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

I move amendment No. 153:

In page 22, between lines 30 and 31, to insert the following:

"Reports on annual targets: content

17. (1) In respect of each greenhouse gas, the report shall—

(a) state the amount of net emissions for the baseline year,

(b) state the amount of net emissions for the target year,

(c) state whether the amount of net emissions represents an increase or decrease compared to the equivalent amount for the previous target year,

(d) identify the methods used to measure or calculate the amount of net emissions (including in particular any change to those methods).

(2) The report shall also set out the aggregate amount for the target year of net emissions.

(3) The report shall also—

(a) state the amount of the net emissions account for the target year,

(b) state the proportion of the reduction in the net emissions account which is accounted for by reductions in net emissions,

(c) state the total amount of carbon units—

(i) that have been credited to or debited from the net emissions account for the target year,

(ii) that have been purchased in the target year,

(iii) that have been held and not surrendered in the target year,

(d) give details of the number and type of those carbon units.

(4) The report shall also—

(a) state the amount of gross electricity consumption for the target year,

(b) state the amount of electricity generation for the target year,

(c) state the average greenhouse gas emissions per megawatt hour of electricity generated in the target year,

(d) state the average greenhouse gas emissions per megawatt hour, and the estimated lifetime cumulative emissions, of any new electricity generation capacity greater than 50 megawatts approved in the target year.

(5) The report for each year in the period 2011-2050 shall—

(a) state the amount of the net emissions account for each preceding target year,

(b) state the cumulative amount of the net emissions account for the target year and all preceding target years.

(6) If the method of measuring or calculating net emissions changes and that change is such as to require adjustment of an amount for an earlier target year, the report shall specify the adjustment required and state the adjusted amount.

(7) An adjustment under subsection (6) shall, in so far as reasonably practicable, be made in accordance with international carbon reporting practice.

(8) If an amount mentioned in subsection (3)(a) or subsection (5)(a) or (b) for an earlier period requires to be adjusted, the report shall—

(a) explain why the adjustment is required,

(b) specify the adjustment required, and

(c) state the adjusted amount.

(9) The report may contain such other information as the Minister considers appropriate and, in particular, may state the amount of electricity generation from each source for the target year.".

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 154:

In page 22, between lines 30 and 31, to insert the following:

"Reports on proposals and policies for meeting annual targets

18. (1) As soon as reasonably practicable after making an order under section 5(1) setting annual targets, the Minister shall lay before the Houses of the Oireachtas a report containing the information outlined in subsections (5) to (10).

(2) The Minister shall, before laying a report under this section before the Houses of the Oireachtas, lay a draft of the report before the Houses of the Oireachtas.

(3) The Minister may not lay the report before the expiry of the period for consideration by the Houses of the Oireachtas.

(4) In subsection (3), the "period for consideration by the Houses of the Oireachtas" means the period of 60 days, of which no fewer than 30 shall be days on which the Houses of the Oireachtas is not dissolved or in recess.

(5) The Minister shall, before laying the report before the Houses of the Oireachtas, have regard to—

(a) any representations on the draft report made to them,

(b) any resolution relating to the draft report passed by the Houses of the Oireachtas, and

(c) any report relating to the draft report published by any committee of the Houses of the Oireachtas for the time being appointed by virtue of Standing Orders.

(6) The Minister shall, when laying the report before the Houses of the Oireachtas, lay a statement setting out—

(a) details of any representations, resolutions or reports mentioned in subsection (5),

(b) the changes (if any) they have made to the report in response to such representations, resolutions or reports and the reasons for those changes.

(7) The Minister shall, as soon as reasonably practicable after laying a report under this section, and in so far as reasonably practicable, make a statement to the Houses of the Oireachtas relating to the report.

(8) The report shall, in particular, set out—

(a) the Minister’s proposals and policies for meeting the annual targets,

(b) how those proposals and policies are expected to contribute towards the achievement of the interim target, the 2050 target and, in each target year, the domestic effort target,

(c) the timescales over which those proposals and policies are expected to take effect.

