Climate Action: Statements

I will share time with my colleagues the Minister of State, Deputy Ossian Smyth, and Deputy Leddin, Chairman of the Joint Committee on Climate Action. I will not distribute a speech as I am using notes.

The need for statements today was inspired by the need for us to consider where we are in our plans for climate action and to reflect on recent developments, including the Taoiseach's speech to the UN Security Council. I also want to reflect the broader context in which we operate. Since the Oireachtas passed the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill 2021, there have been significant developments. The sixth report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, published in August, on the science and threat posed by climate change could not have been clearer. It was stark and dramatic in its use of the word unequivocal about the science and the threat that climate change presents to humanity and the urgent need for change. On our current trajectory, we face a 3° C increase in temperatures this century. While there have been significant developments in promises of action, even if they were delivered, they would not bring us to the Paris Climate commitments and, therefore, we need to go further.

In a speech in Milan earlier this week, the campaigner Greta Thunberg said we need to move on from words to actions. All of us in the political system have to be acutely aware that it is time for action, not just words. I am conscious of that as I am delivering a speech on our Parliament but I hope that it will be a speech about what actions we will take.

First, I will reflect on what the Taoiseach said at the Security Council. It was an historic moment for our country to chair the Security Council. It was appropriate for us to use the opportunity of that platform to recognise the reality that this is the greatest threat to our security and our future and it was correct that he called on other leading nations to put it in that context of what we need to do. There are other significant developments. We are approaching the 26th meeting of the Conference of the Parties, COP, of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, in Glasgow in November.

It is critical that this shows real progress and delivers real action. We need to reflect that there have been some positive developments in recent weeks. The announcement of the decision by the US Government at the UN General Assembly that it would be doubling its contribution to the €100 billion fund we need to raise to assist developing countries in this climate change challenge. This will help. We as a country have a good record in the climate finance we provide within our official development assistance programme. It is well targeted and is very well delivered, but we need also to increase and improve our ambition there. We look forward to the views of other parties on what we should do in that regard as we go into the budget period.

It is also very significant that last week the Chinese Government said it would no longer be funding the building of coal-fired power stations outside of China. This was an important step towards actions that will deliver us on the path.

Central to the whole economic strategy of the European Union now is the European Green Deal, and over summer, again, we reflected on the Fit for 55 legislation, which is probably the most broad and connected legislative package the European Union has ever presented. It is a dramatic signal of intent towards action. Next week at the environment ministers Council, the European Union will present our approach to the COP 26 negotiations, and we look forward to Ireland playing its part as part of the European Union team trying to get diplomatic agreement in Glasgow and in future COPs towards the sort of action we need.

We must note and recognise further developments in recent weeks, such as the significant agreement between the European Union and the United States of America on a global ambition of a 30% reduction in methane, both fossil and biogenic methane, as a global target on which we seek to get agreement.

Ireland will play a role as best we can within the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, which was a body set up specifically to look at how we address these short-lived greenhouse gases. They are exceptionally virulent and scientists are increasingly saying we must play our part in reducing those gases, which is very significant and important. We must recognise further what is happening in this space. Our President addressed the UN, along with Tom Arnold, who has done very good work in this food systems approach. The President was speaking at the food system summit in the UN General Assembly where this issue was discussed, including how we integrate climate action with the protection of biodiversity, tackle the pollution crises we face, including water pollution, nitrate pollution, and ammonia and other pollution, and how it has to be a systems approach in all our systems, and a social approach as well as the scientific one in terms of how we address change. All of those developments are positive but just set the scene for what we need to do here at home.

First and foremost, what we now need to do at home is put into action the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021, which we passed back in July. This sets us on a legally binding path to net zero emissions by 2050. I will now give some details that might help the Opposition on this, and hear its Members' perspectives on what we now need to do under that Act. Under the Act we must ensure we meet our international and EU targets and become much more transparent and clear on what we need to do and what policies we need. We will be held accountable in the implementation of those policies under the Act.

The next stage of the process will be the preparation of regulations on carbon accounting in consultation with the Climate Change Advisory Council, and they have to be consistent with the Paris Agreement and with EU rules, which I will talk about later. The publication of these regulations will be followed by the production of carbon budgets by the Climate Change Advisory Council. The carbon budgets will be presented to the Oireachtas and approved by Government. The Government will then set sectoral emissions ceilings determining how each sector of the economy will contribute to the achievement of the budgets. All sectors of the economy will need to have the highest possible ambition to deliver this challenge, but the highest ambition will be higher in some sectors than in others. Electricity, for example, has halved its CO2 intensity since 2005 and has dropped a further one third in the past five years. I expect that by 2030, compared with 2018, we will see a cut in the order of 80% in emissions in this sector.

The climate action plan will require every Department and body to ensure we deliver on the obligations, including making sure we meet the 2030 as well as the 2050 targets. Part of the process of preparing for the new climate action plan involves my Department working with nine working groups to deliver a comprehensive and well-researched set of measures setting out in this plan how we meet the overall target. Those working groups, supported by universities, consultants and a detailed public consultation process, have established two categories of measures. First, there are core measures that are well developed, under way or are so-called no regrets actions, which will be the foundation of the climate action plan. After that, further measures will be less certain and will require further policy development or are less clear in the amount of savings that would provide a pathway to the 51% reduction by 2030.

As I said, a public consultation process was held on the climate action plan, which was open for a period of eight weeks, and my Department received several thousand submissions. The submissions have been carefully considered and will form a valued input into the development of the plan.

In transport we will see much more provision for the development of walking, cycling and public transport journeys, and the national development plan to be announced next Monday will also signal a clear shift in terms of investment to support this. In towns and cities in particular we need to ensure, for health reasons as well as climate reasons, that our children can cycle, walk or take the bus safely to school. As an example and to give some hope and inspiration, because of the changes they have made locally in Dún Laoghaire some schools are now seeing 90% of children attending school by walking and cycling. The provision of safe infrastructure is the key enabler to make this happen. We cannot allow our children to be locked out of healthy transport options because of poor or unsafe roads and infrastructure.

In rural areas we will bring forward our Connecting Ireland policy to make public transport options available to everybody. We will also continue to switch to electric vehicles, which is particularly suitable in rural areas, and we will focus on the delivery of charging infrastructure to make sure everyone can avail of that cheaper and cleaner option.

In energy, we will quadruple our renewable capacity this decade, focusing in particular on the development of offshore wind. Flexible gas will continue to be part of the electricity solution for some time to come, building up and supporting that backup power for variable and renewable power. We will also build on battery storage and hydrogen to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. There will be a greater focus on demand-side flexibility in our electricity system. We are very clear that the security of supply challenge, which was discussed in the Dáil yesterday and which is a real issue we must address in the next four to five years, will not distract us from also meeting our climate change challenge at the same time.

We are very mindful of the whole issue of energy security and the energy crisis, when we must focus on making this a just transition. The current security of electricity supply situation, together with the internationally high prices in natural gas, are a matter of real concern to the Government. We will continue to help vulnerable customers and we will provide extensive supports to protect against higher household energy costs via energy efficiency and welfare schemes. We expect to make further progress in that regard in the budget next week and to continue the good work that is being done through the just transition commissioner, especially in the midlands. This week, for example, we heard that Bord na Móna is going to make further huge investments to create jobs to give us energy security and reduce emissions at the same time. This gives us an example that we can manage this complex task of providing the critical everyday energy needs of our communities, creating employment and protecting people from the high energy prices that are currently coming from high fossil fuel and insecure fossil fuel sources.

As we discussed yesterday, in regard to energy security, the Commission for Regulation of Utilities, CRU, is outlining in detail how it intends to respond to the capacity issues, and part of that work will ensure measures fit within the revised climate action plan.

In heating, our new homes have already transitioned to high-energy efficiency heat pumps. We need to do the same in our new public and commercial buildings. We will continue to scale up the home energy upgrades, transitioning our homes from high-carbon cold homes to low-carbon warm homes. We will ensure one third of our homes reach the standard this decade. We have already almost doubled the investment in home energy upgrades this year and will further increase this year on year to the end of the decade as the industry expands to deliver this strategic goal.

Today, we are announcing €57 million worth of grants for community energy projects to be delivered through the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, SEAI. I had the great privilege yesterday to visit a community in Clondalkin where householders from a local street came together and, working with their community housing association, they upgraded 40 houses from an F rating to an A rating by putting in new windows, putting insulation within the walls and installing heat pumps at the rear of the houses. There are incredible benefits in terms of warmer, cheaper, better homes in local communities, led by the local community and supported by the SEAI. That €57 million in grants announced today will deliver real change to protect people and help them to make the transition in a way that turns words into actions.

