Kyoto Protocol: Motion (Resumed).

The following motion was moved by Deputy O'Dowd on Tuesday, 3 April 2007:
That Dáil Éireann
noting that:
Ireland failed to meet its responsibilities under the Kyoto Protocol and its greenhouse gas emissions are twice the overall target
Ireland is ranked 22 out of 27 EU countries when it comes to wind, wave and biomass energy generation despite having the best potential energy generation in these sectors; and
only 3% of Ireland's primary energy supply comes from renewables;
conscious of the potential for the State to make a big difference by adjusting its own procurement policies, calls on the Government:
to set a target for a reduction in CO2 emission from each Department and State agency;
to lead by example on environmental issues through a policy of green procurement;
to begin the conversion of all public buildings to green energy;
to begin the conversion of all public service vehicles to bio-fuels in order to reduce the State's carbon footprint; and
to introduce a new system of annual open and transparent reporting which will ensure that every Government agency is held to account every year on its progress.
Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:
To delete all words after "Dáil Éireann" and substitute the following:
"commends the National Climate Change Strategy 2007-2012 and the Energy White Paper, Delivering a Sustainable Energy Future for Ireland".
—(Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government).

I propose to share my time with Deputies Curran, Kelly and Cregan.

Acting Chairman

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I am happy to speak on this amendment which deals with the Kyoto Protocol. On such occasions it is traditional to acknowledge the work of the Opposition spokesperson. I compliment him and in this case I am being quite sincere.

The Deputy should not kid himself.

I am impressed that Deputy O'Dowd has found the time to listen to my speech.

I have no choice.

They tell me that Deputy O'Dowd and I have a lot in common, including the fact that we both may be under pressure from a Fine Gael candidate.

Strike that from the record.

I hope the Deputy is dealing with his challenges the way I intend to deal with mine. I wish him well and hope he wishes me well too. If he does, I will put his name on my leaflets.

I wish him well also. He would make a great Senator.

I have no such plans. I sat in on the debate last night and listened intently to what the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Roche, and the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Deputy Noel Dempsey, had to say. I chaired the televised session at the recent Fianna Fáil Ard-Fheis, which Deputy O'Dowd may have missed. I introduced both Ministers in a session which dealt with the focus on a greener Ireland. It was great to hear delegates from all over the country, including Louth, making points on that issue. I am glad we are all of that mind.

The Government is committed to meeting Ireland's Kyoto Protocol commitment to limit average national greenhouse gas emissions to 13% above the 1990 levels. Compliance with these commitments will be assessed over the five-year Kyoto period 2008-2012. Ireland will reduce total greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 17 million tonnes in each year during that period. This will be achieved by the combined effect of emission reduction measures that have been implemented across the economy, including participation by our heaviest emitting installations in the EU emissions trading scheme.

These measures will be supplemented through use of the flexible mechanisms in the Kyoto Protocol to purchase allowances arising from emission reductions in other countries. This is the point at which I usually get heckled but I am glad Deputy O'Dowd is concentrating on his job. I appreciate that fact.

Ireland's first national climate change strategy was published in October 2000 and, by any standards, it has been enormously successful. That is not just my opinion, it is a fact that stands up to scrutiny. First, while our greenhouse gas emissions were about 25% above 1990 levels in 2005, the economy grew by an astonishing 150% in the period 1990 to 2005. We have therefore successfully and significantly decoupled greenhouse gas emissions from economic growth — an achievement of which any country would be proud. Ireland's greenhouse gas emissions must be viewed against the background of sustained economic growth. The challenge we face is to maintain that strong economic performance while, at the same time, lowering our greenhouse gas emissions. It is not a question of one or the other — we can and must do both. We have a moral responsibility to meet our Kyoto Protocol commitments and we have a national responsibility to maintain economic competitiveness and growth.

Second, as my friends on the Opposition benches seem to be convinced that the 2000 strategy was a failure, they should consider some of the measures that were introduced in the areas of energy, transport, homes, business, agriculture and waste.

I wish to mention Tallaght for a moment. In last night's debate there was a lot of banter about transport. I am proud, as ever, of where I live. One of the great things about the new Tallaght is the progress that has been made in delivering transport infrastructure, including the Luas system. Other colleagues said last night they did not think it would happen, but it did. I use the Luas as often as I can, as it runs close to my home. The Luas currently runs from the city through various suburbs to Tallaght, but there are plans to bring it through the Tallaght west estates to Saggart and Citywest. My colleague, Deputy Curran, has helped as much as I have in delivering that goal.

I am not afraid to say — I have said so to successive Ministers — that we should not stop at that. There is huge potential for that transport system and both the metro and Luas should be extended in various places. Tallaght is the third largest population centre in the country. There is great potential for such routes to other parts of Tallaght, including the village, Oldbawn and Firhouse. When the economy is doing well and money is available for infrastructure, we should not be afraid to listen to what communities are saying.

I am not ashamed to say that I come from a bygone era in Dublin and remember seeing trams as a small child. I always lamented the tracks being pulled up, yet here we are in 2007 with the economy doing well so we should not be afraid to give priority to public transport. I hope Government policy continues in that direction for the benefit of future generations. Those will be my views for the next six or seven weeks and beyond.

The programme published this week by the Minister for Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Roche, contains measures to remove an additional 5 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year. On any measurement, the Government's policy on climate change is working. The success we are achieving in the run up to meeting our Kyoto commitments in the 2008-12 period puts Ireland on a sound footing to meet more challenging greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, which we anticipate post-2012. At the recent summit of the European Council, Ireland had the confidence to support a higher level of ambition by all developed countries, initially in the period to 2020 but also beyond, to 2050. Perhaps some of us might still be around to see that being achieved.

The business before us this evening is particularly important. It is not concerned solely with discussing the environment, but is also about taking action. I am glad that my colleagues in Government are doing so and I am happy to support them. This may be the last Private Members' debate in this Dáil term in which I will have an opportunity to participate. It is good to take the opportunity to deal with day-to-day business issues of concern to our communities, such as Swords, Balbriggan, Tallaght, Clondalkin, Louth, Limerick and the northside of Dublin. As I knock on doors and go about my business — I was in the Square in Tallaght this morning — people are talking about issues of concern. The environment is striking a chord, whether it concerns bin collections or other aspects of waste management. People are discussing it and I expect they will engage with us even more in the coming weeks.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this motion tabled by Deputy O'Dowd. Today we received a delegation from the US Congress and a lunch was hosted for them at Iveagh House. The conversation at our table turned to what people would do later on this evening. I mentioned that I would be speaking on this particular topic. When we left Iveagh House it was a beautiful day and the bus had arrived for the delegation.

One of the congressmen turned and said to me jokingly that climate change suits our country well because he had enjoyed a glorious day here. As we walked back and discussed it in general terms, a number of us stopped for a moment to consider what is climate change. People of my age can remember that, when we started to drive, a car's windscreen would be frozen over on many mornings but now this is only occasional. At night time outside pubs and hotels one would see cars with newspapers on the windscreens, but that era is now gone.

