Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill 2015: Report Stage (Resumed)

Debate resumed on amendment No. 5:
In page 4, between lines 1 and 2, to insert the following:
“ “baseline” means the aggregate amount of—
(a) net Irish emissions of carbon dioxide for 1990, and
(b) net Irish emissions of each of the greenhouse gases other than carbon dioxide for the year that is the baseline year for that gas;
“baseline years” for greenhouse gases other than carbon dioxide are—
(a) for methane, 1990,
(b) for nitrousoxide, 1990,
(c) for hydrofluorocarbons, 1995,
(d) for perfluorocarbons, 1995,
(e) for sulphur hexafluoride, 1995;”.
- (Deputy Clare Daly)

It is a couple of months since we initiated this discussion. I will not repeat the points I made at the last session but, in essence, this amendment is about national emissions reduction targets and Ireland leading the way in tackling climate change. We are trying to make the point that one cannot measure progress unless there is a starting point from which to refer, and this is what the amendment seeks to provide.

While I do not intend to repeat the points I started with, there are some matters that must be clarified in this regard. It is not an airtight commitment to a 2050 target. Even if what the Government is proposing could be construed as such, the Government policy only references carbon dioxide and none of the highly dangerous greenhouse gases listed in the amendment. As I said on the last occasion, in the first two decades after its release methane is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Both types of emissions must be addressed if we wish to reduce effectively the impact of climate change.

A large number of amendments were ruled out of order on Committee Stage because they referred to emissions target reductions. It was argued, without any supporting detailed documentation, that reduction targets cost the Exchequer money and they were ruled out of order because Opposition Deputies cannot put forward amendments which cost the Exchequer money. We do not accept that rationale because they are not taking into account the fact that climate change mitigation measures will save the Exchequer a fortune in reality, never mind that the failure to implement real and lasting climate change mitigation measures will actually cost the State billions in damages, as well as potentially wiping out the human race, which is by the by. Those factors have not been taken into account in ruling those amendments out of order.
If we wanted proof of the failure of so-called modern democracy to serve the interests of the public good rather than the self-interest of the political establishment, this argument says it all. What the Government is putting forward is incredibly short-sighted. On Committee Stage, the Minister said, "Setting out such definitions here is completely unnecessary as both legally binding EU and international instruments establish such matters in a far more comprehensive manner". This stands as a perfect example of what Peter Mair saw as the externalisation of policy commitments to non-democratic decision-makers. What we have unfolding here is politicians divesting themselves of responsibility for potentially unpopular policy decisions in order to cushion themselves from potential voter discontent in the future.
It is this trend that has been responsible for a bottoming out of Western democracy. It is one of the reasons we have such lack of participation and support for the political establishment across Europe. The weakness of the Bill is indicative of this process and of the whole process of neoliberalism itself, where the interests of the market are being put ahead of the interests of the public. It is precisely as a result of this mentality that we will have a continuation of austerity when, really, the crisis is demanding that we should have wartime-type investment in the public sector to boost our defences and to keep global temperature increases below 2° Celsius. That requires massive investment in public transport and so on, but the neoliberal ideology is pointing in a different way, and is prioritising the next quarter's GDP figures ahead of the future of humanity and the need to take society forward.
We are moving this amendment based on the points made. It is critically important this would be inserted in the Bill.

The proposed amendment wishes to set out definitions of baseline years in respect of greenhouse gas emissions, with a view to more wide-ranging amendments to sections 3 and 4 of the Bill. I will reserve my principal observations on the more wide-ranging amendments until later in this debate. However, I would make the point that, as I do not agree with the proposed large-scale amendments to sections 3 and 4, I consider this amendment to be redundant and I cannot, therefore, support it.

It is ironic the Minister of State would say that, particularly in the context of the European Commission finding that Ireland is going to fail to meet its climate targets. The EU report published in February made the point that Ireland is not on track to reach its greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets. We are talking about 3% up to 2020 but there is no plan for how we are going to achieve that or commit to it, and targets are a critical part of this process. I believe we will rue the day. We are talking about targets to be achieved in five years but we have no plan in place to achieve this. It is a classic example of kicking the can down the road without any meat on it. It will probably take us two or three years to have a detailed plan but it will not be developed in the context of definitive targets, which is regrettable.

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 31; Níl, 58.

  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Colreavy, Michael.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Fleming, Tom.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • McLellan, Sandra.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Wallace, Mick.

