Climate Change and Low Carbon Development Bill 2015: Second Stage (Resumed)

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I object to the manner in which Second Stage debates are organised. It is two weeks since I commenced my Second Stage contribution on this Bill, which is a bit ridiculous. I know this also affects other people.

In general, I welcome the Bill which deals with the most important issue we need to tackle in terms of the future of our planet. However, in my view this legislation does not go far enough fast enough in terms of the urgent need to protect our planet to ensure it remains habitable for the maximum possible number of people.

While I support the concept of the national mitigation plan, it frustrates me that the timeframe within which the plan must be submitted is 24 months. I ask that the Minister, if possible, shorten this timeframe to somewhere between 15 and 18 months because the faster we move ahead with the plan, the better. Similarly in relation to the national adaptation framework, I would prefer to see this brought forward more rapidly and, again, ask the Minister to, if possible, shorten the timeframe in that regard from 24 months to somewhere between 15 and 18 months. We must move with urgency to tackle climate change in a real way, in particular because as a country Ireland is one of the worst offenders in the world. Also, the sooner we have the sectoral adaptation plan in place, the better.

On the national expert advisory council, I note the Minister has moved somewhat towards the council being an independent entity. It is important that it is independent. Perhaps when replying to the debate the Minister would indicate the extent of its independence. I welcome that there will be regular reporting to the Oireachtas. That is important.

In regard to the scale of the change we face, I realise that this is an appallingly difficult issue for us all in that addressing it requires tough decisions to be made and none of us likes tough decisions, particularly decisions which change the way we live our lives. However, if these important decisions are not made, not only in Ireland but across the world, we will be faced with the danger of this world not being able to sustain the people currently living in it and those who follow us.

The introduction of a low carbon economy is hugely challenging. We have taken some baby steps down this track but have a great deal more to do in the area of solar power, water, wind, insulation, transport and so on. It would be useful if we could view this work as an opportunity as well as a problem. There are some good examples of places that have moved a long way towards a carbon neutral situation. For example, I understand that the Orkney Islands to the north of Scotland manage to produce pretty much all of its electricity through wave power.

Perhaps we could learn from some of their examples. I understand the technology they are developing might be of value to us as well.

The biggest problem we face is in terms of changes to how we live. The closer we live to our place of work, the better. We have a very bad record in that regard. How much more time do I have, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle?

I am trying to clarify the position at the moment. Is Deputy Neville coming?

I do not know.

If he is not, Deputy Dowds will have more time.

Deputy Seán Kenny is due to speak after me.

Deputy Dowds should leave Deputy Kenny ten minutes to speak.

It is very important that we try to institute a situation in which we live closer to our work and we live in towns and villages. We should also move towards the use of public transport rather than private transport. That requires examining the situation and doing things differently. That is something on which the Government and future Governments need to work with as much speed as possible.

Climate justice is an important issue to which I wish to refer briefly. I note that the Minister recognised that in his opening address. It is a very important issue because those who will be most adversely affected by climate change are those who have done the least to cause it.

Agriculture is an area of particular difficulty, given that cattle are a major contributor to climate problems. It is a tricky area because this country is very suited to cattle production in terms of milk and beef. One way to mitigate some of the harmful effects produced by agriculture is to encourage the development of forestry to the maximum possible degree. Some work has been done and continues to be done in that regard. It strikes me that there is much territory in this country with marginal land that would be suitable for forestry. Perhaps we could speed up the development of forestry as much as possible. Could the Minister provide a definition of "low carbon"?

I welcome the Bill. I hope we can expedite the setting up of institutional arrangements to bring about action on climate change in order to achieve our targets as rapidly as possible and that we make the maximum effort to explain to the public why it is in people's interests to do so. Some justification is provided by difficult weather events such as the winter weather we experienced just over a year ago. Although there is an understandable tendency on the part of the farming lobby to rebel against some of what might be coming down the tracks, at the same time it must be recognised that farmers are also the first group of people to be really aware of the gradual climate change with which they must deal. I hope that will help them to appreciate the urgency of the issue.

I recall, a decade ago, viewing the film "An Inconvenient Truth", made by the United States presidential candidate Al Gore, which clearly and scientifically identified the effects of climate change and global warming. The film sparked a great debate on climate change at the time. Unfortunately, many interest groups, particularly in the United States, went into denial about the effects of climate change globally at the time. I believe a decade has been lost in taking worldwide action to deal with the effects of climate change.

The Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill sets out the national objective of achieving a transition to a low-carbon, environmentally sustainable economy in the period up to and including the year 2050. The framework is intended to last for 35 years, which is a very long time. That is the reason the legislation provides for the preparation and approval by the Government of national mitigation plans every five years, which will set out how national greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced in line with both existing EU legislative requirements and wider international commitments under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC.