Critically, I will take this opportunity to set out some of the details around the regulations that will be needed as part of the carbon budgets. There are two regulations required in climate law . One is on greenhouse gas accounting methods, which will come to Government shortly, and the other, which has been finalised, is on land use emissions and sinks and how the accounting of these are dealt with.

At the same time, the European Union has proposed accounting emissions from 2020 to 2025 on a reference level. From 2026 to 2030, it recommends it on a gross-net basis, and from 2031, it recommends we incorporate all agricultural land use into one category. We are working through these matters with the Climate Change Advisory Council, the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, and Teagasc to provide advice to Government on how best to account for these emissions in a changing international landscape, which our regulations must reflect.

To my mind, one of the most important commitments in the programme for Government is our commitment to a land use review. Ireland's land is a limited precious resource that is fundamental to our economy, environment and well-being. It is vital when we consider our land that we strategically plan how to ensure the social, environmental and economic well-being of our country. We need to ensure livelihoods are maintained but also to restore the damage that has been done to the natural world in the past century and in the past five decades in particular.

The EPA has given stark warnings that our water quality is falling sharply, driven primarily by two things: a lack of good wastewater treatment capacity and agricultural run-off. While the wastewater issue is steadily improving, the agricultural contribution continues to decline in terms of water quality. To quote one of the country's pre-eminent scientists, Ms Laura Burke of the EPA, "all trends are going in the wrong direction". For water quality reasons, we will need to cut drastically the use of nitrogen on our agricultural land. This can be done in a way that is positive for farmers. Several of the research farms, including Lyons Farm, which is stationed at UCD, are showing that drastic cuts in nitrogen can be achieved when we move to a new multi-species sward grass pasture system. This shift away from nitrogen-hungry ryegrass cuts costs, increases soil carbon, improves water quality, reduces greenhouse emissions and protects us against the flooding and drought conditions we can expect as climate change hits home.

Ammonia is also rising. We will not reach our air quality targets without drastic action on ammonia, which mixes with other gases in the atmosphere to create particulates that enter our bloodstream and contribute to asthma, strokes and heart attacks. Both the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage are working on these issues, including a nitrates action plan. Together with ammonia reductions, this will, in my mind, require a fundamental change for the better in our agricultural system to one that works with nature.

When we improve productivity on farms from multi-species swards, lower methane levels, breeding and shorter animal life cycles, we must reinvest this productivity in nature and pay farmers better through the Common Agricultural Policy, CAP, and other new payment systems to which we will need to turn to pay for this restoration of nature and reward the farmers and foresters who will deliver it. If we reinvest this dividend in growth, all our targets will be shot and our green reputation, which is already under pressure, will be damaged. We need to be truly Origin Green now in everything we do.

We need to be clear about what is happening on the issue of land and sequestration. We often see land use as a sink or as a store for carbon. However, in truth, in 2018, land was a source of emissions, which we have to address. Some 4.8 million tonnes is the estimate for 2018. Far from that improving, because of the changing nature of our forest cover system, we expect that by the end of this decade, we will have a bigger challenge in turning that land use from being a source into a sink. We can expect 7 million to 9 million tonnes of resources from land use due to the changes that are taking place in forestry, such deforestation and the lack of new forestry being planted. That, therefore, requires us to take drastic action on forestry if we are to meet our climate targets.

That can take various forms. It will be very interesting working with the Opposition because this is a long-term, multi-decade project. It a three-decade project. A lot of the emissions we will save from forest sinks will only accrue in the next decade or in the next lifetime of that forest. We need to start planting now and manage the accounting and organisation of this in a real way, however. We have done great work on forestry. We have gone from a country of 1% afforestation up to 11%.

The next leap will be through a different form of forestry, however, coming down off those peaty upland marginal lands, where we need to store carbon in those peaty soils rather than through continued afforestation. It will mean using all sorts of agroforestry, riparian forestry, closed continuous cover and close to nature forestry models. It will mean paying people and creating much greater employment in this new forest system, which in my mind will be central to meeting our 2030 target and beyond.

The challenge and the scale of increase in forestry is beyond compare but we can do it. In the mid-1990s, we were achieving some of the sorts of afforestation levels we will now need. That is what we need to go back to; it is not impossible. I want to signal the scale of change that is going to have to come from that area in advance of us devising these plans.

I am very conscious of time. I have run out of time without having completed all my notes. I want to share time with my colleagues and listen to the Opposition, however. I very much appreciate this chance to share some of the protocols and procedures we are going through in advance of the delivery of the carbon budgets later next month and the delivery of the climate action plan at the end of next month, which are the timelines we expect following the national development plan, NDP, and the budget in the next weeks. I will hand over to my colleague, the Minister of State, Deputy Ossian Smyth.

Our national policy, which is also a European policy, is to move towards a circular economy. However, what on earth is a circular economy? Do people understand that and do Members of the House understand it?

When you have old shoes repaired in the shoemaker's instead of buying new ones, you are participating in the circular economy. You might choose to have your clothes repaired or decide you are not going to buy a new vacuum cleaner. Instead, you might find something to repair it. You may decide that you are going to have your old bicycle in the shed fixed up instead of buying a new one. All these things are participation in a circular economy. It is when you make that decision to keep and repair the goods you have, keep those resources, shop locally and provide the labour to somebody who is working in the local economy, and provide the money there to avoid having to dispose of goods, whether they are incinerated or sent to landfill. To reuse is better than recycling and it avoids goods being shipped halfway around the world.

It is common sense that we cannot achieve sustainable prosperity by rushing as fast as we can to deplete our finite resources, and yet, that was our measure of economic success for many years. We measured GDP by the amount of consumption, and the more consumption, the better. Luckily, at some point, economic consensus and the Central Statistics Office, CSO, decided that GDP was not the right measure, that it did not represent success and prosperity, and that we needed new measures.

With that in mind, I have been working on the Waste Action Plan for a Circular Economy, which is a set of steps for how we can move towards a circular economy. It was published last year and will be revised with more detailed plans and targets because we need to know how we are making progress towards a circular economy and the new metrics we need to do so.

Part of this is not just theoretical. Of course, I have to spend significant time going out to people who work in the circular economy, re-upholstering furniture or fixing clothing, and asking them what they need to prosper and how they are at a disadvantage to somebody who is producing or importing goods from the other side of the world. They say to me they have problems with insurance, sourcing parts, getting labour and want favourable tax treatment. Of course, all of those things will be addressed.

The Government has a role in all of this. We cannot achieve these goals by moving to a circular economy entirely through individual action. The State has a large role. It is involved in the purchase of €16 billion worth of goods and services every year through its procurement frameworks. One of the things we decided last year in the programme for Government was to green all our procurement frameworks to make sure when the State to do its purchasing, it could do so in a green way and we could train up the procurement officers in how to buy green. It is not always obvious. If you want to buy green paper, for example, the best thing to do is not look for what is the most recycled paper but to get printers that only print when you are there with your ID card. This manages to reduce printing by 80% of wasted volume.

The EPA recently published its much-awaited green procurement guidelines, seven years since their previous publication. They concentrate on ten sectors and have been written with great advice from Abby Semple, whom I thank for that and name her for her work on that. They have been done in co-operation between the EPA and the Office of Government Procurement and cover areas such as energy, catering, cleaning, lighting, textiles, vehicles and so on. They give us the option for how the State can buy green, but we need to go beyond that. We need to go beyond providing options to the State on how to choose green. The next step is for the Government to rule we must take those options, that they must be mandatory, and that we cannot have a situation in which someone is building a public sector building and installing a fossil fuel boiler which will run for the next 25 years.

Our authority as a Government is more in our actions than our words and it is important we lead by example and move towards doing all the things we are asking the public to do. With regard to electric vehicles, for example, the State has not gone far enough and must towards its own fleet of electric vehicles and pass by the hurdles and obstacles. An Post has done very well at this. Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, in a joint venture between ESB and Vodafone called SIRO, has moved towards electric vehicles. The rest of the State has to do that too and it will have to be done in a mandatory way. We have those examples and pilot programmes and now we need to move on.

What we value as a nation matters. We had a very good discussion last night in this House on Afghanistan, with many insightful contributions. What I heard was a general acceptance we feel strongly that helping people of other nations is an important part of our national identity. In our decade of centenaries, we stand proud in the world, providing leadership on issues of justice and equality. I repeat the point I made last night. We can and we must dramatically reduce our emissions to play our part in making the future safer for people in countries like Afghanistan.

We could point to our size and say our contribution to climate change does not matter. We could also do this for issues such as welcoming refugees and humanitarian relief. As a small country, we can always try to opt out because the magnitude of the difference we can make is not big, but values matter. Irish values matter, and what Ireland does to protect and support people in poorer countries is not a nice-to-have extra but a fundamental expression of who we are.