Níl

  • Bannon, James.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Byrne, Eric.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Collins, Áine.
  • Conaghan, Michael.
  • Conway, Ciara.
  • Coonan, Noel.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Dowds, Robert.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harrington, Noel.
  • Hayes, Tom.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Keating, Derek.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • Lawlor, Anthony.
  • Lynch, Ciarán.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McFadden, Gabrielle.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Phelan, Ann.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Spring, Arthur.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
  • Twomey, Liam.
  • White, Alex.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Clare Daly and Mick Wallace; Níl, Deputies Emmet Stagg and Paul Kehoe.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 6:

In page 4, to delete line 6.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 7 to 16, inclusive, not moved.

I move amendment No. 17:

In page 6, between lines 2 and 3, to insert the following:

“(b) the policy of the Government on climate change,

(c) climate justice,”.

This amendment seeks to include references to both the policy of the Government on climate change and to climate change justice in section 3(2). In respect of national policy considerations, a key element of the Government's climate policy is the national policy position on climate action and low carbon development, as published in April 2014. This policy position outlined the key objectives, considerations and principles in moving towards a low-carbon economy. Within this context, where a policy position evolves over time or changes to adapt to specific national circumstances, it would be important to have an appropriate reference in primary legislation which can capture relevant policy at any given time.

In respect of climate justice, as we are all aware, this concept links to human rights and development to achieve a human-centred approach, safeguarding the rights of the most vulnerable and sharing the burdens and benefits of climate change and its resolution equitably and fairly. It has been championed as an international concept, in particular by Mary Robinson.

Although legal reservations have been expressed about including a reference to climate justice, given the lack of an absolutely clear legal understanding of the concept in international law, I am nevertheless satisfied that it warrants inclusion in this Bill, given its importance as a principle. I have decided that the most appropriate point at which to reference it in the Bill is in section 3(2), which deals with the approval process of the Government in respect of both national mitigation plans and national adaptation frameworks.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 18, 22, 39 and 47 are related and will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 18:

In page 6, between lines 6 and 7, to insert the following:

“(d) the principle of climate justice.”.

The principle of climate justice is based on the idea that there is an ecological debt owed by the north to the south. We in the highly industrialised north are most responsible for the build-up of atmospheric carbon. We pulled ourselves out of poverty by enormous usage of dirty fuel. If we do not want poorer countries to get out of poverty in the same way we did, we have to help them pay the bill. Developed countries represent less than 20% of the world's population, yet we have emitted around 70% of all the greenhouse gas pollution that is now destabilising the climate. To pay this debt, we have to do two things. We need to finance poorer countries in their switch to clean development models and we have to lead the way in the move towards a carbon-free economy.

In effect, if the Government recognises and appreciates the principle of climate justice, then we must be committed to the national emissions targets which will hold our law-makers accountable. We must set the targets at levels even more ambitious than those which will come from Europe. In order for that to happen, we need the political will. We need politicians who are not afraid to put the interests of the people of Earth before the interests of those who profit from pollution and extractionism.

Recently, a coalition of more than 400 organisations called on the White House to stop issuing new fossil fuel leases on public lands and oceans. More than 67 million acres of public land and ocean are already leased to the fossil fuel industry. The coalition says that declaring unleased oil, gas and coal on public lands as unburnable would accomplish more in the global fight against climate change than any other single action taken by the Obama Administration.

We need to stop the profiteering of the fossil fuel industry. There are three central steps which we must take if we are serious about the principle of climate justice. First, we must stop issuing fossil fuel leases on our public lands and oceans. That means no more oil and gas drilling, and no fracking licences. Second, we need to divest from fossil fuel companies any funds which are connected to the public purse strings. Third, we need to properly enforce the polluter-pays principle.

The vast fossil fuel subsidies estimated by the IMF for 2015 include payments, tax breaks and cut-price fuel. The largest part is the cost left unpaid by polluters and picked up by governments, including the heavy impacts of local air pollution and the floods, droughts and storms being driven by climate change. In May, the IMF published a global annual estimate of $5.3 trillion of fossil fuel subsidies. It calculated that ending fossil fuel subsidies would slash global carbon emissions by 20%, a huge step towards taming global warming. Ending the subsidies would also prevent 1.6 million premature deaths from outdoor air pollution, a 50% cut. The money freed by ending fossil fuel subsidies could be an economic game changer for many countries, says the IMF, by driving economic growth and poverty reduction.

Christiana Figueres, the UN climate change chief charged with delivering a deal to beat global warming at a crunch summit in December, said, "The IMF data reveal a simple and stunning truth: that fossil fuel subsidy reform alone would deliver far more funds than is required for the global energy transformation we need to keep the world below a 2°C temperature rise [the level Governments have promised to hold them to]".

