I wanted to speak on this Bill because it is a very significant piece of legislation that this Dáil and the Houses of the Oireachtas are going to enact. Not only is it very important legislation for this Dáil but when we look back on the legislation enacted in the early part of this century, it will be recognised as transformative and very effective. That is because climate change is one of the greatest challenges faced by modern societies, not just in Ireland and Europe but throughout the world. It is in how we respond to that challenge that we will be judged by future generations. The world and governments have had to deal with very many extraordinary challenges in the first 21 years of this century. When it comes time to look at how we responded to the extraordinary pandemic that came across the world, in general it will be recognised that the world responded competently and professionally. The story of the pandemic will be how quickly and astonishingly this world was able to respond through the production of a vaccine.
Just as the pandemic was an extraordinary challenge for the world, so is climate change and carbon emissions. The difference, however, is that in the former we were able to graphically see the immediate damage done by the pandemic to people who had died or were in hospital, as well as the significant damage done to society as a result of our response to it. The pandemic had a very immediate and dramatic impact not just on society but on governments, and there was a need placed on governments to respond to it dramatically. We did that well. Climate change is slightly different because it is difficult to convince people of the immediacy of it. However, in the past 20 years people have become aware that this is the greatest single challenge we face in the world today and it poses an existential challenge to humanity on the planet unless we respond to it appropriately and accurately.
Ireland is a small country when it comes to climate change and carbon emissions. We are responsible for around 0.1% of global carbon dioxide emissions. Notwithstanding that, we have a responsibility to ensure we get our response to climate change correct and set an example that other countries will seek to follow. More important, we must send people a message through legislation that we have to change our behaviour in order to challenge the threat posed by climate change.
Legislation is an extraordinarily powerful tool. I was listening to Deputy O'Dea talking earlier about what the Government is going to do to stop the bulk purchase by institutional funds of newly completed housing estates. That is an issue with which the Government and this Oireachtas need to deal. The way we will deal with it is not by talking about it but by bringing legislation before this House of the Oireachtas, and then the Seanad, and getting it put into our law. The one great thing laws can do is change human behaviour and we will see that presently when I discuss what is in this Bill. If we are trying to stop the bulk purchase of newly completed housing estates by institutions, we have to change our laws so that it is prohibited. That is permitted when it is done for the common good and when thinking of what public and Government policy is and should be.
This Bill sets out a pathway as to how we are going to reduce carbon emissions between now and 2050. We want to be a carbon-neutral economy and society when we get to 2050. I commend the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications on the changes made to the Bill since it was initially published. The Joint Committee on Climate Action did an excellent job in strengthening the Bill. It is in the interests of everyone in this House to ensure the legislation we enact is vigorous and strenuous and will achieve the objectives we want it to achieve. Let us be clear about what that objective is. We want to ensure that as a country, Ireland is able to achieve a reduction in our carbon emissions and greenhouse gases, in order to play our part in the world and protect it from ongoing climate change. If we do not do that, 30 or 50 years from now we will not be able to reverse the damage done to humanity as a result of climate change. We were able to respond to the pandemic through ingenuity and scientific knowledge and develop a vaccine. However, if we permit climate change to continue unchallenged we could find ourselves in a position in this century where the challenges are so great that humankind will not be able to overcome them.
One of the great advantages of Ireland having a vigorous climate action Bill, and laws which delegate how we are going to deal with the climate challenge, is that we can then speak authoritatively and competently to other countries about how they should seek to challenge this threat posed to humanity. Let us be clear about this: the threat posed to humanity by climate change cannot be dealt with by any one country, let alone Ireland. It is an international and global problem and it requires a global solution. Looking at the amount of carbon emissions emanating from other countries, it is clear that we will not be in a position to stop this unless there is international co-operation. I welcome that America now has a President who recognises the threat posed by climate change and has committed to rejoining the Paris Agreement. Unless other large industrialised countries start to face up to their responsibilities in respect of climate change, it will be extremely difficult to get an appropriate response to it.
Ireland sits on the UN Security Council. We have a strong voice in the world. When Ireland speaks, people listen to us. When we listen to the vigorous debates in this Chamber, it may sometimes give the impression that we are not taken seriously as a country. We are taken extremely seriously by the rest of the world and other governments when we speak. Part of that is recognising that we were elected onto the UN Security Council. Therefore, I urge the Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications, Deputy Eamon Ryan, whom I know will do this, as well as other members of the Government, to speak out regarding issues pertaining to climate action and the challenges faced by the world. We are in a position to do so once we enact this legislation because the world will then see that we speak with authority, and that we act as well as speak on the issue of climate change.
One of the international issues I would like tackled by our Government and raised at the UN Security Council is the outrageous behaviour going on in Brazil, which is controlled by the Bolsonaro regime. We are all aware of the vital role played by the Amazon rainforest in protecting the ecosystem of the world. It absorbs damaging carbon dioxide and plays an extraordinary role in ensuring that carbon dioxide is taken in from the atmosphere. Unfortunately, last year, some five million acres of the Amazon rainforest were deliberately burned in Brazil. In years prior to that, these burnings were also occurring. We must respond to that situation. Ireland should speak out against it. We have a seat on the UN Security Council to do so, and we should do so. How do we respond as a country and as a world when another country poses a threat to us? We have seen such a question applied in respect of Iran and North Korea, and we impose economic sanctions on those countries. We do that because we want to send out a global message to those countries that their behaviour is unacceptable. Similarly, I urge the Minister, Deputy Ryan, to bring up what is happening in the Amazon with his colleagues in Europe. The EU should take note of the damage being done to the global ecosystem by the fires in the Amazon.
