Petroleum and Other Minerals Development (Amendment) (Climate Emergency Measures) Bill 2018: Motion

I move:

That Dáil Éireann:

notes that:

— in February 2018, Dáil Éireann agreed the second reading motion of the Petroleum and Other Minerals Development (Amendment) (Climate Emergency Measures) Bill 2018 and referred the Bill to the Select Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment;

— pursuant to Standing Order 141, detailed scrutiny was undertaken by the Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment prior to Committee Stage consideration;

— in December 2018, the Joint Committee divided on the Question on the draft detailed scrutiny report (which recommended that the Bill progress to Select Committee consideration), and, as there was an equality of votes, the Question was, pursuant to Standing Orders, decided in the negative;

— at a subsequent Joint Committee meeting in February 2019, an amendment to the scrutiny report was agreed in the following terms:

‘The Joint Committee having completed its scrutiny of the Bill has to report that it finds itself unable to recommend for or against the Bill proceeding to Third Stage.’;

and

— when a separate vote was taken to adopt the amended report and lay it before both Houses, there was again an equality of votes and the question was decided in the negative and the Committee therefore arrived at no decision;

further notes that Standing Order 141, while allowing a Joint Committee to undertake detailed scrutiny, did not anticipate that the Joint Committee would fail to report to both Houses; and therefore agrees that the requirement for the Select Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment (having embarked on scrutiny in Joint Committee, pursuant to Standing Order 141(c) to report, prior to Committee Stage, on its detailed scrutiny of the Petroleum and Other Minerals Development (Amendment) (Climate Emergency Measures) Bill 2018, is hereby discharged.

The Deputy's group has 20 minutes so I presume she is sharing time.

I am aware of that and we will share time. Our group is very sharing.

Will the Deputy make me aware if they are sharing?

I will.

A year ago, as Members know, the Petroleum and Other Minerals Development (Amendment) (Climate Emergency Measures) Bill 2018 passed Second Stage in the House by a big margin of 78 to 48. In reality, given that we are in a climate emergency, this Bill should have been law by now. We should have been joining a historic group of countries such as Costa Rica, France, Belize and New Zealand, which, instead of being laggards when it comes to climate change, are world leaders because they did what this Bill sets out to do in its beautiful simplicity, namely to keep all fossil fuels in the ground.

I thank the Green Party for allowing us to take this motion tonight because we swapped Private Members' time with it. This is the second time we have used Private Members' time to attempt to pass this Bill. I would love to use this time to deal with the housing or health crises or issues of inequality all over this country, but, through a spirit of meanness, the Fine Gael party insisted that we use Private Members' time to move a simple motion that basically asks the Government to stop strangling this Bill and to get it out of the hostage hold that the committee has on it because it is the victim of an unprecedented procedural wrangle that has never happened to legislation previously.

We are using our Private Members' time to try to get it out of this wrangle but I have to ask why that is. Why are we so insistent on putting Members through a painful, repetitive and blatantly discriminatory wrangle of dragging us through and using Private Members' time yet again to get this Bill out of limbo? The reason we are doing it is that this Government and the Minister of State, Deputy Jim Daly's, party is held hostage by the fossil fuel industry. The industry's record of lobbying the Government's Ministers, Senators and Deputies is second to none. A recently retired adviser to the Taoiseach is now leading the lobbying in these Chambers and in the corridors of power on behalf of the industry. It is no secret that he is leading that lobbying but is it not outrageous that the Government, Fine Gael and the Independents on the Government's benches would listen to him and the interests of those who make vast profits from oil, gas and coal, rather than listen to the tens of thousands of children who took strike action across this country less than two weeks ago? These are the children whom the Minister, Deputy Bruton and the chairman of the committee, Deputy Naughton, stood smiling at, patronising and telling them how wonderful they were while, at the same time, the Government is blocking the exact thing that the children want it to do, namely to keep fossil fuels in the ground. Their slogan was: "We need system change not climate change! Keep it in the ground."

What I found interesting coming back here was that a year later I had to ask myself what had happened in that year with all the licences issued for fossil fuel exploration. When one looks at the record online, in the final six months of last year, a total of 12 exploration licences were issued, covering more than 15,000 sq. km offshore which belongs to the people of Ireland. Some 15,000 sq. km has been practically privatised and given away to the oil industry to explore and to exploit. Who are they? Who are the faces who are using the lobbying privileges in Dáil Éireann for their benefit? Exxon Mobil is one. It is facing losing its lobbying privileges in the European Parliament because its representatives failed to turn up for the first hearing on climate change. Exxon Mobil is a climate denier and, interestingly, it supported the property tax. This oil giant publicly supported the Paris agreement but has drawn the ire of scientists, academics and environmentalists because of its climate obfuscation and it is one of the companies that has been given a licence. Another one, interestingly, is Nexen Petroleum, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Chinese national offshore oil company.

The Minister of State will reply that if this Bill is passed, energy security for the people is not guaranteed. I know that because Fine Gael repeatedly says that but the Government has no problem doing deals with Russian and Chinese owned companies to exploit the resources in Irish waters on behalf of private companies. This is all apparently done with Fine Gael's vision of how to stop climate change. I appeal to the Minister of State and to the Government to listen to the kids. They get it; the Government does not.

This is a pivotal moment in respect of climate change and the environment in Ireland. To try to stop this Bill would be unforgivable. The Government and its agents have done everything to subvert the democratic will of this House and this Bill. The skullduggery and tomfoolery of what is going on has been absolutely shocking. The process has been rigged from the very start to subvert that process. It is not the first time. Other Bills have been subverted, particularly in respect of medical cannabis. Other Bills from Solidarity-PBP have been subverted. New politics seems a very distant term that was bandied around this place. It seems very antiquated and jaded. I have said before that there is a democratic deficit in this House where the majority of Deputies who want to see popular legislation for the will of the people, this has been always subverted. I would go as far as to say this Government has lost its legitimacy to rule. Many people are looking on and asking about the effects on the environment. As Deputy Bríd Smith said, there has to be a reason the Government is so adamantly opposed to the Bill. It is clear that the reason is there are vested interests, particularly oil companies, which have the ear of the Government. The majority of people want decisive action on the environment by supporting this motion.

The slogan of the environmental movement has been one of system change, not climate change. To challenge that, we have to challenge the elephant in the room, which is capitalism. Capitalism is the source of all the evils of environmental catastrophe and vandalism. The pursuit of insatiable profits by oil companies and by the big multinationals in the world has brought the planet to the brink of a catastrophe. Until we challenge that we will skirt around the edges of the environmental movement. This comes down to ideology. Fine Gael's ideology is wedded in the market system and capitalism. The main thing that the environmental movement going for it is mass movement. Greta Thunberg and the many people who have been at the protests over the past 11 days have been calling for environmental action. Climate action and environmental justice are the new civil rights of a new generation. This generation has become very politicised and radicalised in respect of environmental issues. They are not going to accept the ways of the past. There was a misconception that environmental issues were the preserve of a few people in the upper echelons of society. That has fundamentally changed. It is the preserve of the many of the people on this planet. If the Government is the few, well, the few is up. We have to change this planet and we have to change the ideology that comes with it.

At least with the Taoiseach's predecessor, Deputy Enda Kenny, we got the truth about Fine Gael's attitude to climate change and the establishment parties' attitudes to climate change. Deputy Kenny went to Paris for the climate talks and he said simply and honestly - I suppose we can grant him that - that climate change is just not a priority for the Irish Government. That was the truth then and it is clearly the truth now, as demonstrated by the actions of the Government in general on the issue of climate and in respect of this Bill. The difference with the present Taoiseach, Deputy Varadkar, is not that the policy has changed one iota; it is that the spin and the rhetoric has changed as part of this image of a progressive, socially liberal leader on the world stage. There is the idea that now the Government cares about our future and about the climate. We have speeches from the Taoiseach saying we are laggards on climate change, which is correct, and that we have to change. He was patting the students on strike ten days ago on the back and patronising them as he said, "Fair play, it is great they are taking action", and so on. He is cynically using environmental arguments to consider again greenwashing austerity policies, as the Government has done in the past. However, fundamentally there is no change whatsoever in the attitude of this Government. Ireland is the second worst country in terms of meeting targets in the entire European Union. There is a refusal to do anything substantial about it.

