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

Debate resumed on amendment No. 31:
In page 6, between lines 14 and 15, to insert the following:
“(a) this shall include agreed targets of reductions in CO2 emissions through 2050,”.
- (Deputy Brian Stanley)

This amendment relates to the key question of targets so that we can chart whether we are making concrete and tangible progress towards reducing CO2 emissions or whether our mitigation plans for reducing emissions are just aspirational general policy objectives and not really measurable in terms of real improvements and reductions. This goes to the heart of the matter we debated on Committee Stage and are debating again now, namely, the Government’s resistance to the introduction of specific measurable targets which could establish whether we are making real progress over the plan’s period.

As I said before the sos, although it was not the Government’s decision, it is an interesting coincidence that some of the more specific amendments relating to targets were ruled out of order on the grounds they would be a charge on the Exchequer. This really gets to the heart of the matter because we are going to have to put money into meeting targets and dealing with climate change. This is why the Government does not want to commit to these targets and why it did not want the afforestation targets I proposed in the forestry Bill. Generally, the Government does not like targets because they are measurable and specific. It likes very general targets that can be pushed way out into the future so it cannot be held accountable as to whether tangible progress has been made towards meeting general aspirational targets, and as we know with so many of the Government’s aspirational targets announced a few years out. For example, in response to one of the topical issues of the moment, the Government said it was going to get rid of homelessness by 2016. Here we are approaching 2016 but we are going in the opposite direction in dealing with the problem. It sounded very good when it was initially proposed. That is the problem with general far-out targets. They sound good now but often will not materialise unless there is a clear tangible roadmap towards the achievement of those targets and where we can measure our progress on a yearly basis.

That is why many of us on this side of the House are pushing for more specific binding targets. It is telling that the Government is resisting these amendments and proposals. Members on this side are merely acting as conduits for those environmental groups campaigning on the whole area of climate change. Those groups are adamant that we must have these types of targets. If we do not, then we are not serious about dealing with climate change. Given its response to those calls for specific targets, it is clear the Government is not serious and this is just window-dressing, as is so often the case with legislation it puts through to deal with matters of critical importance.

This amendment calls for the inclusion of targets up to 2050. This is a very similar amendment to those on which we spoke last night. Establishing domestic mitigation targets divorced from EU processes is not wise because Ireland is already subject to legally binding greenhouse gas mitigation targets up to 2020. Negotiations are ongoing at EU level to agree mitigation targets for all member states up to 2030 and the process of target-setting is likely to continue up to 2050. Accordingly, putting in place our own statutory mitigation targets would likely cut across and interfere with the EU target-setting process. Accordingly, I cannot accept this amendment.

The Minister of State is concerned we might cut across the EU process which is likely to set targets up to 2030. The whole point of the amendment, however, is that we set out our own targets. We have to take responsibility to put our own house in order. We have neglected this issue for the past several years and now, not just the Government but every citizen must play catch-up on climate change. We should not sit back and wait for Big Brother to tell us when to move with the centre line. This issue is vitally important to the future economic as well as environmental and social well-being of the State.

It is important we accept this modest proposal to include agreed targets of reductions in CO2 emissions through 2050. I cannot figure out for the life of me why the Government is against a 30-year plan in this regard. The Minister of State may recall that the Dáil sat into the early hours of the morning - the sun was shining when we left Leinster House - when we planned beyond 2050 and crystallised the promissory note into a sovereign bond. We planned then beyond 2050 when we nailed the debt to the backs of our children with a simple IOU note.

This amendment gives us an opportunity to act positively in dealing with our environmental responsibilities, reduce our carbon emissions and put forward the country’s clean air levels. The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government made an announcement on the latter on Monday concerning clean air. This amendment gives another chance to add to that positive development, highlighting Ireland takes its environmental responsibilities seriously.

We are trying to sell Irish food abroad. Somewhere along the line, we have to improve, and be seen to improve, food quality, not just the food we are consuming here but what we are exporting to world markets. There is much talk about opening up markets in China and, particularly, the high-end market in America. We have to be seen to be green and clean. Our food needs to be seen as safe. This is an opportunity to do this.

It would be a missed opportunity if we just planned for the next four or five years.

We should not be sitting back and waiting for the EU. How many times in the past 30 or 40 years has the EU had to come in?

One moment now. How many times-----

Deputy Stanley has had two minutes. He can come in again. Does he realise that?

-----has the EU had to come in and give us a crack of the whip? The whip is to get us into line and do the things we should have done years ago. We should pre-empt the EU, do it ourselves, stand on our own two feet and be in compliance with the EU targets by all means.

Does the Minister of State wish to comment?

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 46; Níl, 64.

  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Browne, John.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Colreavy, Michael.
  • Coppinger, Ruth.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Donnelly, Stephen S.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Fleming, Tom.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Halligan, John.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Higgins, Joe.
  • Keaveney, Colm.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kirk, Seamus.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • Mathews, Peter.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • McLellan, Sandra.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Troy, Robert.
  • Wallace, Mick.

Níl

  • Bannon, James.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Conaghan, Michael.
  • Conlan, Seán.
  • Conway, Ciara.
  • Coonan, Noel.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Creighton, Lucinda.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Dowds, Robert.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Harrington, Noel.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Hayes, Tom.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Keating, Derek.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lawlor, Anthony.
  • Lynch, Ciarán.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McFadden, Gabrielle.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Murphy, Dara.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Perry, John.
  • Phelan, Ann.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Sherlock, Sean.
  • Spring, Arthur.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Timmins, Billy.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
  • Twomey, Liam.
  • Wall, Jack.
  • White, Alex.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Brian Stanley and Richard Boyd Barrett; Níl, Deputies Joe Carey and Emmet Stagg.
Amendment declared lost.
Debate adjourned.