Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill 2015: Second Stage

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Climate change is rightly gaining increasing recognition as one of the greatest challenges to face humankind. Its effects respect no national boundaries. The consequences are felt globally and can only be addressed on an international scale. Ireland has been and remains a highly active participant in the processes at both EU and UN level. This creates its own challenges for Ireland, not least with respect to tackling the need to radically reshape our economy over the next generation and beyond. For that reason, Ireland, as part of the European Union, has been playing its part under the auspices of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC, in addressing greenhouse gas emissions for which it is responsible. In this regard, the EU's so-called effort sharing decision of 2009 sets down national mitigation targets for the period 2013 to 2020, inclusive. These national targets mirror, by design, what is required under the UNFCCC in the second Kyoto commitment period.

Setting mitigation targets is one thing but achieving them is a very different thing, as all Members are aware. This is all the more important as both the EU agenda and the international agenda is to reduce incrementally greenhouse gas emissions so that developed economies become substantively decarbonised by the year 2050. In other words, Ireland cannot simply concern itself with the short to medium term but must look decades ahead to where and how to decarbonise on a national scale. Decarbonising the economy will unquestionably create challenges but it will also bring about significant opportunities that many in the Irish business community are already embracing.

To this end, in April 2014, the Government approved a national climate policy position setting out a long-term vision of low-carbon transition based on an aggregate reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of at least 80%, compared to 1990 levels, by 2050, across the electricity generation, built environment and transport sectors; in parallel, an approach to carbon neutrality in the agriculture and land-use sector, including forestry, does not compromise capacity for sustainable food production.

This long-term vision is an ambitious one, demanding real and meaningful change in how we as a society live, work and travel. Achieving both our immediate mitigation targets up to 2020 and those that will be set on an incremental basis up to 2030, 2040 and 2050 will not be an easy task. It will require a whole-of-government response and hence the need to have a robust institutional framework in place. The Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill 2015 provides for this. I wish to be clear that this Bill is not designed to set out specific policy measures. We need a dynamic approach to the policy measures that is prepared to react to technological developments across various sectors. We need all sectors to contribute in the context of decarbonisation whether that be as technology takers or indeed as providing innovation of their own. This Bill is designed to ensure that the State demands a relentless focus from each sector but without setting limits on what can be achieved.

The Bill is about instituting an open, accountable, transparent process that requires the whole of government to engage in a specific and planned mitigation process; to lay plans before this House; to justify in a public forum the actions or inaction of those contributing to the process; and to motivate all sectors of the State to further the decarbonisation agenda. In other words, the Bill is designed to provide the institutional arrangements required to enable the reshaping of the economy towards low-carbon development over the next 40 years and beyond. I note that some of those who criticised the Bill did not make this much progress during their time in Government.

I wish to highlight to the House that when this Bill is enacted, Ireland, the country we all serve, will be one of only a handful of member states within the EU with specific national climate change legislation on their statute books. Therein lies the ambition and commitment to drive forward with national plans which encompass low-emission strategies and climate-resilient economic growth. In this regard, the Bill is among the most significant this Government will introduce during its term.

It has been suggested that we should enshrine in the Bill a long-term mitigation target for 2050, akin to the long-term vision outlined in the national climate policy position. Although I appreciate that it might be tempting to co-opt this vision for use in legislation, I believe that this would be the wrong course of action. In the first instance, that long-term vision, if it were inscribed in legislation, might interfere with the EU's target-setting process. Second, we could run the risk of setting a numerical mitigation target in legislation which may render the State subject to legal action thereafter. We operate within a legislative European framework and we are subject to effort-sharing decisions in terms of how mitigation targets are set and agreed. Were we to institute our own targets that were less demanding than those set at EU level, then the latter would take precedence and our legislative targets would be rendered redundant. Alternatively, were our mitigation targets more demanding than those determined at EU level, we would run the risk of putting Ireland at a competitive disadvantage compared to our EU partners which would not be a desirable outcome.

Setting our own targets, even on a long-term basis, would not only interfere with the European process, but would cause the State to be subject to legal action. I ask if we would want the State to be focused on legal proceedings or whether our resources would be more usefully employed in assessing new technologies, new efficient energy production mechanisms, sustainable planning and transport policy, or information technology aimed at decarbonising production processes. I think it would be the latter option. The European targets in place for 2020, which are legally binding, will prove extremely challenging to achieve and will represent the primary focus of our efforts in developing our first national mitigation plan. Adding further targets to this scenario will only complicate the process further and divert focus from where it is needed. In my view, targets can only be realised by putting in place appropriate and proportionate mitigation policy measures across the sectors with the most significant emissions. There is no shortcut. That is why the Bill focuses so much on institutional arrangements for ensuring that such sectoral mitigation measures can be developed, approved and most important, implemented.

It is important to note that there is no internationally agreed definition of a low-carbon economy, with many terms used in different circumstances, such as the green economy, green-collar jobs, the environmental economy and eco-industry. I could add many more to that list.

While I fully subscribe to the principal of low carbon, not least because it reduces energy costs, I see a significant risk in trying to define it in Irish legislation, particularly where there would be potential to restrict the breadth of activities that could conceivably contribute to lowering carbon dioxide emissions. As mentioned earlier, with fast-moving innovations and new markets emerging for goods and services, any definition of what is regarded as low carbon could well be outdated very quickly, so it is not appropriate to lock into primary legislation such a dynamic definition. This in no way limits our commitment to delivering a low-carbon economy in time. On the contrary, keeping a definition of "low carbon" outside of legislation should expand our scope over time in terms of achieving delivery.

There has been much commentary on the timeframes in the Bill, namely that the national mitigation plan must be prepared and submitted to the Government for approval by me as Minister within 24 months of the passing of the Act. In the first instance, I stress that this timeframe represents a maximum - which has not been much observed - and that every effort will be made to have the national mitigation plan in place earlier. However, we also need to take heed of where consultation is appropriate and, as covered by section 2 of the Bill, where the State needs to show commitment to existing obligations under EU law, such as those relating to the strategic environmental directive and the habitats directive. Failure to adhere to these European legislative requirements would not only leave the plans open to legal challenge but would also reduce the effectiveness of the plans themselves in terms of how the respective assessment processes can potentially contribute in a positive manner to the overall development of the plans. I would like to think we could all be in agreement in terms of allowing due process in these matters and giving appropriate consideration to relevant matters when and where required. It is imperative that we allow sufficient contingency in respect of having the time available to do the right thing, as opposed to the rushed thing.

I also welcome the debate on the expert advisory council and its role as provided for in the Bill. As the Members present are aware, the expert advisory council shall consist of a chairperson and between eight and ten ordinary members, four of whom shall be ex officio members, namely, the heads of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, Teagasc and the Economic and Social Research Institute. Within this structure, it is important to note that the majority of the members who will sit on this council are independent of Government Departments and agencies, which will provide the necessary balance to underpin the independent nature of the advice to be provided in furthering the transition to a low-carbon, climate resilient and environmentally sustainable economy by the year 2050.

I believe the composition of the expert advisory council will strike the right balance, which is needed, between academic rigour and practical implementation, by providing a service which helps us navigate a course towards our mitigation targets, which are ambitious, and rightly so, yet achievable. Let me be very clear on this: I regard the independence of the experts on the group as being key to the overall process. We will achieve the best results by combining the efforts of these key experts with the State's environmentally focused agencies, which are already in and of themselves highly committed to the principles of a low-carbon economy.

In terms of climate justice, it is important that we recognise our collective historical responsibility in relation to climate change and, in particular, that we recognise and address the fact that those least responsible for climate change often experience its greatest impacts. Few, if any, of us would doubt the validity of the concept, but we must also ask ourselves how best we should go about supporting those in developing countries when it comes to climate change. In my view, climate justice is a matter that should be dealt with by policy as opposed to trying to define it in legislation.

The single most important contribution any developed country can make to climate justice is to honour its greenhouse gas mitigation commitments. This is what the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill is all about - putting in place an institutional framework to ensure that robust mitigation policy measures are developed in a timely fashion.

Moreover, as I have previously mentioned, it is important to note that despite extraordinarily difficult fiscal circumstances, Ireland has maintained significant support, including public finance, for climate action on adaptation in developing countries, and is committed, through ongoing discussions at senior official level, to finding sustainable ways to continue this support where need is greatest.

The Bill sets out the national objective of transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient and environmentally sustainable economy in the period up to and including the year 2050. In doing so, it gives a solid statutory foundation to the institutional arrangements necessary to enable the State to pursue and achieve that national transition objective. In this regard, the Bill addresses both the mitigation and adaptation responses to climate change. That is, it deals with reducing national greenhouse gas emissions as well as adapting to the inevitable effects of climate change in Ireland.

Because both mitigation and adaptation require new policy measures across the whole of Government, the Bill provides that relevant Ministers of the Government will be required to contribute, on a sectoral basis, to the national mitigation plans and the sectoral adaptation plans which fall out of the national adaptation framework. This is an important institutional requirement, as climate change encompasses such a wide range of areas, including agriculture, transport, energy, the built environment, forestry and flood defence.

The Bill before us today contains 16 sections. To use the time allocated to me in an effective manner, I will focus on the key provisions. Section 3 provides for the preparation and submission to the Government by me as Minister of a national mitigation plan and a national adaptation framework for the purpose of pursuing and achieving the transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient and environmentally sustainable economy by the end of 2050, in what is known in the Bill as the "national transition objective".

Section 4, one of the most important sections of the Bill, provides for the preparation and approval of iterative five-year national mitigation plans which shall specify the policy measures to achieve the national transition objective and, in particular, the greenhouse gas mitigation policy measures to be adopted by selected Ministers of the Government. The first such national mitigation plan must be prepared and submitted to the Government for approval by me as Minister within 24 months of the passing of the Act. Prior to the making of a national mitigation plan, a public consultation exercise must be undertaken and we must have regard to any submissions made pursuant to such an exercise. A national mitigation plan must be laid before the Dáil after it has been approved by the Government.

Section 5 provides for the making and submission to the Government of iterative national adaptation frameworks, which shall specify the national strategy for the application of adaptation measures in various sectors and by local authorities in order to reduce the vulnerability of the State to the negative effects of climate change and to avail of any positive effects that may occur. The first such framework must be prepared and submitted to the Government by me as Minister within a maximum of 24 months of the passing of the Act. As with the national mitigation plans, prior to the making of a national adaptation framework, a public consultation exercise must be undertaken. The national adaptation framework must also be laid before the Dáil after it has been approved by the Government.

Section 6 concerns itself with sectoral adaptation plans. Arising from a national adaptation framework, which specifies the national strategy for the application of adaptation measures in various sectors, relevant Ministers of the Government shall be required by the Government to prepare and submit to the Government within a specified period a sectoral adaptation plan. Each such plan shall specify the adaptation policy measures to enable adaptation to the effects of climate change to be achieved by that sector and to enable the achievement of the national transition objective.