When it comes to this Bill, the Government is not just doing nothing but it is actively operating to subvert the will of this Dáil and the vast majority of people by seeking to block legislation that has passed Second Stage through undemocratic, backroom manoeuvres. It is an absolute scandal that the time of the Dáil has to be used tonight to push this through when it could have been done without debate and we could have got on to debating the substance of the Bill on Committee Stage. It is revealing about the attitude of the Government. It is absolute madness that in a situation when we know that the current world's known fossil fuel reserves are four or five times as much as can be burned without destroying our planet that the Government would like to be able to continue to issue exploration licences. It speaks to a deep blindness on the part of the Government and the political establishment. This blindness is reflected around the world. It is a refusal to take action both by those who do not accept the science, including the likes of Donald Trump, and those who claim they do accept the science such as this Government. In a sense, it is even worse. The Government acknowledges the role of human action in climate change but it will not do anything about it. On the surface, from the point of view of humanity as a whole, it seems entirely irrational. The actions of world leaders are equivalent to lemmings leading all of humanity off a cliff of environmental catastrophe. The only explanation is that vested interests stand in the way of the interests of humanity as a whole. The vested interests of the fossil fuel industry, which represent some of the most powerful corporations in the world with the greatest political clout, are fighting a rearguard battle in Ireland to try to prevent this Bill going through. They are doing so for two reasons. They want to continue to explore here and, perhaps even more important, they understand the international significance of the Bill if it was passed. They do not want a message to go out saying that the rule of the fossil fuel companies is coming to an end and they are going to be restricted.

It is a microcosm of the more general problem. The science is clear. The latest IPCC report stated that we have 12 years to avoid global warming going over 1.5°C. That is now less than 11 and a half years. After that, another 0.5°C increase would have absolutely devastating consequences such as sea level rises affecting 10 million people, 99% of coral being damaged and insects wiped out. Humanity has managed to cause the extinction of 83% of the world's mammals. The current level of commitments from governments worldwide, which are not even being kept, would result in a 3°C rise. In terms of what is being done, we are heading for a 4°C to 5°C increase in temperature, which would be devastating for our planet and for the people and species living on it. Fundamentally, capitalism stands in the way. The drive for private property and those people who control the economy and make the decisions about how our world works stand in the way of doing what is rational from the point of view of society and humanity as a whole. That is precisely why a movement is essential. Without a movement, capitalist governments around the world will not move a single inch. It is why the school students' strikes ten days ago were so impressive, impactful and important. We had about 1.5 million school students taking strike action in the biggest global day of school student strike action ever seen in the history of the world.

More than 10,000 - perhaps as many as 15,000 - young people in Dublin and 5,000 to 7,000 across the country were involved. These young people are leading the way, and have already forced the resignation of the Belgian climate minister. She will not be the last minister to be claimed by this movement for refusing to do what is necessary.

We have to argue that others follow the lead. The Government should be following the lead, but we know what interest stands in the way. We also have to argue that trade unions follow that lead. Workers should have a vital interest in a plan for a rapid and just transition to a zero-carbon economy. Workers in unsustainable industries should be guaranteed a transfer to a good job in a sustainable sector. That movement must be armed with an eco-socialist programme. These are the only policies that give us a chance to achieve what the science clearly says we need to achieve in a very small space of time. We have to pass the legislation required to keep fossil fuels in the ground. It is absolute madness that we would consider extracting and burning more fossil fuels. We have to re-nationalise the fossil fuels that exist in this country and keep them all in the ground.

Other policies are needed. We need free public transport. We have to get people out of cars and into properly funded, free, quality public transport served by well-paid workers with decent conditions. The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, recently told us that this would cost €600 million, which is the same figure we could be facing in fines from the EU because of our lack of action on climate change from next year. We need a massive home retrofitting programme. Ireland has the worst emissions from households in the European Union - some 60% more than average - because the quality of our house-building is so poor. A massive programme of retrofitting, including solar panels and insulation, is needed. We need a programme of transition in agriculture to transform our biggest emitting sector. It is completely unsustainable. This should be done on the basis of public ownership of big agribusinesses and a different model of grants, which would enable the shift to a fundamentally different model of agriculture from what we currently have.

The fundamental point is that we need to have a societal change. As Deputy Bríd Smith said, the dominant slogan on the climate change march was "system change, not climate change". The system standing in the way is capitalism, and in my view the change we need to see is socialist change. This is fundamentally captured by the idea that we know the 100 corporations responsible for the 71% of emissions. We know who they are., what they have done and why they have done it. It has been done to maximise profits, and because capitalism treats the environment as an externality that those companies simply do not have to care about. The economy cannot continue in the same way if we are to have the rapid transition we require. The idea that these polluting companies, in private ownership, are going to change in the necessary way in the next 12 years is incorrect; it is not going to happen. In order to preserve a habitable world we need to take those companies into public ownership and democratic control so that we can rationalise, reprioritise and restructure production to create a permanently sustainable economy. It is simply not possible for an economy based on private ownership as a means of production to undergo the rapid transition required. A democratically planned economy is required in order to suppress fossil fuel extraction and usage and to transition quickly and justly to a renewables-based economy.

Karl Marx outlined that even an entire society, a nation or all simultaneously existing societies taken together, are not the owners of the earth. They are simply its possessors, its beneficiaries and have to bequeath it in an improved state to succeeding generations. It is only on the basis of those eco-socialist policies that that bequeathing can take place. Capitalism has outlived its usefulness for humanity. This is nowhere better demonstrated than the climate crisis we are in. It has destroyed our environment and disrupted our climate. It has relegated a billion people to the point of slow death by starvation and malnutrition. It offers no way forward. Instead, we need a rapid and just transition to an economy based on zero emissions. This means leaving fossil fuels in the ground, investing in the transition to renewable energy, passive houses, retrofitting, free public transport and democratic planning over our economy in order to meet the needs of people and the planet.

I move amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after “Dáil Éireann” and substitute the following:

“recognises that climate change is one of the most pressing issues facing humanity on a global scale and it is vital that Ireland plays a strong role in addressing it;

-notes that Ireland is expected to only achieve a single per cent reduction by 2020 against its non-Emissions Trading Scheme target of a 20 per cent reduction;

-acknowledges that there is a need to step up Ireland’s progress and ambition in this area;

-welcomes the significant increase in the share of electricity from renewable sources which now account for 30 per cent of total electricity demand, and calls on the Government to set an ambitious target for 2030;

-notes the need to reduce fossil fuel consumption across the entire economy in order to make progress towards the national transition objective of a competitive, low-carbon, climate-resilient and environmentally sustainable economy by 2050;

further recognises that:

-the transition to a low-carbon economy is a transition for all of Ireland’s citizens and, therefore, its socio-economic impacts must be carefully managed; and

-the response to climate change will require difficult choices and that every person, community, business, home, farm and school will have to make changes in their day-today activities;

-recalls the Citizens’ Assembly report on how the State can make Ireland a leader in tackling climate change, including the 17 recommendations made by the members of the Assembly;

-also recalls the establishment of the Oireachtas Special Joint Committee on Climate Action to consider the report and recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly;

-looks forward to all-party support for the Special Joint Committee’s report, its conclusions and recommendations;

and

-calls on the Government to urgently bring forward an all-of-Government plan which will set out the actions that must be taken to make Ireland a leader in responding to climate change and providing for a significant increase over the next decade in the level of renewable energy in our energy mix.

We are all agreed on the destination we need to arrive at as a country in terms of the objective of a competitive, low carbon, climate-resilient and environmentally sustainable economy by 2050. It is also recognised that there is a need to step up Ireland’s progress and ambition in this area. In terms of the how we get there, and with this Bill specifically, there is clearly a difference in approach.

At its meetings on 18 December 2018 and 19 February 2019, the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment was not able to adopt a pre-legislative scrutiny report on this Bill. The Government did not vote to progress the Bill as it does not support it, for reasons I will go into shortly. The clerk to the committee has confirmed that all the rules have been followed correctly.

The motion put down by People Before Profit does not relate to the content of the Bill itself, but rather proposes to bypass the agreed Standing Orders of the House. Clearly, we would have a concern if we move to a situation where the agreed Standing Orders could be changed on a case-by-case basis. Such an approach could make the work of this House very difficult.

We have outlined previously the fundamental issues we have with this Bill. It is not seeking to reduce Ireland’s emissions, and does not help us reach our 2020 or 2030 emissions targets. It is simply forcing Ireland to import the fossil fuels it uses. It seeks to commit Ireland to this course of action at a time when the Kinsale gas fields are due to cease production in the very near future and Corrib production is already in decline.