It is important to realise that global warming is not just a concept but something that is happening around us — we do not need statistics to verify that it is happening because we can see the changes in our own lives. From this point of view, this motion is timely and important.

This country has seen radical change in the past ten to 15 years and it is crucial that we play a role. I acknowledge that our emissions have gone up in recent years but this is in the context of late economic and industrial development. The challenge today is to maintain economic activity while managing future emissions. It is important that people of my era continue to have the opportunity to work and support families and that we hand a safe and sustainable environment to our children. This is the challenge we face and there are competing goals involved.

I have listened to the comments of others but I believe the Government is addressing the serious issues in a responsible manner. The challenge is to meet the competing goals by ensuring economic viability is maintained and sustained while, at the same time, meeting our environmental challenges. There is not one simple answer as the subject crosses a range of issues and I intend to touch on some of these in the time available to me.

The Government has adopted a cohesive and dynamic approach to delivering on our sustainable energy agenda. Evidence of this commitment and our achievements to date can be seen in the recently published bio-energy action plan, the White Paper, Delivering a Sustainable Energy Future for Ireland, and the national climate change strategy. This motion has given the Government the opportunity to outline the numerous areas involved.

Support programmes put in place by the Government have more than doubled our renewable electricity capacity in the past two years and we have established new targets of 15% by 2010 and around 33% by 2020. Ireland has over one GW of renewable powered electricity connected to the national grid and providers of a further 630 MW have signed connection agreements. It is estimated that the contribution of renewable electricity to gross electricity consumption is now in the region of 8%. Between 2005 and 2010, the Government will have tripled Ireland's consumption of renewable electricity. Some of us who travel around the country can see the physical evidence of this in wind farms. We have set specific targets and goals and we are achieving them.

It is expected that wind will be the dominant technology in the 2010 mix of renewable electricity but the Government is not dependent on this source alone and is examining other renewable sources. For example, the Government is currently implementing an ocean energy strategy that involves the upgrading of research facilities at the hydraulics and maritime research centre in University College Cork, UCC, and the testing of a number of devices. There are clear and specific targets.

Talk of increases in our emissions in recent years leads people, rightly, to point to the area of transport. In the region of 2.25 million vehicles are on our roads and as our economy and workforce have grown, so too has the number of vehicles on the road and this is an area that must be addressed. Between 1991 and 2006 our workforce doubled from 1 million people to 2 million people.

The approach to reducing such emissions must be twofold: public transport must be increased while individual vehicles are also taken into account. I listened to some of the contributions last night and there seemed to be a lack of appreciation for efforts made in the area of public transport. It is easy to say there should be more and more public transport but real, tangible public transport has been delivered. Luas carries 80,000 passengers per day, DART has been upgraded to carry 90,000 passengers per day and we are in the public consultation phase on metro north and metro west. All of these are very significant public transport provisions.

A new train station will open at Adamstown in Lucan, my own area, in the next week or so. I am not suggesting that this in itself is sufficient but it is one of a number of projects and we are moving in the right direction. In coming years the capacity on the Kildare route line will increase significantly as we move from two to four tracks and create a proper commuter service with trains at ten minute intervals during rush hour.

In addition, there has been huge investment in quality bus corridors, QBCs, in my area. The Dublin Bus fleet has recently increased and new routes have been introduced. One new, interesting and experimental route in my area starts in Clondalkin and heads towards the city. Instead of weaving through various estates, the route stays on QBCs to offer a faster journey from parts of Clondalkin to the city. All of this has an impact on the increasing provision of public transport.

Some Members of this House are critical of our investment in roads and suggest they have nothing to do with public transport. Buses and inter-city connections constitute public transport and it is important that they are included in the overall picture. Increasing public transport alone is not sufficient action on climate change, although it will reduce the number of trips made in private vehicles.

The other side of this issue lies in addressing emissions from vehicles. In last year's budget the Minister for Finance, Deputy Cowen, suggested taxing vehicles based on engine emissions rather than engine capacity. Government policy is addressing climate change in a range of areas.

In 2005, we launched an innovative pilot programme on bio-fuels excise relief. This resulted in the creation of eight bio-fuel projects and 16 million litres of bio-fuels going on the Irish market over a two year period. Building on the success of the pilot programme, we have put in place a further five year excise relief package, costing in excess of €200 million, that will see bio-fuels exceed a 2% market penetration in Ireland by 2008. A year ago none of my constituents mentioned bio-fuels but last week a constituent who had fitted a conversion kit to his car complained that there are not enough outlets supplying bio-fuels. The point is we are moving in the right direction.

I believe we are well on the way to meeting our targets under the Kyoto Protocol but we must recognise that climate change does not consist of a single issue, such as public transport, industry, residential consumption or lifestyles. It is the combination of these areas that is crucial and projects run by the Government, such as the Power of One campaign, will ensure we meet our Kyoto Protocol targets in the period from 1 January 2008 to 31 December 2012.

I request that Dáil Éireann commend the National Climate Change Strategy 2007-2012 and the energy White Paper, Delivering a Sustainable Energy Future for Ireland.

The national climate change strategy published by the Government on Monday provides the platform for Ireland to develop into a low-carbon economy. It puts forward a comprehensive and coherent approach to meeting Ireland's Kyoto Protocol commitments and lays a solid foundation for Ireland to meet more challenging targets in the post-2012 period.

The strategy is detailed and specific and focused primarily on policies which are in place or are in the process of implementation. While the document looks forward, it is not about commitments to take action at some unspecified point in the future but simply sets out measures which have been introduced and quantifies the consequent reductions in emissions.

The strategy also establishes the framework which will develop measures to deliver the deeper cuts we will need in the future. The period when we begin to face deeper emissions cuts than those provided for in the Kyoto Protocol is now less than six years hence. In the context of the timeframe required for the implementation of major, far reaching policies and measures, this is not long. The Government has, however, correctly established the framework for such policies and measures not only through the new national climate change strategy, but also through the national development plan; the social partnership agreement, Towards 2016; the transport investment programme, Transport 21; the strategy for science, technology and innovation; and the energy White Paper, Delivering a Sustainable Energy Future for Ireland.

The Government recognises that climate changes requires a whole range of Government effort across the economy, from agriculture and forestry to energy, transport and waste management. It recognises that taking action to reduce emissions also means making energy use more sustainable, delivering the investment needed to bring about a modal shift in transport and harnessing our research and innovation capacity and unparalleled natural resources to make Ireland a world leader in renewable technologies.

The national climate change strategy makes clear that the public sector must lead the way. As the largest landowner, property owner and tenant in the State, it is in a unique position to show leadership in adopting high standards and practices which can drive change through the wider economy. It also has the capacity to play an important role in creating markets and supply chains for renewable technologies by setting high standards of energy efficiency in its public procurement of goods and services. This was a prominent feature of the debate on the motion yesterday evening.