We are proud internationally about our commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 51% from 2018 levels, and we have rightly received praise on the international stage for our ambition, but now, after passing the climate Act which gives us the framework, we need to get down to work. It will to be very difficult. We have done many of the easy measures already. What is left will be very challenging. Setting the target was hard work, but agreeing the measures will be immeasurably harder.

I want to speak briefly about the parliamentary process. I am proud to be a member of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Environment and Climate Action and to serve as its Chair. Many of my colleagues are scheduled to speak on this topic today and I look forward to listening to their contributions. The committee is one of the hardest working in the Oireachtas, and members are engaged and willing to commit considerable time to our work. As we go through our first cycle of carbon budgets and a climate action plan, we must support our Parliament in playing its part. We should look at the parliamentary supports for the Exchequer budget and see if we need to introduce similar structures for the carbon budgets in order that all Members of the Houses of the Oireachtas are supported in playing a constructive role, because we need all the talents of both Government and Opposition if we are to succeed in the task before us.

We have made some good starts. The increase in carbon tax last year was shown by the Economic and Social Research Institute, ESRI, to decrease inequality because of how we ring-fenced it to support farmers and people on low incomes. Despite earlier criticism, we have now shown how carbon tax can be a powerful tool for income redistribution. There are other areas where we can make positive changes. There is considerable income inequality among farmers. Some dairy farms are very profitable, in contrast to farmers in beef and other sectors, many of whom are running their farms at a loss due to low prices. A shift to rewarding farming practices that are less intensive and provide high nature value offers the opportunity to introduce more fairness in the sector.

We have significant transportation deprivation in our rural areas. I was speaking to someone in TU Dublin who is doing research into this area, and they are looking at rural villages where 30% of people did not own a car, yet there was not a single timetabled bus service either. We can change our transport system in order that we focus on universal levels of service throughout the country and invest in services everyone can use rather than only the people who can afford private transport. In housing, we can, over time, eliminate fuel poverty by transforming our housing stock and creating local employment to create warm homes that do not need fossil fuels.

We have, however, to make many difficult decisions. The export-led economic model for agriculture, in which we compete on volumes, must be changed. The argument, that if we do not export beef and dairy, other countries will, is reductive and simplistic and neither recognises market dynamics nor our moral obligations to poorer countries. We need to reduce car usage. We are at the limits of our ambition when it comes to electric vehicles and they will not be enough over the next decade. Quite bluntly, we need to make it more difficult to drive, especially in our cities, towns and villages, and give space on our roads and streets back to people on foot, in wheelchairs and buggies and on bikes. Our communities should not be thoroughfares for the private car. We need to build houses only where you can walk or cycle to the shops or to primary school.

We can achieve our climate ambition and there will be many positive environmental, social and economic outcomes, as a result of the changes we make. On the international stage, we have shown that Ireland’s leadership matters. On climate, we must show the same leadership to fulfil our commitments to a low-carbon future.

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, and Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, IPBES, reports leave us in no doubt about the twin climate and biodiversity crises we face and that we will have even more devastating consequences if urgent action is not taken now. Unfortunately, successive governments have failed to do enough in this area and, as a result, they have left us with a mountain to climb. While it will be a challenge to meet our carbon reduction targets, not doing enough now will result in a much higher environmental, social and financial cost in the future. With this in mind, this week has been extraordinary. Hearing a Green Party Minister go to bat for energy-sapping data centres and admit we will to have to keep power plants burning coal and oil for longer to avert blackouts due to the massive demand from those very data centres is a sorry state of affairs, to say the least.

Sinn Féin supports a moratorium on data centres. In our Powering Ireland 2030 document, published more than three years ago, we pointed to the need to manage demand and curtail the expansion of data centres. We highlighted data centres benefit from the current public service obligation, PSO, construct which is levied at peak demand but, of course, data centres have a gigantic but steady demand and so do better. We also highlighted data centres should be contributing to the development of wind power and grid upgrades here.

We have no data on whether these companies are building their own wind farms to power the data centres or just buying up wind farms that are built or are being built here. If a wind farm is built here, the intention is the energy from it will replace the fossil fuel electricity homes are currently using.

If, however, a data centre company comes in and buys up this wind farm to power itself solely, the houses for which that energy was intended will still be using electricity produced by fossil fuel power plants, thereby making our net national decarbonisation challenge even more difficult. This relates to the question of the net impact and the net effect.

Further to this, upgrades are needed for our electricity grid. This investment is needed to accommodate the electrification of our heating systems and cars, but also to manage our demand and supply. EirGrid, which is the semi-State company charged with this task, has failed in its duty to engage with communities to progress important grid works. It has failed to deliver necessary grid improvements. This has happened in communities that accept the need for grid improvements. I am thinking about the North-South interconnector, for example. These are communities that have shown a willingness to accept controversial infrastructure. We think of the tailings pond at Tara Mines in Baile Ghib, the County Meath Gaeltacht. The community accepts living with that infrastructure. EirGrid has taken an entirely different approach. It has sought to walk on communities. By doing that, it has managed to mobilise an entire region against necessary infrastructure. Based on the approach of rolling out the red carpet to international companies, I wonder what would happen if Facebook, Amazon, or Intel knocked on the door of EirGrid and said that they needed the North-South interconnector. I believe it surely would happen. That, for me is a real contrast.

I believe offshore wind will play a massive role in our climate ambitions. Again, I am concerned about the speed of progress in this area. Wind Energy Ireland published its first report earlier this month. It reported 12 months to deliver offshore wind energy. It identified seven urgent actions that the industry says need to be delivered by this time next year if 5,000 MW of wind energy is to be delivered in the coming years. These include fixing the foreshore licence system; providing more resources for relevant agencies; a timeline for renewable energy support scheme, RESS, auctions; progressing the maritime area planning Bill; establishing an offshore grid steering committee; strengthening our electricity grid; and developing our ports to ensure offshore can be built from our island.

There is a lot of work to be done in this area if we are to deliver 5,000 MW of offshore wind to transform our energy system. Wind Energy Ireland says that current projects are being delayed because the framework is not in place. It says that the 2030 targets are in danger of being missed because the framework is not in place. Some of that is on this Government. A lot of it is on previous governments. All of it points to years of inaction.

Sinn Féin has acknowledged the role of private companies in developing offshore, but we also want to see semi-States, such as the ESB and Bord na Móna, invest, develop and, importantly, retain ownership of renewable energy projects. It is essential that the State does not become as reliant on private renewable energy production as it has become on private fossil fuel energy production. The constant energy price hikes demonstrate how dependent and exposed the State is to volatility in the international energy markets and highlight the need to eliminate this threat going forward.

Microgeneration is another area in which the Government is slow and falling behind. Again, previous governments had lots of rhetoric, but took no action. This Government has lots of rhetoric and has taken some action, but it is still behind time and failing to deliver. It has been four years since Sinn Féin and Deputy Brian Stanley introduced our microgeneration support scheme Bill in the Dáil. Our Bill would have allowed households, community groups, farmers and businesses to make a significant contribution towards renewable energy production here, as well as to be rewarded for the excess energy that they produce. Four years later, we still have no Government scheme and the Government has missed its own summer 2021 target. On a regular basis, people who are early adopters contact me wondering where this Bill is. It is frustrating for those who invested early, as they were encouraged to do, but are not being compensated for the excess renewable electricity they contribute to the grid each day. We raised this as a priority question last week. I raised it with the Taoiseach yesterday. I ask the Minister when we will see that Bill.

Good quality public transport options will be key in the transport transition. Lower fares, increased capacity and new infrastructure all fall into this. We are all concerned to hear of the potential delays to important public transport projects, such as MetroLink and DART+. This is hugely disappointing news for those living on the proposed routes. It flies in the face of the rhetoric of getting people out of cars and into public transport. It raises the question: if these so-called priority projects are to be delayed beyond 2030, what will that mean for our targets? What will it mean for the type of transition we will be able to achieve before that date?

On electric vehicles, EVs, I welcome the provisional numbers from the Minister yesterday at the select committee showing that EVs now account for 15% of new registrations. Sales are up 226% year-on-year. However, we have a huge way to go to reach the EV target of 1 million vehicles by 2030. To reach this, we need to look at the EV grant scheme again. Analysis from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform suggests that subsidising 100,000 EVs using 2019 levels of support would cost the Exchequer between €965 million and €1.23 billion. That is an enormous amount of taxpayers’ money. It is therefore essential that this funding is targeted at those who need it. We neither want a situation where the taxpayer has funded EVs for people who did not need financial support, nor one where we have a concentration of EVs in an area where they are least required. Therefore, we need to think about and target in the best way that we can the issue of forced car ownership. There are huge swathes of this country where there is forced car ownership. On our current trajectory, we will end up directing our subsidies everywhere but those areas. That is policy incoherence. The Government should be looking at increasing EV grants for those on lower incomes. In addition, a grant for buying a second-hand EV should be introduced, as it was in France. The aim of such a grant would be to assist people with the higher cost of purchasing a second-hand EV and to encourage the purchase of new EVs by sellers. That would contribute to the overall transition to a cleaner road network.