The EU’s import dependency for natural gas has increased from 43% in 1995 to 70% in 2016, and its import dependency for petroleum and petroleum products reached 87%. The Bill is, therefore, a conscious decision by Ireland to rely on a relatively small number of petroleum provinces, many located in areas of political instability, for our future oil and gas supplies. The reality is that all credible forecast models, such as those of the International Energy Agency, show that we will continue to need some fossil fuels when meeting the ambition set out in the Paris Agreement. The agency sees the need for continued investment in oil and gas projects to meet energy demand, even in deep decarbonisation scenarios. It also identified a continuing and growing need for oil and gas as non-energy raw materials for many products.

In a European context, the UK, Norway, and Denmark, as well as Ireland, continue to explore and produce natural gas and oil to help meet a part of Europe's future energy needs, and reduce energy imports from Russia and the Middle East, while Europe plays a leading role globally in the transition to a low-carbon future. Within that context, it is accepted that Ireland will continue to require and use some, but significantly reduced, fossil fuels to meet the needs of our people, farmers and industry. We cannot ignore this fact and look to address any concerns with producing oil and gas by leaving it up to other States to deal with it. It must also be pointed out that countries such as Ireland which are in the European Union have a much higher level of environmental regulation than many of the oil and gas provinces across the world. It is not reasonable to take a measure which will not reduce our emissions but at the same time will reduce the State’s energy security.

However, we clearly must reduce our fossil fuel consumption across the entire economy. This will reduce our emissions and, at the same time, improve our energy security by further reducing our energy imports. In that light, the Government has tabled a countermotion, which recognises that urgent actions in respect of climate action must be taken and done so in a comprehensive way that respects our energy security and affordability of energy to our citizens. The motion recognises that climate change is one of the most pressing issues facing humanity on a global scale and that there is a need to step up Ireland’s progress and ambition in this area. Specifically, it calls on the Government to urgently bring forward an all-of-Government plan which will set out the actions that must be taken to make Ireland a leader in responding to climate change and providing for a significant increase over the next decade in the level of renewable energy in our energy mix.

I can confirm that the plan will have a strong focus on implementation, including actions with specific timelines and steps needed to achieve each action, assigning clear lines of responsibility for delivery. The new plan will also be informed by successful approaches in other countries. This plan will build on the previous actions taken by the Government, including in the national mitigation plan and the national development plan, and is to be completed shortly. In developing the plan, the Minister, Deputy Bruton, intends that it will address any recommendations that the joint committee includes in its report. These real, tangible, decisive actions will reduce our emissions. For example, the Minister, Deputy Bruton, announced on Monday that as part of the all-of-Government climate plan, we are stepping up our ambition on renewable electricity.

Currently 30% of our electricity comes from renewable sources. The Minister said he will put in place the actions necessary to deliver 70% of our electricity from renewable sources by 2030. This will have a transformative impact on our carbon emissions.

Similarly a range of measures have been put in place for those buying electric cars, such as a purchase grant, VRT relief and toll discounts. The Minister recently approved funding of up to €10 million to support ESB eCars to develop a nationwide, state-of-the-art electric vehicle fast charging network. We are starting to see results with the number of electric vehicles on the road having doubled in the past year. Furthermore, CSO figures published last week show more than 1,400 new electric vehicles have been licensed in the first two months of 2019. This is more than four times the number licensed in the same two months of last year.

We must continue to roll-out these types of measures, which in some cases will require difficult choices. The reality is every person, community, business, home, farm and school will have to make changes in their day-to-day activities.

The motion put forward to progress the Bill will not in practical terms reduce Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions. It will not change our use of fossil fuels. What it will do is eliminate potential secure sources of supply for both Ireland and the European Union. I believe the course of action set out in the Government's amendment offers a considerably better path for Ireland to step up progress and ambition in this area.

As a member of the committee that has been debating this issue at length for the past two years and in more recent months has been debating the issue in detail and indeed the procedural issues which are at the heart of the motion before us, I know only too well the issues at play in the very important wider climate-action debate and the necessity for urgent action in what is an emergency situation.

Before I deal with the substance of the Bill, it is important to address the procedural and technical matters at the heart of tonight's motion. It is critical to address that procedural issue not just for this Bill but for many similar Bills before the House. New politics has promised much but delivered little. New politics promised and still contains an opportunity for a separation of powers to be manifested within these Houses. The notion, as reflected in our Constitution, that we have an Executive, a Judiciary and a Parliament all equal but opposite holding each other to account, which is a paramount principle of modern parliamentary democracy, is one that we should hold dear and execute, but unfortunately it has been honoured more in the breach than in the observance for most of the time of the State because we have had majority governments.

The job of the Legislature is to legislate, but with all-powerful executives with majorities in the House, that has not been the experience in many Dáileanna. This is the first Dáil where the numbers dictate that that can come into being. However, despite having an arithmetic that Private Members' Bills can and should be brought before the House, be debated and progressed on the basis of their policy merit rather than the colour of the banner under which they come, the experience over the past three years is that procedural devices and technical amendments are found to frustrate Bills. Given that the Government can no longer command a majority in the House, it cannot simply vote down a measure from the other side. Instead things like money messages, procedural matters, voting arrangements and technical reasons are put forward to delay and frustrate legislation.

I have four Private Members' Bills before the House at different Stages. There are many Bills in areas such as the education, environment and housing, and some Deputies have already mentioned other examples. It is as critical for those Bills as it is for this Bill that we address the procedural lacuna and send a message to Government that it is not good enough to delay and frustrate Private Members Bills ad infinitum. I commend the Deputies who introduced this motion to try to address the deadlock, which is not a good state of affairs.

On the substantive matter, I joined students from four schools outside Naas on Friday, 15 March. These young people came out to take a stand and make their views known that enough is enough. They wanted to plead with us to state their significant concern at the failure of many before their generation to protect and safeguard the planet they will inherit. I am very proud that my daughter, Niamh, was among those who travelled up by bus from Naas to Leinster House and stood outside the gates to be part of that protest movement, joining many hundreds of thousands if not millions of others worldwide on the same day as part of a growing movement because their generation understands this is a real climate emergency, probably the most significant issue to face our planet at this time. They are saying enough is enough.

We know from the academic literature that climate change is real. We understand that the increase in global temperature in the 150 or 200 years since the Industrial Revolution has been greater than in the previous two millennia. We know this is not sustainable. We know that the time for action is now. That has been borne out by many academic experts at the committee. We have engaged. The suggestion from some quarters that this is a rushed Bill is just untrue. The reality is we have had substantive policy debates at the committee with relevant national and international academic experts and we have had the technical argument.

Professor John Sweeney from NUI Maynooth pointed out that Ireland is 27th out of 28 EU countries in our performance on climate change. Behind us is only Poland, which has a natural dependency on coal given its geography. Second bottom of the league table is not where we want to be.

Even if we were to disregard the academic experts and to accept there are experts on both sides, which is the case, we only need to use the evidence of our own eyes. Last year we had the beast from the east which was followed just a few months later by the drought from the south. We had two of the most extreme weather situations in living memory - if not longer - occurring in the past 18 months. The proof is there for all of us to see. Our young people get it; the Opposition in this House gets it; it is time for the Government to get it and start to take these issues seriously and respond on them.

I pay tribute to my colleagues on the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment. I pay tribute to Deputy Bríd Smith for proposing the Bill and all the members of the committee who have engaged in substantive debate on these issues. I also pay tribute to civic society groups such as Trócaire, Stop Climate Chaos, Friends of the Earth and many other advocacy groups that have played such a significant part in creating the context and raising the ante to highlight these issues and insist on getting them to this stage. That has been a crucial part of the momentum on this Bill and other Bills such as the Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill we passed last summer. Momentum is building all the time.

Fianna Fáil will support the motion. It is important to uphold the principle that the Dáil cannot be frustrated by technical manoeuvres in committee and elsewhere. However, it is not a complete unconditional support. We will be introducing amendments in committee. We will look forward to robust substantive engagement on Committee Stage. We need to recognise some of the concerns raised relating to energy security, continuity of supply and external sources that may be less preferable to meet our energy needs. It is important that we manage that transition in a responsible way and recognise the unfortunate reality that there will be dependence on traditional fossil fuels for some time to come. We will be engaging in committee on those points.

If we were to repeat the mistakes of the past by continuing to look for something else before we put a lid on it, that is a self-fulfilling myth. If we keep on searching and even if we keep finding, we are generating and propagating an industry that will propel itself. If we are to continue to extract and explore, continue the cycle, create jobs and create a local economy based on that industry, it becomes a self-perpetuating myth and we never begin to make transition away from it. It is vital that we begin to make that transition now.

There is an entire false economy there. We can have a far more successful, sustainable, future-proofed, engineering-based technology solution of a green revolution if we embrace renewable energy and all the potential it offers.