Section 7 is concerned with matters that must be taken into account, including consultation, for the purpose of making a national adaptation framework and sectoral adaptation plans, including the promotion of sustainable development and not imposing an unreasonable burden on the Exchequer. Relevant scientific and technical advice must also be considered, while consultation with the national expert advisory council on climate change on the performance of its functions is also covered.

Section 8 mandates the establishment of a national expert advisory council on climate change to provide independent advice to Ministers and the Government in respect of climate change matters, while section 9 outlines how the members of the council will be appointed, including the range of qualifications, expertise and experience necessary for the proper and effective performance of the functions of the expert advisory council. It is essential that the most appropriate range of skills be brought to the table to address the key areas concerned, whether from an environmental, a social or an economic perspective. The chairperson and ordinary members of the expert advisory council, other than, of course, the ex officio members, shall be appointed by the Government on my nomination. As stated earlier, the independence of the expert group is a key priority for me.

In terms of practical arrangements, the Environmental Protection Agency is charged with providing the expert advisory council with appropriate secretarial and administrative services, as well as permitting it to use its premises for the purpose of the performance of its functions. At a time of straitened fiscal circumstances, this will greatly reduce the operating costs of the expert advisory council.

Section 11 sets down, in general terms, the functions of the expert advisory council. These functions include advising and making recommendations to Ministers and the Government in respect of a national mitigation plan, a national adaptation framework, sectoral adaptation plans and any policy relating to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and adaptation to the effects of climate change in the State. For the purposes of performing its functions, the expert advisory council may gather such information and meet and consult with such persons as it alone considers appropriate. In addition to its general advice-giving functions, section 12 sets down that the expert advisory council shall conduct an annual review of progress in achieving greenhouse gas emissions reductions and in furthering the national transition objective. Pursuant to such an annual review, the council is then required to prepare an annual report and publish it directly not more than 30 days after submitting it to myself as Minister.

Section 13 provides that, in addition to an annual report, the expert advisory council may conduct a periodic review of mitigation and adaptation measures in the State and publish directly the corresponding periodic review report not less than 60 and not more than 90 days after submitting it to myself as Minister.

As a meaningful and comprehensive exercise in transparency and accountability, section 14 mandates that an annual transition statement shall be presented to the Dáil.

Can I get the agreement of the Members that the Minister may have more time to conclude? Is that agreed? Agreed.

I will finish shortly. The annual transition statement shall comprise: a statement by myself as Minister providing an overview of mitigation and adaptation policy measures that have been adopted by the State; a statement by relevant Ministers detailing the sectoral mitigation policy measures for which they are responsible and an assessment of their effectiveness; and a statement by relevant Ministers detailing the sectoral adaptation policy measures for which they are responsible and an assessment of their effectiveness.

I believe the Bill strikes the right balance between ambition and, most importantly, realism in terms of the institutional framework necessary to develop, approve and implement robust mitigation and adaptation policy measures. My vision of Ireland is for a competitive, socially focused economy built on sustainability. This Bill will put in place the framework from a climate change perspective to ensure that Ireland is well placed to deliver on that vision. Furthermore, it is important to note that, via the establishment of an annual transition statement to Dáil Éireann, relevant Ministers will be made accountable for the mitigation and adaptation policy measures for which they are responsible, and their implementation. This is an important reporting mechanism to ensure that our necessary mitigation and adaptation measures remain on course.

Before I conclude, I would like to take this opportunity to again acknowledge the substantial work done by the Joint Committee on the Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht on the outline heads of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill and to note with particular appreciation the work of every member of the joint committee, which was chaired by my colleague Deputy Michael McCarthy. The input from the committee, by way of the joint committee's report, was another important milestone in shaping the debate on this legislation, and it helped inform, in a genuine and meaningful fashion, the further development of the heads of the Bill. It is obvious that the report was given genuine and detailed consideration, with several of the joint committee's proposals being accepted in full and unequivocally. I am satisfied that it has promoted a better and more inclusive Bill than would otherwise be the case. I genuinely thank the committee for its work on that.

The cause of, and the case for action in response to, climate change is now unanswerable. We must deal with it. Despite this, no specific climate change legislation has yet been enacted in this country. This Government made a commitment to bring in such legislation during its term in office and we are now fulfilling that commitment. Previous Administrations made similar commitments but they were not honoured. This is a substantial and comprehensive Bill that will change the way in which we deal with the very real issue of climate change. I ask the House to support its implementation.

I understand Deputy Cowen has 20 minutes.

Yes, give or take. The Minister just said that the Government made a commitment to bring in legislation to address climate change - to introduce the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill. We would have hoped that any such proposals and anything contained within such a Bill would address the issues in their entirety and get it completely right - that it would not get it half right by addressing only some of the issues, but would live up to the expectation and the commitment that was given. I must disagree with the Minister when he said that this Government is living up to its expectations and commitments. It is not even living up to what is set out in his party's Bill of 2009 in this area.

We will oppose this Bill if there are not substantial amendments to it - amendments that will be proposed by myself and others in the course of its passage through the House. Unless the Minister makes serious amendments to the Bill, I cannot see the House in its entirety supporting it. This long-delayed Bill marks a serious retreat from the 2010 legislation published by the Fianna Fáil-Green Party Government. Instead of clear targets, it has vague aspirations. Climate change is a serious threat to this island nation across a broad remit of areas from agriculture to infrastructure, including the threat of massive coastal erosion. The Bill does not confront the scale of that threat. It is time the Government got serious about climate change and started to take action to protect Ireland's long-term interests and global responsibilities. I am mindful of a comment that was made to me when I met various bodies and an amalgam of activists seeking to lobby us and make us fully aware of everything pertaining to climate change in order that the House and its Members would be able to make an informed decision upon the culmination of the process. It was a short meeting which I had only yesterday. The comment was that members of the generation following mine are in no doubt of what needs to be done and what must be done, and are fully aware of the impact of climate change, but this generation of which we are a part - this generation of parliamentarians in the Oireachtas - may be the last one that has a chance to do anything about it. That is why this debate will have to mean something. That is why Second Stage of this Bill will have to be taken seriously. That is why I ask that the Minister take on board some of the recommendations that are emanating from this group and seriously consider the amendments that will be proposed during the passage of the Bill.

I will turn to the key points contained in the Bill. It continues to lack real teeth and has no clear targets. The input from the exhaustive hearings of the Joint Committee on the Environment, Community and Local Government and its subsequent consensus recommendations have effectively been ignored by the Government, contrary to what the Minister has said. The Bill is a regressive move that steps back from the ambitious framework of targets up to 2050 contained in previous legislation such as the 2010 Bill, the all-party 2010 Bill and the Labour Party Bill. It delays action on climate change for a further two years, as the Government is kicking the can down the road on this issue. The Minister is following hard on his predecessor's footsteps in his failure to include a strategic target for 2050, and that exposes the failure to rise to the pressing challenge of climate change. To remove responsibility for the targets and instead leave it to the EU is an abrogation of duty. For the Labour Party, it is another broken promise, as it has failed to legislate for the goals that it included in its legislation in 2009 and instead has settled for a flawed, emasculated piece of legislation. Environmental groups have roundly criticised the heads of the Bill for the lack of vision contained therein. It in no way sets out a meaningful strategic framework to address climate change. It does not, for example, include the Government's own definition of low carbon, it does not guarantee the independence of the climate advisory council and it does not make provision for the principle of climate justice.

I will turn to the main points of the Bill.

The failure to include specific 2050 targets will give rise to sectoral interests potentially hijacking the process and depriving the Bill of its long-term impact in shaping policy formation. In other words, as a result, the Bill is effectively toothless.

An expert advisory council is a welcome idea, but it must be given real resources and clear powers if it is to have any real impact on climate change policy. The council proposed in this Bill lacks any real independence. The Oireachtas must debate the advice and reports of the council and, unlike in the current Bill, the Government must consult the body when developing a carbon strategy. As I have said on two or three occasions, the Government has delayed the adoption of a national mitigation plan with sectoral policy measures by at least two years.

Ireland's last emissions reduction plan expired at the end of 2012, just before our challenging 2020 EU targets came into force. The Government then promised a new plan by early 2014. In April 2014, the then Minister Phil Hogan's draft Bill mandated there be an action plan within 12 months of the climate law coming into force. Now, the Minister's Bill gives the Government two years from enactment to come up with actual measures to reduce emissions. That is a cop-out.

The annual transition report is a welcome measure that should be fully debated in the Oireachtas as part of holding the Government to account over its climate change strategy. A rigorous accountability system needs to be put in place to ensure that public bodies are drivers of reform on climate change and play a leading role in innovating and implementing the Government's strategy. Specific public body climate change reports should be developed. This has to be driven at local government level also.

The principle of climate justice has been entirely ignored by this Bill. The Government has voiced support for the principle of climate justice at the UN and even co-hosted a conference on the issue with Mary Robinson as part of Ireland's EU Presidency. Can that now be perceived by one and all as simply lip-service?

As regards our position, we are committed to an ambitious environmental programme which includes tackling climate change. We published the Climate Change Response Bill 2010 on 23 December 2010, which passed First Stage in the Seanad before the Dáil was dissolved despite the fact that the Minister seems to indicate that no effort whatsoever was made by the previous Government before its abrupt and unfortunate end. The Bill set out Fianna Fáil's commitment to legislating for a process that allows us to plan for greenhouse emissions reduction and adaptation to climate change, as the Bill makes clear. Fianna Fáil believes this must be done in a way that safeguards economic development and competitiveness. Ireland should be consistent with EU targets and we have consistently supported the international process under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

A major change in our approach to climate change policy is a new national priority on carbon transition. While they are important indicators of progress, we must also have a longer term and wider vision for creating a prosperous, sustainable country. The Climate Change Bill should enable us to pursue a smart economy which is highly productive, competitive and resource-efficient, while environmentally sustainable. We support the broad thrust of the findings and recommendations of the NESC report. The five guiding principles for climate action should underpin Ireland's strategy to become a carbon-neutral society. These are economic prosperity, recovery and social development; incremental and permanent decarbonisation; responsibility, integrity and leadership; reform of public institutions and governance; and social engagement.

As the Minister knows, every country has to play its part. The Minister has delayed on this issue and has now produced a toothless Bill which can do little to deal with the central issues involved. I again ask him to take more cognisance of the exhaustive input from the Joint Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht, the recommendations which emanated from it and what was contained in its report. Having failed to do so in the production of this Bill, I again ask the Minister to take on board many of the recommendations and amendments which will be tabled as it passes through the House. Perhaps then, as I said, there may be more wide-ranging support for a Bill which will have teeth, can effect change and we can stand over as having played our part in addressing the unfortunate dilemma and the unfortunate crossroads at which we find ourselves. As I said, a generation is coming fast on our heels which is well aware of the necessity of those in positions of power to effect change.