In April, the president of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, told the Guardian that it was crazy that governments were still driving the use of coal, oil and gas by providing subsidies. He said they should be scrapped immediately as poorer nations were feeling the boot of climate change on their necks. According to the recent IMF figures, this year Ireland will subsidise fossil fuel companies to the tune of $1.22 billion. That is $262 per head, up from $1.09 billion in 2013. A real commitment to the principle of climate justice would mean that we would stop this insane practice, curb emissions and have money to fund both our own and other nations' transition. Not only are we failing to do this at present, we have a long track record of corporate welfare, and investing in the fossil fuel companies is at the heart of the problem. The last published report from the National Pensions Reserve Fund was for 2013. It showed that, of the 30 largest fossil fuel companies in the world, we had invested in 22 of them. If those 22 companies alone burned their current reserves, it would mean an increase of over 1° Celsius in the global temperature.

While we in Ireland are not feeling the effects of climate change so strongly, other countries are being wiped off the map. The Irish Government, not content that it has presided over the most dramatic rise in inequality in recent history at home by failing to acknowledge climate justice, is becoming a central player in furthering the rise in inequality at a global level. In light of the Minister's claim that he endorses the principle of climate justice, his dogged refusal to make any commitments on national targets of any kind in the legislation does not add up. He is effectively demonstrating that the Bill is solely cosmetic and cannot serve to implement meaningful action on climate change.

The UN climate chief, Christiana Figueres, has warned that carbon emission reduction targets are not yet good enough. She warned on 16 September that "the targets for carbon emission reduction that 62 nations which account for 70% of emissions have so far submitted for agreement in Paris are not good enough to keep global warming below 2°C". Climate scientists have been telling us that this decade is the one that matters for climate action if we are to combat the devastating effects of climate change and to tackle catastrophic global warming. However, all amendments that refer to any specific targets have been disqualified on the grounds that they would impose a cost on the Exchequer. This is an insane position in light of what is at stake. This position is not just extremely short-sighted and narrow-minded considering that the cost in human lives and the cost to the Exchequer will be astronomical. If we do not get our act together, it will cost us, according to our own figures, a fortune in fines alone. We are currently on course for serious fines for failing to meet our climate change mitigation targets. According to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, the cost to the Exchequer of purchasing compliance will be in the billions of euro by 2030 in a business-as-usual scenario.

I do not understand the logic of wiping out amendments on the basis that they could cost the Exchequer money. Many proposals cost the Exchequer money. Some of them are a good idea while some of them might not be but the Government should examine the rule. I do not know where the rule comes from but I believe it is in place. If so, it should definitely be addressed because if we continue with this approach, there will be less chance of our being able to organise this country in a more progressive way and addressing problems such as climate change.

The Oireachtas committee recommended that the legislation incorporate the principle of climate justice. The Minister has accepted that in a part of the legislation, namely, in amendment No. 17. We believe it is critical that the principle be inserted so Ministers will have to have regard to it when designing mitigation plans.

According to Naomi Klein, climate justice really means all developing countries are owed a debt for the inherent injustice of climate change and the fact that wealthy countries had used up most of the atmospheric capacity for safely absorbing carbon dioxide before the developing countries had a chance to industrialise. It is unfair to expect developing countries, whose people have contributed so little to the climate crisis, to shoulder the economic burden of climate change mitigation. However, if we are saying that and putting the principle into the Bill, we have to mean it. The plan must support policies that will deliver on the principle. That is where we have a bit of a problem. Let us step back and consider this: the countries that have been powering their economies with fossil fuels since the Industrial Revolution have done far more to cause temperatures to rise than those that arrived on the globalisation stage in the past couple of decades. Therefore, it is not a level playing field. Developed countries, which represent less than 20% of the world's population, have emitted almost 70% of all greenhouse gas pollution, which is destabilising the climate.

Where do we fit in? Ireland is the second worst polluter per capita in Europe after Poland. Therefore, we in Ireland owe a debt to the developing countries. I am glad the Minister is sharing that view to the extent of saying we should build it in as a principle of our climate change Bill. However, if nothing else in the Bill is moving us nearer to that objective, it is just meaningless and actually a bit of an insult. It is a question of determining how to make the aspiration principle a reality in living terms. How will we repay this debt, which has now been acknowledged? We really need to consider how we can promote the principle of climate justice. That is really what we need to consider. Fighting the extractionism of the fossil fuel industry is a way to achieve it but we are not doing it. Fighting the new free-trade deals, such as the TPP and TTIP, which are effectively corporate wish lists that will have a devastating impact on the environment, particularly in countries in the developing world, is an approach. So, too, is reining in our over-consumption, which does not mean targeting everybody who drives a car but actually means promoting localisation of our economies, promoting serious policies on delivering public transport and greatly enhancing rail transport. I am not referring to the sort of metro-light Ladybird version that the Government announces in fanfares a hundred times over, but to real development of public transport, including rail, beyond anything we have seen already. We need to consider that. It is not being built into the legislation.