That, in itself, is a major potential source of economic activity and growth in the regions where it is based and nationally by contributing to GDP.

A point was made regarding the potential loss to the State if we were to turn our backs on potential untapped reserves. Apart from the question as to where we should stop in the self-perpetuating cycle, there is also the opportunity cost of presented by a green revolution. A moot question, one which was discussed by the joint committee, is that if there are vast energy resources off our coast, why have we not found them in the past 50 years? The Corrib field, which is being wrapped up, has been loss-making and there have been a few other smaller finds. We have had 50 years to find these resources, which has been plenty of time. We will soon have to draw a line in the sand and say we have reached a point of no return. We have plenty of wind and wave energy off the Atlantic coast. Being on the edge of Europe, we have plenty of potential green energy. A small number of wind turbines off the Atlantic coast would generate 5 GW of energy, which would be enough to meet the country's energy needs. Other solutions include solar, biomass and wave energy. There are major untapped resources available. We need to change the mindset and culture and make the transition because we cannot sit on our hands and delay action forever.

The Fianna Fáil Party will support the motion proposing that the Bill proceed to the next Stage. It is important the House asserts itself on matters such as this and on similar Private Members' Bills. We have engaged substantively on the issue and we support the broad thrust of the Bill. We will table amendments on energy security and the time cycle for the transition phase and engage on those issues in committee. For now, however, I commend the Bill to the House.

I call Deputy Brian Stanley who I understand is sharing his time with Deputy Eoin Ó Broin.

I welcome the motion. We are all aware of the global climate problems we face and the need to move away from extracting fossil fuels. We have been extracting these fuels for decades with only limited benefits for the State and members of the public. Corporations have benefited most because successive Governments have presided over among the worst deals on royalties from gas in the world.

Apart from the burning of fossil fuels, we are linked to the petrochemical industry in the western world. What solutions have been put forward? It is vital there are solutions and alternatives. What are the realistic specific replacements for fossil fuels? What exactly are the renewable energy sources that will be put in place? It is one thing to ban fossil fuels but the environmental problems we have will only be solved when we bring forward some alternatives.

Sinn Féin supports the general thrust of the Bill, although it will require some amendments. We need to set in motion the renewable technologies that will replace fossil fuels. It would be completely immoral and foolish to stop using gas extracted here, while continuing to use gas and coal produced elsewhere in the short term because we have not developed replacement energies. We must develop a wide variety of renewable sources such as offshore wind, solar, microgeneration, biogas, biomass and hydro energy. What solutions have been put forward in the House? The major solution currently being put forward seems to be to introduce another layer of tax. Will it be acceptable in future to drive electric cars powered by electricity generated from fossil fuels or nuclear power in England, Scotland or Wales and delivered to us through interconnectors?

We should have a vision to produce our own energy and become an exporter of renewable energy. This means we must specify replacement sources of energy. We urgently need to start developing a biogas industry and to develop offshore wind, solar, hydro, wave, biomass and other energy sources. Sinn Féin has outlined how we would do this in a detailed paper, Powering Ireland 2030.

Electricity accounts for only some of our consumption of fossil fuels. What are we doing about transport, which accounts for 40% of the energy we use? Our public transport network is almost completely reliant on fossil fuels. There is no plan or strategy for the public charging system for electric vehicles, which does not exist in many parts of the country. Public transport needs to be more widely available and properly planned, including in the regions.

Successive Governments have had little vision or direction for renewable energy. We now face the moment of truth. We need to reduce our dependence on imported fossil fuels, which cost almost €5 billion per annum. We need to change not only for sake of the environment or to be self-sufficient but also because we face fines as a result of our miserable failure to meet our 2020 obligations on greenhouse gas emissions reductions and renewable energy production. It is estimated that these fines will cost hundreds of millions of euro.

I hope the Bill opens up a debate and that we can legislate on what will replace fossil fuels. Without a rapid change in policy and direction, we will continue to affect the environment by having further sharp increases in greenhouse gas emissions. We need to move away from polluting imported fossil fuels, which requires solutions that are based on renewal sources of energy, of which we have an abundance and for which we need to plan. Talking about the problem will not solve it. What we need are alternatives. We need to open a debate and quickly move to action.

I was one of a number of Deputies who had the great pleasure to attend the climate strike student protest outside the Dáil two weeks ago. All of us who were there could not but have been impressed by the enormous energy and enthusiasm of the young people who organised the event. It featured some of the best placards I have ever seen at a political protest. There were also two very clear messages from all the young people who spoke from the platform. The first was a damning criticism of the Government and political system generally for their failure to act over decades to tackle this crisis. The second was a demand for action and for all of us to do what is necessary to start to get our emissions under control.

In case the Government is fed up of listening to the Opposition, it does not have to listen to the Opposition or protesting students to understand the depth of the difficulties we are in. A report from its own Climate Change Advisory Council last year had some pretty stinging criticisms of the Government's failure in this regard. Under key messages, the report, in the executive summary, states:

Ireland is completely off course in terms of achieving its 2020 and 2030 emissions reduction targets. Without urgent action that leads to tangible and substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, Ireland is unlikely to deliver on its national, EU and international obligations and will drift further from a pathway that is consistent with the transition to a low-carbon economy and society.

It further states: "Instead of achieved the required reduction of 1 million tonnes per year in carbon dioxide emissions, consistent with National Policy Position, Ireland is currently increasing its emissions at a rate of 2 million tonnes per year." Those are not the words of Karl Marx. This is not the work of an Opposition politician with which the Minister ideologically disagrees. The is the work of his own group of experts which is tasked with advising him on what action to take and it is telling him clearly that he is failing. For me, the following sentence from the report is crucial: "The Government has not provided a pathway for the decarbonisation of the economy and society by 2050." Any plan for the decarbonisation of the economy would start with a very simple premise, namely, that if we want to reduce emissions from the burning of fossil fuels, we must stop extracting them from the ground. That is a basic and simple proposition. For this reason, Sinn Féin is more than happy to support the legislation.

Notwithstanding the Minister's remarks on the deliberations of the joint committee, it seems remarkable that a Bill can pass by an overwhelming majority on Second Stage in this House and somehow be frustrated in committee. That tells us that the committee was originally constructed with a deliberately inbuilt Government majority, despite the Government not having a majority in this Chamber.

We support the Bill. I think its proposers would agree it is just one element of a much bigger approach that is needed from Government. I look forward to seeing the Government plan. The Government has lots of other plans in areas like health and housing and fails to honour the commitments in those, or indeed to fund them. What we need to see in the plan is ambitious, legally binding emissions reduction targets. They need to be enshrined in law so nobody can escape them and they need to cover all sectors, such as energy, transport and agriculture. They have to be supported by adequate investment in the first instance, as Deputy Stanley outlined, to provide people with the cleaner renewable energy alternatives that are necessary for them to be able to carry on with their lives. This is also to ensure that, as we make that transition, it is just for the workers who will be affected by it but also fair, particularly for low and middle income families who, unfortunately, on the basis of how the Government seems to be proceeding, are set to yet again pay the burden of Government inaction.

Last week, Sinn Féin launched a document which is another part of our contribution to this debate. It is a set of proposals on how to dramatically increase energy efficiency in the residential sector both through an expanded programme of retrofitting in private and public sector rental properties, but also to raise real concerns about whether the Government is even meeting its near-zero energy building requirements. Despite the fact there were targets for 2018 and 2020, it is not clear which Department is monitoring this. Despite the fact I have asked the Departments responsible for both climate action and housing who is checking to see if these targets are being met, both are telling us it is not them and to look elsewhere.

Obviously, many of us who are not on the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment have not seen the full report and will wait to see that later. I sat on the Committee on Housing and Homelessness, which spent significant time deliberating on that issue and produced a report that the Government has singularly failed to implement. Even as a gesture of good faith, the Government should allow this Bill to proceed. It should stop frustrating it as it is frustrating other legislation through procedural complexities. It should allow us to progress a simple, sensible, practical alternative that will do what all of the young people who protested outside here two weeks ago want us to do, namely, keep fossil fuels in the ground, dramatically reduce our emissions and start taking serious action on climate change.

Before we proceed, I point out to the House that the motion before us is about process. It is not about the substantive issue. The substantive issue is of inordinate importance. It has already been discussed and will hopefully be discussed again, but that is a matter for the House. The motion before us is on process so I must ask the Members to direct their attention to the subject matter of the motion, which is not about mineral extraction but, rather, is about the process that the House has adopted.