Charging points are also a key area that needs to be radically addressed. We need thousands more public EV points to give consumers confidence that chargers will be available island-wide, to encourage the purchase of electric cars and to reassure people they will not be left stranded. The public charge point grant scheme has been in place since September 2019. It aims to provide local authorities with a grant of up to €5,000 to support the development of on-street public chargers. While applications from 13 local authorities have been received to date, no chargers have been installed under the scheme. This is simply not good enough. I speak with local authorities. They talk about a lack of capacity in local authorities and a lack of familiarity with the technology. They are looking for a county to take on a pilot scheme and to be a lead agency in the roll-out of the service. Maybe the Minister could look at that.

Deputy Acting Chairman

Go raibh maith agat, a Theachta.

I believe I have ten and half minutes.

Deputy Acting Chairman

Yes, but it is up.

Is it up? I apologise. This is an important area. We are committed to achieving our 2030 targets. We believe fundamentally that this will require bringing people with us. We need to engage with people at every step of the way. That is a call I will be making of the Minister. I will think every step of the way in terms of eco-austerity. With the greatest of respect to Amazon and Google, which have their own businesses to conduct, how do we compare our treatment of them with that of the old age pensioner who gets up in the middle of the night to do the washing in order to save a few euros? That is how we will be measuring progress.

As member of the Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action, I have a particular interest in this session. I would like to thank the many experts who came in to talk to us over the last year. On the crises in climate and biodiversity, we certainly have a wealth of experience and wisdom on which to draw.

I have always had an interest in climate change and doing my bit. Essentially, I was doing what I was told by legislators and it was an education for me. As a legislator now, the responsibility is ours and ours alone because if we do not act with urgency, we will be at sea and we know that the sea is rising.

My party is not in favour of carbon taxes when there is no affordable alternative. On carbon taxes, my comrade, Senator Lynn Boylan, pointed out how the hole in the ozone layer was not tackled by consumer choice and individual behaviour, nor was it tackled by carbon taxes. I refer to the fact that Shell and BP endorse carbon taxes. We should sit up and take note of that. We did not slap a tax on products with CFC gases and leave it up consumers to change their behaviour. Instead, it was tackled by strong legislation and protocols, and the eventual banning of CFCs at production stage, and by targeting the producers and not the consumer. We need equally strong legislation now to help to reduce emissions and achieve a just transition in the process. A just transition cannot just be an order given to people, but sometimes it feels that way. We cannot have a two-speed society. We need to keep people on board, particularly those who will not be able to afford the actions to tackle climate change that is coming. One section of society is preparing for climate change with solar panels, EVs, heat pumps and insulation, and another significantly larger section is unable to turn the heat on for the children in the winter. These people are paying through the nose, proportionately, for energy in addition to paying through the nose, proportionately, for rent and housing. Now they are worried about blackouts. It is completely bananas and very dangerous for social cohesion also.

The latest Oxfam carbon equality report cites the top 10% of the Irish State's population by income as emitting almost as much as the bottom 50% combined. It is the same old story in this State with emissions: the more we have, the more we make. Members of the Dáil must quickly make good on decisions on public transport and green hydrogen for heavy goods vehicles. We need to act urgently on matters that change easily and quickly, such as the public transport within our control. I spoke recently to a student from Prosperous, north Kildare, who travels to Maynooth University. He gets a local link bus from Prosperous at 8 a.m. regardless of what time his lectures actually start at in Maynooth University, and there is no bus back to Prosperous until the evening. He told me that he intends to buy a car as soon as he can but he will not be able to afford an EV. In trying to make public transport the obvious choice for our young people, we need to make it convenient for them. School transport is another area where we need a radical roll-out of school buses in order to reduce single-car journeys.

I refer again to Kilcock, north Kildare, where there is a rail line but no promise of the DART+. It is a thriving town with a growing population who are eager to get out of the car and onto the Dart+. It is crazy to plan for the Dart+ to go as far as Maynooth only, while building a large station west of there to house the DART+ fleet and ignoring Kilcock. Kilcock is exactly 5 km west of Maynooth. Given that the rail line continues beyond Maynooth, it is mad not to extend this project as far as Kilcock.

I do not have much time remaining. I am disappointed I did not get to speak about microgeneration because my cumann played a part in that. It is not just me who is out of time; the planet will be if we do not make changes.

The issues raised here today are issues that have been around for a long time. I will focus particularly on rural issues because I come from a rural place. I deal with the issues of power supply and car chargers etc. all the time. I recently wrote to the Minister about one aspect of this issue. Many tourists who drive electric cars along the Wild Atlantic Way find that there is nowhere for them to charge their vehicles. The Dutch ambassador visited Carrick-on-Shannon last week and he drove an electric car there from Dublin. In order to charge the car and he had to go to three charging stations before he found a charging point that worked in Carrick-on-Shannon. This issue is affecting people's confidence in investing in EVs. It needs to be dealt with now. It is not a new issue; it has been around for a long time.

On the issue of power infrastructure, it seems electrification will be the solution for most of the energy needs. With the increase in electric cars and electric heat pumps, etc., we will obviously have to increase infrastructure. However, that has not been done at the rate at which it needs to be done. The people I meet in rural Ireland who are farming on marginal land want other opportunities. They want to make money and prosper in their communities. Solar farms and solar panels on the roofs of their sheds are issues about which they want to hear good news. However, all they hear about are promises in the distance. They do not hear about actions to be taken now. These issues can be dealt with immediately. If the right structures are put in place and farmers are offered a small incentive and they receive a payback, they will invest and deliver on that.

It must be 30 years since I read The Growth Illusion by Richard Douthwaite. It was about the concept of how we measure everything and how much we consume rather than how well we do for our planet and our communities. We need to change and go back to that way of thinking. I was interested in what the Minister's colleagues said in regard to the circular economy and all that we are doing in that regard. However, we are not doing enough because the Government is not putting the infrastructure in place to ensure people can deliver that.

Another interesting issue raised by one of the Minister's colleagues was about building houses in rural Ireland. It was suggested that we should only build houses that people can walk or cycle to. In the parish where I live, there are 20 people per sq. km, which is unsustainable. Any parish that contains fewer than 35 people per sq. km is unsustainable for the community and the economy of that parish. Our school was a four-teacher school ten years ago; it is now a two-teacher school. The football club cannot field a football team. We do not want to build hundreds of houses in rural Ireland. We want to build enough to keep our communities alive; that is all we want to do. We are prepared to build those houses using timber-frame structures and hemp and lime infill. People in rural Ireland want to use technology which is carbon-capturing rather than carbon-using. The roads already exist. We do not suggest building out in the wilderness where no one lives. We are talking about areas that are already supplied by electricity and water. There are serviced sites in all of these areas, yet the whole emphasis seems to be on pushing people into towns, and particularly into cities, where we have more social problems and issues and where people are on top of each other. It simply does not work and there needs to be a review of that approach. As long as the Minister's party and the Government continues to push that line, it will turn people in rural Ireland against the Government and make them feel that environmental issues are about punishing and condemning them. People living in one-off rural houses are being told that they are wrong and are the problem. If the Government delivers that message to people, it will clearly not do well. This is an issue that needs to be dealt with immediately.

Our house is still on fire and this Government is not offering solutions. It offers vague plans with few targets and lots of talk about doing the right thing. In the words of Greta Thunberg, it is offering "blah, blah, blah". It seems that rather than throwing water on our burning house, this Government is considering throwing petrol on it instead. I nearly fell off my chair yesterday morning when I heard the Green Party Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Deputy Eamon Ryan, make an argument in favour of keeping the oil-fired electricity generating station in Tarbert and the coal-fired electricity generating station in Moneypoint open. I could not believe my ears and thought that perhaps I was listening to "Gift Grub". Is there no end to this Government's pandering to vested interests?

Are we choosing energy-hungry and water-hungry data centres over our climate targets? Data centres account for 11% of our energy usage and are forecast to use 30% by the end of the decade. There are 70 data centres in this State with at least a further 30 being planned. In the last year, there has been a 25% increase in the number of these centres. We should not build any more of them until an energy needs assessment is complete. We need to consider the precious resource of water. The Government is going to the trouble of building a 170 km pipeline from the Parteen Basin, in County Tipperary, to Dublin. What is the point of robbing water from the River Shannon if it is going to be swallowed up by data centres? We need imaginative solutions to this problem. Any future data centres should be sited where the heat they produce can be harnessed.