It is worth noting that each successive national mitigation plan will specify the policy measures that will be required to be adopted by each relevant Minister to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in sectors of society for which they are responsible. That will enable the entire Government of the day to move in a meaningful way towards the transition to a low-carbon economy. As Ireland's greenhouse gas emissions profile is predominantly made up of emissions from agriculture, transport, energy and the built environment, it is anticipated that it is in those sectors that the most mitigation effort will be required.

In bringing forward this proposed national legislation, Ireland will also contribute - and be seen to contribute - its fair share of the mitigation effort as part of the global endeavour under the UNFCCC to limit the rise in average global temperature to no more than 2° above the pre-industrial level. These endeavours, if successful, will benefit us all globally, but developing countries in particular, as their lower capacity to respond and adapt renders them more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The Bill also deals with adaptation to climate change in that it provides for the preparation and approval of successive national climate change adaptation frameworks which will outline the national strategy that will deal with this important issue.

On a related note, as the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere rises with historic levels of emissions, adapting to the inevitable changes in climate in Ireland, such as an increased frequency of severe weather events, becomes critical. It is important to say that severe weather events are not just the heavy storms that seem to sweep in from the Atlantic with increasing frequency in winter, nor is it just the warmer weather we seem to have been getting in recent years; it is events such as localised flooding that have become more of a problem. In my constituency of Dublin Bay North, events such as floods in Donnycarney or waves flooding the coastline and the coast road at Clontarf must also be considered. Such issues must be considered on a local as well as a national basis. In this regard, the national adaptation framework will set out solutions such as flood defences and the protection of communication and electricity infrastructure, which will be required to develop sectoral adaptation plans to prepare for and invest wisely to minimise the likely impacts of a changing climate and extreme weather events. It is essential to point out that never in Ireland has specific climate change legislation been enacted. Enacting such legislation will not be of direct help to this generation, but it will be to future generations, and that is what is important when considering climate change. I support the legislation and I commend the Bill to the House.

The next speaker is Deputy Finian McGrath, who is sharing time with Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice.

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak on the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill. I welcome the Bill as it gives us an opportunity to look at climate change in depth and deal with the urgent need to do something to save the planet and improve the quality of life for everyone on the planet, particularly in this country.

It is important to wake up and listen to those working on the front line who are dealing with climate change. During recent weeks I had the honour of meeting many of those people and I was extremely impressed by their passion, commitment and sheer professionalism and knowledge of the facts about the reality of what is happening in this country and internationally. We need an open and honest debate on climate change. It should never be a question of urban versus rural, as some Deputies appear to think. All sides have an honest view, but we must base our decisions on facts. Let us stick to the facts.

With regard to the impact of climate change, Clontarf in my constituency regularly has a major problem with flooding and rising tides. This is a huge issue for many of us. We must ensure flood defences are environmentally friendly but also friendly to the local community. On a number of occasions we have had the sad situation whereby the people of Donnycarney have suffered severely from major flooding. Independent Councillor Damien O'Farrell has had a major influence, and flood defence measures are being put in place. We are all working very closely together.

Over the past 10,000 years a stable climate, due to stable natural CO2 levels, enabled human agricultural civilisation to emerge and thrive, but our very success has put this at risk. Rapid global warming resulting in climate disruption has a simple cause: every incremental addition of CO2 or other greenhouse gas to the atmosphere traps a corresponding additional amount of solar energy in the earth's atmosphere, land and ocean; this warming is irreversible in human timescales and once emitted the CO2 levels remain raised for hundreds of thousands of years. Warming will only stop some decades after net human emissions have fallen to zero. Limiting climate damage requires immediate, deep and sustained year on year cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. The problem for modern human civilisation, which depends on large-scale burning of fossil fuels for energy, thereby releasing CO2, is that at current emission rates the remaining CO2 global carbon budget will be exhausted within as little as 15 to 30 years. There is enough carbon stored in proven reserves of peat, coal, oil and gas to result in ultimate global warming of 6° C or even more, a level that would be utterly incompatible with organised human civilisation.