The Opposition puts forward the proposition that the Government is ignoring the role of the public sector when the opposite is the case. The Office of Public Works is leading the way with a programme to ensure Government buildings reach high standards of energy efficiency. It is converting the heating systems in 20 large State buildings from their existing fossil fuel burners to biomass burners over the course of the next 12 months, rolling out energy awareness campaign in central government offices and ensuring that new office accommodation procured under the Government's decentralisation programme is built to the highest standards of energy saving and sustainable construction, including the greater use of bio-energy to fulfil the heating and energy requirements of buildings.

The Government is also leading in the area of green public procurement. With a total purchasing budget of more than €10 billion per annum, it has significant leverage in moving the market towards the competitive provision of sustainable products and services. It will publish a green public procurement action plan in 2007 which will set out how public procurement can be used to achieve environmental goals. The Government has succeeded in publishing a strategy which will enable Ireland to meet its Kyoto Protocol targets and place us in a strong position to meet future, more challenging targets.

I am pleased to have an opportunity to make a brief contribution to this important debate. I support the amendment and commend the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the Government for the efforts they have made in recent years and the responsible and balanced manner with which they have acted.

Ireland's first national climate change strategy was published in October 2000 and, by any standard, has been enormously successful. This is not just my opinion or view but a fact which stands up to scrutiny. While our greenhouse gas emissions were approximately 25% above 1990 levels in 2005, the economy grew by roughly 150% in the period 1990 to 2005. We have, therefore, successfully and significantly decoupled greenhouse gas emissions from economic growth, an achievement any country would be proud to claim.

Ireland's greenhouse gas emissions must be viewed against the background of sustained economic growth. The challenge we face is to maintain strong economic performance while lowering our greenhouse gas emissions. It is not a question of achieving one or other objective but ensuring we meet both of them. We have a moral responsibility to meet our Kyoto Protocol commitments and a national responsibility to maintain economic competitiveness and growth, with particular emphasis on retaining jobs in heavy industry. Many hundreds of such jobs are in businesses in my constituency, including Aughinish Alumina and the Tarbert power station on the Shannon estuary. It would not be acceptable to concentrate all our efforts on reducing greenhouse gas emissions while ignoring the important role played by heavy industry.

The Opposition parties seem convinced that the 2000 strategy was a failure, which is not surprising as all parties play politics. Friends of the Earth and other non-governmental organisations are wrong to describe our efforts as a failure. I will list some of the measures introduced as a result of the strategy. In energy, the Government will ensure that 15% of the electricity supply comes from renewable sources by 2010. This will reduce emissions by almost 1.5 million tonnes. In transport, technological improvements in vehicles, despite the rapidly rising car numbers on the roads, will remove almost 500,000 tonnes of emissions. Rebalancing of motor taxes and fuel economy labelling will remove approximately 50,000 tonnes of emissions, while investment in public transport will remove approximately 800,000 tonnes. Use of bio-fuels as an alternative to petrol and diesel will reduce emissions by 770,000 tonnes.

In our homes, the combined effect of three previous enhancements of the energy performance requirements of the building regulations, coupled with further revisions which are due to come into force in 2008, will remove almost 500,000 tonnes of emissions. In the business sector, Sustainable Energy Ireland programmes to reduce energy consumption, including the large industry energy network, energy agreements programme, commercial bio-heat scheme and combined heat and power programme, will reduce emissions by more than 500,000 tonnes.

In agriculture and forestry, CAP reform will reduce emissions by 2.4 million tonnes per annum. In addition, 2 million tonnes of emissions will be removed annually from the atmosphere by forests. In the waste sector, the capture of gas for power generation from landfills and a reduction in the volume of waste going to landfill will contribute to reducing total national emissions. We have achieved significant reductions in the amount of waste going to landfill and can be proud of our record on recycling. One third of household waste is being recycled, which is good for all of us.

Every one of the measures I have outlined was contained in the 2000 strategy and has been implemented. It is clear, therefore, that the strategy was not a failure but a success. In total, measures introduced under the 2000 strategy will remove almost 9 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions each year during the Kyoto Protocol period, 2008 to 2012.

The new strategy published this week by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Roche, contains measures to remove an additional 5 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually. On any measurement, the Government's policy on climate change is working. The success we are achieving in the run up to meeting our Kyoto commitments in the 2008 to 2012 period places Ireland on a sound footing to meet the more challenging greenhouse gas emission reduction targets we anticipate after 2012. At the recent summit of the European Council, Ireland had the confidence to support a higher level of ambition by all developed countries, initially in the period to 2020 but also beyond that to 2050.

I compliment the Government and the Minister, Deputy Roche, on the responsible manner in which they have managed to balance the growth in our economy that has produced the jobs to which I referred. I compliment industry on the responsible action it has taken in reducing emissions and for taking part in emissions trading. We have been criticised during the recent debate on the Carbon Fund Bill for buying carbon credits but we are perfectly entitled to do so as part of the criteria laid down in the Kyoto Protocol. We have done it successfully and, in doing so, we are assisting the industries that have been responsible and are playing their part. I commend the amendment to the House.

I wish to share time with Deputies Catherine Murphy, Finian McGrath, Connolly, McHugh and Cuffe.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I support the Fine Gael motion before the House, as does my party. I am a little disappointed it did not go further in terms of calling on the Government to live up to the commitments under Kyoto. With the few weeks the Government has left to it for all time, or certainly for a long time into the future, it probably was not worth its while.

With regard to dealing with CO2 emissions in the north east, many people were delighted to see reports in the media on Sunday that Indaver was threatening, if that is the right word, to pull out of Ireland unless the Government imposed a €5 per tonne tax on landfill and handed it over to the company. It claimed its incineration system would not work without such a windfall from the taxpayers. The notion is absurd that taxpayers would fund an already very rich company for coming to Ireland and poisoning its people through its incineration system, yet it expects taxpayers to shovel money into its coffers.

The Government has so far indicated it will not bow to such a threat but, as with everything else connected with this Government, it is difficult to believe. If the €5 per tonne landfill charge were applied, it would mean an extra entrance fee to landfill of approximately €200 per truck. While we want alternatives other than landfill, if this were the case, we could expect householders to have to pay perhaps twice as much for their wheelie bin service, which would have serious consequences in terms of additional fly-tipping and other waste issues.

With regard to the proposed incinerator at Carranstown, County Meath, which is near to where I live, the level of CO2 emissions from that poisonous plant is estimated at 61,000 tonnes per annum. There is no doubt Indaver would burn plastics, rubber and all sorts of products with a high calorific value in order to keep its costs down and try to make the plant efficient.