Naomi Klein has rephrased and remoulded the discussion on climate change, which is often put outside the reach of ordinary people. It is often packaged in terms of blaming individuals for their behaviour rather than examining how society itself is organised and what governments can do. Ms Klein states:

As a direct result of these centuries of serial thefts — of land, labor, and atmospheric space — developing countries today are squeezed between the impacts of global warming, made worse by persistent poverty, and by their need to alleviate that poverty, which, in the current economic system, can be done most cheaply and easily by burning a great deal more carbon, dramatically worsening the climate crisis. They cannot break this deadlock without help, and that help can only come from those countries and corporations that grew wealthy, in large part, as a result of those illegitimate appropriations.

[This argument] does not rest on ethics and morality alone: wealthy countries do not just need to help the Global South move to a low-emissions economic path because it's the right thing to do. We need to do it because our collective survival depends on it.

When we talk about climate justice, we need to do so in terms of the bigger picture. That is why I would support initiatives such as the Leap Manifesto, put forward in respect of Canada. That document examines the issue in terms of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's recognition of the shocking details of the violence of Canada's near past. The document refers to deepening poverty and inequality contributing to the problems of climate change. Solutions are sought in terms of what the government can do and in terms of the bigger picture and giving communities control over their destinies, be it in terms of energy projects, energy-efficient programmes or the retrofitting of houses. All these initiatives can generate employment, but on a serious scale. I refer also to proper public transport.

While we believe we should include the principle of climate justice in various parts of the Bill — it is a good thing and we are glad the Minister has included it in part — it will not mean anything unless it is backed up with meat and substance. Unfortunately, nothing in the Bill achieves this. When this Bill is passed, we will be three or four years away from fines being imposed on us. The European Union itself has said we have no chance of reaching the targets we have signed up to. Therefore, the taxpayer will inevitably be squeezed for the money because of the lack of action of the Government.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this amendment. I regret that all my previous amendments were ruled out of order on the basis of cost.

There will be a huge financial cost to the citizens of this State, including farmers, if we continue going down this road and do not address the climate change issue. In addition, there is an issue of climate justice, not just for developing Third World countries but also here due to the effects it will have on producers and those living in areas prone to flooding. We cannot keep building higher flood defences and hope that sea levels will not breach them. We must deal with the issue at source. My amendment No. 22 would compel the Government to have regard to the principle of climate change justice for developing countries and countries vulnerable to climate change. That is very important.

It is worth looking at what was agreed by the all-party committee back in the summer of 2013. Since Ireland, on a per capita basis, has one of the highest greenhouse gas emission rates, its responsibility to those impacted by climate change was emphasised by several submissions. The joint committee heard from several witnesses that it is appropriate to include recognition of this in the legislation as a principle, which should be considered in framing the national and sectoral roadmaps.

In fulfilment of commitments made under the Copenhagen accord, member states committed to providing €7.2 billion of fast-track start finance over the period 2010 to 2012. This was to enable developing countries to protect themselves better against severe weather events and other adverse effects associated with climate change and to develop their economies along sustainable pathways.

Central to the issue of climate change and climate justice is the participation of developing countries in the green climate fund agreed at Cancún as a successor to the fast-track start finance instrument. The joint committee welcomed the commitments given by the former Minister, Phil Hogan, that Ireland would play its full role as a member state in supporting this initiative. To this end, the joint committee stressed the importance that such finance should be additional to Ireland's overseas aid budget and not at the expense of it. The Bill should provide for the establishment of a national green climate fund within or alongside the environment fund to receive moneys from carbon tax, emission-trading-system auctioning and similar sources. That money should be used to support climate mitigation and adoption in developing countries.

The joint committee said the fund would also be used to support Ireland's contribution to the green climate fund currently now established through the UN framework convention on climate change. That is what the all-party committee drafted in July 2013, with Professor John Sweeney, after listening carefully to submissions from some who still believe the earth is flat and others who wanted us to go much further than the report's recommendations. This was a compromise document but is a good way forward.

Climate justice must be writ large throughout the Bill, otherwise we will not be doing our own population any favours, nor those of countries that are only now starting to develop industrially. They have put a very light carbon footprint on the face of the earth, much lighter than ours. Ireland is a huge producer of carbon emissions, so we must start doing things more sustainably, but that does not mean that we have to close down the country.