A combination of fossil fuel burning, livestock agriculture and deforestation has already resulted in approximately 8° C warming averaged over the entire globe since industrialisation. Continuing the current pathway of ever-increasing emissions would mean a rise of 4° C is entirely possible as early as 2100. On this dangerous track it is quite certain that within 85 years every part of the world will be subject to severe and destructive climate disruption. The only likely way for humanity to avoid this is to bring net emissions to zero before the 2° C global carbon budget limit is exceeded. Nature does not do debt forgiveness. Future generations cannot undo our damage. This means massive rapid changes in consumption patterns and energy production. Global society must mobilise rapidly for a completely unprecedented collective effort. The biggest question for humanity is how to divide the 2° C carbon budget equitably between nations and between ourselves and future generations. The greatest responsibility to act for change and act fast lies with those wealthy individuals, nations and institutions whose preferential development in the past century was achieved at the price of polluting the shared global atmosphere. No person, community or country can step aside from this challenge. Ireland could and should lead, but we must start now.

With regard to the weaknesses of the Bill, it fails to provide a numeric target for emissions reductions. This is a fundamental flaw as it means there is little concrete direction for the coming years. Civil society organisations are not alone in calling for clear targets. Businesses also point to the need for a target to provide confidence and drive investment. Finland, Denmark and France recently announced the introduction of climate and energy legislation, each setting clear targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Finland's law sets an 80% target for 2050 while the Danish law sets a 40% target for 2020. This is double the EU 2020 target. France's energy transition bill seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030 and by 75% by 2050.

Another issue I raise with regard to the legislation is the independence of the climate change advisory council. The Bill proposes the establishment of a national expert advisory council on climate change, to be tasked with giving advice to the Government on climate change matters. The joint committee recommended the climate change advisory council be modelled on the Fiscal Advisory Council in that its independence should be prescribed in the Bill and its members should be independent of State or stakeholder interest. Instead the Bill provides for a body of no more than 11 members, four of whom represent State bodies, namely, the EPA, the SEAI, Teagasc and the ESRI, in an ex officio capacity. The Bill does not specify that the council must be independent in the exercise of its functions, as is the case for the Fiscal Advisory Council. While the Bill does provide for the advisory council to publish its reports the time period is anything from 30 to 90 days, which is too long a period for the purpose of public debate and transparency.

The Bill does not provide for climate justice. Ireland has a responsibility towards the poorest people in developing countries who already feel the impact of climate change, although they did not play a part in creating the crisis. The Bill is about mapping out a strong and sustainable future for Ireland. It is also about ensuring that Ireland lives up to its global responsibility. As a nation which has benefited from our development to date we need to do our fair share, and I emphasise this. The Government has repeatedly stated its commitment to climate justice as a principle guiding its engagement on climate change. Inclusion of the principle of climate justice in the legislation would provide an opportunity to realise this.

I have other issues with regard to the content of the Bill. The measures contained in the previous five year action plan, the national climate change strategy, were designed to meet Ireland's Kyoto commitment from 2008 to 2012 of limiting total emissions in the period covered to 314 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent. All future five-year action plans should equally indicate the total projected national emissions in the period covered under the plan. Given the already recognised significant potential for climate mitigation by management of the carbon in Irish soil, particularly in wetlands, the Bill should include soil carbon management in the considerations to be taken into account in the national mitigation plan.

One of the purposes of the Bill is to provide a platform for as much cross-party and independent support as possible for climate action given the scale of the transformation needed in the coming decades to contain climate change. The five-year action plans should not only be adopted by the Government but should be approved by a resolution of both Houses after debate in each Chamber.

These are my main concerns about the Bill. I urge the Government and the Minister to listen to these concerns because people are very concerned about this issue. We want to ensure we have a healthy and safe planet, but we also want to ensure we have a healthy, safe and environmentally-friendly country.

I am grateful for this opportunity to speak on the Bill. For the past ten or 15 years I have listened to people speak about global warming, and when that Houdini act did not work they headed to climate change. Let us be clear on a few matters. In recent years we have heard about climate change and flooding in Dublin, Cork and Galway. The fact is that 40 or 50 years ago we had only approximately one third of the concrete or houses in Dublin that we do now. Cork is built on a flood plain. If something is built on a floodplain, when it rains a bit there will be flooding. Anyone with an engineering background knows that if two or three times the amount of houses or buildings are built, which are needed and I do not say they are not, but infrastructure to take away water is not provided, then obviously the water will not travel quickly enough.

A little common sense will reveal that it will back up and we will have flooding.

I have heard county managers clinging to the term "climate change". Everything is blamed on climate change now. They should look at the reality of what has gone on. The fact is that it is probably because we did not put in the infrastructure to take the water away. Where there was once a field, now there is concrete. Anyone with common sense knows that it has to run off somewhere and if we do not have something to take it away, then we have a problem.