I note Deputy Coveney has just arrived in the Chamber. I commend him for standing with the Irish people recently when he voted against the European Commission's attempt to recategorise incinerators as waste recovery rather than waste disposal — we all know it is waste disposal. Unfortunately, other members of the Fine Gael Party did not follow Deputy Coveney's good example and a number of them voted with the Commission——

Four out of five.

One was present. She is currently a candidate in my constituency of Louth in the forthcoming election. She was there for business earlier that day but she did not vote, so I am not sure what message that sends out.

If the Deputy checks her record against his party's MEP, he will find she has voted far more often.

The point I am making is that I wish she had stood with the people——

He is praising Deputy Coveney.

I will stick with my team.

——to ensure incineration does not enter this country.

It is important there is consistency among all parties on the issue of CO2 emissions. We cannot have mixed messages. There needs to be a strong, uniform message going out to Government and the people that we are determined to ensure this poisonous process does not gain access to this State and that we will challenge it at all levels.

If we are to meet our international targets and reduce the need to purchase carbon credits, we not only need to set year-on-year targets but we must scope down to the actions that we need to deliver on those targets. Alternative energy is clearly one component but energy conservation can play an equally important role. We need to identify on a sector-by-sector basis many of the changes we need to make, which must be very practical.

For example, on my way to Leinster House this morning I listened to a caller to my local radio station who wanted to find out where she could buy energy saving bulbs for a particular type of light fitting, which constitutes approximately 50% of light fittings sold. People were being very helpful but there was only one specialist shop in the county where she could buy the bulbs. This is a practical issue. We are asking people to make individual changes but we are relying on the public to drive that agenda.

On the issue of transport, we must tackle the issue of car usage by delivering a flexible public transport system. We must also consider new ideas. Transport 21 is supposed to take the long view. However, with regard to train projects in my constituency, the Kildare route project which was originally supposed to go to Newbridge will now only go as far as Celbridge — very little of it is in Kildare although it is called the Kildare route project. Essentially, it will deliver a very good service to Celbridge but will not go beyond that to towns like Sallins or Newbridge where there has been huge population growth, with further growth projected. Kilcock is virtually a town under construction at present but there is just a single-track line between Maynooth and Kilcock. After Transport 21 has been provided, it will still be a single track. How is that considered strategic thinking?

The Dublin Bus review identified the need for 200 buses but just 100 were delivered. Some 15 of the buses were to go to west Dublin and north Kildare. They were delivered last December but they are still parked in the garage and will remain there until the autumn because of red tape. The 1932 licence issued to an operator means one cannot make a change on the corridor until that service is up and running.

Climate change will not wait. These are the practical measures we need to put in place. We need to reduce the amount of red tape and consider the issues on a practical basis.

I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for the opportunity to speak in this important debate. It is time to deal with this issue head on. We have had too much talk and fudge from the Government parties. The sad reality is that Ireland is ranked at 22 out of 27 EU countries when it comes to wind, wave and biomass generation despite having the best potential energy generation in these sectors. We also have a situation where only 3% of Ireland's primary energy supplies comes from renewables. It is time to get on and set targets for reduction in CO2 emissions for each Department and State agency. Let us lead by example and convert all public buildings to green energy and let us hold every sector to account on an annual basis.

While we are dealing with this serious environmental debate, I would also like to raise the issue of Dublin Bay and my total opposition to the 52-acre infill proposal. We cannot allow anyone or any port company to destroy our beautiful and natural Dublin Bay. I stand by the tradition of Seán Dublin Bay Loftus in this important debate. I strongly support and commend Dublin Bay Watch Limited and the Clontarf Residents' Association for their great work in preserving Dublin Bay. Last week, I gave a commitment to a packed hall in the GAA club in Clontarf that I would support them in the Dáil. Tonight, I am supporting them in this debate. Anyone who claims to support a clean environment must be on the side of Dublin Bay.

I would like to see all parties and Members commit to a climate pollution law. I am prepared to support the Opposition as recent figures show the rise in Ireland's climate pollution is almost twice the level to which we committed under the Kyoto Protocol. The Government agreed to limit the rise in emissions to 13%, but in 2005 emissions were 25% above the 1990 levels and the trend is upward. Unless urgent action is taken, we will pay the price of Government failure. This debate is about climate change, the Kyoto Protocol and CO2 emissions, but above all it is about protecting our environment and building a healthy planet for all our citizens, children and taxpayers.

I welcome and support the motion. There is more carbon dioxide in the air than ever before, not just in measurable parts per million, and the rise in CO2 levels is increasingly the subject of public controversy. Some people feel the rise in emissions is no less a threat than terrorism, avian influenza or rising oil prices. The planetary consequences of atmospheric carbon dioxide are what former US Vice-President, Al Gore, referred to in his documentary as "an inconvenient truth".

Architects are increasingly coming to the conclusion that new buildings should be designed to use only half the fossil fuel energy used today by such buildings. The goal for 2030 is to have reached a position where new buildings are carbon neutral or use no energy from fossil fuels that produce greenhouse gases. There is the concept of a passive house, even in Ireland. This is a house that does not give off carbon emissions. There are systems available that contribute to improvement in this regard, for example, Quad-Lock systems.

I welcome the grant aid that is available for people who want to change the type of energy they use, for example, grant aid for wood pellet heating systems or solar panels. However, it is almost pointless providing these grants unless the Government examines the possibility of reintroducing grants for improving insulation. There is no point in heating a house and allowing the heat escape through the ceiling. These grants should be coupled or increased to allow people improve the insulation of their houses.

In 25 years time we should, ideally, be in a situation where no oil, coal or natural gas are required to build, heat, cool or light new buildings. We should be thinking along these lines, but we have not moved into that groove yet. Architects could contribute significantly towards reducing carbon dioxide emissions through better design of new and the renovation of existing buildings. With regard to public buildings, no more than in the area of public transport, the Government has an onus to lead and give direction to the public. Such innovations could include configuring buildings to be heated, cooled, ventilated and lit more efficiently, specifying green and recyclable construction materials. This would also entail buying renewable energy, while harnessing solar, wind, geothermal and biomass energy and exploiting available energy technologies.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this important motion. The Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas emissions set out targets that must be met by countries, including Ireland. However, Ireland has not achieved its targets and has bought its way out of trouble by purchasing carbon credits. This is not an acceptable approach for the future.

The Government needs to set about the business of reducing emissions in a more structured way. Rather than rely on the purchase of carbon credits, the Government now needs to make a decision to reduce greenhouse gas emissions nationally. A determined effort must be made to identify opportunities for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions on a sector by sector basis. If we do not follow this path, Ireland will continue to pay millions of euro in fines or on the further purchase of carbon credits.

Renewable energy can make a major contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by adding to the energy mix and reducing reliance on carbon emitting fossil fuels. However, renewable energy will only prosper if the Government creates the necessary conditions to allow for expansion. Ireland has a distinct advantage in the development of renewable energy. We have a favourable climate for wind energy, with strong and relatively consistent wind speeds. We have not, however, invested sufficient resources in researching the feasibility of wave and tidal energy.