As the mover of the motion, I wish to make a point of order. The process is intrinsically linked to the issue. It is precisely because the issue provides the Government with a problem that it has thwarted the process. This is intrinsically linked with it and that is what people here are trying to explain. It is part and parcel of the argument. Believe me, I did not want to use our Private Members' time again to talk about this issue. I did so a year ago successfully but I have to come back and do it again.

I am not against what you are doing but I am simply pointing out-----

I have to talk about the issue if I talk about the process. They are intrinsically linked.

It is not the issue that is preventing you from progressing; it is the process that is preventing you.

It is the issue that has forced the Government to thwart the process.

No, it is the process that we have to adopt. If you could just-----

On a point of order, I am on the Business Committee. In front of the Ceann Comhairle, the Chief Whip said the reason the Government was not going to free the Bill and the process from the committee was that it opposed the content of the Bill. That is what he said.

Hold on. You are missing the point.

We are telling the Government it has no right to frustrate this Bill.

You can tell everyone what you like but what we are debating here is the process. We are trying to make an arrangement to adopt a change to the process.

The process relating to this Bill.

And many others.

We are trying to change the process.

On a point of order-----

Are you going to agree with me?

I wanted to say I am very glad I spoke while the Leas-Cheann Comhairle was in the Chair. I wanted to draw the attention of the Ceann Comhairle to the punchline of the motion-----

It is not about punchlines; it is about process.

The motion states: "...and therefore agrees that the requirement for the Select Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment ... to report, prior to Committee Stage, on its detailed scrutiny ... is hereby discharged." That is similar. When we passed the Second Stage motion, we agreed it had been read a Second Time. That is always the way. There is a reference to substantial legislation.

You are taking up other Members' time. I call Deputy Sherlock. I ask him to stick to the content of the motion.

I will stick to the process. I have just come from a meeting of the Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment, where we are discussing the issues of the report of the Citizens' Assembly, which has a very clear set of recommendations.

This is not about the Citizens' Assembly. We are talking about the process that the Dáil has applied.

With respect, and I am always deferential in regard to the rulings of the Ceann Comhairle, in the short time afforded to me, I would ask you to allow me to set out the preamble of what I am going to say in respect of the process.

Thank you. We on the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment are discussing the Citizens' Assembly report. There is a very clear set of recommendations in respect of that and, in particular, a set of clear climate actions that the people want to see put into effect in respect of reducing the millions of tonnes of carbon we produce in this society on an annual basis. What is pertinent to the debate is whether the House allows for the process whereby, when something that is either a legitimate motion or legitimate legislation comes before the House, depending on one's point of view, that is stymied by the powers that be at a given point in time. It is our very clear view that this process is being stymied, and I make no bones about that. Thousands of people have inundated us with emails in respect of their views and to ask and demand of us that we keep carbon and fossil fuels in the ground and do not extract them.

On that basis, in respect of the process, the Labour Party supports the motion that comes before us tonight. I want to quote from one of the emails I have received. It states that the fair and reasonable approach is clear here; that this is a Dáil Bill and the select committee of Deputies should be allowed to decide whether to move the Bill to the next Stage; that Senators will have their chance to vote on the Bill if it passes all Stages in the Dáil and moves to the Seanad; and that the Government should not be able to block Deputies from pursuing the Dáil's legislative process. On that basis, and in deference to the Ceann Comhairle as Chair of this assembly, I wish to support the motion on the technical basis on which it is before us but also on the basis of the substantive issue that is before us.

I call Deputy Joan Collins, who is sharing time with Deputy Catherine Connolly.

It is a pity the Ceann Comhairle was not here at the start of the debate because he would have been able to cut across the Minister of State, Deputy Jim Daly, who gave a contribution that went way beyond the process.

I will cut across anybody, if necessary.

I think we should all be entitled to do that in the House tonight.

I support the People Before Profit motion and have co-signed it with 25 other Deputies. The first point I want to make on the process is to note that there is already precedent for this policy of seeking to prohibit the issue of licences for exploration for fossil fuels off coastlines. In December 2017, France passed legislation to end new licences for oil and gas exploration and to cease all oil and gas extraction by 2040. In that December also, the World Bank made the hugely significant decision that it will no longer finance upstream oil and gas projects after this year. Costa Rica has introduced a moratorium on petroleum exploration until at least 2021 and in January of last year the Belize Government announced legislation to end offshore fossil fuel exploration due to the impact on its barrier reef.

The Government's countermotion notes the need to reduce fossil fuel consumption across the entire economy to make progress towards the national transition to a competitive, low-carbon, climate-resilient and environmentally-sustainable economy by 2050. Part of that process has to include the measures contained in the Bill. Recent research indicates that policies targeting fossil fuel supply are an important complement to measures aimed at reducing demand. While an immediate ban on fossil fuel use is not being advocated in this Bill, it is clear that the phasing out of fossil fuels and the increase in the use of renewables must be radically speeded up. The EPA has stated that we need a stronger incentive to move away from fossil fuel use and that fossil fuel investments carry major financial risks. It urges that investment be directed away from fossil fuels towards sustainable, low-carbon alternatives. That is why this Bill must progress to the next Stage. It must move on to Committee Stage where amendments can be tabled and robust discussions can be had.

As currently drafted, the Bill can be interpreted as not removing the option of indigenous reserves exploration until existing licences expire. As far as I can tell, opposition to this Bill by industry, the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment and the Government is based on the hope of retaining the option of continued exploration and the opening up of new fields beyond existing licences. Industry and the Government claim that the Bill will not reduce Ireland's emissions but it is clear that the enactment of this legislation will promote the transition to a decarbonised economy. Ireland is completely behind in achieving its climate and energy obligations. We are known internationally as a climate laggard.

A full 71% of global emissions are the responsibility of just 100 companies. That is why we need to address the issues raised in this Bill. This legislation is supported by many groups including Stop Climate Chaos, the Environmental Pillar and Trócaire, not to mention the thousands of young people who were out on the streets protesting two weeks ago. As Deputy Pringle said, if the voting age was reduced to 16, this Government would not be re-elected because all of the 16 year olds out there would take on the Government and hold it to account for not progressing this legislation.

On the question of process, this Government has continuously tried to thwart Bills from the Opposition. We have seen it with the money message delays and the activity on this legislation that we have seen this evening. We have also seen it with regard to a Bill I submitted in 2016, namely, the Thirty-Fifth Amendment to the Constitution (Water in Public Ownership) Bill. Last year the Minister asked for three months to come back to the House with an amendment. We are still waiting for that amendment to come back from the Attorney General, even though we have raised it time and again. The Government has been kicking that particular can down the road for two years at this stage. It uses every means available to push back and kick the can down the road on Bills that could actually make a difference.

Níl ach dhá nóiméad go leith agam. Ba mhaith liom mo thacaíocht don rún seo agus don phróiseas a chur in iúl. Táim 100% taobh thiar den rún agus den reachtaíocht. Tá sé thar am stop a chur leis an gcur i gcéill. An bhfuil muid i ndáiríre faoi athrú aeráide? An bhfuil muid chun beart a dhéanamh de réir ár mbriathar? Sin bun agus barr an scéal. Tá sé thar am é a dhéanamh. Seo an Dáil dheireanach chun beart a dhéanamh de réir ár mbriathar.

I feel a certain sympathy for the Minister of State. I do not know how he could stand over the speech he read out in view of the seriousness of what we are discussing. In view of the ruling made by the Ceann Comhairle, I will stick to the issue of the process. The motion asserts that the pre-legislative scrutiny on the Bill has been discharged and that it is time to move on to Committee Stage. I agree with that because of the seriousness of the issue but the Government seems to have missed the message entirely. We have had the Tionól Saoranach telling us to take action, pointing us in the right direction and giving us clear recommendations. We have had students on our streets. The Irish Fiscal Advisory Council, as referred to by Deputy Ó Broin, has told us that our reputation as a climate laggard is likely to discourage foreign direct investment. I think that may be language that the Government understands. Our climate inaction will discourage foreign direct investment. Indeed, the IDA has warned that more and more companies are asking about our policy on fossil fuel divestment.

We have taken some measures in the Dáil, by way of new politics, of which I am very proud, particularly Deputy Pringle's Bill which recently became law. I thank Deputy Bríd Smith for persisting with this legislation. I do not know how we can look in the eye of the children of this country who are appealing to us to take action because they will live with the consequences. Not only will the children of this country live with the consequences, it is those in the poorer countries of the world who contribute least to climate change who will bear the brunt of it, as we saw recently in Mozambique in Africa. We have talked of legislation and time but now we must take action. The Government likes to quote the former President, Ms Mary Robinson, on occasion but it does not really listen to her. She is telling us that we have to get to zero emissions by 2050 in order to stay below 2°C of warming. That means that we must leave two thirds or more of the known resources of fossil fuels in the ground.