A number of later amendments deal with prudence in undertaking agricultural production. I ask the Minister of State to accept amendment No. 22 in the spirit of the joint committee's document, which the former Minister, Commissioner Phil Hogan, gave a firm commitment to address. The earth is a small place so this is an important matter. As a trading nation, it is important for us that such countries will develop. We cannot bury our heads in the sand and ignore what is happening to countries that are vulnerable to coastal flooding. We cannot allow huge areas of their coastlines to be washed away with chunks of their GDP being eaten up in providing flood prevention measures, not to mention the catastrophe on a human scale. If their economies are wrecked in trying to deal with climate change, including the resettlement of people inland, they obviously will not have the money to trade with us. Working with the Third World and building climate justice into the equation puts us in a moral position to trade with developing countries. It will also enable them to have more cash to buy our goods and services.

These matters are interlinked so the pieces of the jigsaw must fit together. If we do not deal with climate justice many of the jigsaw pieces will be missing so the centre will not hold globally, either economically, socially or financially. I therefore ask the Minister of State to accept my amendment in that spirit.

As there are no other speakers on the Opposition side, I call the Minister of State.

These amendments seek to include a reference to the principle of climate justice in either section 3 or section 4 of the Bill. My own amendment No. 17 calls for the inclusion of a reference to climate justice in section 3(2) of the Bill in a slightly different and more prominent place to that proposed in these amendments.

Although legal reservations have been expressed about including a reference to climate justice, given the lack of an absolutely clear legal understanding of the concept in international law, I am nevertheless satisfied that it warrants inclusion in this Bill given its importance as a principle. In view of the foregoing, I request that these amendments be withdrawn in favour of my own version.

Deputy Wallace was the first proposer. Does he wish to speak?

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 19:

In page 6, between lines 6 and 7, to insert the following:

“(d) the risk to public health and associated costs to the Health Service Executive posed by climate change.”.

I will speak to amendments Nos. 20 and 21 as well. I find it strange that they were not grouped, as I find them to be connected.

They are not grouped but the Deputy can speak on them individually.

Fine. As I mentioned before, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform estimates that the cost to the Exchequer to purchase compliance will be billions of euro by 2030, in a business as usual scenario. The point of these amendments is to put into law a system of accounting that will take into account the human and financial cost of action versus inaction on climate change. This was apparently not done when the legislation was being drafted.

According to the European Commission, early action on climate change will save lives and money. The EU-wide cost of not adapting to climate change could reach at least €100 billion per year by 2020, rising to €250 billion a year by 2050.

Elaborating on the internationally accepted position that climate change poses a threat so serious that it could reverse the last 50 years of progress in global health and development, the Commission has said that climate action would bring benefits of €38 billion a year in 2050 through reduced mortality caused by air pollution. The World Health Organization has estimated that, considering only a few of the associated health risks and assuming continued progress in economic growth and health protection, climate change would still be likely to cause about 250,000 additional deaths per year by the 2030s. A recent report by researchers at the International Monetary Fund identifies the omission of health damages from polluting fuels as the largest of the subsidies provided to global energy production and use, which will total US$5.3 trillion in 2015, which is more than the total health expenditure of all the world's governments. How frightening is that?

What is clear is that climate change and its causes are the greatest risks facing human health. The purpose of the first amendment is to ensure that when making a climate change mitigation plan, the Government takes into account the dangers to the health of the people of Ireland posed by climate change and the associated costs to the health system. It is obvious that fast and meaningful action on climate change will have economic benefits for Ireland but, more importantly, it will mean the Government cares about the well-being of people. Failure to commit to targets and a fast-track of the mitigation plan will demonstrate that the opposite is the case.

As I have outlined, there is a wealth of peer-reviewed research showing that climate change will result in astronomical costs to governments the world over. There is also a long series of very coherent arguments from scientists, economists and international bodies that highlight the immense savings that will accrue from co-ordinated, effective and sustained commitment to ambitious emissions reductions targets. In light of these facts, a situation where the Minister refuses to entertain amendments that would commit us to national emissions targets on the basis that to do so would incur a potential cost to the Exchequer is a bit mind-boggling. This stance by the Minister is one of the starkest examples of the Government sticking its head in the sand on an issue. This amendment would serve to at least remind the Government of the insanity of policy that falls short of being serious about tackling climate change.