The renewable energy possibilities for Ireland are varied, ranging from wind, wave, solar and bio-fuels, etc. Currently, we have an over-reliance on imported fuel for energy generation. Surely, rather than paying millions to purchase carbon credits, it would make more sense to put millions into building wind farms. People involved in the industry seriously question the Government's estimate that buying credits will cost approximately €270 million over the next five years. These people put the cost at up to €1 billion, which would be a massive injection in funding for wind farms.

I appreciate the opportunity to speak on this motion. First, I would like the motion to be more specific. It suggests we should set a target for a reduction in CO2 emissions, but what should that target be? The European Union has taken an honourable lead in this area and in international negotiations and has put forward a target of a 30% cut below 1990 levels by 2020. It has decided on this target because its scientists, and ours, show we are in severe danger of crossing a tipping point in the global climate where a number of events could occur and create a catastrophic runaway climatic effect which would threaten the viability of humankind on the planet. They recognise and realise that now is the time to stop us going over the tipping points where we would see the likes of the Siberian tundra melting and methane being released into the atmosphere, which would have a catastrophic effect, or the Amazon rainforest dying back due to climate changes. They tell us that to stop this happening we must keep temperatures below a 2o increase. In order to do that, we need to cut our emissions by approximately 30%. We must try to get below 1990 levels by 2020.

The Minister's strategy report tries to wriggle out of all sorts of obligations and suggests we might only need a 2% cut because perhaps America and China would not join in and, therefore, we would not have an international solution. It also suggests the European Union will again see Ireland as the poor man of Europe and give us the same soft deal we got the last time. In my mind, none of this is relevant because the 30% cut is only a start. We need to go beyond that in the next decade and make a similar reduction again. Let us examine the Minister's fantasy situation where we would only have to make the level of cuts to bring us 2% below 1990 levels. The reality is the Government's energy agency predicts our emissions from energy will increase by 30% in that period on the basis of current practice, but there is nothing from the Government showing us how it will reverse it.

If we are to achieve the target and stop climate change as part of a global international reaction, we will have to wake up and be honest about the challenge ahead of us in that regard. This is not a small or easy challenge. It makes sense to accept the challenge. We know that in the same timeframe global oil production is due to peak and following that there will be a 2% to 3% reduction each year in availability of oil globally. We can only imagine the price increases that will correspond to that. By some strange coincidence, we need to make cuts by roughly 2% to 3% per year on the amount of fossil fuels we are burning. However, currently our use is increasing by 2% to 3% per year, and by 7% in transport. Turning the country around from a 2% to 3% increase per year to a reduction of 2% to 3% per year is the biggest political challenge the State will ever face.

Globally, it is the biggest challenge mankind has ever faced. The challenge is to maintain our civilization and maintain people in the life to which they are accustomed and to keep them alive. We need to start being honest with the people and ourselves as to the scale of the challenge. We must start by setting a target. We must not just say we will set a target, but agree on that target. This is not a party political issue, but one for the future of mankind. Whether one is left or right, Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael, it does not matter.

What must we do to achieve the target. Bio-fuels alone will not do it. They will help us and we can use waste products and give farming a boost, but we cannot replicate the amount of liquid oil we currently burn with bio-fuels. The petrol we currently use is a bio-fuel. One hundred million years ago, small bio-planktons in warm seas died, fell to bottom and were covered in sand, cooked and turned into oil. The oil we used in 1997 was the equivalent of some 420 years of bio-fuel growth that had accumulated over the millennia.

We can never replicate that store from our bio-fuel stocks. They will be useful and will provide a vital strategic oil asset, but they will not solve the problem. We need radical and utterly different transport in future if we are to meet those targets. Parties opposite and elsewhere say that this is in some way mad, strange, impractical or uneconomic. If they are serious about climate change and want to discuss it, they must talk about serious changes in the transport system because that is one area in which we can make reductions. That leads to a more civil society which works.

We need to be honest. If other parties here are going to don green clothing they should be specific rather than saying, as in the Government's strategy paper, that there are measures planned that have yet to be quantified, such as the sustainable transport action plan. Why is it not quantified and set out? Is it simply set out until after the election as a vague promise that means nothing?

I wish to share time with Deputy Neville, if he turns up. If he does not, I will speak for 20 minutes. I am happy to have an opportunity to speak in this debate and I am sorry that there are not more people and journalists watching it, although hopefully some of them are watching on their monitors.

The previous speaker was passionate about this issue which is central to his party. The rise in support for his party in Ireland, and for similar parties across Europe, shows that people are engaging with the issue. In typical fashion, Fianna Fáil is also pretending to engage with it as a general election approaches. I am glad to have the opportunity to speak in what is potentially the final week of this Dáil on the issue of Ireland's responsibilities in respect of greenhouse gas emissions and its failure to live up to commitments entered into in this regard.

The failure of this country to develop a renewable energy and alternative fuel industry is perhaps the greatest missed opportunity of the past five years. This could have a positive impact on greenhouse gas emissions and while it would not solve the problem, it would be a step in the right direction. Not only had we the capacity, the opportunity and the natural resources available to do so, we also had the finance to kick-start a new way of thinking through direct support and tax incentives which would have forced people to think in a different way about energy and fuel use. To make matters worse, this is also a blatant breach of commitments into which the Government entered with the European Union and the United Nations, for which taxpayers must pay directly.

On 31 May 2002, all 15 then member states of the European Union deposited the relevant ratification paperwork relating to the Kyoto Protocol of a few years previous with the United Nations. The EU was then producing approximately 22% of global greenhouse gas emissions. We agreed to an 8% cut in emissions on average across the EU from the base year, 1990, levels. Since then, the European Commission has tried to be more ambitious and has announced an intention to try to cut emissions across the EU by another 20% before 2020.

Ireland's commitment under the EU agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions was to limit the increases to 13% above 1990 levels. We hear guff from Government spokespersons that because the economy grew so quickly we could not play our part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, despite the commitment we gave. The truth is that we were an exception. While most countries radically reduced greenhouse gas emissions, we were allowed to increase our emissions from the base year, which takes into account economic growth and rapid development over that time.

It is not an excuse to say that because our economy was growing between 7% and 10% a year for a decade we could not possibly cope with the commitments we made in different times. They were not such different times when we made that commitment and we got a good deal, but we have not followed through on that commitment and made the tough and sometimes unpopular decisions needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In hindsight, they would have been popular decisions when people understood why there were being made.

We emit approximately 26% above 1990 levels so we have already doubled our exceptional increase limit. We should have met the EU target only from 2008 on. We must significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions just to meet our original target, which was an increase on 1990 levels. This is an appalling failure over a relatively short time.