We might be the last ones who can play a role in living up to their expectations. Climate change is having an effect the world over, not just here, which is something we regularly see and will see more of every year. It is having a detrimental effect on society and the environment. I ask the Minister to take on board the suggestions which will be made during this debate and, more importantly, to take seriously the amendments which will be proposed by the Opposition. It would be a great legacy for the Minister, who craves a legacy, to be able to say at the end of the debate that there was universal support across the House from all Members in his efforts to effect real climate action and produce a low carbon development Bill which would have widespread support.

I wish to share time with Deputy Colreavy, with 25 minutes and five minutes respectively.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this long-awaited Bill. Over the past couple of years I have asked this Minister and the previous one when we would see the Bill. It is good that we now have it. The issue of climate change is the biggest challenge facing our generation and we have a responsibility to those coming behind us, our children, grandchildren and the developed world, to take action.

Unfortunately, Ireland's five-year action plan on climate change expired in 2012 and we are now in the year of our Lord 2015. The legislation is weak, flaky and very much Fine Gael and Phil Hogan's Bill. It is a disappointment. It is not impractical to suggest that this State will address the fact that Ireland has one of the highest levels of greenhouse gas emissions per person in the European Union. According to the EPA, the State will not meet its EU 2020 target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20%.

There is no definition of low carbon economy in the Bill. I heard the Minister's point, but that should not stop us having a definition of what we want as a community and society. It is disappointing that is not in the Bill, which is vague in terms of sectoral allocations and targets. We are dealing with five year as opposed to seven year plans, which was in the original proposal. I welcome the change the Government has made, but the five year plans need to be debated and adopted by the Dáil. It is not just the Government which has to implement these measures; this is a matter for society. All political parties and citizens have to be on board with this project.

The expert advisory panel needs to be independent of Government. What the Government has proposed does not constitute a completely independent panel. The Minister said we can deal with climate justice in policy. We need to compel this and future Governments to deal with the issue in the Bill. The legislation falls short of what is required.

The Bill is not adequate in terms of following on from the action plan on climate change which ended in 2012. It had specific targets based on the Kyoto Protocol. There is no excuse, particularly in light of the fact that the Joint Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht, with which I and other Members are involved, had all-party support when setting out its proposals in a report in 2013.

I hope that when the Bill goes to Committee Stage we can work on it in the same spirit in which we worked on the report. The previous Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, former Deputy Phil Hogan, gave the impression that the report would be considered favourably. Of course, there was the usual public consultation, which led to over 600 submissions, most of which recommended the setting of definite targets to be legislated for. This was ignored.

It is worthwhile comparing the committee report with the Bill in order to highlight the deficiencies. The main fault is that it does not include set targets. The report indicated that Ireland's existing annual emission limits, as agreed in March 2013 under the European Union effort sharing decision or any further modification of these, should be written into the Bill as a target for the 2013 to 2020 period. I brought a Bill to the Dáil and during discussions on that and other issues, I mentioned the need to avoid carbon cliffs. We have a carbon cliff in front of us now, and it would be worse if we had not had a recession. We are gradually ramping up emissions and, based on economic growth and other factors, we will not meet the targets, so we will have to deal with that carbon cliff.

The report from the committee also recommended that the annual emission limits for the ten-year period from 2020 and up to 2050 should be the same as those agreed by member states under the European Union's Roadmap 2050, with this embodied within the legislation. There has been some debate about the likely implications that the climate change strategy will have on the agricultural sector, and rightly so. The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Coveney, has referred to the need to take account of the particular importance of the food sector. The committee report recognises the strategic national importance of the agricultural sector and must also recognise that climate change has an adverse effect on the community and on farming incomes.

The Teagasc report on the 2012 fodder crisis outlined additional feed costs of €390 million, with output losses at €64 million, meaning the crisis cost the agricultural sector more than €450 million. Some people have the mistaken belief that we can ignore climate change and we do not have to deal with it, although there may be an impact on agriculture. The Teagasc report confirms that. While trying to maintain output, we must ensure we can take measures to mitigate against the consequences. A future of fodder crises and flooded corn fields is not right either. All sections of society must buy into this process. In light of the committee's report, it should be noted that other sectors are possibly best placed to make the radical reductions in emissions from current levels, although agriculture must play its part in the overall strategy to reduce the country's emissions. The report therefore recommended that future agricultural emissions up to 2050 should be made on the basis of zero emissions growth relative to 2013 levels. Unfortunately, the Bill avoids such commitments.

The committee report refers to the concept of climate justice. We must recognise that there is not a level playing field. Trócaire and others have stressed the inequalities that exist on a global scale and the fact that people in developing countries suffer greatly from the impact of dramatic climate change. A women from the Philippines was here yesterday. It is a country made up of islands and we have seen television images of what those people have suffered as a result of climate change. One could not be left unmoved by what is happening to people in the Pacific Ocean, particularly those who live on small islands. We have an obligation to those people, as we are producing far more greenhouse gases per head of population than they are. Over recent decades we have seen the consequences of drought and disaster caused by extreme events in the Philippines and other countries. The impact of such events is greatly exacerbated by the fact that these underdeveloped countries do not have the infrastructure to cope with such disasters. Poorer-quality housing and physical infrastructure mean that the consequences of hurricanes and typhoons, for example, are far greater than they are in developed countries. The emergency and relief services are not as well able to cope with those consequences and the impact on local people.

There are contradictions with regard to the climate change issue in developing countries. Some feel that the onus of addressing climate change and implementing measures to reduce emissions should fall mainly on developed economies. Countries such as China and India have claimed that the industrialised West has enjoyed the fruits of fossil-fuel-based development and is now attempting to impose restrictions on developing countries that are trying to catch up. There is some merit in that argument, and recognition has been given to this with respect to the different targets for different global regions in international agreements. However, we all share the same Earth and it is impossible to ring-fence any part of the planet, or a country, where continued high emission levels could be allowed. I hope that not only will this continue to form the basis of international agreements but that we will also make more rapid progress towards replacing fossil fuels with renewable resources.

Developing countries have bought into that agenda, not only for environmental reasons but also, in many cases, to reduce their economic dependence on fossil fuels. This country is overly dependent on imported fossil fuels and it is disappointing that we have not been more proactive in forming a strategy to deal with climate change. The Bill fails to do this. It also fails to form a more cohesive energy strategy. Instead of seriously examining the advantages we have in terms of renewable energy, we seem to be content to allow the agenda be driven by external economic interests. That was certainly the case with the now almost abandoned proposals to cover the midlands with wind farms in order to export electricity to Britain. Instead, we should be planning for a radical reduction in fossil fuels, and we should be at the forefront in generating energy from other sources. Wind could play a part in this.

One of the weaknesses in the Bill is that local authorities and development are not included, which is odd. The local authority of a county such as Laois should be given a significant role with regard to a mitigation plan. Within those mitigation plans, there should be a large role for local governance. Laois is a good example because of the proposed haphazard wind farm developments. The most recent casualty is Cullenagh mountain, which is now to be designated as a site for giant turbines, and the implications have not been thought through properly. We all want to develop the green economy and alternative sources of energy, but this Government seems to have put all its eggs in the wind farm basket. We have seen the effects in Counties Laois and Offaly. The potential of other sources, such as biomass, has not been given the same priority, despite the fact there is much potential in the midlands to grow willow. Forestry waste and other products are also available.

There is also an abundance of hydroelectric power.

I know hydropower will never produce the amount of electricity that is required to meet our current usage, but no single source will do that. Many sources will be required. Rivers such as the Barrow, Nore, Erkina and White Horse have mill sites on them. What investigation or study has been carried out on those sites from Portarlington to the south of the county and from Castletown across to the edge of Carlow town, the county boundary of Laois and Carlow, to establish the potential for producing some of our energy from hydropower? Indeed, are we doing enough with regard to geothermal energy? We are talking about solving the problems of the world here and we are trying to live up to our national obligations, but this must be done locally as well. We must take another look at the proposals and how we have gone about meeting our alternative energy needs. Instead of what we have been doing, we should be planning for a radical reduction in the use of imported fossil fuels and, in particular, we should be at the forefront of developing energy, particularly electricity, from other sources.

As part of addressing the global nature of the impact of climate change, the environment committee recommended that climate change legislation should provide for the establishment of a national green climate fund, separate from the environment fund. This would be used to support climate mitigation and adaptation in developing countries and would constitute Ireland's contribution to an international green climate fund established under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It would receive funding from carbon taxes, emissions trading profits and other environmental taxes. It would not receive funds from the existing overseas aid budget. Unfortunately, it is another of the report's recommendations that was ignored in drafting the Bill. Seven of the ten recommendations were ignored.

The most serious defect in this Bill is that while the report recommended that legislation should contain mitigation plans to address the emissions, the Bill only provides for the drawing up of such plans. That is not the role of legislation. Legislation is about setting the statutory parameters for State action rather than acting as another discussion document or paper or to establish a discussion forum, as this Bill appears to do. The time for discussion is over. We have had a national strategy and we have had debates. A substantial body of work about what is needed has been drawn up and agreed across party lines through the environment committee. Instead we have a Bill that appears to be ticking boxes, perhaps to appear as if we are dealing with this issue. In fact, we are only creating new and vague substitutes for planning and implementing the measures that are required to address a global problem in our national context.

The vagueness applies to the entire Bill. Normally when a Bill dealing with such a serious issue is brought before the House, it is possible to identify specific sections and proposals that can be debated in respect of their implications. If people disagree with them, they can suggest and table amendments. In this legislation, however, there is very little substance. For example, section 4 refers to the Minister submitting a national low-carbon transition mitigation plan to the Government. The purpose of the plan is described as setting out measures that are needed to achieve "the national transition objectives". Why does the Bill not cut through all of that? We have waited a long time for the legislation, so why in all that time was it not possible to draft a Bill that would embody the objectives and targets, without having to go through this additional delay? According to section 4, the first plan does not have to be presented to the Government until 2017. We have already lost three years because we have freewheeled for the past three years. Assuming the Bill is enacted, the plan will go through a period of assessment and amendment before being approved by the Government of the day.

Section 5 refers to a further national climate change adaptation framework to be presented by the Minister of the day, again within the same time period. Presumably, the adaptation plan will form the parameters of the sectoral adaptation plans which will be submitted from each Department that has relevance to the areas concerned with reducing emissions. Prior to framing and presenting such plans there will be consultation with people within each of the sectors, followed by public consultation. After all of that, the Government may amend or modify the sectoral plans before proceeding.