(9) The report shall also set out the Minister’s proposals and policies regarding the respective contributions towards meeting the annual targets that should be made by—

(a) energy efficiency,

(b) energy generation,

(c) land use,

(d) transport.

(10) The report shall also explain how the proposals and policies set out in the report are expected to affect different sectors of the economy.

(11) The second and each subsequent report under this section—

(a) shall contain an assessment of the progress towards implementing proposals and policies set out in earlier reports,

(b) may make such adjustments to those proposals and policies as the Minister considers appropriate.".

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 155:

In page 22, between lines 30 and 31, to insert the following:

"Reports on proposals and policies where annual targets were not met

19. (1) This section—

(a) applies if the Minister lays a report under section 16 which states that an annual target has not been met or that the domestic effort target has not been met in the target year to which the report relates,

(b) does not apply if that report relates to the annual target for 2050.

(2) As soon as reasonably practicable after the report referred to in subsection (1)(a) has been laid, the Minister shall lay a report before the Houses of the Oireachtas setting out proposals and policies to compensate in future years for the excess emissions.".

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 156:

In page 22, between lines 30 and 31, to insert the following:

"Reports on emissions attributable to consumption of goods and services

20. (1) The Minister shall lay before the Houses of the Oireachtas a report in respect of each year in the period 2015-2050 containing the information outlined in subsections (2) and (3).

(2) The report shall, in so far as reasonably practicable, set out the emissions of greenhouse gases (whether in the State or elsewhere) which are produced by or otherwise associated with the consumption and use of goods and services during that year.

(3) The report may also contain such other information as the Minister considers appropriate.".

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 157:

In page 22, between lines 30 and 31, to insert the following:

"Reports on impact on emissions of exercise of electricity generation related functions

21. (1) The Minister shall lay before the Houses of the Oireachtas a report in respect of each year in the period 2015-2050 containing the information outlined in subsection (2).

(2) The report shall, in so far as reasonably practicable, set out the impact on net emissions during that year resulting from the exercise by the Minister of the functions conferred on them by virtue of any enactment relating to electricity generation.".

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 158:

In page 22, between lines 30 and 31, to insert the following:

"Report on progress towards meeting the interim target

22. (1) The Minister shall, no later than 31 December 2016, lay before the Houses of the Oireachtas a report on progress towards meeting the interim target.

(2) The report shall, in particular, state the progress that has been made in reducing net emissions and indicate whether this progress is consistent with a reduction over the period 2015-2020 of net emissions accounts which would allow the interim target and the 2050 target to be met.".

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 159:

In page 22, between lines 30 and 31, to insert the following:

"Report on the interim target

23. (1) The Minister shall lay before the Houses of the Oireachtas a report containing the information outlined in subsections (4) and (5) in respect of the year 2020.

(2) The report shall state whether the interim target has been met.

(3) If the interim target has not been met, the report shall explain the reason for same.

(4) In respect of each greenhouse gas, the report shall state the amount of net emissions for 2020.

(5) The report shall also—

(a) state the amount of the net emissions account for 2020,

(b) state the cumulative amount of the net emissions account for the period 2015-2020,

(c) state the total amount of carbon units—

(i) that have been credited to or debited from the net emissions account for 2020,

(ii) that have been purchased in 2020,

(iii) that have been held and not surrendered in 2020,

(d) give details of the number and type of those carbon units.

(6) In subsections (4) and (5), the amount means the amount set out in the report for 2020 made under section 16.

(7) The report shall contain such other information as the Minister considers appropriate.

(8) The report under this section shall be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas no later than 31 October 2022.".

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 160:

In page 22, between lines 30 and 31, to insert the following:

"Report on the 2050 target

24. (1) The Minister shall lay before the Houses of the Oireachtas a report containing the information outlined in subsections (4) and (5) in respect of the year 2050.

(2) The report shall state whether the 2050 target has been met.

(3) If the 2050 target has not been met, the report shall explain the reason for same.

(4) In respect of each greenhouse gas, the report shall state the amount of net emissions for 2050.

