DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland will ban traditional light bulbs in favor of energy-saving alternatives from 2009 and penalize high-emission vehicles from July 2008, Environment Minister John Gormley said on Thursday.
Presenting Ireland's first "carbon budget" a day after Finance Minister Brian Cowen outlined spending and tax plans for next year, Gormley said new energy efficiency standards would mean an effective ban on the sale of most traditional light bulbs.
"The aim of such a move will be to end the use of incandescent light bulbs in Ireland," Gormley, who is leader of the Irish Green Party, told fellow lawmakers. "These bulbs use technology invented during the age of the steam engine."
The move would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 700,000 tonnes a year and shave 185 million euros ($269.3 million) a year off householders' electricity bills, he added.
The main opposition party, Fine Gael, criticized what it called a lack of "ambitious, radical proposals" from Gormley.
But environmental group Greenpeace said the move made Ireland the first country to take specific steps towards implementing a European Union pledge to switch the whole region over to energy-efficient lighting by the end of the decade.
"Today Ireland has taken a lead in banning energy-wasting light bulbs by as early as January 2009," the group said in a statement. "Greenpeace hopes that Ireland's decision will light the way for the EU and the rest of the world."
Gormley, whose party joined Prime Minister Bertie Ahern's centrist Fianna Fail party in a coalition following a May general election, said he would also phase out the current system of taxing cars annually based purely on engine size.
From July all new cars registered and any imported into Ireland will be subject to seven tax bands ranging from 100 euros a year for the greenest up to 2,000 for those with the highest emissions of gases which are blamed for global warming.
Existing cars will continue to be taxed based on engine size. Gormley said he would also introduce a mandatory labeling system for new cars to show their environmental impact.
The reforms follow an announcement by Finance Minister Cowen on Wednesday that as of July 1, Vehicle Registration Tax would also be determined by a car's carbon dioxide emissions.
Buyers of new cars will have to make a one off payment of between 14 and 36 percent of its value in tax.
Ireland's rapid economic growth over the last 13 years has driven up energy consumption and with it emissions and waste levels, meaning the country often falls foul of the EU over its environmental record.
Cowen acknowledged during his budget speech that there was work to be done if Ireland was to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from 70 million tonnes at present to 63 million tonnes by 2012, as required under the Kyoto Protocol.
"An even greater effort will be needed to achieve up to a 30 percent cut envisaged by the EU for 2020," he said.