The Dublin government has controversially decided to abandon its plan to introduce a new tax on polluting fuels.
Ministers claimed that the environmental benefits the tax would deliver would not justify the potential damage to the economy of higher fuel costs.
The Dublin government is now set to violate the Kyoto protocol, an international agreement on greenhouse gases which cause global warming.
The ‘carbon tax’ would have involved new excise duties, with the heaviest charge on the dirtiest fuels to get users to move to cleaner alternatives.
The decision to scrap the tax was a sudden u-turn which shocked environmentalists.
Green Party representative Dan Boyle said the move meant Ireland could face a huge fine for failing to honour its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol.
“What the Government has done is make sure that the Government which follows them after the next general election will have to pick up the pieces for their failure to have a proper environmental taxation policy,” he said.
Other opposition parties expressed strong criticism of the decision to abandon the plan.
Greenhouse Ireland Action Network (GRIAN) accused the government of aligning itself with the United States in deciding not to go ahead with the tax on fossil fuels.
The environmental lobby group described the decision as “cowardly and shameful” and said it risked turning Ireland into the “dirty dog of Europe in terms of action on climate change”.
“Global scientists are effectively unanimous that there is a direct relationship between fossil fuels and climate change. We have a responsibility to act against the causes of climate change,” said Mr Finnegan.