We have had the capacity to deliver on the commitments we made and could have done so if we had taken action some years ago. Over the past five years, we should have set specific targets in various sectors, for example, transport. Why have we not promoted the idea of blending ethanol with petrol to try to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions coming from each car? Even in the United States, which environmental activists around the world criticise for not reducing greenhouse gas emissions, many states have a blending obligation of 2%, 5% or 7% ethanol with petrol. Why has that not happened here? People assume that it requires reinventing the wheel. We need only copy what works elsewhere.

Why are we not replacing diesel with biodiesel in tractors, fishing boats and lorries? I visited the oil refinery owned at the time by ConocoPhillips, which had completed an international study on blending diesel with biodiesel. The company said it would do this in the morning in its refinery if the Government encouraged it to do so. It would cost no extra. It experimented by introducing the blended diesel with biodiesel into diesel pumps across Munster and nobody noticed. Engines do not need to be altered. We have not done this because we are the last in the class to perform. We are only now talking about reducing tax on low-emission cars, five years later.

We introduced one alternative energy requirement, AER, scheme after another, which failed to produce what they promised. We have improved the scheme somewhat recently but we are still a miserable performer for a country that has such opportunity and resources in terms of wind speed, consistency and so on. There are limitations because this is an island and the grid cannot rely too much on the inconsistency that comes from wind turbines. However, why have we not interconnected the Irish and British grids?

Five years ago when I was party spokesperson on energy I sat with Deputy Eamon Ryan on the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Communications, Marine and Natural Resources. We called for the Government to pay for a proper interconnector for the Irish and British grids between Wicklow and Wales. Instead, the Government sought interest from the private sector, which was never realised. The interconnector has not been built and, as a result, the State does not have the capacity to significantly increase the contribution from wind energy to the domestic grid.

Other European countries with less consistent wind speed put Ireland to shame. For example, an article recently published regarding Spain states:

Taking advantage of a particularly gusty period, Spain's wind energy generators this week reached an all time high in electricity production, exceeding power generated by any other source in Spain. The nation's electricity network said in a statement, 'Wind power generation rose to almost 27% of the country's total power requirement. Wind powers contributes over 8,000 MW to the nation's power consumption of just over 31,000 MW'.

We still struggle in Ireland to produce slightly more than 500 MW. The Government has failed to impact on the key sectors of energy generation, transport and energy efficiency and then two months before a general election, it publishes a climate change strategy because green issues are topical. It is a good document, which contains many positive proposals, but the issue is whether it will be implemented and who is best to implement it. It is difficult to have faith in the Government parties on the basis of the past ten years that they are serious about implementing the strategy. I wish it were otherwise.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate. I refer to a specific failure on the part of the Government to support a bioenergy project in my constituency, Limerick West. The Minister of State represents a neighbouring constituency and he will be well aware of the difficulties experienced in west Limerick because of job losses. Last year, Capway Bioenergy intended to be part of a new system and had proposed to commence a large-scale, state-of-the-art biodiesel processing plant at Foynes port that would use Irish raw materials. Towards this end, the company submitted an application to the Irish Government which was not supported. The company commenced operation in 2005 and constructed a pilot research facility for biodiesel production at its laboratory at Shannon, County Clare. It developed skills-based biodiesel technology operating procedures and a quality control system and it also developed a core staff with expertise to transfer to a commercial scale plant.

In the past two and half years, more than 1,000 jobs have been lost in Limerick West in three companies, both directly and indirectly. I refer to Kantoher, Castlemahon Poultry and Microtherm. Last October, I pleaded with the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment to support job creation in my constituency, but he failed to do so. Capway Bioenergy submitted an application to the Minister under the bio-fuels and mineral tax relief scheme for excise duty relief, which was not approved. This comprehensive proposal included a supply agreement with Dairygold Co-Operative and Acorn Independent Merchants Group. Capway Bioenergy had provisional distribution agreements in place with three of Ireland's leading oil distributors, Topaz Energy Products, Maxell Group and Tedcastles Oil Products. Furthermore, the company had signed the provisional supply agreement with high profile capital fleets, Roadstone Provisions Limited, STL Logistics and Pallas Foods.

This was an excellent proposal to create jobs in my constituency. A total of 80 jobs were involved and this would have been an injection of confidence into the constituency on the part the Government. Approximately 80 jobs would have been provided during the construction period along with direct employment during the operational period of more than 30 full-time positions and significant indirect benefits in the Foynes area. It would have been a new bioenergy company and would have been one of the first positive initiatives in the constituency following the devastation of the three closures to which I referred.

The company's work would have been complementary to the work being undertaken on the development of alternative farm enterprises through the growth of miscanthus grass in the area. Capway Bioenergy proposed to construct a large-scale, state-of-the-art biodiesel processing plant at Foynes which would use domestic raw materials. In its proposal, the company outlined that our planet's store of fossil fuels is finite and it is widely considered that the point in time defined as "peak oil" is imminent. This is the time the slow dwindle in oil supplies commences and this moment will inevitably be accompanied by unprecedented oil price shocks. The earth's remaining reserves of fossil fuels are predominantly concentrated in politically unstable regions. This increases the risk underlying continuity of supply in future. Fossil fuel use results in the emission of greenhouse gases that cause climate change. Scientists state we are rapidly approaching a tipping point, perhaps within ten years, where, without a radical reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, dangerous and uncontrollable climate change is unavoidable.

The EU has taken the lead in addressing the problems associated with fossil fuel dependency. The Union ratified the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, which is legally binding. The protocol obliges Ireland to have its greenhouse gas emissions below 113% of its 1990 emission levels by 2010. Ireland's emissions trajectory suggests this target will not be met. The rapidly expanding transport sector is responsible for most of the increased emissions. To diversify its transport fuel supply base and address its obligation to control greenhouse gas emissions, the EU introduced the bio-fuels directive in 2003, which set a target inclusion rate for bio-fuels within the transport fuel portfolio of each member state of 2% by 2005 and 5.75% by 2010.

Ireland has responded with the bio-fuels mineral oil tax relief scheme which offers excise duty relief on bio-fuels to selected bio-fuel providers. One of the best submissions was made by Capway Bioenergy. The Minister of State might explain, when he contributes, why the company was excluded. Perhaps the Minister of State and his cohorts in Government have decided it is not necessary to address job creation in Limerick West because the outcome of the general election is predictable. However, that is not so and the failure of this employment opportunity and the residual loss of more than 1,000 jobs will be visited on the Government parties in the general election in my constituency. I do not understand why a response was not made to the lobbying by many people regarding this excellent proposal to create jobs and an environmentally friendly product in this area.

Biodiesel has been produced on an industrial scale in the European Union since 1992, largely in response to positive signals from EU institutions in conjunction with supportive initiatives from member states. Today there are approximately 120 plants inthe EU, providing almost 7 billion litres of biodiesel annually. These plants are mainly located in Germany, Italy, Austria, France and Sweden. We were anxious to join that group with a plant in Foynes in Limerick but the Government decided it should not be the case. I look forward to the Minister of State explaining why west Limerick and Foynes should not be included, when many jobs would have been created.