I do not wish to be cynical but we appear to be facing a long, drawn-out process, with no definite targets set and flaky timeframes and parameters for what will emerge. It is not necessary to reinvent the wheel here. We know what must be done from our work in the committee, the committee's reports, the presentations made to the committee, what has happened at EU and the wider international levels and from public opinion. It is not a mystery. The targets are in place and they should be part of the legislation. What we have been presented with instead is an expanded heads of a Bill which puts everything on the very long finger and commits this State to do little. There will possibly be penguins washed up in Dollymount before we have this process completed.

The Minister has followed his predecessor's attitude to climate change and that is represented in the Bill before us. The big disappointment for Sinn Féin is the fact that there is no definition of a low-carbon economy and that the Bill is vague on sectoral allocations and targets. We welcome that there will be five year plans, but these must be debated and approved by both Houses of the Oireachtas. As I said earlier, we must get everybody on board on this issue. This is not only a matter for the Government. It must bring the Opposition and society with it on this issue, as well as industry, agriculture, construction, transport and local authorities. The Minister is responsible for local authorities, and there will be no success without the local authorities being central to the implementation of any plans to create a low carbon society. It cannot be done without them. They must be given that role. Their role has been rolled back in recent years and they have lost several areas of responsibility. It is time to involve them centrally in this issue.

The expert advisory council must be fully independent of the Government. I also appeal to the Minister to consider the issue of climate justice. We put money into boxes at times for the Third World and we give donations to Trócaire - I almost said the troika - or Concern.

We give them to the troika too.

We have given enough donations to that. Giving donations to Trócaire or Concern is fine and dandy, but we have a responsibility to those countries in terms of climate change, and the Bill is short in that regard.

While I welcome the Bill's publication, it is not fit for purpose. It must be amended and changed. I welcome the three key areas the Minister changed, on the advice of the committee, from what was in the original heads of the Bill that came from the previous Minister. However, there is a long way to go with this Bill and I hope there can be a common purpose across the House in that regard. This is not a party political issue. This is about the future of the planet and the future of our children, grandchildren and their children.

There is a Latin phrase, Primoris operor haud vulnero - I am sure the reporters will thank me for that - which is part of the hippocratic oath taken by doctors. It means "First, do no harm".

It could be applied to climate change as well as to health. When examining this Bill, we must recognise its potential for achieving the ambitions for a future world with much reduced carbon emissions. The key question is whether future generations on this island and throughout the world will be able to say that we, in this generation, have done all that we can to ensure we pass on a safe, clean, fruitful island and planet. The alternative is too bleak to permit.

Most of my submission is presented in terms of my brief, namely, communications, energy and natural resources, although not so much communications. Retrofitting of homes is an obvious means of not only reducing our dependence on energy sources but also tackling fuel poverty. Sinn Féin, in our 2014 pre-budget submission, put forward a proposal to establish a green bank in order that the State, along with the pensions industry, would invest in the retrofitting of homes. This would see a marked increase in the number of retrofitted homes. It would also generate stable returns, which would be higher than Government bonds, for the pensions industry and would support real and sustainable job creation throughout the country.

Sinn Féin is fully committed to the development of renewable energy in Ireland. The State is heavily reliant on imported fossil fuels to meet its energy demands. The Government has acted and is acting to develop a progressive renewable energy policy which not only complies with EU targets but which also ensures the State's energy security far into the future. However, there is a flaw in the strategy. The current model being pursued by the Government relies primarily on wind energy to meet targets. This is somewhat short-sighted. Wind on its own is not a secure form of energy. It should be developed as part of a wider renewable strategy which includes alternative sources, such as wave, tidal, hydro and biomass energy generation. Recently, WestWave, a wave energy project, was awarded funding by the European Commission. This project is led by the ESB, a semi-State company. This is a step, but only a step, in the right direction in terms of developing tidal and wave energy.

A 2011 report by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland forecast that an all-Ireland ocean energy sector could be worth about €9 billion and could generate approximately 525 TWh annually. Annual electricity usage is 26 TWh. This is the scale of what is possible in wave energy. Would the people of this land prefer ocean energy or would they prefer to see beautiful landscape destroyed and water possibly poisoned by hydraulic fracturing? I think the answer is clear.

Biomass and anaerobic digestion boiler technologies are improving all the time. We should consider and evaluate whether the Moneypoint coal-fired power station is an option to help meet our 2020 targets. Every policy and decision made by Government on energy has to be proofed against our targets to reduce carbon emissions, while ensuring that people are treated fairly. On a worldwide level, we cannot have people whose livelihoods are dependent on the rainforest penalised for doing the right thing. There have to be countermeasures. Similarly, our farmers and our country should not be penalised for what we do best, namely, producing the best food in the world. This has to be taken into account. However, our carbon reduction targets should be explicitly stated in time stages to enable us and the world to calculate whether we are moving in the right direction. Sometimes we can get legislation wrong, but the consequences in those cases are not too severe or they can be undone. However, if we get this wrong - the legislation or the enforcement - there will be no second chance.

I regret that I was not in the House when the Minister opened the debate. There was a Whips' meeting and I have not yet mastered bi-location. I would like to be energetically and enthusiastically supporting this legislation. Unfortunately, I cannot because it is woefully inadequate.

Over the past ten years, we have seen eight different pieces of legislation on this topic. I introduced legislation in 2012, which was debated in this House. Legislation has been introduced by Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, the Green Party, the Labour Party and Fine Gael. This pretty much spans the entire political spectrum. It has taken ten years of Bills, reports, hearings, consultations, drafts and pre-legislative scrutiny to get to where we are now. At all times, the overwhelming evidence presented was that whatever law emerged, it needed to be strong to change behaviour and bring the people with us.

It is not all bad news. We need to have balance. A couple of weeks ago, when we had the debate on the committee report, it was said that we were almost leading the way in Europe. However, the UK, Scotland, France, Denmark, Sweden and Finland have one thing in common. They have adopted legislation which is much stronger than that with which we are presented. They also have targets set in domestic law. Unfortunately and critically, this legislation does not contain these targets. For legislation which has the support of politicians across the spectrum, it is amazing that narrow sectoral concerns seem to have had more impact in the framing of this legislation. I hope this can be changed on Committee Stage. It is an indictment of Parliament that, over the past ten years, we have failed to respond to one of the biggest challenges of our times. As has been stated already, it is not just for the benefit of this generation. This is most definitely for the benefit of future generations. The planet will survive, but we need to address the issue of the number of people on the planet and the conditions in which they will survive.

The Oireachtas environment committee, of which I am a member, took a pragmatic view when compiling our report. The debate was very good and the people who were invited to contribute to the process represented all viewpoints. The report was very measured. I would have liked it to go further. However, many of us were happy to go with the middle ground because we felt there was a decent chance some of the suggestions and recommendations would make it into law. Unfortunately, some of the more serious ones have not. For example, we dropped outright targets in favour of a definition of the kind of low-carbon economy we wanted. We framed this as one with near-zero emissions in transport, energy and buildings and carbon neutrality in agriculture. Amazingly, this compromise did not make it into the legislation before the House. This is hugely disappointing.

On the independence of the expert advisory council, the Minister of State, Deputy Kevin Humphreys, constantly spoke of the need for a model similar to that of the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council. We thought this was a very good idea. The Minister of State was constantly harping on about it, but this is not evident in the framing of the independence, or the possible lack of any independence, of the expert advisory council. It is vitally important that the body which monitors our efforts under this Bill will have the power to hold the Government to account.

If Departments do not fear consequences, I do not think it will be central to the framing of legislation and policy options into the future. It is critically important that independence is elevated when it comes to the Committee Stage debate on this legislation. I hope the Minister will take that on board.

The Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that even if the most extreme mitigating measures were adopted today, we would still fail to achieve our current 2020 emissions reduction targets. The 2030 EU framework target, around which this Bill is based, seeks a reduction on the 1990 emissions of 40%, or twice the 2020 target. Given that we will not have the sectoral plans included in this until 2017, we will not know what the outcome of those plans will be until 2022 or 2023. If we are off target, we will have just seven years to get back on target. It is going to become an impossibility for people a short time into the future. That is a major problem.

I have received replies to parliamentary questions, for example from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, in relation to the sectoral plans. To be perfectly honest, it does not look like the kind of investment that is going into transport is even being considered in advance of the sectoral plans being put in place. In the case of the built environment, there is a real opportunity to provide for retrofitting, perhaps through the European Investment Fund. Rather than having a carbon fund here, we have another means of collecting taxes. If we are to bring people along and change their attitudes, there must be a relationship between the carbon fund and what people see for that fund. It has to be seen as an opportunity, rather than as something to be imposed on top of people.

Of course the agriculture sector is probably our most challenging sector. While there is no doubt that we produce very good food, certain things that could be done at this stage, rather than waiting until the sectoral plan is produced, would be mitigating. I think that is going to be one of the biggest failures of this approach. It is a question of how it is done. As has been said, our national ambition is stated through the sectoral plans. There is a lack of national ambition by virtue of the fact that we are going to wait until 2022 or 2023 before we even see where the difficulties are going to arise. We need to get to 40% by 2030, but we are not even going to get to 20%. It can already be predicted that this will be an impossible task into the future. Just as many of us look back and ask why more people did not shout "stop" in advance of the economic crash, when the bubble caused by the building boom could have been predicted, it can be predicted that if we do not take certain decisions now, people will look back and ask why we did not do so. They will ask why we did not put the nuts and bolts in place to deliver on a solution in a timely way, especially when we had signed up to a clear obligation to do so.

This legislation misses the target by a very significant distance. For example, it does not have independence in terms of the expert advisory council. The sectoral plans are pushed out into the future. We had recommended that a timeframe of no more than 12 months should be provided for, but this Bill provides for a 24-month timeframe. The lack of a definition is a huge difficulty. We will have a serious problem in doing something about something that does not have a definition or an adequate definition.

I hope the Minister will be able to accept a significant number of amendments on Committee Stage. We had a very good pre-legislative stage. If that is going to mean something, we have to see it coming through in the Bill itself. As I have said, the position that was reached was very much in the middle ground, rather than the extreme end where an attempt would have been made to create a dialectic between the Department and the committee. An effort was made to try to be responsible about what could be delivered. The real disappointment is that the middle ground position that was arrived at has not been taken on board. I look forward to hearing the Minister's comments at the end of this debate. I hope he will give us some sort of indication of what is likely to be taken on Committee Stage.

People are constantly setting out what needs to be done to combat climate change, which is happening fast and will have a huge impact on countries in the Third World and the so-called First World. We know it is a life-and-death issue for many people throughout the world. As the Minister said, it is a worldwide issue that does not know boundaries. We always have people standing up to say "yes, we are going to commit to this". This country's Minister of the day attended the Lima conference and made the argument that Ireland was going to commit itself to climate change objectives. In that context, the Bill that has come before the Dáil in recent days beggars belief. Where is the pressure coming from? Is it coming from sectoral interests? Are they saying it is all very fine to talk about climate change but we should commit ourselves in words rather than in deeds? Are groups coming in from behind the scenes to put pressure on governments to reduce their obligations to international climate change efforts? I do not think it is good enough to say these targets will be based on other targets that are to be set. We have to set our own targets. It is crucial for us to do so. Other countries have set clear targets already.

