The Minister for the Environment, Martin Cullen, has said that carbon energy taxes will have to be introduced here by 2004 if Ireland is to avoid a €1.2 billion fine for exceeding its greenhouse gas limit.

Under the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change, Ireland committed itself to capping its gas emissions at 13% of its 1990 levels by 2008.

The Minister said the new taxes would have to be introduced by next year if emissions were to be significantly reduced and would impact everyone in society.

Ireland's greenhouse gas emissions are twice what they should be.

Mapping out his plans to deal with this problem, the Minister said carbon taxes were a key strategy which were being employed by nine of the 15 EU member states.

Mr Cullen told RTÉ News there was no 'get out of jail card' and that the problem would have to be faced by the Government, business and citizens.

Critics of the Minister have highlighted the long delay in dealing with the problem of emission levels as well as the favouritism given to road over rail and the absence of supports in the last budget for wind energy and for forestry.

The green lobby says the two-year delay announcing these taxes is deeply worrying and the Minister has to deliver.

Employers claim green taxes threaten jobs and the Minister must think again.

However, Minister Cullen has said that while the Government has been slow to realise the scale of the problem, action would now happen quickly.