I am pleased to respond on behalf of the Government and I thank the Fine Gael Party for putting down the original motion.

Having observed and listened to the debate over the past two nights it is blatantly obvious Fine Gael has nothing substantive to offer in terms of addressing Ireland's greenhouse gas emissions. Its Members had no ideas, no policies, no silver bullets and nothing constructive to bring to the debate.

Fine Gael is in good company on the Opposition benches. The only useful thing we have heard from that side of the House in the past two nights was the belated acknowledgment by the Labour Party that purchases of carbon credits to supplement domestic emission reductions must be part of the overall response to our Kyoto Protocol commitments. It is a bit late in the day for the Labour Party to wake up and get to grips with this fundamental issue but it is better late than never.

One thing that did surprise me was the downgrading of the climate change agenda by the Green Party. It seems no longer to be a priority for it and its members did not even bother to turn up last night to hear the contributions of the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Deputy Noel Dempsey, and the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Roche. Their contribution tonight, as it has been on other occasions, involved tax, more tax and more tax and was compounded by the confusion emanating from the lips of Deputy Eamon Ryan, who engaged in deliberate obfuscation. They cannot accept that the Government supports the EU's ambition for a 30% reduction in emissions from developed countries by 2020. I suggest they read the strategy as that target is an integral part of it. Sir Nicholas Stern pointed out, in his recent report on the economics of climate change, that economic growth and environmental protection are not mutually exclusive. It is not a matter of economic competitiveness or greenhouse gas emission reduction — it is both.

Before going any further I will address two specific points made by Deputy O'Dowd last night. He called for the conversion of all public buildings to green energy. The Government is already committed to significant emission reductions in the public sector and has included that commitment in its new strategy. He also asked the House to support the introduction of a new system of annual, open and transparent reporting but the Government is already committed to strengthening reporting and review arrangements. The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government will co-ordinate an annual report which will be laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas and presented to the Joint Committee on Environment and Local Government, as stated in the strategy.

I assure the House that Ireland is on course to meet its greenhouse gas emission commitments for the purposes of the Kyoto Protocol. The previous national climate change strategy, which the Government published in 2000, was hugely successful in reducing our overall level of emissions and in decoupling growth in emissions from economic growth. The figures speak for themselves and Irish people can be very proud of our performance over the past six years or so. While our economy grew by 150%, we managed to limit the growth in our greenhouse gas emissions to just 25%, an impressive performance by any standards. The new strategy aims to build on that success by continuing the decoupling of emissions from economic growth and ensuring further reductions in actual greenhouse gas emissions in all sectors, including transport. Not only will the policies in the new strategy reinforce our Kyoto compliance, they will initiate national preparations in anticipation of more demanding emission reduction targets in the period to 2020 and beyond.

The Kyoto Protocol is only a first step for the international community in seeking to stabilise global greenhouse emissions at a safe level. Ireland's contribution to the international effort, under Kyoto in the first instance but also in the longer term, will be achieved without compromising competitiveness, economic growth or Irish jobs. Unlike the Opposition, we will not pull the plug on the economy or Irish jobs. We will not tax Irish industry out of competitiveness and the Government will ensure we meet our commitments on a basis that is responsible, transparent and fully consistent with the provisions of the protocol itself.

Both the new climate change strategy and the White Paper on energy are significant and ambitious policy documents. They strengthen our energy sector and put Ireland on a path progressively to lower our greenhouse gas emissions in the period to 2020. The European Union has been proactive in promoting a concerted international response to climate change. It is a global problem that demands a global solution. As a member of the EU Ireland supports that position and we are demonstrating that support by putting ourselves on a pathway to Kyoto compliance.

On any assessment involving a fair range of parameters our performance on greenhouse gas emissions is better than any other EU member state. I remind Deputy Eamon Ryan and others that other countries in Europe buy carbon credits, such as Spain, Belgium and Italy, as well as Japan. It is part of the overall strategy, which is a sensible strategy for ensuring we do not in any way detract from the ongoing development of our economy and the creation of large numbers of jobs, which has been a feature of the economy over the past ten years.

I thank all those who contributed to the debate. There were some measured speeches, unlike that of the Minister of State. If we reflect on what is happening we will see the time has now come to decouple the people from this Government because it has not done its job.

Ireland is not meeting its Kyoto targets. Since the first climate change strategy was produced by the Government emissions have increased rather than decreased. Notwithstanding the good work which was commenced by the initial climate change strategy the policy has now gone out of kilter. One of the key reasons for that is the fact that emissions from transport are 160 times greater than in 1990.

Does the Deputy accept the figures showing a 165% growth in the economy but only a 25% growth in emissions?

We should be heading towards 13% above the 1990 limit but we are at 25% and it is increasing as we speak. Government policy has failed.

I will refer to the excellent work done in the recent report published by Urban Forum. There is an increasing suburbanisation in Ireland and more and more people live outside our cities. The population in Cork and Limerick declined by 3.2% and 2.7% respectively while their county areas grew. The area directly outside Cork city grew by 11.4% and the area outside Limerick city by over 8%. While more people live near our cities the population within the cities is actually falling and our urban sprawl is now worse than Los Angeles. The footprint of Dublin city is equal to that of Los Angeles but with a population a third the size. Part of that is because of increasing reliance on motor cars, rather than public transport. We are becoming a very car-dependent country. The Urban Forum report stated:

One of the consequences of Ireland's 'suburbanisation' is the reality that for many 'city' dwellers, they are as car dependent as their rural neighbours. The average car in Ireland travels, on an annual basis, 24,400 km per year — 70% more than France or Germany, 50% more than Britain — and even 30% more than the USA.

The price of this rapid economic success and our fast increasing use of cars is that Ireland has become the fifth most oil-dependent country in the EU and the ninth in the world. This is taking place at a time when oil is becoming an ever-scarcer resource.

While we have made great economic progress, we are burning up more fossil fuels by the way we live and through the Government failing to manage our population movements and our carbon footprints. The Government is condemned for not dealing with the issue by failing to have proper planning and development and not doing enough to encourage public transport. While I acknowledge improvements have been made in public transport, they have been inadequate. The Government stands condemned on its lack of attention to this issue.

I gave an example last night which I will repeat. When Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats took office in 1997 we had no motorway between Drogheda and Dublin, and the Balbriggan bypass did not exist. However, I could drive from my home in Drogheda to Leinster House during peak times in approximately an hour. Now it takes at least an hour and a half and sometimes up to two hours when using my car, as I often need to do given other commitments I may have. There are no park and ride facilities as one approaches the city from the north side. There is no Government joined-up thinking on the issue. We have no integrated policy whereby people who need to use their cars to get close to the city could then take public transport. The Government has failed utterly in meeting the needs of the population by reducing the numbers stuck in traffic every day. Despite some improvements with the opening of the Dublin port tunnel, once past the tunnel entrance drivers have the same problem again. People recently told me they were more than half an hour in Gardiner Street.

