Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill 2021: Second Stage (Resumed)

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

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.

I welcome the Minister to the House. One of the first things I want to do is to acknowledge that Ireland and the world owes the green movement a huge debt of thanks. I must acknowledge the Green Party was ahead of the posse here, notwithstanding the efforts of the odd individual, conservationist or ecologist who might have international status and be very well known to people publicly. The Green Party led the way, was persistent and experienced the slings and arrows of success and failure electorally and never gave up. It is fair to say that over recent years the whole green climate action agenda has become a climate action agenda that is embraced by all mainstream parties and, indeed, my own party.

In Government, way back in 1990 or so, we banned the use of smoky coal in Dublin. There is still a residual issue around the use of smoky coal. However, the ban on the use of smoky coal was very far-seeing at the time. My Fianna Fáil colleague, former Deputy Noel Dempsey, introduced the plastic bag levy when he was Minister for the Environment and Local Government. Indeed, perhaps the Minister, Deputy Ryan, might revisit that issue. There is a bit of abuse of that system going on. I have noticed that if you go into a shop and buy a bag, if can cost 70 cent to 1 euro. I think they are creeping back in, even if they are compostable. It might be something that the Minister could look into.

The climate action agenda has gone mainstream and is very much embraced by parties like Fianna Fáil. The most significant thing to say is that climate action and climate action legislation has been an objective, an ideal and an aspiration for the past decade. This Government has actually put it on the agenda and is dealing with it for the first time. It may not be perfect and there may be amendments and tweaks that need to be made, but it must be acknowledged that it is coming to our Statue Book, is aggressive in the manner in which it attempts to set climate action targets for us, does not baulk at and is difficult in facing up to the unique challenges that face Ireland, and calls on everybody to make their contribution.

One of the things on which I want to focus before making a few comments on the Bill is the fact the Green Party does the helicopter view of climate action really well. However, for the ordinary Joe and Joan Soap to make a really meaningful contribution to it, we must bring in more initiatives and ideas they can buy into, enabling them in a meaningful way to know they are contributing in a significant way to reducing not just their own carbon footprint but that of their community. The Minister will remember the green box into which we used to put our recyclables. It was the size of a shopping basket 20 years ago. Then we discovered that almost all of its contents ended up in landfill, even though everybody had been doing their best to recycle their recyclable products at home. We have improved a lot on that. People are recycling to a huge degree, they embrace it, want to do more of it and want to make their contribution in a meaningful way.

One of the areas in which I have been interested is waste management. It is an area that is managed on a retail basis here by Rehab. We have seen some really innovative gestures by large multiples. Perhaps they are not the mainstream ones we associate with our supermarkets and supermarket shopping but others. Aldi and Lidl have led the way in this. When you are finished your shopping, you can discard the recyclable parts of the packaging or packaging you simply do not want. These stores are doing this on a voluntary basis. I am have a Bill in preparation that would oblige large retailers of a particular size, and even the local retailers like Spar, SuperValu and Centra, to provide their shoppers with the opportunity to discard the waste packaging they do not want. It would send a major and significant message back through the supply chain to the point of source, manufacture or production to tell those involved the consumer does not need all this packaging, that product A results in a significant amount of returns compared with product B.

I know the print newspaper industry is going through a transformation and this Government has had positive ideas in that respect. Every Sunday when I buy the newspapers, there are a number of supplements I do not want, but they end up in my green bin. I would like to be in a position to be able to hand them back to the retailer and say I only want the main section or the sport, lifestyle or culture section, whatever it may be. I would like to be able to set out which sections of the newspaper I want to buy and the associated bits that I do not. A retailer will get the message very quickly and pass it back to the point of production that it is sent certain products every week, which are then stacked on the shelves and supplied to the consumer, who does not like the amount of packaging. It will pass on the message, which will be sent loud and clear. That should be legislated for.

There is an interesting story, which I might tell on another occasion, about an entrepreneur in my own constituency who was thwarted in the end by a well-known coffee retailer. Many people go to buy coffee in the morning and I have seen increasing numbers of people bring their own cup for this purpose. Let us consider the amount of waste generated in those small retail spaces. When we buy coffee, the coffee grounds go to landfill, yet coffee grounds are incredibly nutrient-rich and make really good fertiliser. There are outlets, like a major burger chain, that offer bags of coffee grounds to customers free of charge. The customers do not tend to take up this offer. Perhaps it is because they do not know that coffee grounds make really good compost for their plants. We should legislate that every retailer or outlet that sells coffee is obliged to recycle it, so that it does not end up in a black plastic sack in landfill. What about the little wooden stick that we use to stir a sachet of sugar into our coffee? It is made of wood, is only used once, goes into the black refuse sack and ends up in landfill. It could easily be recycled.

We need to be much more aggressive and vigorous on retailers and points of production. I spoke to someone who works with a major burger outlet that is one of the best known chains. They told me that when they replaced the plastic straws with paper straws, customers gave out because they did not like the paper straws, but they have got used to them. We need to be really vigorous. One of the reasons I raise this issue is that it gives the consumer, at a very basic level, a real sense of empowerment that he or she is doing something useful, is not adding to waste and is playing a small role in the supply chain.

The Minister and I share a passion for micromobility. If we keep going in the positive way we are going in relation to the vaccine roll-out and the Covid figures, we may not be back to peak traffic but we will be moving towards heavy traffic again. We can see it. The city is still particularly quiet but the suburbs are buzzing.

The time has come for electric scooters. We should have gone about introducing them, as it was done in the UK, under the cover of Covid to give people time to get used to them. I have a Bill providing for a scheme like the Dublin city bike scheme that would get people used to scooters and show they can be rolled out safely and are capable of playing a significant part in smart transport in the city. However, the Covid window has passed. As people begin to return over time from remote working, the city will start to get busier. The Minister knows my enthusiasm for these types of initiatives. He is a cyclist, as am I. It would help legislators to make laws in this area if they had experience of things like e-scooters and e-bikes. I wonder how many members of the Cabinet have ridden either. It is not until you do, as the Minister has, that you see their exciting potential as a component of micromobility and smart travel.

The next point I want to make is one I have raised with colleagues before. I am saying it to the Minister in the context of the next budget. Electric bikes have become hugely popular but they are an expensive piece of kit. A good one costs approximately €3,000. People can get some of that money back through the bike to work scheme but they have to spend the €3,000 before they get it back. I do not care whether it is a Fianna Fáil Minister or a Green Party Minister who brings forward initiatives in this regard. Dublin hosted the Velo-City cycling conference two years ago, which the Minister attended, and it was a fantastic and fascinating experience. Belgium is the leader in encouraging the use of electric bikes. It has a scheme under which any employer who invests in any electric bike initiative, whether by way of purchasing bikes for employees, constructing e-bike parking facilities and lockers or installing shower facilities in the workplace, can write off 125% of that investment against tax. In this country, all we have done is extend the bike to work scheme to an e-bike to work scheme. If the Minister were to give employers in Dublin city an incentive whereby every cent they spend on e-bike infrastructure for their employees could be written off against tax, that would make a substantial difference to mobility and commuting in Dublin and would not cost the Exchequer a huge amount.

I believe in trying to empower people to understand they can make a real difference on climate action in their own lives. I am a supporter of climate budgeting, which the Minister knows all about. I would like to see attention being given to the notion of county-by-county climate budgeting. I will explain what that would involve for anyone who might be watching and does not know. Just as a local authority produces an account of how much it spends, what it spends it on and how much it raises every year, climate budgeting would involve an audit of where the carbon footprint comes from in a particular area. In the case of my local authority, South Dublin County Council, agriculture does not account for a huge amount of the footprint, even though two thirds of the area is rural. Most of it is probably coming from data centres and transport. On still days in May, June and July, you can see a huge plume of brown smoke hanging over the M50 as it weaves its way through the area. If you are up in the Dublin Mountains, you can see that brown plume of smoke below. In the case of South Dublin County Council, a climate budget might involve setting the carbon footprint at 100 every year. The audit would include keeping track of the number of e-cars or hybrid cars and auditing their carbon footprint. Each time someone living in the local authority area changed a diesel or petrol car for a hybrid, he or she would be able to see that the carbon front of the area was reduced as a direct impact of that change.

