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;
-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.