I welcome that yesterday it was reported by the BBC that several UK food companies have decided to impose their own economic sanctions on Brazil. They are no longer going to accept certain food imports from Brazil because of the damage being done to the ecosystem and the rainforest by the polices currently being implemented by the Bolsonaro regime, and which are threatened further by more legislative proposals from that regime. If we do not do that, we are going to find ourselves in a situation where the regime will continue with the destruction of the rainforest. We have a bizarre situation now where farmers in Brazil are being facilitated to knock down and burn parts of the rainforest so they can turn those areas into pasture and then put cattle on that land. Those cattle will subsequently be exported to the EU. You could not make up the inappropriateness of what is being done.
Let us be clear that under the Mercosur deal, that is the plan. Brazilian beef will be exported to the EU. The purpose of that will be to ensure that Brazilian meat producers are given greater markets throughout the world. That will be achieved in Brazil by reducing the size of the rainforest and turning the land into pasture for cattle. We must really look again at the logic of cutting down parts of the rainforest so that cattle can be put out to pasture and subsequently be shipped over to and sold in European markets. It simply does not make sense, if we are trying to cut down on carbon emissions and ensure that the ecosystem of the world is protected. We must recall that the rainforest in the Amazon is not just a natural resource of Brazil or South America, but that it is, as President Macron stated previously, "the lungs of the world". We must protect the Amazon and preserve it. It belongs to all of us in respect of the impact it has on the ecosystem. If we do not do that, we are going to find ourselves perpetrating irreparable damage to the ecosystem which operates here.
We must also be innovative in how we respond to the challenges raised by the climate crisis and the proposals within this Bill. Understandably, many people in the agricultural sector are concerned about the impact this Bill may have on Irish agriculture. It is important in that regard to say that one thing the pandemic has taught us is that it is essential that Ireland preserves and maintains its own food supply. We had got into a state of mind in the world prior to the pandemic where we assumed that none of those challenges that impacted the world in previous centuries, such as plagues, wars or other natural disasters, were going to affect us any longer. We were in the second half of the 20th century and the first half of the 21st century, and because of that we assumed that we had some kind of guaranteed gilded existence. We do not, and we must recognise that we are going to face challenges again in future.
One of the most important things we must ensure is that this country, an island, always retains its own food supply. In that regard, beef farming is obviously an essential ingredient. I ask the Minister to consider recent conclusive research from the University of California, which showed that the methane emanating from cattle can be reduced by up to 82% if those cattle eat seaweed. I will send that report to the Minister. We must examine and investigate that prospect. If it proves to be the case that methane emissions can be reduced by that extent, then we should again use Irish innovation to ensure we start to actively grow seaweed to be provided to beef farmers. Many people listening to this debate may wonder and fear that the taste of the beef may be extremely damaged as a result of cattle eating seaweed. Apparently, it is not. The research in California showed that the taste of the beef is no different and nor, indeed, is the taste of milk when dairy cattle were fed seaweed. These are factors we must consider, and we should approach them with innovation and excitement.
The Bill sets out several significant legal obligations on the State. The Minister and others concerned about climate action did not want to see legislation that was vague and would not impose obligations on the State. This Bill is not vague. It imposes many mandatory obligations on the State to ensure those obligations are met. I will make some proposals and suggestions for the Minister to consider, perhaps on Committee Stage. When it comes to the definition of "climate justice" in the Bill, the Minister may have to be more precise regarding how he defines "the most vulnerable persons". One of the definitions of "climate justice" is that it means the requirement that decisions and actions taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the effects of climate change shall, insofar as it is practicable to do so, "safeguard the rights of the most vulnerable persons and endeavour to share the burdens and benefits arising from climate change". It is hard for me sometimes not to look at legislation with a lawyer's eye, but if this text comes before a court, that court will look at the phrase and wonder what is meant by "the most vulnerable persons". It is a definition or term used quite broadly in Ireland, and it would be helpful for the sake of the Bill if some further precision were given in that regard.
The national climate objective set out in section 5 is very clear and it sets out the country's objective when it comes to global warming. It states that we must "pursue and achieve, by no later than the end of the year 2050, the transition to a climate resilient, biodiversity rich, environmentally sustainable and climate neutral economy".
I am not going to go through the Bill in any more detail. I commend the Minister on bringing it to the House, and I believe it will have the wide support of Members. Some Members are fearful of the Bill, and others want to generate fear about it, but we have nothing to be fearful of when it comes to responding with innovation to challenges. We have seen how we have done that in respect of the pandemic. In Ireland, we have always reacted to challenges with innovation and we will be able to do it again. I would like people to give this Bill the opportunity to progress through the House so we can set ourselves a national objective.
I ask the Minister not to forget that Ireland is a small country, our carbon dioxide emissions are approximately 0.1% of the world's emissions, but we have a much higher percentage when it comes to our influence on the world. Let us use that influence, because when we speak, people listen to us.