When will we see the long-promised update to the wind energy guidelines? Is there a date for this? Why is Ireland the only country in Europe that does not have a facility for microgeneration generators to sell excess power to the grid? This is a key element to a just transition and is overdue by two months. Ireland is now in breach of EU law by not facilitating microgeneration. Will it take somebody bringing a legal action for this Government to do the right thing? We need action, and we needed it yesterday. We need no more of the "blah, blah, blah" mentioned by Greta Thunberg.

I sought a copy of the Minister's speech but apparently one is not available. Perhaps he will email us a copy.

I am glad to contribute to this vitally important debate. The report from the IPCC in August warned us that we are at "code red for humanity". The UN Secretary General recently said that "The alarm bells are deafening [...] Greenhouse gas emissions ... are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk". We face a climate emergency, but we also face a biodiversity emergency. Just yesterday, the Fish and Wildlife Service of the United States Government declared that 23 species are likely extinct, including the ivory-billed woodpecker. The bird had previously been widespread in the south-eastern US. For anyone who is an insomniac like me and was listening to the BBC World Service during the night, a really haunting recording of the song of that woodpecker was played. It is possible now to hear that song only as a recording, because we can no longer hear the bird at first hand. For me, that really struck home. Reports stated, indeed, that the scientists from the Fish and Wildlife Service making the declaration became emotional when they described the impact of climate change and human behaviour on other species in our world.

Therefore, there is real urgency regarding this issue. It is the sort of urgency that characterised the responses of governments around the world to the Covid-19 crisis. We do not, however, see that sort of radical response being characteristic of governments around the world when it comes to climate change. Governments must take the lead on this issue. What we learned from the experience of dealing with Covid-19 is that to tackle a crisis like an international pandemic, we must see strong action from states and governments. If any positive can be taken from the pandemic, it is that it has showcased the value of state intervention, collective solidarity and the public good. We are seeing that sense of the importance of the state and of public service reflected in recent election results. The Social Democratic Party, SDP, won in Germany. A similar party won in Norway. Three Scandinavian countries now have social democratic prime ministers for the first time since 2001. The same trend can be seen in the United States under President Joe Biden, where a $1.3 trillion stimulus package is being undertaken.

There is a growing consciousness, therefore, of the need for strong government interventions and co-operation in respect of climate change. We all hope that will be evident in the intergovernmental talks at COP26 at the end of October. We also see a recognition of this new perspective in the recommendations from the Citizens' Assembly. They provide us with a manifesto on how we can tackle climate change nationally. In that assembly, 100% of the citizens recommended that the State should take a leadership role and address climate change through a range of measures, and that this must be at the centre of policymaking in Ireland for all Government Departments. It is crucial that we follow that blueprint and take that approach.

In May 2019, Ireland became the second country to declare a climate emergency. Following that historic development, the now Minister warned then that declaring an emergency meant absolutely nothing unless there was action to back it up and that would mean the Government having to do things it did not want to do. Those were wise words, and such action is now needed. My party and I welcome the recent passage of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021. The legislation built on previous Bills. As a newly elected Senator in 2007, I introduced the first climate action Bill in the Houses, in collaboration with Friends of the Earth. We are all conscious, however, that these pieces of legislation are governance frameworks, but not ends in themselves. We must see a strong and robust climate action plan, coupled with a strong and robust national development plan, to ensure the necessary actions are taken to meet our climate obligations.

Turning to the climate action plan, we are all conscious that the climate action delivery board, which is responsible for delivering the plan, involves all Government Departments. My question is whether it is adequately integrated into the Department of the Taoiseach and whether there is sufficient leadership from the centre of the Government and from the Taoiseach regarding what must be done. I wonder about that because we know from what goes into the climate action plans that a cross-departmental strategy must happen. I will give examples. We are asking the Government to work with the Labour Party on our National Standards Authority of Ireland (Carbon Footprint Labelling) Bill 2021. It is intended to place an obligation on the National Standards Authority of Ireland to define a standard approach to carbon labelling. Similarly, in the other House, Senator Ruane has drafted a companies emission reporting Bill to oblige companies with more than 50 employees to present the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment with an audited statement of their emissions, similar to the obligation in respect of the gender pay gap legislation. These legislative interventions and initiatives do not fall within the scope of the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications, but they are sorely needed to place additional responsibilities on the private sector. This illustrates the need for a joined-up approach involving all Departments.

The national development plan must see a similar whole-of-government approach, led from the centre. We need an energy plan to ensure we are in a position to avail of our huge national advantages in respect of wind and current power. Offshore wind resources must be developed urgently.

Turning to agriculture, we must ensure that agricultural strategy fits within and aligns with climate strategy. The Government must support sustainable activity in farming. We have strong examples of how that can be done. One project I visited and have long been impressed by is the Burrenbeo project in Clare. The Minister is aware of it. It is led by Brendan Dunford. It is an admirable example of how collaborative work between farmers and environmentalists can lead to strong outcomes for all. It is, therefore, in our national interests to be leaders on climate. Just as we led on progressive change with our marriage equality referendum in 2015 and our vote on the repeal of the eighth amendment in 2018, Ireland can also be seen to lead in taking radical action to tackle the climate emergency.

We must build on the common purpose and solidarity that got us through the last year and a half to enable us to take this drastic and meaningful climate action. There are many concerns regarding our capacity to take this sort of radical action. One of those involves the recently reported delays to the rolling out of public transport infrastructure projects in Dublin. There is no clarity on the future of MetroLink, and yet projects like that are essential for us to ensure a sufficient move away from private car transport and towards greater reliance on public transport. I refer as well to the expansion of the national road network, while parts of the country are underserved by public transport. We also lack an updated national policy on the development of data centres, a topic we debated yesterday.

There is a similar lack of urgency at EU level to pass the necessary regulation, which should come from a transnational perspective in respect of data centres, fracking and other aspects. I also point to the Government being unable to guarantee that there will be no blackouts during the winter and to ensure that there will be a sufficient number of construction workers to carry out an ambitious retrofitting programme alongside the necessary programme of housebuilding that is under way. I was proud to be at St. Andrews Resource Centre on Pearse Street yesterday for the launch of a new employment programme that will include a training course to retrain and reskill local people in retrofitting. That is the sort of local action we must take.

The situation in which we find ourselves is overwhelming, but all is not lost. We should recall the message of hope contained in the IPCC report. It tells us that with meaningful and radical action we can do more than halt the current trajectory; we can also reverse it. Therefore, we need to see meaningful action being taken. We must see such action being taken on the circular economy, which the Minister of State, Deputy Ossian Smyth, spoke about. We need to see strong measures on the right to repair, similar to the measure that President Biden introduced in the US. We must go beyond current EU directives on the right to repair and extend that right to include smaller household devices and to consumers. Issues also exist locally with cycling and public transport. I have called for the introduction of a bike to school scheme to give incentives for the purchase of bicycles for children to complement the bike to work scheme.

In Leinster House, we have had a conversation about parking and car parking for former and current Members. It is raining outside today and those of us who cycled in still have nowhere sheltered to park our bikes. I have been lobbying for such a shelter, and the Minister has supported me, as have other Ministers, but we still have nowhere to park bikes under shelter on the Leinster House campus. We see cars parked everywhere, but we do not see adequate facilities for the parking of bicycles. While that might sound trivial, it sends out a significant message to everyone regarding how we prioritise transport facilities. As the convenor of the all-party Oireachtas cyclists' group, I call for strong and visible action to support and promote cycling as an alternative means of transport in Leinster House as much as across the country. The Minister spoke about Dún Laoghaire and the strength of the measures taken there to promote cycling. It is welcome, and I hope we will see much more of that type of activity across Dublin and the country to encourage and to promote cycling.

The fact that global warming is the result of human activity implies that a solution is at hand and that the means of addressing the climate emergency can be embraced by all of us. It implies that it can be done. I state that because being too doom-laden can cause people to switch off. It can be counterproductive if people feel there is no hope. Greta Thunberg and many other fantastic activists from younger generations urgently need us to promote a hopeful and can-do message about the types of measures that can be taken locally, nationally and internationally to address the climate crisis.

I know the Minister understands that, as does his party. We in the Labour Party will work constructively with him from the Opposition benches, but we need to see more urgent, radical action on this issue.

The climate Bill is hugely important legislation, but for it to be successful we need public buy-in. Like a previous speaker, I am from a rural constituency. At the moment, my constituents are resentful of the blame they are getting regarding climate change and anxious about what will be imposed on them and the economic damage it can do.