When I proposed something along those lines before, when I was on the Fianna Fáil Front Bench, colleagues said it would punish particular counties that have a heavy reliance on agriculture. My argument is that my part of south County Dublin has a heavy reliance on data centres and transport, with the M50 running right through it. It is incumbent on all of us to set specific targets to reduce the carbon footprint in our own areas. That does not necessarily mean having to cut the cattle herd in some counties, although that may be part of it, but it involves looking at a range of suitable methods. The big headline figure in this country is emissions from cattle. The question is how to counterbalance that with other initiatives. In south County Dublin, for example, we could look to offset the carbon footprint of data centres by encouraging more people to cycle. That would require rolling out more cycle lanes and greenways and promoting the use of e-bikes, e-scooters and hybrid cars. It could involve telling the people of south County Dublin that they can make a real difference by reducing the amount of waste they produce. Initiatives like that could set up quite a competitive environment that is conducive to effective change.

Although data centres get a lot of flak, it is important to note there are other factors to consider. People forget that companies like Amazon, AWS, Microsoft and Facebook have set themselves incredibly ambitious targets in regard to the carbon footprint they create. The bosses in Ireland have demanding objectives to reach, overseen by the executives in headquarters. In my constituency, the AWS facility in Tallaght produces a lot of heat. However, AWS is doing significant work in terms of providing district heating from what comes out of that plant. We should look at more of those types of initiatives because the spin-off in terms of jobs is significant. In the old days, we may have thought we were getting the poor relation of technology in securing data centres rather than the creative enterprises. We now know that data are king. It is an incredibly valuable thing to have the data centres of many global companies housed in Ireland.

We waste one third of our food in this country, which is truly appalling. One of my family members has inspired me to take action in this regard. There used to be a bit of social cachet among the middle classes in having a full fridge. A really well-stocked fridge looks great. During Covid, my family member decided to try to exhaust the contents of the fridge before going shopping again. I have tried to do the same. Having empty shelves in the fridge and using up all the contents before going out to shop has become the goal. Shopping more often for fewer items may be helpful in this regard rather than doing one big shop, but this could be impractical for large families. It is something we should encourage people to consider. As I said, we waste 30% of the food we produce and buy. That is an appalling statistic.

My local authority, South Dublin County Council, is doing an enormous amount of work, backed up by the Minister's Department and other Departments, on the provision of greenways and cycle tracks. Constituents are looking for maps of where those tracks are because they want to use them. They want to know whether they can get from Knocklyon to Tallaght by bike and, if there is more than one route, which one is the best. There is also a lot of work being done on areas of ecological sensitivity. The old days of having every open space in an estate looking like a more well-manicured version of Augusta are gone. People realise that wild flowers, open spaces and rivers are types of sanctuaries.

The planet took a big deep breath over the past year, as we have discussed before in the House. We heard birdsong and experienced new smells. I encountered natural smells I had not smelled since I was a boy. The M50, which I live beside, was like a country road at the height of the Covid restrictions. You could hear individual cars pass by. The planet got to breathe but, at the same time, we witnessed things like what my colleague, Deputy O'Callaghan, referred to in terms of President Bolsonaro's actions regarding the rainforest in Brazil. That was a crime against nature. Before the Second World War, the concept of a crime against humanity did not exist. The concept of a crime against nature is something a body like the United Nations should look at with a view to setting particular standards in that regard and imposing punitive sanctions on countries that break those standards.

I cannot make these comments without reflecting on the fact that we, in the western world, who exploited most of the riches that much of the rest of the world had over the centuries, are setting the global targets for those countries that are trying to develop and do their best. Ireland was not part of that exploitation and that is something of which we can be proud. Some of those countries that are trying to do their best to develop their economies and the potential of their people, countries, economies, natural resources, spaces and areas were exploited by colonists and imperialists over centuries. People in India and parts of Africa must think it is a bit rich to hear targets set by the West and countries that pillaged all their riches over centuries. We should not forget that.

I wish the Minister well in his work. He has my absolute support for the Bill and any assistance I can offer. I would ask him to focus on some micro-initiatives, whether budgets or other things, which people on the street can buy into and know that in taking action and following such initiatives, they are making their own little contributions to the big but achievable targets the Minister has set at a macro and a global level.

I am pleased to be able to speak today on Second Stage of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill 2021. I am glad the Minister is here. Táim an-chairdiúil leis an bhfear sin.

Is the Deputy sharing his time?

I am not. I look forward to a robust debate with the Minister. We understand each other and have no hard feelings, and the same goes for all the members of the Rural Independent Group. Deputy O'Donoghue asked me to ask the Minister when, like "Living with Lucy", the Minister will visit Limerick with him.

This is perhaps the most far-reaching piece of legislation to come before the Chamber in the current Dáil. As someone who has grown up, worked and lived in rural Ireland all my life, I am acutely aware of the fondness and respect that rural people have for the land, hedgerows, biodiversity and environmental sustainability. Their meitheal spirit is still alive and well when the chips are down and things are difficult as we saw during the recent lockdowns. Above all else, rural people have a deep sense of pride in passing on our traditions, heritage and way of life to the next generation. We value that greatly.

It is within this context that I want to clearly outline my full commitment, and the commitment of my colleagues in the Rural Independent Group, to improving the environment and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. However, I believe that pursuing these noble objectives should not have the impact of making people poorer by introducing harsh measures on ordinary people who only want to live happily and peacefully. There is a better way. There must be a fairer way, a path that must be socially just and grounded in economic equality which also achieves the required reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions. Social justice must be the central belief of this Bill. We cannot have a situation of legally binding emissions passed into law for a four-decade time window without consideration of some key elements. This Bill aims to bring about the reduction targets, five-yearly carbon budgets, sectoral emissions ceilings, an annually updated climate action plan and a long-term climate action strategy, with little or no actual democratic accountability to an Teach seo. We are privileged to be elected for the time being.

The expansion of the Climate Change Advisory Council under this Bill was welcomed yesterday by the Leas-Cheann Comhairle. She and I differ on things like this but I admire all her contributions for their honesty and integrity. The expansion of the council will result in that 13-member committee having much more input than ordinary citizens and even democratically-elected Teachtaí Dála. The council will be given a key assessing and advisory role for Ireland’s transition to a zero-carbon economy by 2050. That is a diminution of our democracy.

We believe that this Bill is being rushed through the Dail while the country is in a pandemic and without any consideration for the impact it will have on ordinary people, farmers or rural Ireland. This Bill treats rural Ireland as a victim and its population as rogues. That should not be. We cannot have a demonising of rural people. We need more of the honey and less of the vinegar. At the very minimum, such legislative proposals should be accompanied by rigorous independent analysis into the social, societal and economic impact of such proposals and on how they will impact each sector. The number of quangos has mushroomed. I want to see farmers, farmer bodies and rural dwellers represented on the Climate Change Advisory Council. We must include the input of people who understand rural Ireland and will be impacted by the decisions that are made. If we had proper scrutiny, it would at least allow Deputies the opportunity to make informed decisions and provide for transparency around the costs and the benefits associated with the far-reaching impacts of this Bill. In fact, this legislation did not even contain a straightforward regulatory impact assessment of the Bill. We are promised that it will be published on Committee Stage. That serves to highlight again the rushed nature of this Bill. Make hay slowly, I say. I know people believe we are in a climate crisis. We are not climate change deniers but we want fairness.

This legislation has one common denominator, that is, the legislative impact will make every single Irish citizen poorer or much less well off. The Bill is much more draconian than the draft Bill published in October 2020. The main provisions include an objective of climate neutrality by 2050 and an interim target of a 51% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, relative to a baseline of 2018.

Some Members of this House and several members of the Green Party were highly critical of the members of the Rural Independent Group for not attending the Oireachtas committee which considered the draft Bill. The Leas-Cheann Comhairle knows that we only have six members. We did not get a lot of choice on committees because the Government took all the cake and left us some cake in the shape of a number of committee memberships. We did not get a membership of the relevant committee. We are all busy people who have other committee meetings at which to attend. If we decide to go to a meeting of a committee of which we are not members, we would have to wait, perhaps for hours, to get in to speak. That argument does not hold water and the people making those allegations should know better because they know the way the committee system works. Such criticisms are grossly disingenuous and are nothing more than a distraction, for several reasons. The members of the Rural Independent Group have their own committees, as I said.