That is a great admission coming from that side, given what Deputy Olivia Mitchell had been predicting for the tunnel.

However, we cannot all travel in bus lanes as the Minister of State can. We need to get people out of their cars and those that must be used need to be more efficient. We need joined-up Government thinking. On this most important area of transport the Government has completely failed and it is out of control. The way the cities are growing is also out of control. We do not have sustainable living. Such sustainable living, with people living, working and having their recreation more or less all in the same area, represents the future for Ireland. However, the Government has failed in this regard.

I welcome that the emissions trading scheme is working. I come from a town with two major industries, Premier Periclase and Irish Cement, which are heavy users of energy. CRH needed to reconsider the future of the cement industry in Ireland when the emissions trading scheme was introduced. This is an area in which emissions trading is working. CRH has given a commitment to invest in a new state-of-the-art plant which will significantly reduce the carbon emissions from this industry in Drogheda in the future. It is sustaining and driving economic success and vibrancy in my area.

Whose policy is that?

It is a European policy.

Would it be under the 2000 strategy? I thank the Deputy for the compliment.

I will not use unparliamentary language. Let us cut to the chase. EMT is a European-based scheme. It has nothing to do with the Minister of State or me — although we support it. The principle works and is good. The issue is what we are doing with the rest of our activities. What are we doing in our other businesses that do not form part of the emissions trading scheme? In Government Fine Gael will address this issue in a way the present Government parties have failed to do in their ten years in office.

We are talking about how to change our carbon footprint and reduce our carbon emissions with the benefit of reducing costs. This needs to be driven locally. We will give new statutory powers to local authorities for their administrative areas. Counties may wish to join together as Limerick and Clare have already done on a voluntary basis. They have defined a climate change strategy for their specific administrative area which means they consider all the activities outside the emissions trading scheme — industries, shops, hospitals, schools and homes. They drill right down through every planning application that is made. They consider the design, whether recyclable material is used and the thermal efficiency of homes.

I am pleased the Deputy is reiterating the strategy the Government has announced and that Fine Gael would like to follow it.

If the Minister of State were making a reasonable point I would listen to him. We have approximately eight such energy committees throughout the country. They were initially funded by way of European grant. Most of them now operate on a shoestring and do not know whether they will be in existence next year. Their work has been ignored by the Government. We will make sure that every county will have such a power by statute. They will have the support services and the skilled people. We will drive the agenda locally to reduce carbon emissions. We will make sure, as the Government should be doing, that every school, hospital, small business and larger industry is required to outline their plan for the following two years, showing what they are doing to reduce their carbon footprint and how they will improve their energy efficiency. We will ask them whether we can help them devise new schemes, show them what is international best practice and tell them how to do their job. We will be on the ground doing the business. That it is not happening at the moment shows the Government's abject failure. It is interested in climate change now only because it is required to be.

The Deputy is postulating exactly what we are doing.

A tide of opinion is pointing out to the Government that it has failed in every respect on its Kyoto targets. It has been careless in the extreme in dealing with this issue. It is no longer a matter of care for them or for us; it is a matter of climate change in the world with things changing so radically and soon for all of us. One of the arguments about climate change is that we must all get involved. It is no longer a matter for the Government or the Opposition; it is a matter for every household and individual to make that change. If we do not, we all know the catastrophic situation that will apply, although not initially to Ireland. The experts tell us that we will experience benefits in that our winters will be warmer and our summers will be drier. However, there will be changes in the west coast with considerably more rain, etc.

While changes are coming here they will not be as radical initially they will be in places like Pakistan or India. In reality poorer people will suffer most. People who live in cities on river deltas or beside the sea will suffer very significantly. There will be mass movement of perhaps millions of people in cities throughout the Third World in particular. The climate will change so radically in Africa that it will transform the world and we need to play our part in it. I accept the argument that 1 tonne of carbon dioxide removed in Africa is as good as 1 tonne removed from Ireland. We are not doing enough and the tide is running out. This Government has failed. Our modern society has enjoyed high levels of growth but the Government has not kept pace in terms of reducing our carbon emissions. It has betrayed the environment. This Government and the speeches by its Ministers, particularly tonight, are a disgrace.

Amendment put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 65; Níl, 53.

  • Ahern, Noel.
  • Andrews, Barry.
  • Ardagh, Seán.
  • Blaney, Niall.
  • Brady, Johnny.
  • Brady, Martin.
  • Browne, John.
  • Callanan, Joe.
  • Callely, Ivor.
  • Carey, Pat.
  • Carty, John.
  • Cassidy, Donie.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Coughlan, Mary.
  • Cowen, Brian.
  • Cregan, John.
  • Cullen, Martin.
  • Curran, John.
  • de Valera, Síle.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • Dennehy, John.
  • Devins, Jimmy.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Finneran, Michael.
  • Fleming, Seán.
  • Gallagher, Pat The Cope.
  • Glennon, Jim.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Hanafin, Mary.
  • Harney, Mary.
  • Hoctor, Máire.
  • Jacob, Joe.
  • Keaveney, Cecilia.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kelly, Peter.
  • Killeen, Tony.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • Moloney, John.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Mulcahy, Michael.
  • Nolan, M.J.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • O’Connor, Charlie.
  • O’Dea, Willie.
  • O’Donnell, Liz.
  • O’Donovan, Denis.
  • O’Flynn, Noel.
  • O’Keeffe, Batt.
  • O’Keeffe, Ned.
  • O’Malley, Fiona.
  • O’Malley, Tim.
  • Parlon, Tom.
  • Power, Peter.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Roche, Dick.
  • Sexton, Mae.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smith, Michael.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Wallace, Dan.
  • Wilkinson, Ollie.
  • Woods, Michael.

Níl

  • Boyle, Dan.
  • Breen, James.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Connolly, Paudge.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Crawford, Seymour.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Cuffe, Ciarán.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Gormley, John.
  • Hayes, Tom.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Higgins, Michael D.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • McEntee, Shane.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Paul.
  • McHugh, Paddy.
  • McManus, Liz.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Morgan, Arthur.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • O’Dowd, Fergus.
  • O’Keeffe, Jim.
  • O’Shea, Brian.
  • O’Sullivan, Jan.
  • Pattison, Seamus.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Perry, John.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Sargent, Trevor.
  • Sherlock, Joe.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Timmins, Billy.
  • Twomey, Liam.
  • Upton, Mary.
  • Wall, Jack.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Kitt and Kelleher; Níl, Deputies Kehoe and Stagg.
Amendment declared carried.
Motion, as amended, put and declared carried.