I attended a briefing that was held by Stop Climate Chaos yesterday. I suggest the Minister would have attended it last year before he was put in the position he is in now, or even before he was elected. The organisers of the briefing, who have been very involved in some of the most serious examination of climate change for the future, are saying clearly that this Bill is very disappointing. A fourth class group of ten year olds from Griffeen Valley Educate Together national school who attended yesterday's event asked why no targets have been set in this legislation. They could not understand why no targets have been set. When people of that age are asking such questions, it shows they have significant concerns about their future. The Minister has an obligation to provide a specific reason. I do not think the explanation he provided in his introductory remarks was good enough. We should set targets for our greenhouse emissions.

A great deal of energy has been expended on trying to secure a basis for a cohesive all-party approach to this Bill. While the Minister might have more experience in this regard, it seems to me that this Bill has had one of the longest periods of gestation in the Dáil since the action plan finished in 2012. A serious approach to this legislation seemed to be taken from then on in. There were long and arduous discussions at the joint committee. Everybody tried to play a part in bringing forward an acceptable Bill that would be robust in dealing with serious climate change issues. Deputy Murphy might be able to tell me how long the members of the committee were stuck in there.

They spent hours and hours in there. I was not there, but I saw some of it. I would hardly recognise this Bill as having being influenced by that committee debate. It is a terrible shame. The failure of the Bill to set a numeric target for future emissions reductions is a fundamental flaw because it means there is little concrete direction for the coming years.

Recently, Finland, Denmark and France set targets. Under law, Denmark's is 40% by 2020, double the Europe 2020 target. France's energy transition Bill seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030 and 75% by 2050. They may not meet their targets, but at least they are working towards them through their sectoral areas, for example, transport, and retrofitting.

The issue of the independence of the climate change advisory council is one of the most disappointing for all of the groups involved in Stop Climate Chaos. The necessary independence does not exist. The Minister should revert on the next Stage with amendments to address this point.

Climate justice is a major issue. People believed that the Government could link in with it and provide inclusion.

The Bill is disappointing. The Minister's introduction did not encourage me to believe that he would take these concerns on board or introduce the necessary amendments that were highlighted during the pre-scrutiny stage by Members of all groups. The mood among them was that they were actually creating something workable, but the Minister will not follow suit. That will be a shame and he will have to deal with it in his own way over the coming decades in which Ireland has not played the key role it should have by setting targets now.

If we want to play our part in the global effort to mitigate the onward march of climate change, one of the primary and most essential steps we can take is to embrace the no new fossil frontiers principle and push for it to be enshrined in international law. This would mean lobbying for a Europe-wide ban on fracking, a ban on offshore drilling in the fragile Arctic region and the Amazon rain forest and a global moratorium on carbon-intensive tar sands extraction as well as lobbying public institutes like colleges, faith organisations and governments to sell whatever financial holdings they have in fossil fuel companies. This movement is based on the idea, to quote Ms Naomi Klein, that "anyone with a basic grasp of arithmetic can look at how much carbon the fossil fuel companies have in their reserves, subtract how much carbon scientists tell us we can emit and still keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, and conclude that the fossil fuel companies have every intention of pushing the planet beyond the boiling point".

The truth of the matter is that fossil fuel companies and the governments that facilitate them are a greater threat to global security and stability than any of the so-called terrorist groups that the Government regularly condemns in this House. The fossil fuel business model and its cronies should be put on trial. Given the international consensus around the realities of the issue of global warming, it has become morally unacceptable to be financing fossil fuel extraction. However, that is exactly what we are doing with the Corrib project. Under current licensing terms, the State retains a 0% royalty share in any oil or gas found in the Shell Corrib project. According to a 2007 study commissioned by the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Ireland offers one of the lowest government takes in the world.

Yesterday in the AV room, while the Government was preparing to reassert its support for the violation of women's human rights, a woman from the Philippines named Ms Lidy Nacpil spoke about the effects that climate change was having on her country, not tomorrow, but today. She described how just one of the now normal mega-typhoons in 2013 took the lives of 10,000 people and destroyed the homes of 2 million others. She pointed out that, while the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, had agreed on the safety limit of a 2° increase in the global temperature by 2050, for her people even 2° was not acceptable. In fact, what needs to be done is to keep the temperature rise as low as possible, as matters will worsen for the Philippines.

Here we are, in a country with one of the highest levels of carbon emissions per capita in the world, handing over our fossil fuel reserves to one of the world's largest polluters as a gift at Corrib while branding as criminals those who object to the wilful destruction of the planet. Here we are discussing a climate Bill that does not promise any plan until 2017 and no progress report until 2023, fails to set an emission reduction target for 2050, does not commit to a definition of "low-carbon economy", refuses to make the expert advisory council fully independent and fails to recognise the importance of the principle of climate justice.

In Ireland, we emit more greenhouse gases than the poorest 400 million people living on the planet put together. As noted by Stop Climate Chaos, Ireland is emitting 17 tonnes of greenhouse gases per person per year. This makes us the second worst polluter in the EU, where the average is 11 tonnes. We need to recognise that we are not innocent, that we have benefited at the expense of others and that it is time to do our part to redress the balance.

Much like tobacco companies profit from the wilful damaging of people's health, shortening the length and quality of people's lives and, in millions of cases, assisting in their early deaths, fossil fuel companies profit from the destruction of our atmosphere and planet, the contamination of the air we breathe and the water that supports life on Earth and the undermining of the chances of decent survival for billions of people. The organs of justice around the world have forced the tobacco giants to pay billions in damages to those whose lives they have violated. In a just and progressive world, we would start to see similar cases brought against the fossil fuel industry and the governments that facilitated their extractivism, which is doing much to diminish the quality of life on Earth and the chances for the meaningful survival of our species.

The reality is a far cry from this scenario. The Government is colluding in one of the most drastic transfers of power in world history. The secretive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, TTIP, which the Government and the mainstream media refuse to discuss in anything resembling a critical manner, contains a series of investor rights that will allow businesses to bypass national court systems and sue governments in private arbitration panels, including over health and environmental protection measures passed by the Dáil that they claim undermine corporate profits.

To return to Ms Klein on this subject, she points out that current trade and investment rules provide legal grounds for foreign corporations to fight virtually any attempt by governments to restrict the exploitation of fossil fuels, particularly where a carbon deposit has attracted investment, extraction has begun and the aim of the investment is explicitly to export the oil, gas and coal for sale on the world market. When people are informed of the reality of the trade rules that allow capitalism to function in its current form, they usually express disbelief, but the truth is out. The interests of corporations are more important than the well being of the entire population of the planet.

The Government with its neoliberal agenda does not challenge this doctrine. In a written answer to me last November, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Bruton, stated his belief that the investor-state dispute mechanism included in the TTIP was a valid one. Is it really valid that, under the agreement, a fossil fuel giant could sue the Government for its decision to ban fracking in the west? Such cases are being filed more frequently than ever. Ms Klein reports that, as of 2013, a full 60 out of 169 pending cases at the World Bank's dispute settlement tribunal had to do with the oil and gas or mining sectors compared with a mere seven extraction cases throughout the entire 1980s and 1990s. Ms Lori Wallach, the director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, says that, of the more than $3 billion in compensation already awarded to corporations under US trade agreements and bilateral investment treaties, more than 85% pertains to challenges against natural resource, energy and environmental policies.

Through the TTIP, corporations are being given the right to become the authors of the legislation that is supposed to curb and monitor their destructive behaviour.

The last buffer that protects civil society from the pure, unfettered greed of the profit motive, which drives the corporate-led exploitation of the planet and its people, is being breached. This Government has repeatedly demonstrated that it is a willing facilitator of this movement.

Everything is connected and all the legislation that passes through this House should reflect that truth. We need to see the climate change situation for what it really is - a chance to remake the country and the world for the better and to do our bit in the global fight to make the world habitable for the global populations of today and tomorrow.

Last week, the Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, said that we have no austerity problems in Ireland. Are we to take it then that the funding is available for infrastructural projects that are needed to mitigate climate change?

I, too, look forward to Committee Stage of this Bill when we hope to argue for many of the recommendations of the Committee on the Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht which are being sidelined in such an unfathomable manner by the Bill as it currently stands.

The next speaker is Deputy Fergus O'Dowd who is sharing time with Deputy Alan Farrell.

This is an important debate on timely legislation. It is only right and proper that we should have a full discussion on all the issues involved. I note the comments by Opposition Members that the Oireachtas committee's report, as well as the views of outside groups, on this Bill should be fully and properly debated. However, a question lies at the heart of the Opposition's point of view, and particularly that of the previous speaker. If we do away with all fossil fuels, what will we put in their place? We must have some form of energy.

Wind energy was proposed for this country and the idea was that, as it comes from the most disparate and distant parts, we would have to build a new energy network to carry that energy to our towns and cities. Following that proposal, there was uproar throughout the country even though wind energy is not created from fossil fuels. Thousands of people attended public meetings to protest at the infrastructure that was required.

The question therefore is what choices we have to make as a society. There must be a quid pro quo because if we are not using fossil fuels, we will have to use other forms of energy. If we are bringing that alternative energy from distant parts, while creating lots of jobs on the way and meeting the needs of communities that would not otherwise have the infrastructure, what choices do we have to make? If we want alternative energy we must have an acceptable alternative infrastructure in some shape or form. I am not talking about the height of pylons or other technical issues; I am talking about the principle. If we want to fight climate change, we must accept a compromise on where and how we live. Those compromises include accepting wind power, alternative energy structures and agreeing as a society that that is the way forward, if that is where we want to go.

One of the key necessities is to change our thinking on transport because how we travel is a big issue. Our transport sector is a major polluter in terms of fossil fuels, but we are already changing the way we think about it. The ESB, in particular, is active in putting energy points throughout the country for electric cars, but who is buying such vehicles? Not many people have them. If we want to use alternative forms of energy and transport, we should use that infrastructure which is being placed throughout the country.

There are incentives for using electric cars, but we need to increase such incentives to make it much more attractive for people to use them, especially in urban areas. We need to change the way we think in that respect. We should walk or cycle to work if we can, as well as using public transport. We need to change the way we live in many respects.

I do not agree with previous speakers who said that Ireland is doing nothing and that nothing has changed. A lot has changed, including planning and construction regulations. The SEAI promotes the warmer homes scheme, which is essentially a way of getting people to reduce their energy bills and other costs, thus making it more attractive to use alternative energy.

We still face great challenges in trying to change public behaviour. I have met concerned groups, and will meet them again as the Bill progresses through the Oireachtas. Many people are committed to reducing pollution from the use of fossil fuels. The involvement of young people and families demonstrates an energy and enthusiasm in this regard. We need to carry the message because everybody must step up to the mark on this issue.