There is a deliberate misinterpretation of what is proposed in the motion and the Bill. I suggest that the Minister of State's speechwriters read the motion and the Bill. I also urge them to read what the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council, Professor Sweeney, Trócaire and others have said, if they think that the Deputies proposing and supporting this are too far to the left. The Government should take a look at what others have said and then look the children of this country in the eye and tell them that it is not going to do anything.

I am happy to speak briefly on the motion and I commend Deputy Bríd Smith for initiating it. Two weeks ago we had a Private Members' debate on a motion on the national children's hospital and the Minister of State was left in the House, on his own, late at night, to defend the Government. Is that what the Government is using him for? Where is the line Minister this evening? The Government is not giving Private Members' motions the respect they deserve. That said, I mean no disrespect to the Minister of State.

The issue of climate change is unavoidable, whether we are discussing agricultural policy, methane emissions or the use of land for forestry. We simply cannot get away from this debate. Climate change is one of those issues that deeply divides opinion, not only in terms of its causes but also in terms of proposed solutions. Indeed, even among the small group of rural Independents, we are divided. While I agree that we must certainly work to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and increase our use of sustainable and effective renewable energy, I do not agree that we should impose an outright ban on fossil fuels, which is what the Bill seeks to do. It seeks to stop the issuing of State licences for further fossil fuel exploration in this country. What we need to do is establish a sustainable environmental agenda which can meet the needs of those in the present without compromising the ability of future generations to also meet their needs. In that context, I welcome the young people in the Gallery tonight. While the Bill is well-meaning, it is far too restrictive and takes no account of issues such as energy security. We must increase our efforts to achieve a balance between fossil fuels and renewables instead of absolutely prohibiting fossil fuel exploration, if that is what is required.

Obviously, I do not have to tell the House where I stand on the issue of climate change. I believe that the climate has changed since time began. What causes the change is where I differ from many others. As we know, since the Ice Age, there have been changes in our climate.

The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Climate Action has been meeting for the past number of months but has been sitting in private. Non-members are not entitled to attend meetings that are held in private. I am worried about what is going on in the meetings that have been held in private. One could describe the meetings as being held in camera.

On the proposed carbon tax, I was absolutely disgusted on the day when the Leader of the Opposition, even though his party supports the Government one day and is supposed to oppose it the next, attacked the Taoiseach for not introducing a carbon tax. We are all aware that fuel is too expensive. People in rural Ireland cannot manage without their cars. It is fine to talk about electric cars-----

The Deputy is wandering away from the subject matter of the motion.

If we were to reduce our emissions to nil, this would only mean a 0.13% reduction in a worldwide context. That is a fact. All of the talk about increasing taxes will only further penalise people in rural Ireland. These are people who are trying to go to work in the morning but they cannot do so without their cars. It is fine to talk about electric cars but we do not have the means-----

That is not what the motion is about. Is Deputy Healy-Rae going to give way to Deputy Michael Collins?

I will of course. I say again that the temperature has only risen 1% since 1850, however many years ago that was. Members can add it up themselves.

In the little time available, I am happy to speak on the motion. I am all for discussion. Regardless of whether I am in full agreement with the Bill brought forward by People Before Profit, I do not believe the Government should continue to stifle the opportunity for discussion. There are two sides to every argument. I come from rural Ireland where there is a need for tractors, lorries and so on. We need our diesel and other fuels. I come from a community where there is little or no planning regulation in respect of solar farms or wind turbines. Planning permission had been sought for many solar farms in Bandon, Kinsale and other places in west Cork and there has been no planning regulation whatsoever. This is awful for people who will now have to have solar farms outside homes and properties for which they may have paid a great deal of money. It is the same situation with wind turbines. We need these in certain places but there has to be proper planning regulation.

There are many other issues I would like to discuss. Perhaps if we had a more detailed debate-----

The only motion we are debating is that relating to process.

Yes. I thank the Ceann Comhairle.

I thank the Deputy.

Do fossil fuel reserves provide Ireland with the energy security it needs? This is the key question that has delayed the progression of the Bill. There have been significant policy developments on the part of the Government in this area since the Dáil dealt with the issue 13 months ago. Project Ireland 2040 commits us to the removal of dirty fossil fuels - coal, oil and peat - from electricity generation by 2027; their removal from our heating systems by 2035; and cars that use fossil fuels are to be taken off our roads by 2045. Our dependence on oil is set to decrease significantly over the next 15 years, which is the likely timeline for landing any oil found in the deep waters off our Atlantic coast.

In the past 40 years, we have had just four commercial gas finds. Basing future energy security on the possibility of an oil find is like playing roulette and living in hope. Contrast that with the renewable electricity potential off our coast, which, at 50 GW, is enough to meet the daily electricity demands of France and Austria combined. If we established an offshore renewable development authority, we could auction off this electricity. Crucially, this energy is owned by the Irish people and the money it would generate could be used to reduce the cost of clean electricity to families across the State.

One of the things Ireland is good at is producing food. As we develop our green image in key food markets around the globe in the coming decade it will be very difficult to justify Ireland's continued facilitation of oil exploration, especially when it is becoming the global leader in offshore renewable electricity production. The Government of the day could be put in the dreadful position where it might have to buy back the rights to these oil reserves that it is currently awarding. We need to press the pause button now and not wait for new laws to be introduced.

That is why they got rid of the Deputy from his position as Minister.

I regret that I was not in the Chamber to hear the earlier part of the debate. A very important meeting of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Climate Action took place earlier. This important motion before the House is, as the Ceann Comhairle noted, about process. It is about the powers of this Parliament. In the United Kingdom, we can see how the House of Commons is taking back power from Government. This is a similar moment. The Government has been fighting the Bill in the knowledge that it does not have the ability to refuse to issue a money message to block it. We will pass the motion when we vote on it on Thursday and thereby allow the Bill to proceed to Committee Stage. That would be an historic moment for the environmental movement in the State and for this Parliament. It is important that we do not allow the Government and the various Departments involved to block the majority will of the people as represented in this House.

This is a hugely significant Bill. I thank Deputy Bríd Smith and People Before Profit for bringing it forward. One of the key actions advocated by the environmental movement to tackle the problem of climate change at source is to not put all the guilt, onus and pressure on individuals to change their behaviour. We should make it easier for people to change their behaviour and we will have to make massive investments and policy decisions to allow that to happen. We also need to recognise the science and listen to what Greta Thunberg and the IPCC are saying. We are aware that we have to leave four fifths of known fossil fuel reserves underground. This is what the Bill will do for Ireland's part of the world. Our sea area is ten times the size of our land area. This is not a small decision; it is not of minor consequence. It is huge in the context of what it would do to keep those fossil fuel reserves in the ground and in the signal it would send out to the rest of the world that Ireland can and will be good at this transition.

In answer to Deputy Healy-Rae and the others, I am of the view that the alternative future in which we will electrify our transport and the heating in our homes, along with all of the other measures we are going to take, will see Irish people thrive and will bring back a strong sense of community with a completely different economic model. We cannot do that and at the same time say we are going in the direction of still looking for every last trace of gas and every last drop of oil. We have to stop. We have to start making the switch. This would give a very important signal to the business community, to our own people and to the international community that Ireland is truly going green.

I have been sitting here with Deputy Bríd Smith through this process and it has been disgraceful the way the Bill has been blocked. The way that Standing Orders and other processes have been used, and the way the Government has blocked the Bill, has been disrespectful of the Parliament. This has come to an end here tonight and I very much welcome that. It is very important that we proceed immediately to Committee Stage and on to Report Stage in order that the Bill can be put before the Seanad during the remaining days of this Dáil and then enacted. This would be a hugely significant step. I would love to see it happen with a range of other Bills also, but we will start here tonight. This is an historic moment and I commend Deputy Bríd Smith on the way she presented the Bill and in how she stuck with it against all of the obstacles that were put in her way.

With all due respect to the Minister of State, Deputy Canney, and to the Minister of State, Deputy Jim Daly, who spoke earlier, a senior Minister is not here to address this issue. That shows an absolute lack of respect for the Dáil. It is an insult to this Dáil that the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Bruton, is not in the Chamber to address the motion. The other side of that coin is the lack of respect for the process of democracy in the House and for the process by which legislation moves through the Oireachtas. I have no doubt that the Government has deliberately stopped in its tracks the passage of the Bill through the Dáil.

I support the motion, as I supported the Bill in February of last year when it passed Second Stage by 78 votes to 48. The Bill seeks to prohibit the issuing of licences for the exploration for fossil fuels off Ireland's coast.