(5) The report shall also—

(a) state the amount of the net emissions account for 2050,

(b) state the cumulative amount of the net emissions account for the period 2015-2050,

(c) state the total amount of carbon units—

(i) that have been credited to or debited from the net emissions account for 2050,

(ii) that have been purchased in 2050,

(iii) that have been held and not surrendered in 2050,

(d) give details of the number and type of those carbon units.

(6) In subsections (4) and (5), the amount means the amount set out in the report for 2050 made under section 16.

(7) The report may contain such other information as the Minister considers appropriate.

(8) The report under this section shall be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas no later than 31 October 2052.".

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendment No. 161 is ruled out of order.

Amendment No. 161 not moved.
Bill, as amended, received for final consideration.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

In many senses, the Bill falls short of what Sinn Féin would like to see in a climate change Bill. However, given that we have no legislation on greenhouse reduction and climate change, time is not on our side and we need to move. I and others have spoken many times during the past two years about the need to avoid a carbon cliff and the fact that we are playing catch up regarding meeting our climate change obligations and dealing with this important issue. Although people do not see it as an immediate issue, it is probably the most serious issue that faces the planet for every one of us and, in particular, those who will come after us. The Government has accepted some amendments to the Bill on different Stages, which I welcome. However, in many respects the Bill falls short of what was proposed by the all-party Oireachtas committee. The absence of defined sectoral targets is a weakness. Much more could have been done to strengthen the national plan. The Government has talked about a democratic revolution, although it is a cliché now. This was an opportunity to put it into practice by giving the Oireachtas a greater role in Government accountability and the different climate change sectors.

The Bill does not go far enough on climate justice. While I welcome the Government’s amendment regarding a timeline for adoption, the time should have been shorter. It should have been six months. However, it is a step in the right direction. The Bill falls short of what we would have liked to have seen and the Bill I brought before the House nearly two years ago. However, we must factor in the fact that we have no legislation on this important issue. In the Bill, we have a framework, albeit inadequate. We are moving in the right direction and we will support the Bill on this basis. We hope this and future Governments will seek to change this over the coming years. It is not just a party political issue but an issue for humankind and the planet. We in the developed world produce so much more carbon than people in less developed countries. We have a major responsibility, particularly here in Ireland.

There are competing interests. Our food sector is very important and Sinn Féin wants to protect it and allow it to develop. During the debate, we put forward ideas on diversification in farming to ensure we are not over-reliant on beef and dairy. While they are important, there are other sectors in agriculture, such as sugar beet, which we need to develop. We can do this without increasing carbon emissions. We can reduce emissions if we diversify and it will be good for the environment, the economy and local communities.

While the Bill falls short, it is a move in the right direction and pushes us forward, given that we have no legislation in place. The disappointment is that it has taken so long to put it in place through this and previous Governments. Now that we have the Bill, we should not delay one more day. Time is not on our side. We already have a carbon cliff to climb. We cannot allow it to happen and we cannot keep fire fighting on these issues. Apart from the damage to the environment, there will be damage to the economy due to the need to buy carbon credits. It is important that we move ahead. I ask the Government and whoever forms the next Government to be open minded about making changes and further strengthening the legislative framework around carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions during the months and years ahead. It is important for all of us. Apart from political responsibility as Sinn Féin spokesperson on the environment, as a citizen, parent and grandparent I feel a responsibility on my shoulders. When we are all dead and gone, people will ask what we did about it. Whatever party or group we are in, we are all concerned about it. This is a big step forward. I would like to go further. Let us drive on with it and be open minded to changing and improving it in the months and years ahead.

I am sorry to say I am not as enthused. It is very disappointing that the Government ruled out of order amendments that were deemed to involve a potential charge on the Exchequer. By refusing to commit to ambitious greenhouse gas emission targets, the Government is incurring a cost to the Exchequer and a global, human cost that will become worse. Those who live on or near the Equator are already faced with daily life or death circumstances as a result of climate change and this Government's lack of action makes Ireland complicit. However, the insular and short-sighted thinking that dominates Irish politics has very little room for this reality, nor does it see the lives of people - in Ireland or abroad - as having any real value. The Minister might think my analysis is harsh. The Bill has been described as the worst climate change Bill that has seen the light of day in Europe. So much was expected of it, while the Government has given so little. Although I realise the Bill will pass, under no circumstances would I put my name to it. The Bill is a massive disappointment.