Some years ago, when Dublin City Council reduced the speed limit for cars travelling through the city centre to the equivalent of about 20 mph, there was uproar throughout the city. It was said that we were interfering with the privilege of motorists to travel through streets they did not need to travel through, particular if the proper transport infrastructure is in place. There was uproar over that proposal, which I supported, and I received a lot of calls from people who opposed the plan. It is difficult to stand up to pressure groups when one supports environmental change, lower speed limits and pedestrianisation.

I welcome the recent decision by the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to spend about €2 million on installing proper signage for reducing speed limits in urban areas. In addition, we have seen major developments with cycle paths. Every Deputy in the House wants a new cycle lane in his or her constituency. It is what people want and that is the direction to take. It is incorrect to state that local authorities are not centrally involved. Those planning authorities construct houses and control much of our environment. However, I would like to see them becoming more involved because there is a lot more to be done.

Research, science and technology will change as time goes on. In his speech, the Minister said that if our targets are less than those fixed by Europe, we will be subject to their regulation and will have missed the boat. If they are higher, however, then our economy will not be competitive. We will have to tease out that fundamental point on Committee Stage.

I also wish to comment on the criticisms of the expert advisory council. There is no reason the Environmental Protection Agency should not be involved in that council. I cannot think of a more fundamental upholder of environmental legislation than the EPA, or one that is more impermeable to political influence. I welcome having that agency at the heart of our expert advisory council. It would be silly not have the EPA involved because it defines our legislation and is ethical in every single respect.

The SEAI also carries the flag for change, including more sustainable ways of living. It does not make sense to omit the Economic and Social Research Institute from the expert advisory council. The ESRI is not part of the political establishment and is not subject to ministerial or Government diktats. I would welcome the ESRI's involvement in the council. In addition, there are between eight and ten ordinary members of this advisory council, so the majority of its members will not be part of the State apparatus. They will be independent and separate from the political system. On Committee Stage we could perhaps look at other nominees for that council. We could consult some of the interested groups on who they consider should or should not be on the council. The advisory council will be independent, informed and practical, which is the way this country has to go.

Research and science will change how things happen in the future. However, one matter we are all monitoring daily is our energy costs. People have large energy bills to pay in the aftermath of the cold winter and what they require for the future is certainty with regard to, and if possible reductions in, prices. They also want sustainable energy, which in my view represents the way forward. The Bill before the House will be of assistance in improving our access to better and more sustainable energy. I commend it to the House.

I thank the Minister for introducing the Bill. I welcome that, when enacted, it will be the first item of climate legislation ever to be put in place in Ireland, which is a very positive development. Notwithstanding the comments made by some during the debate thus far, the Bill is but a first step and that must be acknowledged.

It goes without saying that we have a responsibility to take action now, especially to protect and preserve the environment for future generations. It is certainly positive that the Bill provides a statutory basis for the national objective of pursuing the transition to a low-carbon, climate resilient and environmentally sustainable economy by the year 2050. In recent weeks and months I have been contacted by many constituents in respect of their concerns with this Bill. A number of them posed some fair and reasonable questions and I intend to raise these during my contribution.

I welcome the fact that the State will be committed to meeting both its EU and international climate change commitments under the provisions contained within the Bill. While we are currently subject to legally binding mitigation targets up to 2020 - I understand negotiations are ongoing in respect of targets up until 2030 - the question must be asked as to why no explicit mitigation targets are contained in the Bill. The Department's position appears to be that setting targets within the Bill could at some stage interfere with the legally binding targets set by EU legislation. Perhaps the Minister will indicate why he believes this to be the case.

The national climate policy position was approved by the Government in April of last year. The Department's position is that the Bill will provide statutory underpinning for that position but this will not really negate the need for explicit targets to be set by this Bill given that the policy position is just that, a policy position, and is not legislation. I take this opportunity to acknowledge the positive aims upon which it is based. These aims include an aggregate reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of at least 80% by 2050 across the electricity generation, built environment and transport sectors and, in parallel, an approach to carbon neutrality in the agriculture and land-use sector, including forestry, which does not compromise capacity for sustainable food production. Given that this is the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill, I am obliged to ask whether it would not be reasonable to include a definition within its provisions of what constitutes "low carbon"? The inclusion of such a definition could provide extra clarity and contextualisation to the provisions and aims of this legislation. A further concern, which has just been outlined by the previous speaker and which has been brought to my attention on numerous occasions, relates to why the Bill does not explicitly state that the expert advisory council will be fully independent. Will the Minister indicate why this is the case? Surely it would be beneficial to enshrine the independence of the expert advisory council in the legislation and state, beyond any doubt, that it will be wholly independent of Government in carrying out its duties.

I welcome the whole-of-government approach set down in the Bill and outlined by the Minister. This approach is an essential component of any strategy to reduce emissions. Placing a requirement on the Ministers, under whose remit the largest emitting sectors fall, to prepare mitigation policy measures for inclusion within the successive national mitigation plans will ensure that tackling climate change is not a battle being fought by a single Minister or Department. This will allow for a co-ordinated approach to be implemented across numerous policy areas and will provide Ireland with a greater chance of success in terms of ensuring that we meet our goals in reducing emission levels.

The provisions in this Bill require the Minister to make a national mitigation plan at least once every five years and to submit this to Government for approval. This plan will specify the measures to be adopted by relevant Ministers especially to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. Providing for the development of successive plans is important as we simply cannot adequately foresee how many of the large emitting sectors will develop in future. To adopt anything other than a dynamic approach, which allows for adjustments, would be irresponsible. I am pleased that a national adaptation framework will also be developed by the Minister and submitted to Government for approval. This framework will be renewable at least once every five years and it is important in terms of laying out the national strategy to reduce the susceptibility of the State to the adverse impacts which climate change would have at both local and national level.

A national and transition mitigation plan is required to be developed by the Minister "no later than 24 months after the passing of this Act". In light of the importance of taking action to tackle climate change, should the development of this plan not take place in a more appropriate timeframe? I raise this issue because there are EU targets which we are obliged to meet by 2020 but under this provision, the national mitigation plan may not actually be in place until 2017. I do not believe this provides the State with sufficient time in which to take action. I would be grateful if the Minister could expand on the rationale for not explicitly mentioning and incorporating the principle of climate justice within this Bill. I concur with those Opposition Members who raised this matter.

I am aware that it has taken a great deal of time to get the Bill to the floor of the House. In that context, I commend the Minister and his Department on the work they have done in respect of it. If the Bill is enacted, the State will finally have its first item of specific climate change legislation in place. That will make Ireland one of the few EU member states to have such legislation. While I am supportive of the Bill, I would appreciate it if the Minister could provide further clarity on the concerns which many people have brought to my attention and which I have sought to raise here.

I wish to comment further on the whole-of-government approach. Each Minister and his or her Department will be responsible for the delivery of this approach. While I welcome the steps that have been taken within the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport in recent years, not just during the lifetime of this Dáil but also during the lifetime of the preceding one, I am concerned about public transport and its sustainability. The population of the northside of Dublin is approximately 600,000 but the area is only served by one real mass transit system, namely, the northern commuter line, which includes the DART. We have been waiting for proposals to be brought forward in respect of metro north, which is envisioned as serving the airport and the areas beyond it. The Dublin west area, which is part of Fingal, is host to both the fastest-growing community in Ireland and the fastest-growing part of a community in Europe, but it is not served by a mass transit system. Rather, it is served by bus routes. The services on some of these routes are intermittent and the routes themselves are affected by bottlenecks.

While steps have been taken to mitigate the position, the fact remains that approximately 600,000 people in this city only have two ways to travel to and from work, namely, by public transport - the bus - or by private car. We have failed miserably in the context of providing park-and-ride facilities throughout the country. When they are provided, we charge exorbitant prices for them and this drives people back onto the roads into their cars. If I can travel by car to Dublin city centre from Balbriggan in 45 or 50 minutes at peak times and if it takes 50 minutes to do so by train - taking into account the delays that can affect the northern commuter line, it could be longer - where is the incentive to use public transport? This matter must be addressed and not just in the context of the Bill before us. The Government and those which succeed it must ensure that public transport providers meet the emissions targets set for them in the policies that will be rolled out in the future. I met representatives from Dublin Bus a few months ago and they indicated that while the company's fuel bill has increased by 80% in the past ten years or so, its level of consumption has decreased as a result of the use of more environmentally friendly vehicles. This represents a job well done. The same cannot be said of our rail service providers, however, although I accept that there are new engines within the fleet which obviously use less fuel.

However, as the network gets larger and demand increases, their consumption will clearly increase.

I have referred to two areas concerning public transport, but I could talk about road haulage and the need for Ireland, as a partner in the European Union, to try to push for lower emissions in the road haulage industry. That industry is obviously of key importance in this country since it is an island.

I wish to discuss the issue of car culture. Right across this House, we are lauding car sales figures. We believe the increase is great because it is obviously good for the economy as there are more VAT receipts. People with money in their pockets are able to spend it and are not afraid of doing so, yet every time a car is sold there is an impact on our carbon dioxide emissions. It is difficult for the Government, therefore, to respond adequately in climate change legislation and to the targets set at EU level. There are a number of factors we must consider. I welcome the Bill and look forward to the rest of the debate, particularly Committee Stage.

This Bill is really quite pathetically weak in dealing with the most serious of crises, the climate crisis, and all the dangers it poses nationally and globally. It is largely an exercise in lipservice that is fairly typical of how the Government deals with many serious matters. There is much high-flown rhetoric and aspiration and many promises but, on burrowing into the detail, one realises there is very little in the way of specifics. This is fairly typical of how the Government seems to have been doing its business over recent years. With a matter as serious as climate change, paying lip service is just not good enough. It is grossly irresponsible if we are to secure the future of this country, its citizens and the wider environment and if we are to meet our responsibilities regarding others around the world.

As has been stated, Ireland has one of the highest per capita emissions rates in Europe. It is ranked fourth highest. The potential cost to Ireland of runaway climate change is more severe than for most countries in Europe. The Joint Research Centre's recent report on climate impacts in Europe details the enormous costs already incurred in Ireland owing to events such as flooding. Some €750 million has been paid out by insurers since 2000. This indicates, based on the current trajectory, that the costs, which are really quite astronomical right across Europe, are set to increase massively. The cost of addressing sea flooding in Britain and Ireland is predicted to increase from €996 million to €3 billion over the next few years. Already, the direct economic cost of the damage from flooding across Europe is €5 billion. It is expected to be €11 billion in future years. The report states Ireland and Britain will be the worst affected, obviously because they are islands on the west of Europe and have particular climatic conditions.