This Bill is before us because the programme for Government was carved up between Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party, supported by a number of regional Independents, many of whom I noticed did come in to speak on the Bill. I was alarmed that country Deputies did not speak and were not interested in the Bill.

The Bill is being fuelled to keep the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, and the Green Party happy. It is a means for Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to hold onto power, irrespective of the costs or impact to ordinary people and key sectors such as agriculture and many others. We believe that this Bill will do absolutely nothing to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, the only thing that this legislation will do is hammer Ireland’s economy, cost thousands of jobs both directly and indirectly, and include harsh impositions on our people. Above all else, the Bill is anti-rural, attacks the poor and will do absolutely nothing whatsoever to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. We say that not only because we think it. We have seen independent research by different universities to back that up.

This Bill is riddled with hypocrisy, like all the Government’s actions and messages on climate change. We hear Government Deputies and Ministers claiming that this Bill will make Ireland the world leader on tackling climate change. Do we want to be a leader on tackling climate change? It is a nice aspiration and lovely ambition but we must respect our people's right to exist under the Constitution. Ireland, through this Bill, even though we produce 0.11% or one tenth of 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions, is introducing potentially the most severe and utterly unachievable emission targets anywhere on the planet. Where is the research, backup and common sense? Such nonsense fools no one. If we were serious about reducing the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, we would be focusing our efforts abroad and on a global scale.

Instead, the inward focus of the Bill will target Irish people and do nothing to reduce global emissions. Deep down, this cynical Government knows that is the case. Its only objective is to stay in power. It is willing to throw every single citizen under the bus, if the bus is still travelling and not out of gas, that is.

Greenhouse gas emissions are a global issue. The Government approach is tokenism and amounts to penalties on Irish people while turning a blind eye to what happens on a global stage. That is blatantly obvious. For example, a report published in 2018 by Greenpeace - I hope and know the Minister will not rubbish that organisation - stated that one small power plant in China produces far in excess of all the greenhouse gas emissions produced in Ireland in aon bhliain amháin. That is a stark fact. In fact, the report states that the top three firms in China emitted more greenhouse gases than the whole of Ireland in the past decade. Why are we not looking at that? My colleagues and I are often accused of not looking at the broader picture but that is a very broad question. China is one of the world’s fastest-growing economies and, with that growth, its emissions are increasing rapidly. China plans to build more power plants. Each plant that is built, even the small ones, will produce at least the same amount of greenhouse gases that Ireland produces in any year. We have to be serious about this. This serves to underline the fact that this issue must be dealt with on a global scale. We support that being done. The Government’s flawed approach aims to hammer the Irish public with a raft of carbon-related taxation measures and net reduction targets while also doing business with China. That is farcical and turns a blind eye to China's emissions problems. We must be proud people. We were always recognised and respected as a neutral country. We must have our voice respected again.

While claiming to be the best in class and banning the cutting of turf under the Bill, the Government continues to support electricity generation at the Moneypoint power plant in County Clare via the importation of coal from an open-cast mine in Colombia. This is utterly bizarre nonsense and not a word is said about it. I was recently out on the bog in Moanyarha in Contae Phort Láirge, not too far from my parish, and saw men and women engaged in the old practice and pastime of cutting turf to give them a bit of heat during the winter. That should not be discontinued. I will fight for their right to keep cutting turf. It is easy for middle-class green activists in Dublin to propose the end of farming as we know it or to campaign against economic growth when the devastating consequences of both will be felt by others. That is what is happening.

The Government hypocrisy on climate change is also exposed when it comes to the transport sector, where a lack of strategic planning has resulted in emissions that spiralled by between 14% and 16% in 2020. This is mainly due to a lack of investment in public transportation across the country. I thank the Minister for coming to Tipperary and listening to the people. I know he has good aims and objectives and wants to get more trains, buses, rail corridors and whatever but is not in favour of big motorways. I am not in favour of them either. We need small bypasses of towns. We need to let the towns live and not cut them off completely. I am thankful that the Minister is considering the M20 and the M24 and the associated impacts and costs, including the impacts on biodiversity. If the Government was serious about reducing emissions, it would begin by putting public transport in place across the country in order to provide people with an alternative mode of transport. We just do not have it. Bus services to Cashel and Tipperary are being cut. I heard Deputy Cathal Crowe remark earlier that he only has a few miles to cycle to the station in County Clare. That is great, but I could not cycle to my local station, which is 40 miles from my house. There are stations in Cahir and Clonmel but the train would not get me to Dublin until 3 o'clock in the afternoon. I have no doubt some Deputies would be delighted with that because they would not have to listen to me. The lack of public transport is not fair to people.

The Government hypocrisy is underlined by the fact that the Government could not even meet the lower 2020 EU emissions reduction targets, but it now wants to be the best in the world by 2030.

I wish to focus on several destructive measures in the Bill which will destroy rural communities. First, the Bill is anti-agriculture. On a global level, agriculture accounts for 16% of all greenhouse gas emissions. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, agriculture accounts for 34% of greenhouse gas emissions in this country. The Bill provides no special derogation for any parts of agriculture. Members are aware of the issue last week relating to heather. There is heather in my area. The purple heather on the Knockmealdowns is beautiful. The cuckoos have been there for the past two weeks and it is wonderful. Such land is farmed and has been farmed for generations but is now going to be ruled out in terms of receiving any kind of payments. That is pathetic nonsense. The heather is rich and untouched and has been there for generations and centuries but now the Government wants to cut the payment for land that has heather on it. Farmers are going to clear it and plough the land. One hand does not know what the other hand is doing.

Under the Bill, those involved in agriculture in Ireland will be forced to pay a disproportionate cost, much higher than that which will be paid by farmers in other countries. The fact that the Bill makes no special provision for the agricultural sector is utterly outrageous. We depend on farmers. That has never been more clear than during the recent lockdown. Under the Bill, the Climate Change Advisory Council and the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications will set the targets, which means the cuts proposed for the agriculture sector will be profound.

Before the most recent general election, many Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil Deputies came into the House and promised to bring in a special exemption for the agrifood sector. Where are those promises now? They are gone, like snow off a ditch or a cat through a skylight. Those Deputies are saying locally that agriculture will be okay. They are using the nod and a wink politics of the past. That is not good enough. They come in here and criticise me and my colleagues for scaremongering. We are not scaremongering; we are reporting from very reputable sources. Those Deputies are going to vote in favour of the Bill and its impactful measures. Well, I have a message for them. They cannot dine à la carte on this issue. Either they stand with farmers, local communities and ordinary people by voting against the Bill or they are for the Bill. However, they should know that if they vote in favour of the Bill, they are crucifying - I am sorry for using that word - every person living in rural Ireland.

That is what was done last Friday night when there was an increase in the carbon tax on fuel. The fuel subsidy is gone and people are perishing in their houses in this cold weather, with temperatures of minus 3°C forecast for tonight again. People did not realise the tax had increased until they were hit with the higher price of oil on Monday morning. The Deputies I am talking about are voting to put people out of work. They are voting to cull large numbers of cattle. That is not scaremongering; it is a fact. They are voting for higher food prices and higher electricity prices.

I raised earlier the issue of utility companies and the way they are fleecing companies even though the business premises are closed and not being used. The Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Varadkar, denied having any responsibility for that issue. He told them to do a deal with the utility companies. What is the purpose of the Commission for Regulation of Utilities? What is the point in having a regulator if it is not going to step in?

The Deputies voting for the Bill are voting to end the possibility of young local people obtaining planning permission on family-owned lands in rural areas. This is a very important issue. Young people want to be able to have a house in which to live in rural Ireland. They respect the community. The planners are flooded with work at the moment. I have to encourage anyone who wishes to build in rural Ireland to apply immediately, before the new plans come into force in 18 months time, because after that it will be a no-go area. That is putting significant pressure on the planners but it is a fact. They have told me that themselves.

A vote for the Bill is a vote to end the cutting of turf, which is a traditional solid fuel source for ordinary people. These Deputies are either with rural Ireland or they are about keeping their party in government. They cannot have it both ways. The game is up.