Another question arises in respect of places like Limerick and along the Shannon. Down through the years we have heard taoisigh promise to drain and clean the Shannon. The fact is that because of fundamental environmentalism, anywhere we try to clean a drain or a river or anywhere we try to do good and let water flow, we are blocked. A man needs a suitcase full of forms to try to do anything. It is a question of the volume of silt that goes into a river. It is like a glass: if we half fill it with silt, then obviously it will only hold half of what we need it to hold. However, at the moment, these works are not being carried out. People in Ireland are the goody-goodies of Europe and we listen to everything they say. By doing so, we are going to drown ourselves. Given the levels of rising water in different parts of the country and as a result of fundamentalism, we have seen birds being drowned. Then, we talk about losing some of our habitats. That is the reason. If we talked or listened to the people, the stakeholders, who understand how life works in rural parts of Ireland, they would explain it simply.

When we look at the television we see weather alerts for this, that and the other. When I was a youngster I could listen to the radio and hear of winds of 90 mph. Now, if we hear of winds of 100 km/h, there is a yellow or orange alert. In 1985 and 1986, we had two wet years. In 1947, we had a great snowfall. Was that climate change? Was that global warming? What was it? If we get a little slow now, it is all put down to climate change.

I listen to this day in, day out in the line of agriculture. Some years ago I saw a Minister decide, following a great brain-wave, to put canisters on the backsides of cows to see what they were doing. If we look at what we take in by growing barley, different crops or grass, the reality is that it amounts to approximately 3%. We must make decisions as a nation. Are we going to decide that we cannot have cattle? We should remember that this is what most of our country lives on. We are going down a road of lunacy at the moment with this talk of getting rid of them. I have heard people talking about our national herd. We have to live in the environment we are in and we have to farm our land. We cannot simply decide that we are going to get rid of one thing or another.

It is getting a little wild over here.

Deputy Fitzmaurice has possession. Thank you.

They are polar opposites.

Let us consider the statistics down through the years. Approximately 1,600 places in the world were used to decide the temperatures. Someone had a good idea and decided to pull the figures from some of the coldest places. Now, we are down to a total of approximately 700 places from which we take our figures.

If we were to put a blanket over this country for the rest of my life, it would make damn all difference compared to what the likes of China do in an hour. As a nation we have to decide where we are going. I have looked at what this is costing us as a country. Ireland is on its knees financially. I have looked at where we are building roads in the context of all the various rules and regulations that have been put on us. If we keep swallowing this, we will never come out of where we are. If we keep taking the type of rules and regulations that have been imposed on us, we will never come out of where we are either. Some of the lunacy that is coming from foreign lands is baffling. We have these people telling us what to do.

There are reasons in the line of all of this. Down through the years we have always had rain. We had good years and bad years. I gather that in the 1900s the River Thames froze. Was that global cooling? What was it? I think Ireland as a nation needs to get real. We know the figures were doctored in England last year or the year before. They had to come out and admit it. We need to ensure that we go back strategically in respect of where we are taking these figures from. We should be accurate in what we are doing. We should not rush into things or make hasty decisions. Many of the problems we have are caused by more people living in a country and by pouring more concrete and building more houses. What do we do? We have to continue. We have to ensure that people live and survive in the countryside or in different towns.

Let us consider the old maps. At one time we decided we would take the floodplains out of the maps. Now, we have gone back to them again, which is a good thing. If we look at the old floodplains throughout the country we can get a good idea of the places prone to flooding and so on.

I will put it simply. There are reasons and answers for much of the stuff that goes on. A little common sense should come into it. People talk about global warming and flooding in different parts of the country. There are solutions to all of that and let us stand for a moment and ask what they are. To boost tourism we decided that we would raise the level of the Shannon by 1 m. There will be consequences in that the river will flood. That is common sense. People try to deny one thing and cover over these things. This is what is happening. This is reality. If we go back and look at where we were and what we have done in the line of rising levels and so on, it would answer many of our problems.

I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak on this Bill. Apropos of the comments of Deputy Fitzmaurice, there are two views in respect of climate change and global warming. He remarked on several things that are not popular nowadays, particularly in a country that is dependent on agriculture. That is why we need to have a little balance in the whole debate. It is true that if we lived in an industrial environment that was not reliant on fossil fuels, it would be great. Unfortunately, we do not, but we can move towards it and move towards balance. Unfortunately, unless we get the balance required we are going to pay an economic price, because we will be faced with carbon fines. They will impact throughout the globe in several years time. This is coming faster than we thought.

Deputy Fitzmaurice makes an interesting point in respect of land or river drainage. It is simple. It is an engineering fact going back 2,000 years to the time of Archimedes. He was able to come to conclusions on that matter long ago. However, we have gone away from that completely in the intervening period. Effectively, Deputy Fitzmaurice was saying that everyone should revel in the idea of living in a floodplain or a swamp, but it does not and cannot work that way. We know that a great deal of deforestation is taking place throughout the globe, especially in Latin America and in rain forests. There is no doubt that this is having an effect. Whether we like it, there is scientific evidence indicating to us now that there is an obligation on us to do something, make our contribution and put our money on the table.