While I will not repeat the discussions we have had over the days during which we discussed the Report Stage amendments, I echo Deputy Wallace's point. The considered and detailed work the environment committee did in preparation for the Bill has largely been ignored in the end product. Although I might have criticised the conclusions the committee came to, I look back on those days and think if the Government had even listened to what the environment committee unanimously proposed, we would be in a much healthier position. It is a tragic lost opportunity. Passing the Bill will be meaningless. If we do not pass it, we would still be obligated to produce legislation, but the onus would be on us to produce something meaningful with targets.

People from my constituency have contacted me to say they believe this is the biggest issue facing society - I agree with them - and to ask how in God's name I could support anything that has no substance to it whatsoever. Obviously, the answer is that I could not. I am reminded of the debate we had when the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013 was introduced by the Government. It was proposed as a positive measure that was supposedly the first piece of abortion legislation in the history of the State. At that time, we had to find ourselves opposing it because while it allowed for some abortion in limited circumstances, it criminalised the activity and allowed many problems to remain. This Bill is quite similar. If it is passed, there is no doubt it will lead to Ireland continuing to miss its targets, lagging way behind and being liable for financial charges for not keeping pace with its obligations. The human cost of our lack of action is more important than the financial cost. I am unable to support the passing of this Bill for those reasons.

I acknowledge all the Deputies who contributed to the debate on this Bill. I accept that not everybody is happy with what is in the Bill, but I am satisfied that adequate opportunity for debate was provided and that we had a robust debate on the amendments that were proposed.

I acknowledge the support of Deputy Stanley, who said we cannot afford to delay another day. As he said, this historic legislation sets out a framework or roadmap for this country as it seeks to advance and decarbonise its economy in many ways. Many critical matters feed into that. The national mitigation plan, about which I spoke in great detail during the debate, is an essential mechanism if we are to achieve decarbonisation in this country and to meet the climate change challenge that faces our citizens and people all over the world. There is no doubt that Ireland will have to and will play its part in meeting that challenge. The sectoral adaptation plan will afford the sectoral interests in this country an opportunity to engage in a proactive way and to assist in reducing our carbon emissions. I do not doubt that we will have to use all our resources, including our best brains in academia and our best practitioners, to bring forward technological innovation and reform where necessary to reduce carbon emissions in all these sectors.

I am under no illusions regarding the challenge that remains. The Deputies opposite will acknowledge that this is not a political issue. It is a global issue that demands a response from us all. I am happy that this historic legislation was introduced by this Government. I look forward to bringing it to the Upper House. Further debate across society is to be welcomed. I encourage debate at all levels on how people can find ways to make a contribution in order that Ireland plays its part in the global context. I commend the Bill. I am glad it is being passed by the Dáil. I look forward to bringing it to the Seanad.

Question put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 74; Níl, 10.

  • Bannon, James.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Byrne, Eric.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Collins, Áine.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Colreavy, Michael.
  • Connaughton, Paul J.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Dowds, Robert.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Ferris, Anne.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Flanagan, Terence.
  • Halligan, John.
  • Hannigan, Dominic.
  • Harrington, Noel.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Keating, Derek.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kirk, Seamus.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lawlor, Anthony.
  • Lyons, John.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McLellan, Sandra.
  • McNamara, Michael.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Nolan, Derek.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
  • Varadkar, Leo.
  • Wall, Jack.
  • White, Alex.

Níl

  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Coppinger, Ruth.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Higgins, Joe.
  • Mathews, Peter.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Wallace, Mick.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Paul Kehoe and Emmet Stagg; Níl, Deputies Clare Daly and Mick Wallace.
Question declared carried.