A refusal to engage in joined-up thinking in here can be really frightening at times. People who know more about this than we do are making it very clear that if we make long-term decisions rather than ones which go from election to election, we would address this, aside from showing concern for the future of the planet and any concern we might show for our children and their children. If there is one thing that unites the 166 Deputies in here, it is that we all care about our offspring. However, we are turning a blind eye to the problems facing our offspring and their offspring by refusing to do anything about it now.

It reminds me of the lack of joined-up thinking I have addressed a few times in here relating to the area of sport and health. In 2013, alcohol abuse cost the State €3.5 billion, tobacco abuse cost it €1.3 billion and obesity cost it €1.1 billion but the State gave sport €90 million for the year. Sport more than anything else challenges all these things and it would reduce abuses but we do not invest enough in all sports to do this. This is about joined-up thinking and longer-term planning. We would not see the results of it before the next election but we would see them in time and our children would certainly be beneficiaries of it, as would their children. It is a pity that so much of politics is dictated by "short termism". So much of business is now dictated by short-termism, particularly big business where it is more about shares, dividends and quick profits. It is becoming very problematic for the world. How we deal with climate change is another example of it.

This proposed amendment appears out of place in section 2. I am also not sure how practical it is to expect to quantify the costs to the HSE associated with climate change. One of my amendments, amendment No. 46, includes a reference to the protection of public health in section 4(7) of the Bill as it relates to the preparation of national mitigation plans. Accordingly, I cannot support this amendment but I accept the intent behind it.

Does Deputy Wallace wish to respond?

I thank the Minister of State for her words but we must agree to differ. I will be pressing the amendment.

7 o'clock
Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 28; Níl, 51.

  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Colreavy, Michael.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Donnelly, Stephen S.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Fleming, Tom.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kirk, Seamus.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McLellan, Sandra.
  • Mathews, Peter.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Wallace, Mick.

Níl

  • Bannon, James.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Conaghan, Michael.
  • Conway, Ciara.
  • Coonan, Noel.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Dowds, Robert.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harrington, Noel.
  • Keating, Derek.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • Lynch, Ciarán.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McFadden, Gabrielle.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • Phelan, Ann.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Spring, Arthur.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
  • Twomey, Liam.
  • White, Alex.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Clare Daly and Mick Wallace; Níl, Deputies Emmet Stagg and Paul Kehoe.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 20:

In page 6, between lines 6 and 7, to insert the following:

“(d) a projection of the long term savings and costs to the exchequer posed by climate change.”.

I understand the intent behind the amendment but I do not consider it to be practical to project long-term savings and costs to the Exchequer in sufficient detail to inform the Government meaningfully when approving five-yearly national mitigation plans and national adaptation frameworks. Accordingly, I cannot support the amendment.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 21:

In page 6, between lines 6 and 7, to insert the following:

“(d) a projection of the long term savings and costs to the exchequer as a result of climate change mitigation.”.

At the risk of repeating myself, I appreciate the intent behind the amendment but I do not consider it practical to project long-term savings and costs to the Exchequer in sufficient detail to meaningfully inform the Government when approving national mitigation plans. Therefore, I cannot support this amendment either.

Given that the Minister of State has accused me of being impractical, I insist that my proposal is more practical than the Government's. I have already spoken on the amendment.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 22:

In page 6, between lines 6 and 7, to insert the following:

“(d) the principle of climate change justice for developing countries and countries vulnerable to climate change.”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 23 and 24 are out of order. Amendment No. 25 is in the names of Deputy Clare Wallace, I mean Deputy Clare Daly and Deputy Mick Wallace. Which Deputy wishes to move the amendment?

I would have nothing to do with her.

I call Deputy Clare Daly.

Let me be the first to congratulate her.

Amendments Nos. 23 and 24 not moved.

I move amendment No. 25:

In page 6, between lines 6 and 7, to insert the following:

“Setting annual targets

5. (1) The Minister shall, by order, set the annual targets for each year in the periods mentioned in paragraphs (a) to (g) of subsection (2).

(2) The Minister shall set the annual targets for each year—

(a) in the period 2015-2022, no later than 31 October 2015,

(b) in the period 2023-2027, no later than 31 October 2020,

(c) in the period 2028-2032, no later than 31 October 2024,

(d) in the period 2033-2037, no later than 31 October 2028,

(e) in the period 2038-2042, no later than 31 October 2033,

(f) in the period 2043-2047, no later than 31 October 2038,

(g) in the period 2048-2050, no later than 31 October 2042.

(3) The Minister shall, when setting annual targets, have regard to any advice they receive from the relevant body as to the cumulative amount of net emissions for the period 2015-2050 that is consistent with a reduction over that period of net emissions accounts which would allow the 2050 target to be met.