People talk about how the built environment is causing terrible climate change. It is, in the sense to which Deputy Fitzmaurice adverted. Every time we put down a sheet of concrete or a roof, it moves the water from one place to another and this requires drainage. It is as simple as that. Some countries throughout the globe have discovered that and they use it all the time. As I said before, the Romans discovered that much several thousand years ago and they were able to deal with it. How has it taken us so long to realise that? There are river basins in this country that have not been touched for 60 or 70 years, and, in some cases, they have never been touched. As a result of modern fertilisers and the growth of vegetation, more trees fall into rivers and streams and more blockages arise on an annual basis than ever before. We need to do something about that.

I want to look at something else.

The critics will tell us that the use of concrete in construction is lethal and is doing severe damage, when in fact, in terms of carbon emissions, it is not the use of concrete that does this, but the methodology used in the industrial process that creates it. If the process is powered by nuclear energy, for example, there are no emissions at all. It has absolutely nothing to do with creating carbon emissions. If it is done by wave energy or wind energy, there are no emissions. That is just a fact of life. There are notions that everything that is burned causes emissions. We are told what to burn in our grates, and we must be careful when we do that as we move into the future. However, ordinary wood is completely carbon-neutral provided it does not go through an industrial process. Once it goes through an industrial process, it immediately creates carbon because of the use of fossil fuels in the process. The critical issue is how we carry out the industrial process and what fuel is used.

We have to embark on doing our share. I do not agree with the notion that we have to save the planet. There was a party in here a few years ago and they were busily saving the planet. It did not work, I can tell the House.

Come on, now. Do not be picking on John Gormley.

In fact, with no disrespect to them at all, if we set out in this country to save the planet, we would be very badly disappointed. We can do what we like, but we are not going to save the planet. What we have to do is our fair share, which is a different story altogether. The possibility of doing that on a national basis without being included in the European plan is nil. We can achieve a balance with other countries in making that contribution. There are some countries that have higher rates of carbon emissions than others because of their industrial or agricultural practices.

I completely disagree with the notion set out in some quarters that we should immediately reduce our beef herd. That is all nonsense, because it is not going to happen, and if it does happen it will be economic lunacy. That is a fact of life. What we can do is to reduce carbon emissions by, for example, looking at the domestic motor sector. There is no reason in the world to doubt that all of our motor cars could be driven by electricity in 20 years' time. Technology is improving all the time. The Japanese, the French and others are developing the technology in that area and they are doing it successfully. It is going to work. In the beginning, one could hardly travel 100 miles without having to charge the batteries of an electric car for a couple of days. Now, they have achieved 700 to 900 miles and will go through 1,000 miles. When they get the technology to 1,000 miles plus, it will then obviously be economical and beneficial to rely on electricity for that.

What we cannot do is have the road transport sector fuelled in the same way. To have a 250 horsepower truck fuelled by an electric motor would need quite a motor, with a fair battery behind it as well.

We need the Duracell bunny.

We are a long way from going there unless we get a nuclear engine in the truck, which is a possibility, of course.

Is the Deputy looking for nuclear power?

I am not in favour of nuclear power.

I thought he was.

I will never be in favour of nuclear power and it is well known that I am not. However, it is without doubt an alternative source of energy that can dramatically reduce carbon emissions. It is not as good as wind or wave energy, but it can reduce carbon emissions dramatically. In the event that we have to reduce carbon emissions, then we have to look at the alternatives, unfortunately. It is all right for me to say it, as I have always been opposed to nuclear energy, but there are many people up and down this country who are now saying we should think about it. Maybe we should think about it. However, nobody has yet found a way to dispose of the waste from the nuclear sector. It is impossible. I know there will be experts out there who say, "That guy does not know what he is talking about." In fact, I do. I have read up very carefully over the years on the evolution of the nuclear sector. While there are those who will say they have found the ultimate answer in nuclear energy, they have not. We must look at the other options.

Taken in isolation, no one country can address the issue we are talking about now. It cannot be done by one country. The suggestion that each and every country should do it becomes an economic weapon. If we did that, then we would cease all industry and close down the agriculture sector in this country. While there is no doubt that we would achieve reductions in carbon emissions, there would be no economy. There would be nothing to do all day long but just float around. There are people who would say that we would have tourism. We have tourism already, and we can still have it, but we need a comprehensive, holistic economy in the future. If we are to move in the same way as other countries - from having a very basic economy to full employment on an ongoing basis, with a bigger population - then we need to look very carefully at all of the options available to us. I take into account the points raised by both of the last two speakers opposite, because a balance has to be brought into this. If we do not get that balance, we are in trouble.