The Dáil referred the Bill unanimously to the Oireachtas committee which is where, of course, it has remained. It has gone into a black hole and remains there, frustrated at every hand's turn by the Government's opposition. This issue does not affect only this Bill, albeit it is a very important one. It affects many Bills, in particular Private Members' Bills, which find themselves in the same black hole. Democracy is being frustrated by the Government. It is frustrating the will of this Parliament and, ultimately, the will of the people. It is clear that there is great interest in the Bill nationally. Like me, most Deputies will have received numerous emails about the Bill from constituents over the past ten days. They have asked us to support the Bill and made the valid point, to quote one email, that the fair and reasonable approach is that, as this is a Dáil Bill, a select committee of Deputies should be allowed to decide to move it to Committee Stage. The email notes that Senators will have their own chance to vote on the Bill if it passes all Stages in the Dáil and moves to the Seanad. The email says the Government should not be able to block Deputies from pursuing the Dáil's legislative process. This is a widely held view outside the House as well as inside it. This is a very important, practical and necessary Bill and the Government must stop frustrating its progress by means of various methods before the committee. I believe this motion will pass on Thursday and I hope the Bill will be implemented before the current Dáil finishes its business.

Where is the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment? We are discussing a very important environmental Bill and the process surrounding it but the Minister is not here. The senior Ministers of the Government are not here. Do they understand the growing sentiment among people on the issue? Do they understand the powerful sentiment growing among the young generation on this issue? The Government has tried to round up its Senators to block the Bill and to block the Dáil from debating it, notwithstanding the fact that those Senators will have an opportunity to discuss it in the Seanad. They are trying to use the rules and the process against the spirit of the situation which demands a proper debate on these crucial issues. I support the Petroleum and Other Minerals Development (Amendment) (Climate Emergency Measures) Bill 2018 and the banning of exploration for fossil fuels. Ireland should become the fourth country in the world to take that step.

To see why it is wrong to use the process to block the Bill, one need only look at what has been happening in Mozambique in recent times. The United Nations describes what has been happening there as the single worst weather disaster in the history of the southern hemisphere. The country's former education Minister, Graça Machel, says the destruction of the city of Beira will go down in history as the first time a city was completely devastated by climate change. There are things we can do. We can pass the Bill and take other measures. Recently, bus fares were cut in the city of Cork for a period of six weeks from €2.40 to €1 as a concession to the local traders' lobby which said trade had been cut as a result of partial pedestrianisation and a car ban on the city's main street, Patrick Street. While it was a modest measure and extremely limited in time, we are getting reports that public transport use increased by 8% while it was in place. Further, the increased level of use has largely held since the measure was reversed and the fare was put back up to €2.40. It raises the question of what would happen if public transport were made completely free, not just for six weeks but indefinitely. What if we followed the example of Estonia, Luxembourg and 100 other cities around the world? We would see a major increase in the use of public transport which is precisely the alternative to the car that we need. Free public transport would cost the State €600 million per annum.

Can the Deputy follow his own motion?

We will come back to process in a second. The State faces fines of more than €600 million for failing to meet the 2020 emissions target let alone the far greater fines that will kick in if the 2030 targets are not met.

It is a disgrace that the Government is mobilising its Senators and using process to block the debating of the Bill. Globally, 100 corporations are responsible for 71% of greenhouse gas emissions. It is the profiteers who are the polluters and the key polluters are the profiteers. This shows that the fight to defend the environment and protect the climate is linked with the struggle against the profiteers and the capitalist system itself. The main threat to the environment and the planet comes from capitalism. It comes from big business interests putting profit first and the oil and gas industry is at the forefront. Less than two weeks ago, 1.4 million young people in 125 countries around the world went on the streets to demand action. They said we need system change not climate change. That slogan is the beginning of an anti-capitalist consciousness or view point among many of those young people. The climate crisis is set to get worse before it might get better but it will not get better if governments protecting big business and vested interests continue to block Bills like this by using process and block progressive policies such as the implementation of free public transport. I warn the Government that if it continues to protect big business and vested interests, as I think it will, and the situation goes from bad to worse, not only will it have greater numbers of young people on the streets in the months and years to come, there will be a greater and growing awareness among them that the root of the problem is the capitalist system protected by governments like this one.

They will make a reality of the idea of having system change, not climate change, and challenge and change the system to replace it with something better and more democratic, a democratic socialist society where the wealth is used for the benefit of people and the environment, not profiteers and polluters.

I thank the Deputies for their contributions. We have heard a range of views on the clear need for action on climate change. Much of it chimes with the recent messages from our young students and their demands for action from us. Regardless of one's position on this Bill, we are moving in the right direction by spending more of our time discussing these matters.

As the Minister of State, Deputy Jim Daly, stated, while we may not all agree on the exact details of the path, we are agreed on the destination. The Government is aware that more must be done urgently and I am working closely with the Minister, Deputy Bruton, to ensure that happens. The Minister has been clear about the Government's ambition to make Ireland a leader, not a follower, in responding to climate change. This will require a significant step change across government. Put simply, it requires increased action. New initiatives are needed across electricity, transport, heat, agriculture and other relevant sectors, building on the previous actions taken by the Government, including in the national mitigation plan and the national development plan.

The Minister of State, Deputy Jim Daly, outlined examples of measures that have been taken. They are but a sample of what we must pursue. As a rural Deputy with a farming background, I am acutely aware that there must be credible and meaningful actions across the board. The work of the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, SEAl, and some of the measures it has been rolling out are great examples of steps than can be taken. The Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment funds a number of its schemes that aim to improve the energy efficiency of homes and businesses across the country. Examples include a range of grants that are available to householders for improvements such as insulation and heat pumps. Over the last year, the measures available under these grants have been expanded to include deeper measures and to support the policy decision to transition from grant aid for fossil fuel heating systems. Other measures are in place for people on lower incomes and for community-based partnership, such as the better energy communities scheme. The SEAI is also seeking to put schemes in place to drive energy efficiency on farms. I highlight these to show that reducing our emissions will require the continued roll-out of a range of tailored and well designed measures.

Are you going to talk to us about the motion?

I will, but I have listened to a great deal tonight and there was very little about the motion so I must reply to everything that was said.

If you feel you must, but it would be preferable if you would stick to the motion.

Such measures will have to be funded. This issue is being considered by the climate committee and I look forward to seeing its recommendations. As the Taoiseach has said, a carbon tax should not be about raising money for the Government or punishing people in their pockets. It should be about nudging people and businesses to change behaviour and adopt new technologies. We must also work with our farmers to modernise agriculture and reduce emissions from that sector, taking into account the need to protect their incomes and livelihoods as well as the environment.

The tax regime in respect of oil and gas has the prospect of delivering considerable revenue to the State. Most of the exploration licences that have been awarded in the Irish offshore are on the most recent tax terms, which means a rate of tax of between 25% and 55% depending on the profitability of the field. The assertion that we are seeking to tax the people and not the companies does not hold up to scrutiny. I also caution against a rush to make the climate debate a debate about tax alone. Such an approach will be divisive and we should guard against it.

Some Members have strong feelings about this Bill. I would like to be in a position to state that Ireland no longer needs oil and gas but that is simply not the case. That is the fundamental problem we must address. Hence the counter motion the Government has proposed which: notes the need to reduce fossil fuel consumption across the economy; recognises that there is a need to step up Ireland's progress and ambition in this area; looks forward to all parties supporting the special committee's report and its conclusions and recommendations; and specifically calls on the Government to urgently bring forward an all-of-Government plan which will set out the actions that must be taken to make Ireland a leader in responding to climate change and providing for a significant increase over the next decade in the level of renewable energy in our energy mix.

Turning to the Bill, I reiterate that all the rules have been followed correctly. This has been checked and confirmed. There is no more I can say on that. The Minister of State, Deputy Jim Daly, set out our fundamental issues with the Bill. The Bill would have no impact on emissions. It would guarantee that we source the fossil fuels we need during the transition to a low carbon economy not from Irish waters, but from outside the EU, for example, from Russia or the Persian Gulf. Furthermore, importing our energy over long distances from third countries can have the perverse effect of increasing emissions, as energy is consumed in delivering it to Ireland.

There are no quick fixes when it comes to climate action. This Government is committed to moving away from the use of fossil fuels in electricity, heat and transport. I ask people watching this debate and who are invested in Ireland taking action on climate change not to conclude that by not supporting this Bill we are not intending to ramp up our actions. We did so earlier this week with the announcement of delivering 70% of our electricity from renewable sources by 2030. Unlike the Bill before us, this will deliver a real and tangible reduction in our emissions. We will soon finalise our all-of-Government action plan to reduce our carbon emissions.