(4) The Minister shall, when setting annual targets, also have regard to the following matters (the “target-setting criteria”)—

(a) the objective of not exceeding the fair and safe emissions budget,

(b) scientific knowledge about climate change,

(c) technology relevant to climate change,

(d) economic circumstances, in particular the likely impact of the target on—

(i) the economy,

(ii) the competitiveness of particular sectors of the economy,

(iii) small and medium-sized enterprises,

(iv) jobs and employment opportunities,

(e) fiscal circumstances, in particular the likely impact of the target on taxation, public spending and public borrowing,

(f) social circumstances, in particular the likely impact of the target on those living in poorer or deprived communities,

(g) the likely impact of the target on those living in remote rural communities and island communities,

(h) energy policy, in particular the likely impact of the target on energy supplies, the renewable energy sector and the carbon and energy intensity of the economy,

(i) environmental considerations and, in particular, the likely impact of the targets on biodiversity,

(j) European and international law and policy relating to climate change.

(5) If annual targets for a period are not set by the corresponding date mentioned in paragraphs (a) to (g) of subsection (2), the Minister shall set the annual targets as soon as reasonably practicable afterwards.

(6) In this Act, the “fair and safe emissions budget” is the aggregate amount of net emissions for the period 2015-2050 recommended by the relevant body as being consistent with contributing appropriately to stabilisation of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.”.

We are talking about saving the planet. To be honest, it is a bit more important. The amendment outlines the detail of the setting of annual targets in order to achieve the interim targets and the 2050 target, the criteria that must be taken into account when setting the targets and the timeframes for setting the targets.

This is not an unimportant issue. Let us look at what the European Commission said in the draft report in February of this year when it was talking about this country being likely to miss the targets. It said no progress was made in identifying how Ireland commits itself to meeting its existing binding climate and energy targets for the period up to 2020 in an integrated way and how best to use the earmarked available EU support for the structural development needed in different areas. The European Commission has already acknowledged that we are way behind and we are not going to be able to achieve the targets.

What our amendment does is set out a system based on the Bill that was passed in Scotland in 2009 in order to put a system in place for how targets could be met. The proposed Bill has no reference to targets, let alone annual targets or how they should be arrived at, which is what we are trying to do. In that sense, we think that without this change the Bill is not fit for purpose. It is strange that the amendment has not been ruled out of order because we make repeated reference to a 2050 target but under this legislation there is no such target. The amendment is not valid unless we have a 2050 target so I am surprised that it was not ruled out of order. We are pleased that it was not, as we believe this system of how we set targets should be upheld and included in the legislation.

The proposed amendment seeks to provide for the manner in which annual targets are set for the period 2015 to 2050. I do not accept the validity of establishing domestic mitigation targets divorced from EU processes. That is because Ireland is already subject to legally binding greenhouse gas mitigation targets up to 2020. Negotiations are currently ongoing at an EU level to agree mitigation targets for all member states up to 2030. This process of target setting will likely continue up to 2050. Accordingly, putting in place our own statutory mitigation targets would likely cut across and interfere with the EU's target-setting process. As a consequence, therefore, I cannot support the amendment.

The Minister of State has made our point for us because, as I said in the introduction, the reality is that we are subject to legally binding targets and the EU and the European Commission have stated very clearly that we will not be anywhere near reaching those targets and not only that but also that we have no way of identifying how we are going to achieve those targets. The purpose of the amendment is to set down the detail of how to set annual targets in order that we can address the clear current deficit. It would complement our existing obligations rather than make them irrelevant.

Meeting our EU targets is our main priority and the first national mitigation plan is currently being developed to address that aim.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendment No. 26 is out of order. Amendment No. 27 is in the name of the Minister and arises out of Committee Stage proceedings. Amendments Nos. 28 and 29 are physical alternatives to No. 27, so we will discuss amendments Nos. 27 to 29, inclusive, together.

Amendment No. 26 not moved.

I move amendment No. 27:

In page 6, line 9, to delete “24 months” and substitute “18 months”.

The proposed amendments seek to shorten the timeframe for the production of the first national mitigation plan from 24 months after enactment of the Bill to less than that. Many Opposition Members and many of those in the environmental NGO community were concerned at the original 24 month timeframe, considering it to be too long in the context of our pressing mitigation targets up to 2020. Accordingly, in amendment No. 27, I have decided to shorten this timeframe to 18 months, which I know will not be short enough for some.

Nevertheless, 18 months is the bare minimum necessary to allow robust mitigation policy measures to be developed and made subject to strategic environmental assessments and appropriate assessments pursuant to EU directives, as well as to statutory public scrutiny processes.