If anything has shaken public confidence in our ability to deal with climate change fairly, it is the mess we have made of peat and peat harvesting. The boatloads of peat that are being imported into the country from eastern Europe make a mockery of all we are trying to achieve on the climate-change agenda. It is environmentally unsustainable, and it is economically unsustainable. I have consistently made the point that whatever we do on climate, it must be environmentally sustainable but it must also must be economically sustainable. Unfortunately, at the moment people do not feel that is the case.

Forestry is another example of where lack of initiatives and an inability to deal with the Department's bureaucracy has resulted in us wildly missing the targets for afforestation. In recent years we have only reached approximately 20% to 25% of the programme for Government targets for afforestation. The volume of carbon sequestration lost as a result will be difficult to replace. In a generation, the people who will be in this House and in other places will wonder what we were at in 2010 and subsequent years that the level of tree planting was allowed to drop so alarmingly. That will have serious ongoing impacts. Some people have the view of forestry that it must be cosmetic. If we are to reach our afforestation targets, it must be commercially viable as well as the major part it can play in carbon sequestration for the planet.

Farmers feel they are being unjustly targeted by the climate action Bill. The uniqueness of our farming enterprises is not being recognised. Some 56.3% of the country is in grassland. That compares with an EU average of 14.5%. We have a multiple of what other European countries have, yet we try to put the one coat on all of us and deal with everyone in the same way.

I was in contact with Teagasc about an issue that was brought to my attention in recent days. The volume of carbon being sequestered by grasslands is not being measured in the contribution of agriculture to the reduction in emissions. That is completely and utterly unfair and it must be rectified. It is said that it is short-term sequestration of carbon. The methane produced when the grass is digested by farm animals is measured, but the carbon sequestered by the grass to produce the methane is not measured. Surely if it is measured on one side, it must be measured at the other. That must happen to ensure the fairness to which I referred. I urge the Minister to look at the calculation and see exactly how much carbon is being sequestered per farm. I accept we must become more accurate at measuring the carbon footprint of farms, but the measurement must be fair. We must take into account the number of ditches on the landscape that ensure the natural sequestration of carbon. Farmers get no credit for any of that in the calculation of emissions and that must change.

A serious number of entrepreneurs have come to my constituency office in the past 12 to 18 months who have the technology to do something different with slurry, but help is required from the Exchequer to make it economically viable. I have been in contact with various Departments on behalf of the entrepreneurs and I am disappointed with the response I got. We are light years behind the rest of Europe with our way of dealing with slurry. We could produce energy from slurry, and it could be of economic benefit to farmers. Instead of that, we are doing what we did for generations. I accept that we must change. The technology is there, and an economic benefit can be derived by farmers to do this.

When one travels to farmyards around Europe, one sees solar panels everywhere. We have none of that in this country. Again, it is a missed opportunity. Aside from the economic benefits, we are now worried about energy supply and we must advance the process whereby individual farmers can get connected to the grid.

As a rural dweller and farmer, I am tired of being told what we cannot do. I want the Government to focus on what we can do, to the benefit of the climate-change challenge. I urge the Minister to take on board some of the points I have made to get buy-in from rural areas for the Bill.

I am delighted to share time with my party colleague, Deputy Cahill, because he represents the views of a rural, agricultural constituency, similar to my own, with a mixture of beef and dairy farming. There is fear out there. I appreciate that there are challenges. It is important for the Minister to hear what Deputy Cahill said about the willingness to change, reduce emissions and make everything more efficient. We must remember that for years successive Governments and the EU have incentivised the intensification of farming and the expansion of farming, so we cannot just pull that rug from under the feet of farmers. As Deputy Cahill said, we must work with rural communities. There are opportunities and I will come back to them later.

I wish to touch on the importance of the upcoming climate action plan and keeping the focus on reducing emissions. The IPCC report was published some weeks ago. At the time I said that what generally happens with such reports is that we are scared, shocked and horrified by their content but as the weeks go by, we forget them and take our eye off the ball. I know the Minister does not and that it is on his mind all the time, but as a society we do. The same happened when we saw the horrendous floods in New York, and the loss of life and devastation. We are reminded again of the effects of global warming, but then we forget. It is important that as a society we remember each day the importance of the target for the reduction in emissions and the impact of global warming. I know it is on the Minister's mind every day and that must be the attitude of the House as well.

There will be challenges and opportunities in different areas under the climate action plan. There will be challenges, for example, in rolling out public transport provision. We have already seen objections and we must get around that. There will be costs involved with good public transport. There will be a requirement for a change in culture in transport, in particular in rural areas where people are not used to having good quality public transport. However, there are also opportunities, for example, with the roll-out of electric vehicles. MetroLink was mentioned. Let us imagine the number of cars that will take off the road. There is also the light rail project and BusConnects, which are proving problematic, but such initiatives provide the answer to decarbonising public transport. In producing the climate action plan, I urge the Minister to bear in mind the great work that was done in the report of the Joint Committee on Climate Action on decarbonising transport.

The suggestions in that report are a key tool to decarbonising that sector.

When it comes to rural Ireland, I talked about the need for significant culture change and that can only be done if the alternative is provided. Within that document is the concept of every village, every hour. At the moment, where I am in west Cork, some villages and towns are lucky to have one public bus service per day and most villages have none. That needs to be flipped on its head and whether it takes funding from the Exchequer or incentives to make that happen, we need to make it happen if we are to see that cultural change, and see it at the rate of pace that we need.

We then have the energy challenge and the challenges and opportunities that come with that. What is going to happen in the interim until we see large-scale renewables come on board? We also have the challenge of data centres. While I would not have gone as far as Deputy Whitmore's Bill yesterday to put a moratorium on data centres, the debate on it acknowledged the fact they are providing major challenges because of their energy usage. If EirGrid's prediction of 28% of energy usage by 2030 is correct, then we have to step in and, at the very least, ensure there are mitigation measures. It also needs to be ensured that they use the large surface areas of their premises for water harvesting and for distributing excess energy, and that they give energy and electricity back into the grid. There will have to be conditions to ensure this is mitigated against.

There are also opportunities. I have spoken at length about floating offshore wind, in which the Minister is a big believer. It has the capacity to create 30,000 MW of energy and to produce 2.5% of Europe's energy needs. We need to keep an eye focused on that goal and not be distracted. There is also community solar. The legislation on the roll-out of solar in schools, for example, needs to be expedited and the red tape and bureaucracy around it needs to be reduced so that schools can provide their own energy on a fine day, and solar panel technology will allow people to run their own schools.

There are challenges, some of which Deputy Cahill has outlined, but there have to be opportunities as well. The science is evolving, whether it is around mixed species swards and the huge reduction in emissions through that technology, or protected urea. We need proper agri-environment schemes whereby we no longer penalise farmers for having a habitat and having areas of biodiversity on their land, but reward and incentivise them for that, and this will also have a carbon capture element with it as well.

On carbon budgets and our climate action plan, the next couple of weeks are some of the most important for climate change in this area. Let us remember why we are doing this. Global warming is happening at an alarming rate, there is mass migration internationally and we are in the middle of a mass extinction of species. Let us remember why we are doing this and not be distracted by opposition or industry. Let us focus on what we are doing.

When the Minister talks about climate action and climate change, there is one core issue missing and that is climate justice. I speak in particular today about my constituents around Rochfortbridge, who are facing a bleak winter, and that was before the announcements earlier this week. They are worried about transport costs. The Minister speaks about transport but bus services are being cut. Our bus schedule that makes no sense. I am talking about the equivalent of a waterproof tea bag in that it makes no sense whatsoever.

The Minister also mentioned Bord na Móna. Let us talk about that for a moment, in particular the so-called energy park to be developed on 7,400 acres of a land bank in counties Offaly, Meath and Westmeath to co-locate 200 MW of electricity generated by wind, solar and green hydrogen production. Bord na Móna expects to lodge planning within the next 18 to 24 months and will begin consultation with local communities. Bord na Móna also expects this energy park to be attractive for industrial and high-demand energy users, large-scale distribution facilities and data centres. We then couple that with the Castlelost FlexGen plant, the battery facility that will store energy from the grid at times of high wind generation and release it during periods of high demand or periods of low renewable energy generation. There will also be a natural gas generator for times of extreme pressure on supply and it will draw gas from a natural gas pipeline a few kilometres up the road from the 50-acre site.