The provisions in the Bill aimed at meeting the emissions reductions will destroy agriculture as we know it. That has been well-documented by research, research that has been conveniently ignored by the Government. For example, analysis published on 27 March in the Irish Farmers' Journal, a very reputable publication that is treated as gospel in the farming community, suggests that half the cattle and cow herd would need to be culled by 2030. That is what the analysis stated. The Deputies I am talking about come in here and tell us that is not true. They love to quote from newspapers when it suits them. It would mean a cull of approximately 3.4 million cattle and cows. It would mean that a farmer with 100 cows would basically have to cull the herd down to 50 cows. It is shocking. It is a fact. That analysis published in the Irish Farmers' Journal has not been contested. The Bill would mean even deeper culls in 2030. It certainly means an end to growing herd sizes and is completely in contrast with the objectives outlined by the Minister, Deputy Coveney, and others who told people only a year or two ago to double their herds.

The Bill represents a blunt and callous approach and risks off-shoring our food production to countries that do not have emissions targets and can cut down their rainforests. It would bring thousands of tonnes of beef from Brazil into Europe. It is total pathetic nonsense.

The Bill fails to recognise that Irish farmers are the most carbon-efficient food producers in the world owing to our grass-based model of food production. It is important that this sustainable production is not restricted as it would lead to increased international climate emissions being created. The Mercosur trade deal, for example, will allow the import of 99,000 tonnes of beef into the EU at a time beef prices are on the floor and the cartels in the beef industry are doing nothing about it.

Recently published research from the University of Oxford shows that food miles, namely, the transportation of food between countries, contributes a greater impact on greenhouse gases. That is a fact. The Minister knows that, as well as I do. The production of briquettes in the midlands has been banned on the basis of a so-called just transition. This is the most unjust thing to do to the families in that region. Deputy Carol Nolan is doing her best to fight it. We saw the impact recently on a businessman who had been operating for 30 years developing the bike industry. Allegations have been made that the person who got the tender is related to the Minister, but I do not pay any respect to that because the tendering process is a tendering process and it has to be respected. However, the Minister might want to clarity if there is any connection to him, because it is not fair if it is not true. It is callous and wrong. That man has no chance now. We are supposed to be encouraging businesspeople and entrepreneurs. We must lead our people out of this and give them hope. We need to be honest and transparent with them instead of closing down the peat factories and banning turf cutting. The same was done with the gas and oil and we are now importing them. It makes no sense. A child in kindergarten could understand that never mind us here in this Parliament.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate on this Bill. Over the past number of months, I have heard the Minister, Deputy Ryan, talk about the number of houses that will be retrofitted over the next decade and what we can do, especially for older people. Today is Thursday. Earlier this week, I saw two letters issued by Roscommon County Council to elderly people regarding grant aid for older people for the installation of new windows or doors or upgrade work to roofs and so on to make houses more energy efficient. My understanding is that the council budgets commence in March. It is now only May and Roscommon County Council has issued letters to people telling them that all of the funding has been allocated. This comes at a time we are hearing daily from the Minister about the proposed retrofitting and refurbishment of houses.

In the previous Dáil, I sat beside the Minister in the Chamber, where we had many a good chat. I am surprised at how undemocratic this Bill is. It provides for a five-year carbon budget, but regardless of how it is going, the Minister can overrule it. That should not be provided for in any Bill. That power should lie with the Parliament, but under this Bill that will not happen. There is another issue which has surprised me. I have seen this previously with regard to people appointed to boards. In this instance, I am speaking about the Climate Change Advisory Council. There is a person sitting on that council who has publicly stated, more than once, that half the national herd should be got rid of. I do not think that is a prudent thing to do. People who have made rash statements like that, who have been appointed to the council, should rethink where they stand on this issue. Appointees need to have an open mind and cannot be saying this, that or the other in the media. The Minister needs to look at this because he appointed the chairperson. It is a worrying development that before we start off, there are people who are totally opposed to the type of farming that is carried out in the agricultural sector. This is the first issue that should be looked at.

In talking about the climate Bill, let us go down the road of electricity. We hear nothing anymore other than that there will be wind turbines. We hear that there will be 1 million electric vehicles on the road and that there will be 500,000 houses reliant on electricity for heat. A week or ten days ago, I watched an RTÉ programme filmed at Moneypoint, during which I heard references to hydrogen commencing in Moneypoint and to wind turbines being out on the sea almost straight away. We need to be honest with people and tell them that a project involving wind turbines out on the sea from its infancy can take between ten and 14 years. It has to go through the planning process. Anybody who knows Moneypoint and the surrounding area knows there is a dolphin sanctuary there and that it is an area where it would be pretty tough to get planning permission. The impression was given - this is the spin that is going on - that we are almost ready to turn Moneypoint on to hydrogen, that the turbines will be on sea and there will be heaps of jobs. That is rubbish, because that is not going to happen. During that programme, businesspeople were interviewed who thought they were coming on stream in the next couple of months. That does not happen overnight. We need to be clear with people on that.

We have shut down the power stations in Shannonbridge and Lanesborough, but we have oil tankers going into data centres in this city where the ESB will not guarantee power. That is some contradiction. Approximately seven or eight oil tankers per day are coming into this country and all the while we are talking about plans for a clean environment. I will make a prediction on the record. On the basis of everything I have learned from talking to people and the experts, in 2027 we will be in real danger of not having power. We are jumping from one thing to the other. It needs to be borne in mind that the Corrib gas field will be gone in 2027. Some people are opposed to a gas terminal being located at Moneypoint along the Kerry-Clare border. If people continue with the "we cannot have this, this or this" we will be like a car with three wheels and we will not be able to go anywhere.

On transport, we have had several reports on the western rail corridor. In Galway, the home of the Leas-Cheann Comhairle, they talk about light rail. This is all hypothetical stuff at the moment because no funding is being put together to make sure that some of these projects are delivered. Since I was knee high, I have been hearing about the western rail corridor and what would be done, including if it would bring in people from Tuam and Claremorris and if could it be extended to Knock. In Dublin city, a quick solution could have been found. It is probably one of the only cities in Europe that does not have a rail line from its main airport.

That is phenomenal.

We talk about the number of electric cars that we will buy or have on the road, but do we consider people's incomes or the cars' cost? Most people in rural areas buy second-hand cars for between €5,000 and €10,000. You would not get an electric car's battery for that.

Under this climate Bill, it seems like we in this country will nearly become sales people because we will tick a box saying that we will be classed as the clean, green economy. That will not work, though, because it will not create enough jobs. Under the current plan, the Government is happier to see briquettes coming in from Germany, Estonia and elsewhere than it is to tell Bord na Móna's workers in Offaly to keep making briquettes until 2030. They are 15% moisture and meet all the various criteria. The Government is happier to bring milled peat into Ireland in order to keep the mushroom industry going than it is for us to mill our own peat. We seem to be happier to bring in biomass from Brazil - I would like to see proof that it is not part of the rainforest - and South Africa than to have it made in our own country.

The problem is that, under the Minister's Climate Action Plan, we are to plant 8,000 ha of forestry per year, but we have not even hit a quarter of that amount since 2016. We have a Minister of State from the Minister's party who has been told this time and again but keeps talking about new ideas, we have a Department that is dysfunctional and the Government is in denial about it all. Still we write up on the chart that we will plant 8,000 ha every year. At the Joint Committee on Agriculture and the Marine, we pull out our dashboard and look at it weekly. If we are talking about planting 8,000 ha, we must give licences for 10,000 ha or 12,000 ha because a certain amount of applicants will never plant. If someone is waiting three years, he or she will certainly never plant.

The Government talks about how organic farming will be the new way forward. In 2016, 1,663 farms were involved in organic farming. In 2017, there were 1,558. In 2018, there were 1,800. That was 137 more, but fewer for a number of years. A few months ago, the Government announced the new organic farming scheme with great fanfare and claimed that 400 to 500 farms would be brought into it. Today's figures tell the Government what the farmers of this country think of that scheme and the way the Government has gone about it. Only 317 of the country's farmers have applied for it. Does that send a message to the Government that something is being done wrong?

The Government talks about the new results-based environment agri-pilot programme, REAP, scheme. I remember speaking to the Minister about carbon budgets and so on. The carbon tax will move to between €80 and €100 per tonne. We were told that a great deal of money would go to the agricultural sector in a new environmental scheme. The new REAP scheme provides €4,700 plus €2,200 more if a farm has designated or double designated land, which is like trying to climb to the moon. The old green low-carbon agri-environment scheme, GLAS, was €300 more at €5,000. We have gone backwards.

