalise homeowners who improve or retro-fit their homes with energy-efficient features such as triple-glazed windows or solar panels.

‘The National Economic and Social Council has just published a report which identified retrofitting to get energy savings in buildings as the key opportunity in meeting our 2020 climate change targets,’ said Charles Stanley-Smith, also speaking on behalf of the Environmental Pillar. ‘A Site Value Tax supports this strategy. A property tax based on market value works against it.’

Download the Environmental Pillar Policy on Site Value Tax

See the Media Advisory in full


Posted in Land Taxation, News, Site Value Tax.

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The merits of Site Value Tax (SVT) : A public event at the Castelnock Hotel and Country Club

If you are interested in the Single most important decision our Government could take to navigate us out of our current mess
You are welcome to come to a riveting and honest discussion on

The merits of Site Value Tax (SVT)

Otherwise known as “The Fair Tax” as the alternative to a ‘Property Tax”

on Saturday, 27th October, 2012 at 4:00 p.m.
at Castleknock Hotel and Country Club

Guest Speakers:
Emer O’Siochru – editor of “The Fair Tax”
Ronan Lyons, Economist, Trinity College Dublin and Balliol College Oxford
Judy Osborne, Spatial Planning Consultant

Saturday, 27th October, 2012 at 4:00 p.m.
Castleknock Hotel and Country Club
Castleknock, Dublin 15. Tel: 01 6406319

Hosted by: Dr. Camillus K. Power and
Ms. Ethna Dorman, Mobile 0872235780
Inquiries: Email:

Posted in News, Site Value Tax.

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Why people fail to understand Land Value Taxation

Here is an interesting article written by UK Liberal Democrats…

September 19, 2012 12:29 PM
By John Howell – ALTER member

To those who know and love Land Value Tax (LVT) the case for it seems self-explanatory, compelling and unanswerable. Yet strangely it all too often turns out to be a very hard sell. Present economic theory rests on false assumptions established so long ago that people have forgotten what they are. So the difficulty in explaining the immediate relevance of LVT is that one has to clarify first principles at the same time. This is not so easy. An audience waiting to hear how to revive the economy will not want to be asked to revise basic concepts they think they already know.

1. ‘Land’ is regarded as ‘capital’.

Today’s economic thought assumes a bi-polar world of Labour and Capital only. Books on economics never mention ‘Land’. When people hear about ‘Land Tax”, they might think of a rural economy, because the advantages and disadvantages of different tracts of land to farming are fairly obvious, and indeed often taught. But most will usually fail to see how the land factor is relevant to urban industrial and trading economies, which have no obvious link with the natural resources inherent in land.

Land was deliberately removed from the economist’s vocabulary in the early twentieth century. Landed interests, alarmed by growing clamour for raising public revenue from land value, obscured the issue by founding university courses in economics that deliberately conflated ‘Land’ with ‘Capital’.

Helped by Adam Smith’s definition of ‘Capital’ as ‘that part of man’s stock from which he could derive an income’, they taught that because one could derive an income from land, it should be treated as ‘Capital’.

To Classical economists of the nineteenth century the terms ‘Land’ and ‘Capital’ were quite distinct. Labour interacted with land to produce wealth. ‘Capital’ meant any item of wealth [e.g. factory buildings, lorries, machine tools] intended to assist in further production. ‘Land’ was a gift from Creation. ‘Capital’ stemmed from enterprise and effort.

Crises in banking might be more easy to avoid were ‘Land’ and ‘Capital’ properly distinguished from each other. Borrowing by a gifted designer to produce an efficient wind turbine is one thing; borrowing to speculate on rising land values is quite another. At present both are covered by the worthy-sounding phrase ‘Capital Investment’.

2. Few see how radical Land Value Taxation’s benefits would be.

Many can accept that land values benefit when local infrastructure is improved and that site-owners should contribute. But LVT is often seen as no more than a useful ‘add-on’ to existing taxes – a way, perhaps, of targeting tax more fairly on those who benefit from government capital spending.

But what is usually missed is that raising public spending from land value, if carried to the full, deters anyone from holding more land than they actually wanted to use. Land would cease to be a privatised capital asset producing an income by being let to others or yielding speculative gains. Again, through LVT, marginal land of little value would no longer be driven out of production by the present weight of taxes on labour and enterprise.

Many do not realise just how much useful land is currently kept out of use by this unholy combination of private claims on public wealth in land and the ‘flat earth’ tax practices of charging the same PAYE and VAT everywhere. In London’s Mayfair it was recently reported that forty major residential properties stood empty. Battersea Power Station, and 25 acres of surrounding land, has remained out of use since it was decommissioned in the 1980’s. In other conurbations similar instances occur, and nationwide over half a million residential properties lie empty.

It takes time to get people to realise the immense benefits that the release of such land would cause. It would largely end unemployment by which wages are forced to minimum levels. Government spending to relieve poverty could then shrink and taxation be significantly reduced. Crucially, it would begin to re-establish the notion of preserving ‘Common Land’, by which land not wanted for immediate use would remain available for any natural growth of population or new immigrants. Without ‘Common Land’, nations inevitably see population growth as a source of internal stress, often leading to conflict with neighbours over territory and resources.

3. Other common objections.

a. ‘Poverty is inevitable so why bother?’

Dysfunctional economics have probably been with us since 1066 when the feudal system replaced the land taxes collected in Saxon times. Over the centuries, the public mind has come to see the resulting poverty as inevitable and many elegant and popular theories (e.g. Malthusianism) have been devised to explain and justify it.

b. ‘Current reforms will work eventually’.

Even when poverty is not considered inevitable, people are convinced that present economic reforms (e.g. common currencies, banking reform) will eventually bring prosperity, so there is no need to consider LVT.

c. ‘I will lose’.