This Bill is a threat to our energy supply, as has been stated by a number of Members. It could also expose the Exchequer to a loss of income if implemented. I ask Deputies to support us in delivering the actions we are taking. There is much hard work to be done and we need everybody's support.

The Government has covered itself with shame in how it has dealt with this Bill, just as it has covered itself with shame in how it has failed to deal with the climate emergency that represents an existential threat to the future of humanity. It did not feel shame before Christmas when it was being lobbied by the representatives of the oil companies. We have checked the lobby register and we know who was lobbied. They included the Chairman of the climate committee, Ministers, Opposition spokespersons and so forth. I am glad to say that some of them have not capitulated. If the Government did not feel shame as it danced to the tune of the profit hungry saboteurs of the global environment, it should feel shame after the 15,000 students went on strike a couple of weeks ago. They reminded the Government what is at stake as it tries to sabotage this Bill in the most underhand, devious and dishonest way possible.

The Government does not have the guts to stand up and say it does not give a damn about climate change, and that it just cares about the profits of the oil companies. Instead, it used the dark cavernous committee rooms where it has a majority. It dragged in a few Senators who did not even bother to turn up for the scrutiny of the Bill but who toddled in to vote to keep it hostage. Then it introduced an amendment in this debate, the effect of which will be to frustrate the will of the Dáil again and ensure nothing is done on this. It has been sabotaging democracy in order to continue the sabotage of the environment, imperilling the future of our young people. It is shameful, but not surprising. The record of this Government has been to show complete contempt for the fight to address climate change.

The Government opposed amendments to the climate mitigation Bill in which we sought binding targets. When I tabled amendments to the forestry Bill in 2015 seeking binding targets on afforestation it voted them down.

It increased bus fares when it should be reducing them and increasing subsidies to public transport. Where is the national retrofit programme that would allow us to retrofit our homes, reduce energy usage and deal with the squalor in which many people in this country live because of poor building standards, as well as address the issue of energy emissions? Ministers go over to Europe and we hear special pleading for protections for the big ranchers. We are trying to worm our way out of our climate commitments, which we have catastrophically failed to meet. This will cost this country billions of euro in fines, not to mention the environmental disaster that will be visited on us. It is shameful. The contempt continues when the Minister with responsibility for climate change does not bother to come here to preside over the attempt to sabotage the contents of the Bill. It could not be worse. The contrast between what is supposed to be the embodiment of democracy in this country - the place people like Connolly and Pearse fought and died for - and the Government's devious attempts to sabotage this Bill and the energy, dynamism, commitment and concern for the future of our young people could not be sharper. God almighty, if it is left up to this Government, we are doomed. Thankfully, it is not left up to this Government. The future was out on the streets over the last few weeks. The Government should start to listen to those young people and show a little bit of respect for them.

It is entirely in order to talk about the climate because the Government tabled an amendment that has nothing to do with the process, seeks to delete the motion dealing with the process concerning this Bill and includes only content relating to climate change and the Government's climate change policy.

Presumably, the Deputy wants to speak to the Solidarity-People Before Profit motion and not the Government's amendment.

It is a climate change policy that has failed and the Minister of State knows that. It is even acknowledged in the Government amendment. It is a policy that has failed. We are pathetically short of our targets and the Government is not willing to take the type of radical action that is necessary. The Government says it will not affect emissions. That is a nonsense. This is a global problem. It is not just about Ireland's little emissions, it is about stopping the poisoning of the global environment. For this to happen, 80% of the known reserves, never mind the unknown reserves that the Government wants to find, extract and hand over for profit to oil companies, have to be left in the ground. That is the scientific fact. This is what this Bill seeks to do. It is the absolute precondition to even starting to address the problem and then moving on to all the other things we need such as investment in public transport, afforestation, retrofit and developing renewable energy sources that do not wreck our environment. The Government shows no willingness or no interest in doing that. It has been dancing to the tune of the oil companies and big agribusiness but it will not succeed because the young people are on the march, the people are on the march, and that movement of people power to save our future will prevail in the end, of that I am absolutely certain.

Gabhaim míle buíochas le gach Teachta agus gach páirtí sa Teach a thug tacaíocht don Bhille agus don díospóireacht anocht.

A million thanks to the people in the Visitors Gallery and to the children and everybody else in the movement who are inspiring us all and, I hope, will drive us forward to defeat the type of policies and lobbying and vested interests described by Deputy Boyd Barrett.

I want to address two of the arguments put forward by the Minister of State, the first of which is that this Bill will do nothing to deal with our emissions. As has been said, there is no hard border over Ireland that the emissions do not travel through. The Government might be a little too obsessed with Brexit to realise that it cannot fool physics and nature. This is a global problem. If we continue to extract fuel, then rather than reducing emissions we will be adding to the carbon emissions across the globe. This is the point of the Bill. If we made a find, which would be rare, it would not pay back in spades to the State. I had to listen to a Senator who showed up to vote against this Bill waffle about how great it would be if we found our own gas and oil, that it would be cheaper than importing gas or oil. He had not even bothered to show up when the committee was scrutinising the Bill and hearing evidence from experts who were able to tell us that in the event of any find, there would be no bonanza or royalties for the Irish taxpayer and no massive tax take from these oil or gas companies. Also, if there is a find it would be sold back to the State at market value. There is nothing in this for the Irish people. Most of all, it is ridiculous to say that there is no energy security if we stop issuing licences to extract fuel. There is no security on this planet if we hurtle to a temperature rise of 1.5oC or 2oC. There is no security for anybody anywhere.

Deputy Lawless was correct in his remarks about new politics. He was also correct that the Government is hugging this Bill and keeping it hostage. The Government usurped Standing Orders to ensure its supporters on the joint committee put a stop to a report being laid before the Dáil on a Dáil Bill. The joint committee has no legal or democratic right to stop a Dáil Bill proceeding to committee. Otherwise, we are flying in the face of the spirit of this Oireachtas and these Houses for which people fought for years. There must be democracy. I have no problem with the Minister of State, Deputy Canney, disagreeing with me about energy security, emissions or anything else. In fact, I look forward to the day when he and I can debate these issues in committee, when he can put forward amendments in a legitimate space where we should be having this discussion and where anybody else in this House can put forward amendments if he or she thinks this Bill does not go far enough or it is too weak and so on. We need to be in committee having that debate. That committee then needs to process the outcome of that debate through to the Seanad and the Dáil. The objective of this Private Members' motion is to allow that to happen. It is mean-spirited of the Government to force us to use our Private Members' time in this way when it could have been used to deal with issues of workers' rights, women's rights, the crisis in the housing sector or the health emergencies throughout this country. We have used our Private Members' time. I urge the Government to withdraw its amendment, which is silly. It has nothing to do with what is before the House tonight. The Government needs to allow democracy to take place and allow this Bill to move forward.

On the point made by Deputy Bríd Smith, which I also made in my contribution, is the Government's amendment not out of order?

It is not out of order.

It does not in any way deal with the content of the motion, which the Ceann Comhairle also alluded to.

We will deal with it in a second. We must first consider the amendment in the name of the Minister of State, Deputy Jim Daly.

Can the Ceann Comhairle answer the question as to whether the amendment is out of order?

It is not out of order. It has already been deemed to be in order otherwise the Minister of State would not have been allowed to move it.

A Cheann Comhairle, seriously-----

No. We are not having a debate about that.

Hold on, you just said a minute ago-----

-----that the motion deals with process. The Government's amendment does not deal with process. The Ceann Comhairle insisted that this had to be about process.

I will insist again that it is about process.

The Government's amendment has nothing to do with process.

We were discussing the Solidarity-People Before Profit motion. The Government moved an amendment. The purpose of the exercise was not to discuss an amendment but to discuss the motion, which was about process. It was a matter for the Minister of State to move whatever amendments he liked.

The Minister of State can discuss whatever he likes while we are limited to discussing process. That is ridiculous.

We were discussing the Solidarity-People Before Profit motion. It drafted the motion. The names of members of that group appear on the motion.

We are also entitled to respond to the Government amendment.

Deputy Boyd Barrett can hardly find fault with our discussing the motion that was tabled by Solidarity-People Before Profit.

It is a parallel universe.

We must first consider the amendment moved by the Minister of State, Deputy Daly.

Amendment put.

In accordance with Standing Order 70(2), the division is postponed until the weekly division time on Thursday, 28 March 2019.

The Dáil adjourned at 10.10 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 27 March 2019.