I cannot understand something. If someone applies under the new REAP scheme, one can only include the land he or she included previously. If someone wanted to include a bit of wetland, bogland or whatever, it could not be included because it had not been included previously. What is the mentality of the people who draw up some of these schemes? Did they ever stand on a farm? Do they understand agriculture? They have read about it as an leabhar, but they do not understand it in reality.

Under GAEC 2, or the good agricultural and environmental conditions, farmers in the west and north west especially will face a situation where there will be two different systems under a derogation - we call it an amendment in this country but, funnily enough, the EU calls it a derogation - and they will be put at risk of their land not being classed as eligible. Speaking about climate, this is some of the best land in the world. If they are put out of that, what is the future for that rural family? What is the future for the next generation? What is the future for the community in that area?

We see the usual suspects in the media talking about agriculture and its emissions. They say that Ireland's figures have increased or whatever. We have not included our hedgerows, although in fairness to the Minister, he is trying to do that now. Have we carried out proper research on grass being grown and eaten? Have we carried out research on barley, wheat and other crops? What is the plan or vision for rural Ireland?

A cut to the national herd will not be tolerated. I can tell the Government that straight up. Covid will go and there will be a revolt by the people of rural Ireland for a simple reason, that being, farmers are trying to make a living. They are the custodians of the land. We come from a managed landscape. They are the solution to much of this, but they will not be price payers at the same time. I will give an example that relates to the Government's fancy new carbon tax. Consider a contractor cutting silage with the self-propelled forage harvesters, BiG Ms, loaders and tractors that are needed for the job. With increases in the price of diesel and the carbon tax, that contractor will pay €450 more per day. From where will that money come? The farmer will get hit once again.

We need to ensure that we use the carrot, not the stick. People in rural areas are sick and tired. I have heard about rural transport. A Bus Éireann route that had been servicing Cloonfad for the past 30 years has been cut, yet the Minister talks about there being more buses. We cannot talk out of both sides of our mouths. While the Minister gets the support of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael Deputies in the House because they want to stay in government for another while, they will face the electorate yet. I can tell the Minister one thing about rural areas - if those Deputies tell farmers X, Y and Z about what the latter have to do with the land they own, there will be a different story at the next election. Supporting this for the sake of staying in power will not work.

As was pointed out earlier, people are sick and tired of what companies in places like China and America are doing. These people in agriculture are guardians. They can look after the environment and they have done so. They will not be talked down to. Let me be clear once again. I even heard this mentioned last night when many of us Deputies were attending meetings. Those people made it very clear that the Government can hide for so long behind Covid-19. The minute Covid has cleared and we are at a different level, politicians in Dublin will get a horrid shock because rural people are sick and tired of what is going on.

I heard domestic turf cutting spoken about earlier. Domestic turf cutters fought a battle before and we will fight it again. We stood up and made very clear the idea of enough turf for one's own house and fire. In fairness to the Minister, I heard him speak about domestic turf cutters a few weeks ago on RTÉ. Whether it is the Minister or somebody else, however, let them not think that they are going to walk on top of the rural people. We bring in these things almost to try to put them out of business.

I mention the higher price of diesel, for example. At one time, kids were brought to school. Now, the buses going to schools have been cut. The bus routes are being cut and yet here we are in this fantasy of a place in Dublin talking about having more public transport and more of this or that and it will all be great and rosy.

The Minister spoke about the number of houses that will be retrofitted. Think of the two people, one of whom is 69 years old and the other 67, who got letters this week informing them there is no money to help them with their house. Think of that when the Minister is talking about 500,000 houses. I mentioned this when the budgets came in two months ago. They generally come in March. Think about what councils are seeing. It is not their fault because they are getting it from central government.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to say a few words on the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill 2021. I was a member of the European Parliament when the Kyoto Protocol entered into force in 2005. Its objective was to stabilise greenhouse gas emissions from 2008 to 2012. Then, of course, its successor, the Doha Amendment, was in operation up to 2020.

As a member of the European Parliament, I supported the agreed proposal from the Parliament and all member states that the EU would commit to a binding target of at least 40% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. The big one, of course, was COP21 and the Paris Agreement, where we had a global agreement on limiting the increase in global temperatures to below 2°C, and preferably to below 1.5°C, compared to pre-industrial levels. We saw the US pull out of that agreement but with the new Biden administration, thankfully, we have seen a recommitment to the objectives and targets of COP21.

In a nutshell, that was my experience as a member of the European Parliament, where time and again I voted for these reductions in emissions. If we look to what has been happening here, we see that Ireland, of course, has signed up to these agreements. Over the last number of months and in the next few months, we will be finalising this piece of framework legislation, which will give effect to our contribution to fighting climate change and living up to the commitments to which we have already signed up. Of course, we had our setbacks and it took a Supreme Court decision last year, which stated that our national mitigation plan was unlawful. Of course, Ireland is not the only country where that has happened. It also happened in the Netherlands in 2019.

This brings us to where we are now. As I said earlier, this Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill 2021 provides a framework for action. We are finally taking responsibility for our own patch and drafting legislation to help ensure we keep our commitments and play our role in helping to fight climate change. We are gingerly tiptoeing our way out of Covid-19, fingers crossed, and we have seen that it takes a global effort to fight a global pandemic. Climate change is also a global issue and no country, large or small, can duck its responsibilities.

We are all very proud of Dr. Mike Ryan and the common sense and realistic approach he brought to the fight against Covid-19. At a recent Trócaire meeting, however, he did not mince his words when he told us that we are pushing nature, population and communities to their limits and creating conditions in which pandemics flourish. We are, therefore, at a tipping point. Indeed, some would say we may have passed that point. All we can do is what we do today and what we promise to do tomorrow, however. As legislators and representatives of the Irish people, we have a responsibility to enact laws that will help protect our environment and our planet; the place we call home.

That is all big picture stuff and it is important. Like any piece of legislation, however, we must get down to the nitty-gritty and see how this affects people and their lives. I understand that many sectors, in particular, the agricultural sector, have significant concerns around this Bill. It is really important that terms like "climate justice" and "a just transition" not only have concrete meaning but also that they must be central to how we pursue language policies.

One of the concerns that has been raised time and again is around the possibility of a decrease in the national herd. This legislation does not specifically deal with the national herd but it commits every sector, including the agrifood sector, to cutting emissions. I have a few thoughts on that. Our beef herd has been reducing for the last number of years. Most people do not seem to realise this. It is not so with our dairy herd. We need to be specific as to what our plan is on this issue. That is my first point.

Second, I spoke of climate change as a global issue, which it is. It is no wonder that Irish farmers are incandescent with rage when they look to Brazil and see the burning of the rainforest to produce Brazilian beef, and a Mercosur proposal to increase the importation of beef into the EU.

This policy is nonsense but was strongly supported by previous trade Commissioners - I am not sure about the current Commissioner - who were gung-ho about it. Ireland must object in the strongest possible terms to any such proposals. We are on solid ground if we make these objections because our rationale is the protection of the climate. This is not a trade issue but a climate one. If the Minister wants Irish farmers to buy into his proposals, he cannot tell them that we ignore the bigger picture.

Beef production, whether in Brazil or Ireland, is a climate issue. That is why we in this country need to take a number of initiatives. We need further research at national and European level into agricultural methane and its impact over its life cycle. This is a crucial piece of research, vital for the beef and dairy industry here. There are good grounds to look at how we count agricultural emissions. I am not saying agriculture should get a free pass. It should not. However, we need to use the most up-to-date evidence when it comes to calculating these emissions. We and the EU have not done so. We need to investigate further the possibility of different types of feed. I already heard other Members refer to that today. We know this can make a significant difference. This research needs to be speeded up to ensure that, again, farmers can play their part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The most important point, however, is that our primary producers get a decent price for the food they produce. Too many farmers are running to stand still. They are price takers with their margins squeezed. Despite some milk-and-water efforts to bring transparency to the food chain, we still have not regulated it in such a way that each link in that chain gets a fair return. The majority of farmers want to be part of the solution. They do not want to be seen as the problem. That is why issues such as the importation of Brazilian beef, using the most accurate scientific, up-to-date way to count emissions, using the most efficient feedstuffs and ensuring a reasonable return to the primary producer will allow farmers to engage as partners. These are crucial.

