I move amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 2:
In page 6, to delete lines 34 and 35, and in page 7, to delete lines 1 to 3 and substitute the following:
" 'climate justice' means the requirement that decisions and actions taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the effects of climate change must —
(a) support the people who are most affected by climate change but who have done the least to cause it and are the least equipped to adapt to its effects,
(b) help to address inequality, and support the human rights and well-being of local communities, indigenous peoples and the most vulnerable,
(c) reflect the UNFCCC commitment to the ‘common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capacities'.".
This is an attempt to address last-minute and ill-conceived amendments from the Seanad and the Minister. The deletion of the definition of climate justice was welcomed by some people in the climate movement who say it is better to have no definition than a poor one but we are taking the opportunity to reinsert our definition of climate justice into the Bill. It is also an opportunity to remind the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, and colleagues that they have rejected hundreds of progressive amendments from Deputies and Senators while at the last minute, in extraordinary circumstances, accepting Seanad amendments that are basically a result of lobbying from vested interests in agriculture.
At this point we find the process ironic, as we have waited so long for a climate Bill, albeit one that is deeply flawed, and tonight we are faced with voting for one that is even more flawed. These flaws have been dictated to the Minister at the hands of those who represented the vested interests of big agribusiness.
The Minister's proposed amendments allow the Government huge leeway in calculating greenhouse gas emissions to take account of how they calculate removals by sequestration, for example. There is also a reference to having "regard" to EU rules and not instead being consistent with those rules. This has rightly started alarm bells ringing among the climate movement. When an eminent campaigner like Professor John Sweeney talks dejectedly about these amendments gutting the Bill, we should pay attention. Professor Sweeney today stated:
Friday's amendments were clearly flawed and seriously erode the Bill's approach to measuring and monitoring greenhouse gas removals. It would be preferable for them to be removed at this stage and for a purely scientific and established approach to be reinforced in the bill.
I appeal to the Minister, even at this late stage, to remove those amendments.
I am not reassured by the Minister's comments or his letter to Stop Climate Chaos. If he is not committed to following the science instead of the politics, he will lose the faith of the environmental movement. That view is also echoed by Professor John Sweeney. I will explain the reasons behind this. The amendments come from the Seanad via Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael Senators who have over the years consistently opposed action on climate change. They come dressed in concern about farmers and rural communities but I do not accept this is the impetus behind these amendments. The Minister, in accepting them, has accepted the logic and arguments used to justify them.
In the Seanad, one Senator told us, "This amendment gives due recognition to the volume of carbon we are tying up in our soils and hedgerows", while another, a former Minister who opposed a climate emergency measures Bill, told us:
There is concern regarding future targets in relation to, for example, the national herd and the consequences of the carbon budgets and the necessity to reduce the level of production of greenhouse gases. The potential of hedgerows, trees and soils to sequester carbon needs to be looked at and taken into account in the carbon budgets.
It is absolutely clear that the impetus behind the original amendments and the Minister's last-minute redrafting of them was an attempt to find a way to take into account existing credits in order to reduce the emissions reductions we require.
This is about maintaining the status quo in agriculture, one that punishes small farmers and allows corporate interests to continue polluting. If this is placed in primary legislation, it will be a way to allow this and subsequent Ministers to be creative in their accountancy, juggle the numbers and try to fool people about what is happening in terms of emissions and reductions. I always feared this Bill and its stated net zero and carbon-neutral target would be a failure but these amendments have confirmed this fear. The Minister's explanation and assurances do not stand up and we do not accept them.
If the Minister accepts that EU rules allow him to do this, why does he not accept the amendments from me and Deputy Whitmore, which would commit in legislation that the regulations proposed would be consistent with EU rules? The Minister's explanation that EU rules change does not stand up either and, frankly, is nonsense. There is no great issue in amending this, if required, through future legislation if EU rules are changed.
My concerns about this are not simply about whether the real point is to allow the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to be more inventive in its calculations of what the EU rules allow. My concern is that the impetus behind this and the regulations proposed by the Minister are to set up yet another failed carbon emissions trading system. The adoption of EU rules for accounting has not stopped that system from being dogged with fraud, miscalculations, windfall profits for big polluters and outright abuse, all in order to allow us continue business as usual.
We had hoped that after decades of this farce, we would at least agree that emissions trading systems are good for one thing and one thing only. They are a mechanism to allow big polluters buy the right to continue polluting and they do not help reduce carbon. They are another failed market mechanism that is wasteful and wastes time as the planet hurtles towards catastrophe.
I have tried in this and the next amendment to limit the damage I think the Minister's amendments do. I have tried to address the get out clause on accounting and the making of regulations by inserting that the aim should at least be making legislation consistent with EU rules and not just having regard to them. I have tried to stop any attempt by the Minister to move the baseline year as a way of reducing the cuts needed in emissions. I have also tried to ensure that inventive accountancy is not used and that any removals of carbon are new, quantifiable and happen within this State rather than being based on farcical trading schemes that we have seen betray the hopes of climate campaigners in the past.
One of my amendments, and an amendment from Deputy Whitmore, removes the clause that would tie the climate change advisory council to the regulations. In other words, we want this to rely on the science rather than politics. The Minister may believe his letter and assurances but many of us do not. We have heard repeatedly from nearly every Green Party Deputy and Senator in these Houses in the recent past how proud they are of this Bill and thrilled they are that their children will not have to campaign in the way they have done because this Bill is so wonderful. The Minister will seriously weaken the Bill if he does not remove his amendments. I have no wish to be cruel but the rhetoric I describe is embarrassing and untrue. Our children and the next generation will have a mountain to climb thanks to the failures of this and past generations of politicians and rulers. A consistent failure to tackle the cause of climate chaos and deflect instead to ordinary people and personal behaviour has resulted in a worsening crisis across the planet, accumulating carbon dioxide in ever greater volumes. Trying to pander to the vested interests in agriculture or business here and globally is driving up those emissions and at the same time destroying the lives of small farmers. It is a betrayal of the climate movement. Hiding behind inventive accountancy or bogus trading schemes may fool some but it will not fool nature and it certainly will not fool physics.
The game is up for the Minister if the Bill passes. What is the point in having the Green Party in the Government in that case? History will judge the Green Party very harshly for its failure to address this crisis in the Bill.
I am asking the Minister, even at this hour, to remove those amendments. If he does not, I ask the House to reject them outright.