We are likely to reap the whirlwind. We have already seen this with the cost of flood damage to the State and its impact on agriculture. We are likely to reap a far more damaging and literal whirlwind in the coming years if we do not do something about climate change or at least play our part in doing something about it and reducing carbon emissions in a serious way. This Bill does not achieve this. As other speakers have implied, when one examines the impact of climate change in other parts of the world, one notes the quite terrifying consequences for health and the forced migration, enormous costs and deaths. The World Health Organization suggests 250,000 extra people will die around the world by 2030 as a result of conditions related to climate change, such as heat exposure, diarrhoea, malaria and childhood nutrition. These are already some of the biggest killers among some of the poorest people in the world. Consider the enormous cost of the adaptation of coastal zones in places such as the Philippines, where it is expected to be €5 billion per year by 2020, as a result of the impact of climate change.

Ireland, as an island nation in Europe, is set to start to suffer. We will incur costs and experience damage to the extent I have described unless we do something very seriously to address climate change. Against this background and given the mortal threat that climate change poses to Ireland, its citizens, the world and the future generations to whom we have a responsibility, this Bill is absolutely pathetic and an exercise in lip service. The reasons for saying this have been well set out in the documents produced by a range of environmental organisations already alluded to in this debate. The reasons include the failure to include targets and a definition of a low-carbon economy, the failure to ensure the climate advisory council is fully independent of State-owned stakeholder interests, the fact that the Bill does not provide for climate justice and allude to our responsibility to those in poor parts of the world, and the fact that the timeframe for the national mitigation plans has been pushed out to two years although the heads of the Bill initially stated 12 months and although environmental organisations say that, given the urgency, it should be six months, not two years. The Bill is just kicking the can down the road, to use that awful phrase. It is an indication of not taking the matter seriously.

The national mitigation plan the Government is proposing does not have to set out figures on national emissions, nor does it include a reference to soil carbon management. With regard to the process for adopting the plans, although the Government has made much reference to the need for cross-party, cross-Oireachtas consensus and wider buy-in to this process, the plans can actually be adopted by the Government without being brought before the Houses of the Oireachtas to be debated and decided upon. The environmental organisations talk about the need for a provision requiring the Taoiseach, as the senior member of the climate change sub-committee, to come to the House to make statements annually on the progress we are making on reducing carbon emissions. Even that level of accountability and specificity in terms of marking our progress is not included.

Deputy O'Dowd said it is all very well to make these criticisms but that we must outline the alternatives. We agree. We have to have sustainable energy production but the problem is the way the Government is approaching it. To cut a long story short, the corporatised, industrialised capitalist approach to developing energy is the problem. If we are to deal with this issue and begin to understand the threat it poses to the world, there must be joined-up thinking and a break from a model of dealing with this that is all about corporate profit and a big industrialised approach. This is why the Government has got into so much trouble over wind turbines in the midlands.

It became far less about developing, or even any interest in, sustainable energy than about the private interests, some of which had connections with political parties in this House, making a fortune out of wind energy with no consideration for the local community and no real serious examination of the environmental benefit of these schemes which must be seriously questioned.

As for the alternatives, one suggestion I would make to the Minister is that at every level we must go more local. We need energy co-operatives in every town and village. That will not solve all of the problems but will go a long way. If the Minister wants buy-in, he should get local communities involved and release their energy and the resources that are around them, and let them develop energy co-operatives at local level that will look at a sustainable mix of energy sources which can be generated at a local level. These sources would be a mix of small-scale wind, small-scale hydroelectric, district heating systems and biomass using public lands. Of course, this would include the serious pursuit of retrofit and insulation and providing real incentive schemes to get that sort of thing done. We are not doing that because, essentially, our approach is all about handing it over to the private sector.

In my last seconds, I want to say, "Trees, trees, trees, trees, trees." It is unbelievable that the State forestry company is precluded by EU rules from meeting our afforestation targets, which are now merely a joke. We need to plant trees. Ireland is favourably suited to do so. We must plant trees because at every level they will help meet our targets, create jobs and help produce sustainable energy.

The Venezuelan political scientist, Professor Edgardo Lander, wrote of the current climate crisis, stating:

The total failure of climate negotiation serves to highlight the extent to which we now live in a post-democratic society. The interest of financial capital and the oil industry are much more important than the democratic will of people around the world. In the global neoliberal society profit is more important than life.

That profound statement will be utterly vindicated in the context of this Bill unless the current shoddy form in which it is being brought the House is dramatically stood on its head.

As many Deputies already highlighted, there are five glaring deficiencies in the proposed Bill and there is a bigger problem in terms of the way in which we look at climate change. First, as the other Deputies have said, it does not set a simple emission target for 2050. How can one measure progress if one does not know what one is starting out with? We have no definition of a low-carbon economy. Whatever you are having yourself is more or less the approach the Government is adopting.

Other Deputies referred to the fact the Bill does not allow the expert advisory council to be fully independent. We have had enough political interference, potentially, in so many aspects of the State. We certainly do not need it in this regard, or that such a body would be at the whim of the majority political grouping of the day, particularly when we are dealing with a situation where the interests of the powerful are generally diametrically opposed to the interests of the rest of humanity. This is one of the problems when we look at this. It is not a case of balancing interests or a rising tide lifts all boats. The root of the climate change problem is that the interests of the wealthy are opposed to the interests of the majority and unless one factors that in in dealing with climate change, it will not be done appropriately.

The other Deputies dealt well with the points about climate justice being entirely absent from the Bill. It is a scandalous situation for a country such as Ireland, that prided itself on its benevolence around the world and its neutrality, that it is one of the worse polluters per capita in the world and has benefited from the gross exploitation of others. Those who are suffering the most are the least to blame for this situation and we must acknowledge that we are responsible for our role in some of the poorest countries in the world which, as we speak, are fighting for their existence.

As other Deputies have said, one of the most cowardly aspects of this Bill is that it passes the matter on to the next Government, which is, to be honest, becoming a real ploy of this Government. They will tackle nothing. Everything is for the responsibility of the next Government, which will lead many to ask what is the point in having them here in the first place because the deadline for the next climate plan is 2017. Already this plan is years too late. We will not, even now, have a plan. It is putting us in the position of being internationally humiliated, but international humiliation is par for the course as well when the Government is quite content to parade this country as one which is happy to ignore human rights law and violate human rights despite all the best advice. I suppose we would be naive if we expected anything more in an approach on climate change.

We must radically stand policies on their head. We must start by saying that we must achieve targets, by 2020, 2030 and 2050, to which we have a direct and legally-binding obligation, apart from a moral one. We must stand on its head the way we operate.

The problem with the approach we have taken was summed up by the points made by Deputy O'Dowd, that it is all our fault, for instance, that I will drive home in my car, and I will not cycle out to Swords or will not get the bus, is my fault. It is a bus route that has been decimated under this Government and it would take me an hour and a half to get home. It is not practical for those living in this city to manage on a system that has been fatally underinvested in. One cannot run a city on private cars but that is what many have been driven to because of the consistent lack of subvention for public transport and the lack of delivery of a decent rail infrastructure to the airport and beyond, to one of the fastest growing areas in Europe. Suggesting getting on one's bike does not work in the context of some of the policies that this Government has put forward. It is sickening that Deputy O'Dowd has no problem in entertaining Shell, one of the biggest polluters on the planet, and yet wants us all driving around in electric cars, and in entertaining fracking and then blaming ordinary people for the crisis. It is just not good enough. This is one of the reasons we are in this situation.

We need a complete overhaul of how we do everything, and that starts with planning and the interconnection between Departments. We state on paper that we will have sustainable communities but instead we build them in a format that leaves residents with no alternative but to get into a car. Over decades we perpetuate policies where billions of euro have been put into road transport. Even now, tens of millions of euro are given to National Toll Roads to pay for that set up when there is underinvestment in public transport the likes of which no other European economy has done. It means looking at the planning system and building schools and local facilities near where people live. There is no point in building housing estates in the middle of nowhere with no public transport and then blaming parents for having to get into a car to bring their children to school. All of these matters must be integrated. We need to look at a land management strategy that discourages sprawl and encourages low-energy forms of agriculture etc.

Ms Naomi Klein summed it up well when she wrote, we "need to be fair, so that the people already struggling to cover the basics are not being asked to make additional sacrifices to offset the excessive consumption of the rich." That is at the heart of this. We talk about the important concept that the polluter pays but, in Ireland, that has been bastardised to mean attacking ordinary people and ignoring that it is the wealthy in society who are the biggest polluters. According to the Princeton Environmental Institute, the top 500 million richest people on earth are responsible for over half of the world's carbon emissions. That is where we must start, if we are to have a meaningful debate. Progressive taxation, which taxes the millionaires and billionaires, has climate justice at its heart. We do not have enough time to debate the points.

The development of renewable energy, particularly in the area of wave power, in the context of Ireland will not be done by the private sector. On this issue, the State must take the helm and lead. We have, maybe, ten companies trying to develop prototypes, and they all are too small.

It is not a viable operation for them. We need to buy the intellectual property rights from those people-----

-----employ them and then go for it because the private sector will not do it. We need a little bit of the vision that we had when the ESB was set up all those years ago. There are engineers and we need to get many more involved. We need to do that, and not to waste our time on the likes of fracking or nuclear energy.

It is happening.

We need a radical shift because we are at a tipping point. We need to examine how society is organised. Addressing climate change is in people's interest. It is the clumsy handling of it that has alienated people. We need to devolve it locally but we also need to see that climate action is a massive job creator. A project is being promoted in South Africa under the banner of 1 million climate jobs. A massive job creation programme has been called for in areas such as renewable energy, public transport, ecosystem restoration and small-scale sustainable farming. Those issues can put the interests of workers and the poor at the head of a movement to combat climate change. It is a win-win situation for everybody except those at the top of society - the 1% who dominate, in their own interests, at the expense of us all. Unless the Government and its peers across Europe and America tackle the issue, and tackle inequality, then one cannot tackle climate change. It will be impossible to do so. While warning about the glaring inefficiencies in this country, we need to stand on its head the way we approach climate issues and how society is organised rather than blame ordinary people for a crisis which is demonstrably not of their making.

I call Deputy Eoghan Murphy, whom I understand is sharing time with Deputies Paul Connaughton and James Bannon.

That is correct. How much time do we have?

The Deputies have five minutes each.

I welcome the opportunity to have this debate. There are many issues on which we could speak in the context of the Bill. I still feel we have not had a proper debate on energy security in this country. Neither have we had a proper debate on fracking or nuclear energy. It is an appropriate time for us to embark on such debates and to look to the future in terms of where we are going with those important issues.