The new CAP must drive the policy change needed and reward farmers for this work. The results-based environment-agri pilot project, REAP, has been a huge disappointment. Will the Minster assure me that this is not a precursor to the kind of environmental programme we can expect to see in the new CAP? I must emphasise agriculture is the backbone of the rural economy. Those in agriculture want to play their part. They have families, children and grandchildren. They produce some of the best food in the world and they do so in a sustainable way. Will the Minister please commit to working with farmers? That will do far more to deliver on climate change and sustainable agriculture. We have not seen the evidence yet that this is going to happen. I am still waiting to see it.

We have heard about just transition, a fine and lofty term which sounds great. The nitty-gritty of getting from A to B is what determines whether the transition is just. Many speakers have spoken about the horticultural sector and milled peat. What is happening? We are going backwards. We need to learn lessons from that. It is not enough to ban production or to stop a certain action. One must look at the impact of that. Where does one end up? What happens in the meantime? How does one get there? Sometimes one needs to start from the end point and work backwards, as well as starting from the beginning, in order that policy has coherence and the outcomes are not unintended or unexpected. Policy coherence has been missing in many of the actions we have taken so far. That drives people bananas because they see us saying one thing but doing another. Will the Minister look at the consequences of actions and what happens along the way?

Not only does the Minister need to engage with, work with and support farmers, he must do the same with communities, particularly around the issue of renewable energy production. We heard much about wind energy and how offshore is best. Where it is onshore, we have no proper set-back distances. There has been much debate in this Parliament around that issue. However, infrasound and flicker must not impact on local communities. If we increase our set-back distances, it will decrease the areas where wind turbines can be erected. People are entitled to live in their homes, however, and not to be completely overshadowed by huge wind turbines.

Again, that is where we lose people who support progressive climate policy but see wind turbines imposed within 600 m of their homes. We need to work with communities. In the constituency that I represent, people get rightly angry when they cannot get planning permission for a house for a family member but massive wind turbines are allowed or proposed quite close to those family homes. They also see the march of the Sitka spruce across the landscape. We come back to policy coherence and bringing people along. People want to do the right thing and play their part in tackling climate change. The proposals we put in place, however, must allow them to do that and support them in doing so.

There has been a commitment from the Government and from the Minister's party on the issue of the importation of fracked gas. We have no formal policy, however, banning its importation. It makes no sense to have this climate Bill if the Minister does not move immediately to make good on his commitment to ban the importation of fracked gas. In his response today, will he give that commitment or, at the very least, give a timeframe?

I will support this Bill on Second Stage. I will not vote differently in this Parliament from how I did in another parliament. I cannot expect policy coherence from the Minister if I do not deliver on it myself. I look forward to engaging with him on amendments during the next Stage and I am especially looking forward to hearing from him and his Government colleagues about how they intend to put flesh on the bones of these proposals. The Government’s concrete proposal must, as I said, be to bring people and communities with it.

Maybe I will take up from where Deputy Harkin left off in the context of policy coherence and the value of this Bill. The Bill itself is timely. It is a Bill that has gone through committee scrutiny successfully. In the course of that it has invited various other recommendations and no doubt in the course of the Committee Stage, more ideas and inputs will be brought forward and made, which is to be welcomed.

I want to examine the impact of the Bill on various sectors. Agriculture comes to mind first. We have a lot of farmers, indeed a lot of people, involved in all sorts of agricultural activity who are willing to participate fully in achieving the best possible goals for the environment in doing the right thing by the next generation. I have a great deal of respect for the farming community and what it has achieved to date. It has looked after the countryside. As is often said in this House, the farming community have been the custodians of rural Ireland. Farmers need to be recognised for that in a very positive way. Over the past ten years, the Government has set about encouraging farmers and family farms to go in a particular direction, namely, to develop their herd numbers and dairy units and all of this resulted in a significant cost to them. Some of them have invested up to €500,000 because this is what the policy of Government has been up to now. If we are to change that then it cannot be a dramatic change or an immediate change, and it must be supported by a serious level of funding that will comfortably move the farming community in a different direction. I have no doubt but that the community will co-operate fully, as I have seen that right across rural Ireland within farming communities. However, I have seen a lack of support and understanding from the Government in the context of the support, financial and otherwise, and assistance the community needs to continue to have viable family farm units from which a decent living can be made. That relates not just to their activities, be they dairy or otherwise; it relates to the types of vehicle and machinery they are using, the cost of that machinery and the cost to change that machinery to a more acceptable fuel that will do the job at the same time as being kind to the environment and supportive of the farmer. That is going to cost a huge amount.

Regarding credit for the maintenance of hedgerows and the biodiversity in them, I do not think enough is being said about that. These are the small things that have made a huge difference to rural Ireland and the environment and have been the result of a substantial contribution by the farming community. Not enough is being said about that from Europe, which is more interested in the bureaucracy of the schemes it puts in place, which are beneficial to the farming community but also very heavy in terms of the bureaucracy and red tape they require people to engage in. That is regrettable because all of that costs significant money, which could be better spent going directly into the farming businesses the families are engaged in. As such, first and foremost in this Bill we have to protect rural Ireland and to protect the direction those who live in rural Ireland want to go in, while at the same time being sympathetic to the cause of having a better and greener environment, and one that is sustainable and understanding.

My own background is in transport. The transport industry has done a lot to try to comply with the various upgrades of engine and type of engine, including the use of AdBlue and the other bigger engines that are available, to ensure that they are doing their bit to save the environment. However, at what cost? Like those in farming, they are not making sufficient profits to be able to casually invest in the newer type of machinery they will want to assist the Government in meeting those targets and, therefore, they will need assistance. As trucks leave Ireland and go to the Continent, they have that long journey to go on and if we are going to ask them to have the type of engines that are required to meet the targets, they will need support for that.

Transport and agriculture are two areas that are hugely labour-intensive. A transport operator is not just someone who sits in a truck; it is hugely labour-intensive, even down to the on-time delivery of the parcels everyone is now buying online. At present, electric vehicles and their technology do not necessarily suit the operator to change to. This is, first, because they cannot cover the distances and, second, because of cost. Again, it comes down to money.

I am not arguing against the Bill but we must have tangible supports that are real and meaningful to the sectors we are going to directly affect. The Government must consider the individual, particularly those who currently cannot afford fuel and who are having real, serious difficulty heating their old homes. Will grants be more easily accessible? Will they be greater than what is there at present? Will they do the job without bringing poverty and hardship to people who really want to do something for the planet but who in their own lives do not have the resources necessary to give them a place in what will be a new society and a new economy through greening the country? Those individuals will, therefore, need supports to properly insulate their homes, to properly change the fuel that they use and to do so in a sensible and pragmatic way. I refer in particular to any changes that will bring about the type of poverty that older people are currently experiencing. All of us have encountered cases our constituencies of individuals and elderly couples who have been unable to heat their homes and who are worried about the future and their homes. The heroes here are talking in grand terms about the climate change Bill and other matters and the people I mention are not part of that conversation because they believe they cannot afford to be part of it. If we are to be inclusive and to have policies that are properly connected in the context of their deliverables, then those people must be included too.

Costs are huge and they must be considered.

Communities were mentioned and the cornerstone of Ireland and its development has always been around the strength of its community. It is about how strong a community is in terms of advocacy, infrastructure for families or development. They must be supported. I listened carefully to an individual on the Joe Duffy radio show yesterday making the case for a friend of his who rents bicycles. We were talking about the just transition but I heard what happened to that man's business when Bord na Móna put the service to tender after 11 years. He constructed the business and actively engaged with the community on a tangible level. He brought the community with him in his business of hiring bicycles so people could see the park and enjoy the basic activities we are now enjoying. That business was taken from him; that is not a just transition - it is anything but. We must address that.

I will turn to what would be happening now if we had no climate change Bill or discussion in the House about it. Local authorities are continuing to pollute the waters of this country by allowing raw sewage and other contaminants to go into rivers. They are not doing a great deal about this because they are looking for funding to deal with the problem. Until we address the matters causing problems, we will have difficulty in addressing what we want to in order to achieve the ambitious targets being set out by the Minister. I caution him against enshrining matters in law today that may have to be changed very quickly after the enactment of the Bill.