Other speakers referred to regulation. I compliment the Minister and the Minister of State on bringing the legislation before the House, because there is no doubt it is necessary. By the same token, we should not allow ourselves to feel we have an obligation to make all the sacrifices for the rest of the world. We need to make sacrifices to balance our own carbon emissions, keeping the future in mind. I believe we can do that, but we have to find and develop non-fossil fuels. We all know the argument. There are lots of people up and down the country who are like me in that they do not want nuclear power. There are lots of people who do not want wind energy because they say it is bad for the environment, which it is not, although that is neither here nor there. There are lots of people who say we should wait for wave energy, and maybe we should. The problem is, however, that wave energy is a long way away at present and we do not have sufficient generation capacity to meet the requirements as we proceed into the future. Therefore, we have to make preparations for the future. Let us consider the number of jobs we have created in recent years and the number we need to create for the future. We need to have a reliable energy source that is not going to create further emissions. Otherwise, our economic future will be curtailed.

Somebody recently said that we need to have balance in regard to the environment. It was said that our scenery is important and that we should protect it and maintain it as best we can into the future, which is correct. Unfortunately, we also have to eat and have economic activity. I would not want this country to become the one place in Europe that made all the sacrifices and did all the things that were right in order to ensure that somebody else felt good. It is hugely important that we keep this in mind.

We know we can achieve most of the targets that are likely to be set for us if we set about it on time and do not allow demand to exceed capacity so that we eventually end up with blackouts. It is not so many years since we had blackouts and the threat of them around Christmas time. That can very quickly come back again. Those who say we have sufficient capacity at present, regardless of what happens, are wrong. Unfortunately, that is the way it is.

I want to discuss how balance can be achieved in the agricultural sector. We should also mention that everything that grows absorbs carbon, particularly trees. The ordinary, simple, humble Sitka spruce is able to absorb four times as much as an oak tree in its lifetime. The western red cedar is next in line, with an ability to absorb three and a half times as much carbon as a hardwood tree.

All trees make a contribution. All trees when cut or burned, whatever the case may be, emit what they absorbed in the first place and no more.

A significant amount can be achieved with forestry. The agricultural sector will need to be involved with it and is conscious of it. We need to ensure that we illustrate, to the greatest extent possible, the degree to which forestry and tweaking the system can ensure that we maintain a sequestration of carbon that is sufficient to meet our requirements into the future.

Industry and agriculture are the two areas with which we have difficulties. It all depends on what energy we use to fuel those industries. If we do it right, we can continue on almost as we were. Our production will not be hampered. Somebody said we are the greatest offenders in the world. That is not true. Other European countries have lower requirements in terms of agriculture and make less of an impact in terms of carbon emissions because of their way of life. Some countries have virtually no carbon emissions. Other countries and continents have a major negative impact on carbon because of the way they consume energy.

We cannot discuss heavy goods. We can develop what we have in the agriculture sector to the best of our ability. Drainage and irrigation were mentioned. We should address those areas in the ordinary course of events, because if we do not, we will eventually have to live in trees as the whole island will be flooded. It does not work that way. One must clean and irrigate at all times. Otherwise, nothing happens. For the life of me I cannot understand why some people seem to revel in the idea that we should take to the boats and prepare accordingly.

The most significant factor in the equation is the development of non-fossil fuels. Wind energy is one such possibility. I do not want to see an urban-rural divide on the issue. We are all in this together. The island is not that big. It is possible to develop the industry to meet, as best we can, all that is required. The same is true of wave energy. My relationship with wind energy goes back a bit longer than most. I read about it many years ago in the 1960s and 1970s when the very first wind turbines in Iowa and Wyoming were built. They were not built with the baffles that are necessary in the event of increasing wind power. Storms came once every five years, but when one came it took a turbine with it and dragged it out by the roots. It took off in the same way as the propeller of an aircraft draws itself into the wind. It was well able to do that.

I accept that we are required to comply with international guidelines. We cannot do so on our own, but we can do so effectively in conjunction with the rest of the European Union. That is what we have to aim for. It is up to the European Union and the rest of the global community to arrive at the decisions that will be sustainable and achievable, while at the same time meeting the targets as we proceed. If that is not done, nothing will happen.