Some fear LVT will leave them worse off. At present the distribution of wealth is much more uneven than it should be. But LVT would reduce the disparities, not by confiscating from the rich and giving to the poor, but more by eliminating poverty at its source. Everyone could be as wealthy as they wanted to, provided they worked for it. Of course the whole ethos of society would change, and perhaps the extravagancies that currently grip the minds of the super-rich might lose some of their appeal.

d. ‘LVT is too difficult to implement.’

Some say LVT is too radical to implement without disrupting society. The truth is of course that society is already disrupted precisely because of the lack of LVT.

Nevertheless, reform would need to be applied carefully step by step, beginning with registration of land and its valuation according to best permitted use [as opposed to current use]. The next step could be putting Uniform Business Rates onto a site value basis, as is current Liberal Democrat policy. Transitional arrangements would be needed for poor people occupying valuable land.

4. Conclusion.

To fully accept LVT, people have to abandon many current beliefs about economics, which is especially hard for the experts. However the present crisis has been a wake-up call for many, and those in academia or in power are perhaps more ready to listen.


Posted in Land Taxation, News.

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Fianna Fail supports a Site Value Tax – but not just yet

Link to article : Property Tax: Where do the political parties stand? by

The asked the political parties for their views on property tax.  Their replies were as expected except for Fianna Fail who surprisingly have been persuaded by our arguments that a Site Value Tax is best.  Here is an excerpt…

What metric would you use to calculate the property tax – land value, property value, or another method?

Theoretically a site value tax is preferable as it does not punish homeowners for improving their property. For example in the case of a market value based tax a homeowner would end up paying more if they make their home energy efficient.

A site value tax would be levied on speculators who hoard land and in so doing broaden the potential base. The Government’s property tax as currently envisaged would appear to exempt up to 700,000 zoned sites which would be included under a site tax.

Posted in Land Taxation, News, Site Value Tax.

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Site Value Tax Campaign Update

Property Tax Debate in Trinity College

 Smart Taxes hosted a very lively and well attended event in Trinity College on Monday evening 24th September. Three ex city Mayors, one a “ex Lord Mayor” announced their presence. As expected and desired, the panel of were challenged with many hard and interesting questions. John Bowman showed his experience and skill in keeping the discussion on topic and well tempered.   Politicians from all parties (by especially the Labour Party it has to be noted) showed admirable interest in debating the property tax in Ireland as for the launch of the “Fair Tax” book but very few media columnists attended.

This shows a real desire to tease out the design of a new property tax by the people and their representatives in the face of increasing intransigence on the part of the government to have their plans examined ahead of the budget.

The silence of the media in respect to the design of the new property tax is puzzling but strangely familiar.  It recalls their lack of critical comment during  the property boom, due, some claim, to their dependance on property advertising.  Could the influence of property developers, speculators and bankers still be resonating… Watch this space.

Audio Visual Presentation 9th October 2012

Smart Taxes also hosted a session in the Dáil Audio Visual room for any elected representatives to attend.  The panel included Dr Constanitn Gurdgiev, Judy Osborne, Charles Stanley Smith (ex president of An Taisce), and yours truly Emer Ó Siochrú.   A respectable bunch of politicians took the trouble to participate in a debate from all Parties and ideological leanings.

Independent Richard Boyd Barrett came to listen, to his credit – but unfortunately, was  not to be convinced.  His worry was  that “a homeowner in an ex-council house would pay but a tenant in a council house would pay nothing”.  His focus is entirely on income tax – and tax rates for the wealthy.  He is apparently perfectly happy to allow the accumulation of unearned wealth so that significant redistribution would always be necessary.  But maybe we expect too much – he may yet see why SVT is more radical than a wealth tax when he has had some space and time to think.  It was very clear that it was the first time such an alternative progressive fiscal mechanism was ever suggested to him. Mick Wallace was very quiet in contrast at the back of room – understandable perhaps, given his history as a boom and bust developer.

Ex FF Minister Eamonn O’Cuiv worried about his constituents whose land was zoned without their permission and desire and who would have to pay the tax.  He didn’t appear to hear the answer that they could easily forgo their development rights if there was alternative land as good.  He also claimed with other FF Councillors to have saved parts of Galway from over development by single remote houses – from the town planners.  That fact was hard to credit given his forthright of defense of the “right to sites for farmers” and his demonisation of an Taisce for appealing many such planning permissions to an Bord Pleanala over the years.  Charles Stanley Smith was fit to be tied.  His departing shot that he would never support a  “tax on the principle residence”.

That sentiment was shared by many Fianna Fail TDs and their advisors present.  The best answer to that position can be found in the Australian Henry Report on Tax Reform.  He argued persuasively that exempting home owners shifted the burden onto the poorest of society – those who rent.  This can hardly be what FF wants? or maybe it is….given their record in power.

Many of the audience were very positive. Labour Party Senator, John Gilroy immediately understood the logic of site value taxation and was particularly supportive.  All attendees were grateful for the chance to hear the arguments and discuss the most important change to Irish taxation systems for over twenty years.  No such opportunity was offered in the main chambers of the Dáil. The current Coalition of Fine Gael and Labour is committing the exact same mistake as the last Coalition of Fianna Fáil and the Green Party which is to retreat into crisis conclave and close off all channels of communication, even with their own party members.

In that regard, Smart Taxes wishes to thank Fine Gael TD Peter Mathews again, for his good offices in arranging  the AD room event. He is a true public representative in that he believes in preserving space in the political arena for those who question the orthodoxies – even when they run counter to his own party’s policies.

Posted in News, Site Value Tax.