I will speak again to what is wrong with today's economy. We can see how busy are the quarries and there are legitimate quarries doing legitimate business under a legitimate planning application. I have no difficulty with the businesses meeting those conditions. There are illegal quarries in Kilkenny and Laois in particular that do not have planning permission. They have escaped the law and the county council bringing them back to being a lawful and registered quarry. I have raised this question in the House with the Taoiseach and I am raising it directly with the Minister now. I ask him in the interests of the countryside to look at those quarries that are breaking the law now and causing untold destruction to nature. They are operating without any licence or proper planning permission. Will the Minister investigate these cases in Laois and Kilkenny and find out what is happening with those quarries that are breaking the law? What is happening with the citizens making the complaints about the law being broken? What can we do about the banks and vulture funds that currently own some of those quarries and which are turning a blind eye to the asset being stripped, taking no action to support the local communities?

These are real issues for today and yet we in the Dáil tend to ignore them. If I raise them with the Minister by way of parliamentary question, I am told it is a matter for the county council. That may be the case but it is a matter for this House when the law breaks down and the council is not being given the full support and resources of the State to battle some of these individuals breaking the law. I am not painting everybody with the one brush but there is a small number of people causing devastation in local communities to the environment we are trying to protect with this Bill. It is scandalous.

The law is there and I hope we are not passing another law that will be ignored. I wish the Minister well with the Bill but when a matter is raised like this in the House, as I have done on two or three occasions, the Minister who is listening should at least have the interest to check it out and follow up. I have followed up some of these particular queries on quarries and I am shocked that it takes so long to stop the individual from breaking the law. There is considerable damage done in that short period to the environment.

When the community we are trying to represent sees there is little impact from the complaints they make, people lose faith in politicians and the system. Authority may then break down and people might think if certain others can take a short cut because they have money, they can take a short cut too. People living in rural Ireland do not want to do this. The Minister has heard me asking and I plead with him to respond on this. Maybe it will not be today but he can do it in writing. I ask him to tell me what can be done to support the councils dealing with such matters.

Planning has been mentioned with regard to local government. In order to support rural Ireland and rebuild the villages and towns devastated by the financial crash, Covid-19 and closures of bank branches, post offices and so on, local government representatives should be included in this just transition. From what I hear, the just transition in the midlands has not been what they expected. They expected much more and got far less than promised. That does not bode well for this Bill or the actions we require from this Bill. Those actions will require substantial funding.

The only real way to make anything happen in this country is to go back to the community and "be small". We should go back to empowering a local community or village to rebuild itself by giving people the tools to do so. That could be a law relating to financial support or planning permission. We must allow people to come back to their place of birth or where they were reared. We should give them the opportunity to do it and have a thread running from the Government to local government to policy on planning or climate change. I welcome the inclusion of councils in this. In rebuilding communities and villages, we must think small.

Our housing policy is falling asunder because we are trying to act in a grand way but why not take the process back to the local authorities? Let them build the houses. They know the profile of the local authority housing list. We do not need a grand plan and this was done in the 1950s and 1960s when really good houses were built. We could do the same if we build "small", going back to the communities and the county councils. We should empower them to do it without the bureaucracy and red tape.

There are many people throughout the country essential to what the Minister is trying to achieve. They want to assist him in changing the way people live in order to pass the country to the next generation in much better shape.

Please support their willingness by putting money and initiatives into the model of the local community and parish that this country was built on.

I thank all the Deputies who have contributed to this debate and for the approach they took in doing so. I did not hear anyone who was fundamentally opposed to the Bill or to what we are looking to do. What I heard reflects what is out there among the people of Ireland, namely a desire for us all to contribute and to be helped in doing so without anyone pointing the finger. Deputy Harkin put it well when she said we need to bring people with us and show how we can all collectively do this. Throughout this debate a number of Deputies mentioned people from rural Ireland, including small farmers who previously might have been blamed for climate change. They are not to blame and they will be the solution. They are the people who are on the front line in making this change.

A number of Deputies asked that we would set out, whatever about the intention of the Bill, what exactly it means in practice and what will come about in the real actions. I want to try to answer those questions and set out what some of those changes will be. There are various sectors that we will have to design and set targets and plans for, and energy is the key one. Critically, we must stop the use of fossil fuels. It is relatively clear that burning those fossil fuels and the release of CO2, methane and other greenhouse gases into the environment are the source of the problem. Therefore, we tackle the problem at its source. We stop the use of those fuels and provide better alternatives. It has to be a better alternative. We have to design this in a way that enriches our people and does not impoverish them. The reason that is achievable in our country is that we happen to be in a part of the world that probably has among the richest resources in renewable energy, which will be the centre stone of the switch away from fossil fuels. We live in a windy part of the world. The Gulf Stream and the trade winds that come up from the south west across our country give us the ability to convert that into the new power systems that will dominate this 21st century and give us an advantage, not just in the energy system but also in the industrial system, which will use that power in turn.

What does going zero carbon by 2050 mean? It means we will go renewable and do all the clever engineering and power management systems work to make sure that is a better, more secure, more competitive, cleaner, healthier and more local energy economy. That is compared with an economy that is depending on us importing fossil fuels from distant parts of the world to burn here and to see that pollution threaten all our future. The alternative is a better future and it will be switching to renewable energy. We will not be alone in that. Something significant has happened since this Bill was introduced by Government, namely we have seen the United Nations commit to a similar level of change and target to what we have done. It is showing a similar level of ambition in the development of renewable energy. We have seen the European Union committing in law to a similar level of change and transition. We have seen our neighbour, the UK, similarly committing to do that. We know the Chinese, the Japanese and other Asian economies will do the same. All are going to make this switch to this non-fossil fuel powered future.

That gives me real confidence that the economies of scale, technological development and research and innovation everywhere in the world will be in this direction. We happen to be based in one of the areas in the world with the greatest resource in that base power supply. We have real expertise and capability in the engineering and deployment of that. I heard the chief executive of EirGrid say today that it has just gone beyond what anyone expected. It is now the case that 73% of instantaneous immediate renewable power can be used at any one time in our system. That is world-beating. It is ahead of what anyone expected we would be able to do and we will push that to the limit. In doing that, we will have real economic expertise which we can share with the rest of the world.

What happens the power system when there is no wind?

That is a good question. There is a second key characteristic to this. That is that we will see connection with our neighbours. It is part of a wider international system. The scale of change that is coming is that there will be a connection to solar power from the south, nuclear power in France and hydroelectric power in Scandinavia and the Alps. The new technology and the innovations that have taken place-----

That is ten years away.

EirGrid is a company I have mentioned which is a leading operator in this. It is applying for a 700 MW interconnection with France, which is largely funded by the European Union. We are similarly going to add an interconnection with the UK and that is only the start of it. It is only in the next few years that those interconnectors will start to come on board. This is new cable technology. The reason it is a better economy is that a cable of that size could take up to 2 GW of power and ship power over long distances with little to no losses. That is the revolution that is taking place. This is a new industrial revolution and we are at the equivalent to where somewhere like Birmingham or Manchester were at the start of the last industrial revolution. We have every reason to be at the centre of this.

It will involve other work to get that balancing capability and we will still require fuels. Those will not be gas fuels and they will not be imported liquefied natural gas, LNG, or fracked gas in particular because we have to stop using fossil fuels. This Government will issue the policy statement we have committed to in our programme for Government to say that is not what we support and that is not how we see the future of the Irish energy system.

Instead, every energy Minister I talk to, including those in Germany, Britain, America, France and China, believes that the future fuels that will be used are the likes of hydrogen and ammonia, which can be converted through renewable power-----

That is ten years away.

-----using electrolysis into alternative things like that-----

For fuck's sake we are in a world of our own.

-----which can provide the backup power we will need. I mention that historic announcement by ESB, equivalent in my mind to the announcement on the building of Ardnacrusha, to convert Moneypoint to be a collection point for that offshore wind and to be a transition point where we convert that comparative advantage we have in offshore wind into hydrogen power. We could use that power in Ardnacrusha, Irish Cement or the Moneypoint power stations. That gives us the stability, better economy and security for our future. ESB says we can do that by 2028. That is a real challenge but ESB and Equinor, a Norwegian company, are probably world leading in their ability to deliver it and we can deliver it if we get our political, regulatory and planning systems right and that is what this Bill does.