What my constituents in that area think when they read reports like that is that their homes, communities and energy needs are secondary to the energy needs of large industry and data centres, but that they will have to continue to make cutbacks. It strikes them very hard when the Government cannot even get the spin right about whether we are going to have blackouts this winter. I remind the Minister that few communities in the midlands who believe a word that Bord na Móna says when it comes to community consultation because of the belief that that is exactly what they are - words - and the decision has already been made at corporate level. What do cases like this say to the groups in north-west Meath about their judicial review concerning wind farms?

When the Government introduced the policy in 2018 to encourage data centres, and it was a policy with no plan, constituencies such as mine were going to bear the brunt. That is totally unfair. We have a climate suitable to data centres but so does half of northern Europe. The reason they are here is tax breaks, something we have seen today because of Perrigo. To conclude, this is the same constituency where, 30 km down the road, there is a stack of Latvian peat being stored at the edge of a bog.

This week, Greta Thunberg slammed politicians for empty words on climate change. I wonder if this was a response to some of the recent comments the Minister has made. The Minister and the Government have put the burden on ordinary people and have made it clear that they will have to make cuts this winter, that we might have power outages and that heating and electricity costs will continue to rise out of control. Basically, people will go cold this winter. The Government is asking people to choose between dinner and heating, between going to bed hungry or cold, or even going to bed at all because of this Government's housing policy.

These are decisions people are being forced to make because of the Government's policies and priorities. There has been no talk about how things will be tight for large corporations or data centres. There has been no talk about tightening the belts of energy-sucking, profit-driven large corporations or data centres. What is the Minister doing about this? He is telling people to wear an extra jumper and to prepare for a winter without heating. Is this the Government's response to climate change? We have the Minister responsible for climate action and the Tánaiste unable to give a commitment that there will be no outages in energy supply this winter. This is a shocking indictment. In some ways, I can feel some sympathy for the Minister because this goes back to a lack of planning by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael over the past ten years, and now the Minister has been landed with this problem.

There is so much more I want to say on climate change but I am limited in my speaking time. We need to save the planet. This Government is putting forward policies and priorities that will not be delivered for years, and it could be too late.

I welcome the opportunity to discuss climate action, what we have been doing, what our future is, what our plans are and what the Government's plan and vision is on it. Initially, I had anticipated it was statements on the climate action plan but we do not yet have that. I ask the Minister to make sure that, when that document is published, we have sufficient time to discuss it in full as it will be an incredibly important document for us.

I will use this opportunity to reflect on Ireland's role in the UN General Assembly in the context of climate change, and on our role at a global level and how that translates into what we do at a local and national level. As President of the UN General Assembly for the month of September and as a member of the UN Security Council, Ireland is in a very unique position to showcase an ambitious agenda of climate action, an agenda that holds the environment, biodiversity and individuals front and centre of our response to climate change, both in our own national climate action plan and on the world stage. The Taoiseach chaired a Security Council debate on climate and security where he stated, “There is no time to waste”.

On the upcoming COP26 meeting in November, the Taoiseach stated that member states should "muster the courage to take bold and ambitious action." I welcome that Ireland is putting climate action front and centre of what will be the most important global alliance in our fight against climate change but there is the question as to whether Ireland itself is front and centre of that climate action. The words spoken by our leader to the world cannot simply be empty rhetoric; they must be actionable. The Minister spoke about turning rhetoric into action as well and how that is fundamental and essential to how we meet our climate challenge. There is an urgency in implementing measures that will result in profound, prolonged and sustained reductions in our carbon emissions, which is something we can proudly showcase to the world. Unfortunately, to date Ireland has been wasting time when it comes to climate action and we have not been taking those bold and ambitious actions that the Taoiseach spoke of so eloquently. When I come into the Chamber, and particularly when I am in debates with the Minister, I find myself divided. He talks passionately about what he wants to see from a climate, biodiversity and environmental perspective and he outlines his plans and his proposals, and I think I can get on board with those. They are what I want to see happen in this country. Our vision for that is quite often aligned. My difficulty is when I realise then that what we are seeing on the ground does not match the Minister's words in the Chamber.

We have heard specific examples from other Deputies of where the ambition of Government is not translating on the ground to individuals. I welcome the fact that there was additional funding for retrofitting grants but people are facing a two-and-a-half year waiting list before they even get a surveyor. I was contacted by an elderly woman in County Wicklow who has been waiting two years to get her home retrofitted and she said she will go private because she cannot bear another cold winter in her home. That is the kind of lack of action that we are seeing on the ground and how it is impacting on individuals.

The Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications, Deputy Ossian Smyth, spoke passionately about the circular economy. That is fundamental to how we will address our climate and environmental crisis but there has been little action in this regard either. I have spoken to the Minister, the Taoiseach and the Minister of State, regarding a company which is engaged in the circular economy. It is trying to get approvals for end-of-waste licences and it, also, is waiting for two years. The Minister's response is that legislation is pending and, hopefully, that will address the issue. This company is about to move to Northern Ireland and we could lose that positive business here. It is about how we translate the policies that the Minister is saying we will focus on. They need to be felt on the ground. I do not know what the blockages are, including whether it is a resourcing blockage, but there needs to be a focus on making sure that there are tangible changes in people's lives.

I also have a concern about the Minister's statements yesterday. We had a long debate on the issue of data centres and energy security yesterday. During the debate, he stated, "The increase in data centre demand was forecasted and is ... in line with forecasts." I found that statement quite disconcerting. He had left the Chamber when I responded and I will take this opportunity to raise it with him. That statement begs the question as to whether the Government has consciously planned or facilitated this growth in data centres in the full knowledge and understanding of what the impact could be. When I talk of impact, I mean rising energy prices, the blackouts that are forecast and the fact that we will now have to have electricity generated through coal- and oil-fired stations again, and the impact that will have on our climate ambitions. I also mean the impact that it will have on individuals. With rising electricity prices, the Government is moving the burden to individuals and not placing the burden of addressing this on industry. When the Taoiseach states that we cannot waste time in our response to climate change, that is exactly what we are doing in this context.

We have prioritised the needs of big industry over individuals as we attempt to transition to a zero-carbon economy. That can only spell one thing, and that is failure. We will fail to meet our renewable energy targets, fail to act against climate change and fail our people who struggle in the face of energy price hikes and energy shortages in the meantime. Individuals will be expected to make the financial and lifestyle sacrifices to reduce their carbon footprint and it is a big ask when the same is not being expected of data centres. A bold and ambitious action, such as that the Taoiseach spoke of, on this would have been to set limits on the energy demand from data centres, to condition them, to make sure they were going in the right places, to make sure they were operating in the right manner and to consciously decide what proportion of our energy we would set aside for data centres. That has not happened and Ireland is now at risk of showcasing its failure to act on the international stage as a result.

We can talk here about climate change and climate action and a lot of the time it is quite technical. We need to bring it back down to the level where it is tangible for people how much of an impact it will have on their lives. We need to consider what sacrifices are being made by them to reduce their carbon footprint. Deputy Leddin spoke earlier about the Irish values, and he is correct. Irish people showcase such a community spirit and values of inclusivity and solidarity. We saw that throughout Covid. We can see it through our vaccination programme. We have such a fantastic way of putting the community before our individual needs. Those values will help us address climate action and meet the challenges that we face. However, if we force individuals to make those sacrifices and to be the ones who have to pay for electric vehicles, who have to retrofit their homes and who have to change the fuels that they are using while paying a carbon tax on their fuels, and if we expect those individuals to do that at a cost to themselves and do not expect the same of data centres, we will not be able to rely on the solidarity of people when we are dealing with climate change. It will lead to a divided society and it will undermine what we need to do. We will only achieve what we need to achieve on the environment if we do it together and in a fair way. Irish people will work as a community to deal with this, but only if it is fair. If they believe they are being treated unfairly, they will not engage and they will not support it.

I ask that in the coming weeks prior to the budget, the Minister focuses on the immediate impacts on individuals and communities. Many of the issues we are talking require long-term actions. Even the retrofitting programme will take a number of years to get up and running, so what are the immediate measures that can be taken to ensure that people can get through this winter and meet the challenges that are being placed on their individual homes over the coming weeks and months? I ask that the Minister ensures that the carbon taxes that we accrue at present are shared fairly and that we use those to assist people get over the winter and assist them to make the changes that we will expect them. I would also ask that the Minister make sure that it is done fairly and that he put an equally high requirement and burden on the corporate sector as he will on individuals.

I am sharing time with Deputy Costello. I am told I had six minutes. I am not sure. Is that correct?

I am glad to have an opportunity to speak on this important issue. It is of growing importance. I have been concerned for the past number of days in listening to the debate on data centres and investment in this country and I want to comment on that.

Like the Minister, I am committed to alternative energy, bioenergy and the non-fossil fuel-based generation of electricity but we have to make it happen. The Minister and I were both members of a committee in 2006 where these issues were examined exhaustively for at least six months.