In so far as the Bill is concerned, I will stick to the points in the legislation for this debate. To say the Bill only has vague aspirations, as members of Fianna Fáil and the Green Party claim, is complete nonsense. They did not prioritise the legislation when they were in government and so it was not adopted and they failed. One could ask whether that coalition could have done better. It is a historical fact that they did worse. The Green Party’s central piece of legislation, its reason for being in government, was introduced when the Green Party had already announced it was leaving Government and when it knew its legislation could not get through the Seanad because Fianna Fáil did not support it. The Bill arrived too late and had no chance of being adopted. It was dead on arrival. When I hear the Green Party and the Fianna Fáil Party giving out about the legislation we have now I think it is rank hypocrisy. It really angers me, as someone who has cared about environmental issues since I was first elected to Dublin City Council. When I was young I was a member of Greenpeace. I had the pencil case when I was in school. It is something a lot of us care about and if we are going to have a debate on the environment and the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill let us have a constructive one and let us not try politically to point score over things Fianna Fáil and the Green Party could not do when they were in power. Their claim that they could have done more is absolute nonsense.

The Government is making a start with the Bill. It is taking a good initiative and that is a good thing but it is only a start. The important thing is to get something in place and then to build upon it. We must get the first piece of legislation in place so that we can aspire to the many other things people want to see. We have all met with very passionate and dedicated campaigners for climate justice and climate action. Many of us share their aspirations for what the legislation should contain, but we must recognise that we are starting in a good place. The establishment of the advisory council is a good thing. It will be able to produce its own reports. Previous legislation would not have allowed for that if it had been enacted. That is a positive step. We will have an action plan every five years, which is another positive. There will be an obligation on Ministers to report to the House every year on how they are making progress in their areas. That is a positive foundation for where we want to begin this conversation, but we must recognise as well that the legislation before us is not perfect.

In addition to building on the legislation once it is adopted, we can do a lot of work between now and the enactment of the Bill to make sure that it has as strong a foundation as possible for the coming years. I hope the Minister will approach the legislation in the proper spirit as we approach Committee Stage because if we look back to the report of the Oireachtas committee we see that most of what it recommended was not reflected in the legislation. One does not have to agree with everything a committee says, but if one does not listen to it, that begs the question of why we have such committees and why they do the work they do. It is important as we amend the Bill on Committee Stage that we try to find a better balance between what the Oireachtas committee recommended and what the Government wants, because that is the whole purpose of the system we have.

The issue of targets being built into the legislation beyond 2020 definitely needs to be better explained. If we do not build in targets up to 2050 and if it is standard practice in other European countries to do so then we need to know why we are not doing it here. There needs to be a really robust explanation. If there is a legitimate reason in terms of agriculture or sustainable food production, let us hear it and let us have the debate, but let us not be closed to the possibility until we have had a thorough debate on the Bill as it moves through the House.

There is no definition of low carbon in the Bill, which is incredible when one thinks about it. We have a definition of low carbon and the Bill is about low carbon so the Bill should contain a definition. That is something simple that we could agree to include as we come to Committee Stage. There is also no concept of climate justice in the Bill, which is remarkable, as one cannot talk about the subject without talking about climate justice. It is an important concept but it is a difficult thing to achieve. However, we will not get anywhere near achieving it if we are not even talking about it in primary legislation such as this. We need to work on that issue as well on Committee Stage.

We must ensure the expert advisory council is properly independent. If there are ways we can do that by adopting language relevant to the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council then let us do that. It is also recognised that in setting up the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council we have created something imperfect there as well because although it has independence it can be ignored and is ignored. We do not want to risk the new expert advisory council becoming irrelevant. It needs to have some strong reporting mechanism into the Oireachtas so we can deliberate on its reports independently from the Government in an appropriate and short timeline so that before decisions are made we can discuss what the expert advisory council is talking about and so the Government can make decisions based on its advice and not, as we have had so many times in respect to important decisions, getting the best advice after decisions are made.

I welcome the fact the Bill is before the House but it does need to be improved. There is a lot of work to do but if we get rid of the politics and the hypocrisy and come with constructive solutions and engagement we will get a very strong foundation and recognise that it is just the beginning as we move forward to 2020 and then on to 2050.

I thank the Acting Chairman for the opportunity to speak on the Bill. Deputy Eoghan Murphy covered many of the areas I wish to cover and I agree with much of what he said.

One of the biggest issues concerning climate change is that governments by their very nature think in five-year cycles. What we are asking in this context is that we should look to 2050 which seems a long way off. However, if there is a serious problem and there is only so much one can do in a certain timescale then one must start to work immediately. It is very important that the debate continues for a long period. If we ever have a spell of bad weather in this country such as a storm or severe flooding, for the 24 hours after it we discuss whether it is due to climate change. One is almost guaranteed to have Professor Sweeney on a local radio station discussing how the weather event is linked to climate change, and then the debate stops and the news agenda and the media move on and climate change is no longer a current topic.

The film, "The Day After Tomorrow", sets out the nuclear option if we do not face up to the problem of climate change but when people saw the film they said that would never happen, that is was so far fetched it would not be a problem for us. However, climate change is an issue and we must address it seriously. The Bill is a welcome start from the Government but there are issues and concerns, as outlined by Deputy Eoghan Murphy. The advisory council must be seen to be independent and it must be able to set out what it considers is going well and what is not going so well. The Irish Fiscal Advisory Council speaks with the authority of people who are expert in their area. They have seen the country in recession and that it is now coming out of recession. We take the advice seriously, although we have not accepted much of it. In the context of climate change it is important that we take on board exactly what the experts say we are getting wrong and how we can fix it.

With the timelines as set out currently we will get a plan but it will be too long in the making. Another issue we must address is the view that this country is so small that it does not really matter what we do in the wider world. The United States of America and China make deals with each other and the belief is that if they are doing something then it will solve matters for the rest of us.

That is hardly a positive way to view this problem. We have to do our bit. I agree with the need for climate justice. As a developed country we must do more for those countries in much more dire situations.

We need to consider the model to be adopted in the future. I refer to the midlands where peat is burned. Peat will eventually become extinct as a resource because it is finite rather than renewable. The willow crop was grown for a number of years under the direction of the Government. Farmers were told to grow this crop, that there would be a guaranteed market for it because it would be sold into the chain and they would earn a premium profit. Farmers were very sceptical because they did not want to tie up their lands in growing this crop for a number of years. They were assured this was an energy product and it was the way forward. However, that support then began to be pulled back. The farming community which embraced the idea of growing this energy crop now found that the supports were not available. The supply of peat for energy use will run out. This willow crop had been regarded as the substitute for the future but the incentives to grow it were taken away. We all want to live in a world where we take seriously issues such as climate change and where we can make a significant difference. Any policy for change requires a plan. I have provided one example of where we started off on the right road and pulled back after a number of years. Those farmers who took the leap of faith to grow this crop are now being punished for no fault of their own. This is an example of a lack of joined-up thinking on how to solve the problem in the long run. The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine will need to consider helping farmers to grow this energy crop as this will help to preserve the peat supplies.

I welcome this Bill but it is only a beginning. We need to set out clear targets. The year 2050 might seem a long time away and I doubt if any of us will be here in 2050. I hope I will not be here even if that were possible. We want to ensure we will live in a much more sustainable world than we do at the moment.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on this legislation. It was interesting to hear my colleague on the other side of the House, Deputy Boyd Barrett, talking about energy co-operatives. That form of co-operation exists within every parish in the country, in particular in rural areas. People are involved in tidy town committees and development committees, for example. They are doing great work such as tree planting in their respective parishes and townlands. This must be acknowledged. I would like to know how many trees Deputy Boyd Barrett has planted in his time. I would not think he would match many Members on this side of the House in the number of trees they have planted over the years. Apart from living in the leafy suburbs of Dublin I do not think he would be aware of the tree planting initiatives put in place by this Government by means of forestry grants-----

They have not been translated into figures.

-----since it took office. All one needs to do is to look at the CAP funding package introduced by this Government last year which includes a fund of €12.5 billion for farming. Farmers have been encouraged with attractive grants to grow and plant trees.

Throughout my political career, both as a county councillor and as a Member of this House, I have always had a special interest in climate change and the issues surrounding it. As a member of the Joint Committee on the Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht, I have spent some time researching the arguments for and against this legislation. Yesterday I met with constituents of mine who were part of the Stop Climate Chaos campaign. They raised some valid points about this legislation. No matter what side of the climate change debate one chooses, whether one considers it is causing global warming or global cooling, the message is clear that action must be taken. Whether climate change is a man-made crisis or part of recurring patterns, we see the worrying results such as unparalleled weather in this country and across Europe. Climate change will be one of the biggest challenges we face in the 21st century and as a result we must ensure we have in place appropriate legislation and structures to combat it.

This Bill has been developed following extensive public consultation with a number of stakeholders and interest groups, including members of the Joint Committee on the Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht. In a nutshell, this legislation provides a basis for the national objective of transition to a low carbon, climate resilient and environmentally sustainable economy by the year 2050. In a clear and concise manner, this Bill sets out the route in which the transition towards a low carbon economy will be achieved. The main vehicle for this transition will be through a national mitigation plan, which will lower Ireland's level of greenhouse-gas emissions. A national adaptation framework will provide for responses to changes caused by climate change. Most important, both of these plans will be renewed every five years as it will allow us to tailor the plans to any unforeseen circumstances.

I refer to the positive aspects of this Bill. If and when this Bill passes through both Houses, it will be the first climate change legislation ever enacted in Ireland and it will be an historic piece of legislation.

I spoke in the debate on climate change in the House in December 2009. I called on the former Minister, a Green Party Minister at that, to bring forward comprehensive climate change legislation. However, it has taken five long years for legislation to finally reach the floor of this House and while that is not as fast as I had originally hoped, it is a welcome move all the same.

Members of the Opposition have expressed concern about the lack of specific targets in this legislation. However, I agree with the Minister's point on this matter. Ireland has already signed up to very strict international obligations and legally binding greenhouse-gas mitigation targets. Discussions are ongoing for 2030 targets and I have no doubt this target-setting process will continue into 2040 and 2050. The EU has set out a long-term plan of low-carbon transition in its national climate policy position. Therefore, I see no logical reason we must set in legislation further mitigation targets for Ireland. A very good point was raised recently which would reinforce my argument. Had we had set targets previously we would have needed to change them to accommodate the abolition of milk quotas.

This climate Bill is an important matter for all of us and it should be closely examined by all Members of the House. It is very important that a small country like ours leads the way in combatting climate change through legislation. If this legislation is passed through the House, Ireland will find itself in the company of a small group of EU member states which have specific climate change legislation and I will be very pleased when that is achieved.

In conclusion, I fully agree with the sentiments and the goals of this legislation as it is the right thing for our environment and our country. I would have liked to have seen it enacted sooner but, as is always the case, it is better late than never. I commend the Minister on his work to date on this legislation. I commend all the bodies which took part in the various discussions in advance of the drafting of this legislation. Some very sensible proposals were put forward. There is nothing permanent except change. If any flaws are discovered in the legislation I hope we can address them during the next stages. I compliment the Minister on introducing the Bill.

Debate adjourned.