I will speak to amendment No. 28 in my name and that of other Deputies. It is important we do this quickly. We have reached a carbon cliff because of the lost years when we did not do what we should have been doing, when we did not take our responsibility seriously and when we kept damaging the environment and putting ourselves in a situation for which we will pay in the future, not just environmentally but also in the way of carbon credits. This will result in a cost to the public purse and to the taxpayer.

A period of six months is adequate because the preparatory work has been done and everybody knows this is coming, including officials in the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. We have known it was coming for years but have put off dealing with it and procrastinated, delayed and dilly-dallied. The committee report was published two years and two months ago so there has been substantial time to deal with this matter in the interim. It is important that this is done. The Government gave a commitment to do it in the lifetime of the Parliament but there is a month or six months left, depending on who one listens to, so it is important we do it quickly. If the Government does it within six months and there is a spring election, it will go to the electorate with these measures in place. It is a positive message to sell and one on which our party would agree if the Government did it.

The move to 18 months is welcome but perhaps the Government should shorten that. I suggest it should go a step further. If it cannot go to six months, it should go to 12 months because a huge amount of time was lost when we ignored the problem, delayed in respect of it, danced around it and failed to deal with it. We can no longer postpone taking action in respect of this problem. We have seen the effects, not just in coastal communities but, over a couple of summers, even on dry land in places such as in County Kildare, and it does not get much drier than that. I witnessed a combine harvester with tracks on it trying to cut and harvest corn in fields that had never flooded before.

Climate change is with us and one could say our little spot of land would not make a difference to the globe as a whole but we cannot take that attitude. We are part of the problem and we have to be part of the solution. It is important we do it quickly and we have an opportunity to do that. There is a party political opportunity for those in government in having it wrapped up before going to the country next spring - if they wait until then - and I urge them to do it.

We also believe the process should be speeded up in order to provide for the adoption of the first national mitigation plan. The plan should be adopted within six months of the passing of the Act and not 24 or 18, as currently proposed. We need to do a bit more. I find it hard to credit because, at this rate, 2020 will be on top of us and we will not have done anything. We will be penalised in 2020 for not meeting targets simply because we did not have a plan before the deadline. It does not stack up. Our amendments referring to targets were ruled out of order because someone thought they were going to cost the Exchequer money but not taking action and being inactive will cost the Exchequer money. The Government will be more guilty of costing the Exchequer money than our proposals. Our proposals would save the Government in the long term whereas refusing to act quickly enough will cost the Exchequer money, not to mention the cost to people's lives.

We do not have time - that is the reality. We need to move and move quickly on this. Deputy Stanley made the point very forcefully that a lot of the work has already been done or should be well-known on this. We have to look at where we are, against what backdrop we are operating and whether the first national mitigation plan can come into being. The previous European Commission statement showed Ireland as being behind the targets and according to the latest national projections it looks likely that Ireland will miss the targets that are already there by a wide margin, with authorities expecting emissions to decrease by only 3% in 2020 compared to 2005, which is well off the mark. Charles Stanley-Smith of An Taisce put it very well when he said, "to be found to be not on track to meet the targets is damning enough but to be reported as not having an integrated way of making the huge improvements necessary will be truly cataclysmic".

We are talking about putting in place a plan that will allow us to achieve the improvements necessary in order to inch us nearer the targets. We are lining ourselves up for fines in any event but this will at least cut those down. Even 18 months brings us much nearer to 2020 and the fines will start to kick in after 2019. It is at our back door and the way to tackle the gap is by having a plan. We have to move it forward speedily and I do not think moving it by six months is in any way adequate. We need to cut it from two years to six months.

As stated earlier, if we shorten it any further we would interfere with the process. In addition, consultations must also be entered into. I am glad that Deputy Stanley has welcomed the period of 18 months.

Some things are difficult to do because of time limits and restrictions of one kind or another and other things become less challenging. This place has stayed open all night to pass legislation in emergency situations. Many people who are very concerned about climate change would say this is an emergency situation. Not everybody is clued in about the issue or on the same wavelength but the people who have thought about it most and are most involved with it are really concerned that inaction is detrimental to all of us. It is just not fair that we continue to kick the can down the road.

There is an idea that we cannot make it shorter than 18 months because of one reason or another but everything is possible - tutto è possibile - if the Government really had the political will and the appetite. The Scots would put us to shame in how they have dealt with these matters. If they were here they would get over the obstacle presented by the option of taking less than 18 months so I appeal to the Minister again. We all know it is not totally accurate to say it cannot be done.

Debate adjourned.