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Electric car charging point. Government policy is to get one million electric vehicles on the road by 2030.

Electric car charging point. Government policy is to get one million electric vehicles on the road by 2030.

Electric car charging point. Government policy is to get one million electric vehicles on the road by 2030.

Higher taxes, more tolls, parking restrictions and congestion charges all lie ahead for motorists in the push to halve transport carbon emissions under the Government’s upcoming Climate Action Plan.

Officials say journeys by petrol and diesel cars must fall 25pc by 2030 for a chance at hitting climate targets, and there is “no pain-free way” of bringing about the change.

The warning comes as traffic count figures from Transport Infrastructure Ireland show the number of vehicles on the road since the return to offices two weeks ago is back to pre-Covid levels.

Before Covid, transport emissions rose yearly. With the population growing and more people on the move, policymakers are looking at tough measures to prevent the trend recurring.

A 25pc drop in fossil fuel car journeys amounts to almost nine billion kilometres of driving that needs to be replaced by clean modes of transport, or not take place at all.

Government policy is to get one million electric vehicles on the road by 2030 and that goal will remain part of the new Climate Action Plan to be published later this month.

But with electric models so far making up just 1pc of vehicles, the 2030 total is expected to fall far short of that target.

Measures to deter people from driving will include continued annual increases in carbon tax on petrol and diesel, as have been imposed in the past three budgets.

A new range of charges will appear in the Climate Action Plan, however, with the emphasis on deterring city and urban driving where alternatives exist.

“We’re looking at reversing the choices people currently make,” the Department of Transport’s new climate engagement officer, Caoimhín Ó Ciaruáin, said.

“So you choose to walk, or to cycle or to use your electric bike or e-scooter. You choose those first and then you look at public transport, and the last thing you look at is taking out your car. In terms of how we do things currently, that’s a complete reversal.”

Transport generates 20pc of Ireland’s total greenhouse gas emissions, and half of those come from private cars.

Emissions from the sector fell by just 14pc last year despite the heavy lockdown restrictions. They need to fall 51pc by 2030 while a growing number of people go about their normal business.

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“We have to deal with decarbonisation while all that growth is happening. That’s a sense of the scale of the challenge,” Mr Ó Ciaruáin told an event hosted by the British Irish Chamber of Commerce in Dublin.

He said there were political issues around the kind of changes required but said: “There is no easy way of doing this, no pain-free way of doing this, no cost-neutral way.”

The timeline for implementation of any new charges is expected to take account of a review of the grants and tax breaks for buyers of electric vehicles due to take place at the end of 2022.

A report recently approved by Cabinet says the current level of financial supports is unsustainable, as it would cost the Exchequer up to €1.23bn for just 100,000 vehicles.

It recommends a better balance of carrot and stick, replacing some of the supports for buying electric with deterrents to choosing petrol and diesel.

Powers to impose new charges are expected to be devolved to local authorities to allow for a tailored approach for individual towns and cities.

The revised National Development Plan to be published next week will meanwhile place heavy emphasis on creating safe routes for walking and cycling, and priority spaces for buses, to provide alternatives to car journeys.

Ireland needs to make major changes in travel habits as part of its overall commitments on climate.

Total greenhouse gas emissions must fall by 51pc by 2030 and hit net zero by 2050.

Transport is one of the sectors to be given an emissions ceiling it must adhere to after the country’s first ‘carbon budget’ out later this month.

A senior academic warned the actions that follow must take account of individual and local needs.

Dr Lorraine D’Arcy, a lecturer in transport, environment and planning at TU Dublin, said ongoing research at the university into rural transport needs found villages where the majority had neither car nor public transport.

“We need to think about rural transport as being more than the bingo bus,” she said. “We need to get serious about it for everyday needs.”

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