Anyone who talks about this energy revolution recognises that even if we have abundant supplies of offshore wind in our system, which we do, it is a matter of efficiency first. If one is filling a bath one puts the plug in before one does anything else. I am confident we can do this because it is agreed by all the parties that took part, not just in this recent Joint Committee on Climate Action hearings on the Bill but in the previous Oireachtas, the Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and the Environment that did a huge amount of good work to look at what we should plan. All of us collectively said that we should aim to do 500,000 houses per year. Deputy Fitzmaurice is right about those two families in Roscommon. I can understand how that is crushing for them when they want to improve their houses and they get letters telling them it is not possible.

In Tipperary as well.

There are also examples of that in Tipperary and elsewhere.

In west Cork they are two years waiting.

It is not because of a shortage of ambition in the political system.

We set aside €250 million in the budget for meeting these targets.

It was gone by May.

We will continue to adapt, and we will have to do it in a variety of ways, to make sure we do get to every house. The advantage of this first and foremost is in health. It will be a fundamental change and improvement in air quality and the living conditions of our people. At the end of this process, when we end up with a housing stock that uses electrical heat pumps with no emissions-----

In 50 years' time.

-----and no fumes, and when we combine this with well-insulated houses, there will be dramatic improvements.

I apologise for interrupting the Minister. We have been engaging in this debate for five days and at the last moment Deputies are constantly interrupting. Can I please ask for a little bit of respect for the Minister in his summation?

As Deputy Fitzmaurice said earlier, we have sat beside each other over the years and we have got into the habit of engaging in such banter. I apologise to the Acting Chair because I am encouraging it but it is good banter. This is the engagement we will need to make sure we do get to every house. Every place matters and every person matters in this. There will be no looking down, pointing fingers or holier than thou. This transition is critical and the way it will work is what I have heard here today from every Deputy, that their constituents want to do it. We have to help them do it and ask for their help rather than telling them what to do. The engagement will continue. When I finish my speech we will engage in other fora.

In the next decade in transport we will have to go from 12 million tonnes of emissions to 6 million tonnes. This is an incredible challenge because transport changes slowly. The cars we have today will still be on the road in 2030. The buses and trains will only be at the start of their lives even if we buy them today. It will take time. The pattern we have allowed to develop in our country, which is for ever longer journeys, will take time to change but change we have to and it will be better. First and foremost, vehicles will use electricity rather than fossil fuels. Everyone in the car business knows it is a certainty we will make the change because they are better cars with a fraction of the fuel costs, a fraction of the maintenance costs, a better driving experience, much simpler, cleaner and quicker-----

They are at the moment but they are coming down in price because every car company will switch to them. If they do not they will be gone, they will be history, they will be toast, they will be finished, good night and goodbye. They are all going to switch to them so the prices will come down and the lifetime costs will be lower. It will be cheaper. The only way it will work is if it is cheaper and better, and I am absolutely convinced this will be the case.

This is not enough. We also need to switch modes and get out of our cars because there are other costs such as accidents and congestion. Our towns, villages and cities are clogged up with cars rather than being beautiful living places. We do have to make the switch. It will be towards active travel first and foremost and making it safe to walk and cycle, particularly for children. Let us start with making it safe to walk for the children in our 4,000 primary schools and 700 secondary schools. This one change alone would transform our country and our children for the better. For health outcomes it would be the best public health action we could take.

We need to reduce the demand and bring back strong communities with town centres first. We need to bring back living on the main street and living within walking distance of the pub, the shop or the church. This would be all for the better. It creates communities.

It is not saying "No" to someone in rural Ireland about what should be in rural Ireland. Those in rural Ireland will probably the first to lead on the benefit of change because they will be the custodians of the land. They will be the best suited for electric vehicles because they will be able to charge their cars much more easily than someone in a terraced house on a street or in an apartment. The real industrial revolution is how we manage the distribution grid as well as the transmission grid. To my mind, stopping the sprawl and bringing back the community with buildings close together is absolutely what we need to do.

Agriculture accounts for 35% of our emissions and it will be one of the hardest to change because it takes time. There is every gain to be made from this. The other day I was reading Tom Arnold's food strategy paper and I was thinking the very simple thought, and riddle me this, that since 2008 our exports of agricultural produce went from €8 billion to €14 billion in 2018, which is huge and it is projected to keep going, but our farm incomes for cattle and sheep farmers stayed exactly the same. There was not a blip upwards in the price. Dairy got a slight increase but none of that increase in value went to the farmer. We are allies and we will work together with the farming community to try to change this in every way we can, starting by paying for the protection and restoration of nature. Farmers themselves have their minds and hearts absolutely focused. They have the highest regard for their animals, their land, their farms and their parishes. If we can get the right incentives and mechanisms to pay them for storing carbon, restoring biodiversity and improving water quality-----

You are not doing it. It is not in the Bill.

No, the Bill does not go into these details. What the Bill says is we will all sit down and work out a mechanism to deliver it. The Oireachtas will be critically involved. The mechanism in the Bill is-----

Is that the plan?

-----that we come back at each stage. When the five-year budgets are put in place and when we are doing the sectoral plan and action plan, we will check to see whether there is another way. We do have to do it. The reason it makes sense for us to do this is not just because we are compelled to do so because every country is doing it under the UN Paris Agreement. In agriculture more than anything else, if we do what we can do, we will have a form of agriculture that is the best for animal welfare, the best for restoring the 500 pristine river systems, of which we have lost all but 20, and the best for restoring bird life, insect life and microbial life in the soil that is not just good for the environment but good for the future of the farm and the fertility of the soil.

We will go out and trade and be successful as a country by being Origin Green, but we have to be radically Origin Green. We cannot go out just with the wrapping. It has to be the full thing and the full real deal. I am absolutely convinced we can do this and we will have a stronger country that is ready for the climate change that is coming. Again, it has been a cold, dry April. Many farmers are hoping we will not have what we had in 2018 when there was no grass growth and we had to import fodder. Switching to mixed swards, putting in clover, all sorts of clever agroforestry and other systems and revenue streams will be good climate adaptation as well as mitigation, which is what we need to do.

We need data centres. We have a country with real skills in digital services, financial services and modern technology. Central to these are data centres. We cannot turn around and say we want all the jobs in these high-tech industries but we do not want the data centres. We will have data centres. They will be powered 100% renewable. They cannot be powered by fossil fuels. They have to contribute to the balancing solution. They have to provide heat, so it is not just about insulation in our houses but using waste heat in a really clever way. This is a secure future for our country.

It has to be a just transition. To all who ask why there is not more detail in the Bill, it is because we would have to write a 10,000 word manual about how this has to support rural Ireland in a just transition. It has to provide unionised, well-paid jobs for our young people. This is the best way to eradicate fuel poverty. There is no better way than reducing the need to spend money burning fossil fuels. This is the secret to addressing fuel poverty in a just transition.

It has to have a role for the public. We are on a tight timeline. We want to include this year in the first of the five-year plans. This means we are really tight. The Oireachtas joint committee has used the time well for its work but we need to get our five-year budgets in place now and we need to put our action plan in place. We need to do this because we have to go to Glasgow in November with our heads held high. The country has been a laggard.

Like the prodigal son who went off on the tear for the while, we have come back to look after our home. We must have that all in place by November when the Glasgow conference takes place. It is not only Glasgow. We will go on to the one after that and the one after that. This will take decades.

This morning I read Wendell Berry, the philosopher, in relation to forestry. It is one example of the changes. Mr. Berry wrote something in Crann magazine in 1997. One can apply this to every different section. Mr. Berry talked about a good forest economy, like any other good land-based economy-----

One cannot cut the trees. One cannot get the licences.

One can. One can do it in a slow way so that over time, one gets a steady stream of products and really high value. One converts that into really high-value material that one puts into one's building stock so that one will not be stuck with what one will see now, that is, the massive price inflation of building materials, because it will come from our resources. It would be a strong, local economy.

Mr. Berry said that what we would aim for would be a strong local human community, a local natural community or ecosystem, as conservingly and as healthfully as possible. He said that, "A good forest economy would therefore be a local economy, and the forest economy of a state or region would therefore be a decentralized [strong] economy." Mr. Berry went on to talk about how central it is to education and to providing education so that our children start to understand our local ecology, local history and local land and from that we will be strong as a people.

Question put.

The vote will deferred until our next voting block.