Deputy Fitzmaurice raised an interesting question as to whether we should believe the scientists. We now have to believe them. I saw the whole countryside flooded in the 1950s. Thousands of acres were affected and nobody mentioned climate change or global warning because they did not know about them at the time. Interesting events took place over the previous 20 years, such as two world wars, which could have had a bearing on climate.

During that time we were not focused in the same way. However, we now have the evidence and if we do not take account of it, future generations might well pass judgment on us in a way that we would not like. We have to be responsible. We should work within our capacity to achieve the targets that are laid down. We should not sacrifice ourselves or allow ourselves to be sacrificed by anybody on the basis that we should be the only contributors to a reduction in carbon emissions, and we should be the people to pay.

I heard this argument before, in particular in respect of the reduction of the sugar regime in Europe. It was put to us in a committee that if we changed our habits here, decided no longer to grow sugar beet and reduced sugar production throughout Europe, it would be beneficial to poor farmers in Africa. That idea was wrong. It had no impact whatsoever. Instead, it was of major benefit to multinational corporations which decided they wanted to take over the business of growing sugar in Africa and elsewhere.

There are many economic issues we need to bear in mind. We need to accept our responsibilities. I am sorry my time is up because this is a subject about which I love to speak. I do not know whether the Acting Chairman likes to hear me speak about it.

Deputies Ruth Coppinger and Paul Murphy wish to share time. Is that agreed? Agreed.

It has become common for the Labour Party, almost in an act of self-pity, to say it is being treated as the mudguard for Fine Gael policy, but a Labour Party Minister has tabled the Bill. Apparently, in the Cabinet reshuffle, getting the environment portfolio was a priority for the Labour Party. I wonder why, having seen this Bill. First it introduced water charges, then there was a housing crisis, and now we have a Bill on climate change. Rather than being mudguards, it appears that Fine Gael's policy is Labour's policy.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report last year painted a picture of impending environmental and humanitarian disaster. We have now gone beyond a global tipping point for the environment, but this is not news that only emerged this year. It has been known for 20 years. The impending crisis is not something that will only affect future generations. It is actively affecting large numbers of people around the globe right now. There are rising sea levels, shrinking ice caps and extreme weather events. Many of these events have the most impact on poor and developing countries.

It would seem that capitalist governments across the globe have paid lip service to the environment, just as this Government is doing today. There have been 19 climate change summits since 1992, and all have resulted in a lot of aspirations which turned out to be nothing but hot air. Kyoto was a failure, as were Copenhagen in 2009 and Doha in 2012. All that has emerged are solutions like carbon trading, which have been licences for more developed countries to pollute. In 2015, we have the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill.

It is a masterclass in Orwellian doublespeak because it does not propose any action. There are no binding targets or definition of what is a low-carbon economy. It is more aspiration and lip service while the Government keeps its head in the sand and protects the vested interests of big business and the agricultural sector in particular. Ireland is now on course to miss its EU 2020 target for the reduction in greenhouse gases. This might shock many people who have been labouring under the impression that EU targets had to be met; apparently it is only with austerity measures that we have to be the best pupil in the class, and when it comes to protecting the environment, it is fine for us not to meet those targets.

Even the EU targets do not go far enough. Big business in Europe and throughout the globe has invested millions of euro in paying lobbyists to influence the decision-making policy of the Commission. The EU target of a 40% reduction in greenhouse gasses by 2030 will not be enough and we must consider taking immediate and decisive action which can halt climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report suggests we must eliminate greenhouse gases completely in the next 80 years. That is a massive task and the piecemeal, incremental change being proposed will not go anywhere near achieving that target. The national expert advisory council on climate change will be another platform where we will see vested interests taking positions to defend sectional interests. The council will not be independent and it will have representatives from State bodies like Teagasc who will attempt to protect the interests of the agricultural sector. I do not use this term to refer to small farmers and individual farms but rather the multi-million euro agricultural food industry, which is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gases. The Bill will put those interests at the heart of any advice given to the Government and continue to put the interests of the drive for profit and economic growth at the heart of environmental policy rather than the environment itself. It will be a continuation of business as usual.

This Bill must be changed massively so the environment can be put at its heart rather than leaving it as a secondary factor. It should not be left for consideration after the interests of business to make profits. We cannot just state that targets are unreachable for the sake of the economy and GDP figures.

Let us be clear, we are tobogganing towards absolute environmental catastrophe. We are now at a tipping point with climate change, with a 40% rise in concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide between 1750 and 2011. Global average surface temperatures have risen by almost 1° Celsius since 1901 and by over 0.5° Celsius since 1950. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, expects, at the very least, a 2% rise in global temperatures above pre-industrial levels by 2100 but it could be significantly higher. It has been repeatedly reported that a rise above 2° Celsius could trigger the release of methane from thawing Arctic tundra while the polar ice caps, which currently reflect solar radiation into space, could disappear. This could bring about a negative dynamic feedback effect and increase the speed of climate change.

We know this will not just bring about an impact on the environment and it will also affect people. The World Health Organisation predicted in a recent report an increase of 250,000 deaths per year from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress as a result of climate change. It affects the social environmental determinants of health, including clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food and secure shelter. It also costs a huge amount of money.

We are tobogganing towards this economic disaster with our eyes wide open, and that is the point of the IPCC reports. They now indicate there is a 95% certainty that climate change is occurring mainly because of greenhouse gases released by human activity and, above all, the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation. That certainty has increased from 90% in the previous report. We are destroying our planet and we are going to kill people; we are already doing so as a result of these policies. The Irish, European and world establishment are doing effectively nothing about this, despite being aware of the problem and solution. We have had 19 international conferences since 1992 with no effective and concrete action. Even the European Commission target of a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 is a target not in line with science or what is actually necessary. Non-governmental organisations across Europe have called for a target of at least a reduction of 55% in greenhouse gas emissions. If that ambition is not realised, the EU's international pledge to stay below 2° Celsius of global warming is all but impossible. We know what is happening and why, and we also know the consequences. Nevertheless, the world establishment is unwilling to do anything about it.

In Ireland, the issue is even worse. We have a climate change Bill that does not even have a target for emissions reduction, as my colleague noted, or a definition of "low carbon". A climate change advisory council will be set up that will not be independent, unlike the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council, which indicates that austerity is important but tackling climate change is not. The climate change Bill has no reference to climate justice, despite the obvious fact that the poorest in the world and those with no responsibility for the creation of the problem will overwhelmingly pay the price for the increase in climate change. There is to be a two-year period where we will not have to implement a national mitigation plan. We may have a plan for 2013 to 2020 but we may not get it until 2017, which is patently ridiculous by anybody's standards.

We need co-ordination to tackle this issue. On the one hand, one might argue that at least we have lip service for climate change in the Bill. On the other hand, the Government and the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Bruton, in particular is one of the foremost advocates of all trade ministers across Europe for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, TTIP, with the US. That process will have major negative environmental consequences in two ways.

Regulatory co-operation means either harmonisation, mutual recognition or equivalence of regulations, and these have the same effect of bringing the lowest common denominators for environmental regulation, as well as consumer legislation, worker rights and other issues that exist. As part of TTIP, the EU wants to include a legally binding commitment guaranteeing the free export of crude oil and gas resources by transforming any mandatory and non-automatic export licensing procedure into an automatic process. There will be an increase in exports and all the travel costs that go with that, with fossil fuels, oil and gas, going both ways between the EU and US if TTIP is implemented. There will be an increased reliance on fossil fuels in the EU and more emissions. Other relatively progressive aspects of EU law, such as the fuel quality directive, will be challenged under TTIP, as it is already being challenged under the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, CETA, with Canada. The EU's regulation of fluorinated gas in refrigerators and freezers will be challenged. These elements have explicitly been set out on the US side as elements to be challenged in the course of the TTIP negotiations.

The other way TTIP undermines any effective environmental regulation is through the investor state dispute settlement, ISDS, mechanisms, or private administrative tribunals whereby companies can sue for so-called indirect expropriation. These processes are already being used to undermine any effective right to regulate in the interests of the environment. We can already note the case of Lone Pine Resources Inc. taken against Canada because of Quebec's moratorium on fracking, and something similar could happen here. There is also the case of Vattenfall taken against Germany because of its moratorium on nuclear power, and exactly the same process could occur here if any Government implemented a policy that infringes a right to profit in favour of the interests of the environment.

A very large number of companies between the EU and the US would have the ability to sue, including companies that are effectively based in the EU but are able to designate themselves as US companies in order to sue their own governments to prevent any effective environmental regulation. The fundamental issue is whether we are willing to stand up to the corporations in the interests of the planet and people. A recent report in the journal Climatic Change stated that a mere 90 companies have produced 63% of the cumulative global emissions of industrial carbon dioxide and methane from 1751 to 2010. Nearly 30% of those emissions were belched out by the top 20 companies and half of the estimated emissions occurred in the past 25 years. They are the usual suspects such as BP, Chevron Corporation, ExxonMobil and Shell.

To prevent climate change, we must state that the interests of the planet come before the profits of these corporations. There must be public ownership and, above all, there must be democratic planning at EU level and worldwide to transition as fast as possible to a non-fossil fuel based economy and to try to repair the damage that has been done and is already costing lives.

Debate adjourned.