Hearings were held and depositions were taken from various interested bodies. The conclusion reached was that wind-generated electricity was a clean alternative method of generating electricity. The problem was the question of what we would do when the wind did not blow. It was generally accepted that alternatives had to be found. The possibility then considered was of an international grid on the basis that the wind would always be blowing somewhere, as we all know. We have enough experience of that ourselves in this country. There are some locations where the wind seems never to stop blowing. Other issues arose.

What should have happened then - it happened in some parts of the country, but not across it - was the putting in place of a number of electricity-generating wind farms, but it did not happen because there were objections for various reasons. There was stiff resistance, including from politicians. Some of the resistance was shakily based, for want of a better description. People said openly that we would never reach a point at which we would have to change our habits as regards fossil fuels and that such a change would be defied. If people want to live that kind of life, that is grand, but we did not provide the alternatives. When the resistance grew, people buckled and stood down. I was not one of them. I stood my ground, and still do. I was right then and we are right today. If we do not provide the alternatives sooner rather than later, we will pay a high price across a range of areas.

Something that worries me is us being expected to reduce our dairy and beef herds. That is a big request and will have a significantly negative impact on this country's rural and economic life. At the same time, there is clear evidence from other parts of the globe that the reverse is happening. Rainforests are being cleared and replaced with factory farms with all the kinds of emissions we are being told we must control. We accept all that. We accept that people in those places must live as well and that the global economy should try to compensate people who have lower incomes and standards of living, but rural Ireland's two main industries are being asked to shut down. They are the same two industries that shored up this economy when the economic crash happened. That is where logic comes into it and people ask us whether we are serious and really believe all of this. They point to Brazil and all the other countries where the opposite is happening. As the Minister knows, I am not being critical about this, but there is a need to ensure the argument we make is sustainable and that we can explain it to our electorate. We depend for our support on that electorate.

As to how to bridge the gap up to next summer, there is liquid biogas and liquefied petroleum gas, LPG. We must make interim arrangements to get over the immediate problem, that is, the possibility of blackouts. Normally, approximately 2,000 MW is required as a reserve at peak load. That is the way it used to be and I am not sure how much it has changed since 2006, but it has probably got bigger. Unfortunately, EirGrid stated in 2014 that we had ample generation capacity, there was no need for any more and there was no need at the time for western wind farms. What was not recognised, however, was that our economy was flat at the time. We had had an economic crash and just a little new generation sufficed. The situation is different now and the economy is taking off.

The unfortunate part of the debate over the past week has been how it has sought to divide opinion in the country between the domestic market, including householders, and inward investment. That is a dangerous place to go. In light of worldwide competition for investment in jobs, data centres or whatever will have a quick look, and if they find out there is resistance building up, they will want to know about it. They will go off to Denmark. Do not forget that, in the Athenry case, two locations were processed and approved in Denmark while we were still toying around with our first one. That will not wash. We will soon disintegrate into a backwater if we allow ourselves to go down that road.

The Deputy has gone over time.

It is that way again. I am sorry, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle. I would love a longer opportunity to discuss this subject at another time. It is an important issue for all of us.

Deputy Costello would love to make his contribution, too.

The Leas-Cheann Comhairle will be glad to know I am concluding. I would love to have a proper debate wherein we could all voice our views and everyone could get involved to the satisfaction of all.

It is good to discuss in the Chamber the climate action plan. We are also discussing other matters, those being the recent UN meeting and the national development plan, NDP. The national climate plan and the NDP are inextricably linked and our climate action depends on them working in harmony. Our ability to face down climate change depends on all of our plans and organs of government working in harmony to address the seriousness of the issue.

I am not the first Deputy to mention the August IPCC report and what it described as a code red for humanity. For many, hearing those words engenders a great deal of fear and insecurity, but we need to face that fear and use it to drive action and change. We are already 1.1oC warmer than pre-industrial times. Without significant change, we are heading towards much worse. All parts of the world will see considerable impacts from this - drought, extreme heat, flooding and extreme weather events. All of these are happening now.

When facing the impact of climate change - the severe weather, droughts and the challenge to biodiversity, including extinctions and the collapse of our food supplies, all of which is deeply terrifying - the word "shared" must be our priority and focus. We must ensure the climate action plan underlines the just transition so that no one is left behind. It is essential the burdens borne in reaching our targets are fair and that every group is making an appropriate level of effort. Otherwise, and as Deputy Whitmore stated, we will lose the political and civic consensus that has been built around how serious this situation is. We need to focus on climate justice and ensure no worker or community is left behind as we take the action that is urgently needed to create a better, safer and more sustainable future. Climate change does not affect everyone equally. Climate change and poverty are inextricably linked. Low-income communities and countries are often the first to be impacted and are the ones with the least resources to cope with the changes. This fact must be reflected in the NDP and the climate action plan. We must ensure the actions we take - the Minister has been working on this basis - are progressive and support low-income communities so that they have the resources to cope with the changes that are coming down the tracks.

Thankfully, many of the policies that can and will be effective in reducing the impacts of climate change are also effective in reducing poverty and promoting economic growth. We need to focus on energy poverty. The NDP and the climate action plan must find ways of identifying and improving current energy poverty schemes to target those most in need.

That helps us to do both, that is, address energy poverty and address climate change. This allows us to improve the resilience of communities, taking measures to protect those who are most vulnerable to the risks associated with the severe weather events that climate change has already brought and will only get worse. Even if we are to act, they will get worse and we are on a dangerous precipice.

We cannot make Ireland a leader on climate change without a just transition and without these progressive policies. In doing so, we can build a cleaner, more sustainable and secure future for all of us. That progressive nature of the need for climate action needs to be, and I have no doubt will be, foremost in the Minister's mind in drafting the climate action plan. We need to see that from every Cabinet Minister in terms of the national development plan. In every plan we make we need to factor in how we are to address these challenges.

Debates in this House on the climate crisis take a familiar course. Almost every speaker accepts the need for urgent action and almost every speaker talks about a just transition. The truth is the term "just transition" means nothing in this country any longer. It is supposed to mean decisions are made in consultation with those who will be impacted and that measures are deployed to address concerns and provide alternatives in terms of goods, services, incomes and jobs lost due to climate action measures. The concept of just transition is important because it recognises we need public acceptance for, and ownership of, the measures that are adopted, but as I said, the concept is meaningless in Ireland.

It was interesting to listen to Government representatives' contributions on the motion this week which sought a moratorium on the development of data centres. The Government response was that it is too soon and further analysis is required. The contrast of language used by Government when discussing matters that affect multinational corporations as opposed to those which impact on ordinary workers, families, farmers and communities was stark. It exposes the hypocrisy and tokenism at the heart of this Government's approach to climate action.

Earlier in this debate I listened to a Green Party Deputy speak of how we need to make it more difficult for people to own cars or to live in the countryside and for farmers to export food. Last night, that same Deputy voted against the motion that would limit the development of data centres despite the strain they are putting on our electricity network and the impact they are having on our emissions. It is those types of contradictions that have led to the disdain in which the Green Party is held across rural communities.

The failure to implement measures that affect corporates without analysing to death the impact should be compared with the speed with which Government will take actions that cost workers, families and farmers. The best example of that is the carbon tax, implemented to incentivise people to use public transport that does not exist in most of our constituencies, to encourage farm contractors to switch to electronic vehicles that do not exist and to force low income families to sit in their homes cold so that Deputies can sit in their warm offices pretending they are taking action. The carbon tax is a penalty on people who happen to live in the places and engage in the work that Government does not comprehend. Workers, families and farmers are told their electricity costs are to increase yet again. What is the Government's response? It proposes to increase the carbon tax yet again. It is as if Government is intent on driving people against climate action.

I want to talk about family farmers who are facing a crisis. Today's Irish Farmers' Journal declares on its front page, "Weanling prices at a five-year high". Another way to report that same information is that farmers receive the same prices for their produce today as they did five years ago despite significant increases in input costs and obligations. We know Irish farmers can play a positive role in climate action, but every action of this Government appears to be aimed at preventing them from doing so. The only measures in regard to production reduction have been aimed at our most sustainable beef producers and suckler farmers rather than at factory controlled feedlots. Those farmers who want to enter organics meet obstacles and obstructions every step of the way. The forestry policy of this Government is driving farmers away from the sector rather than enticing them into it.

The Green Party is suggesting we eat less meat. Farmers who switched from beef to horticulture such as mushroom growing are rewarded with scenes of ships containing 4,000 tonnes of peat, having travelled a 3,000 km journey, arriving into Ireland where up to 200 trucks unload the peat that could be sourced here in a much more environmentally sustainable manner. That is the incompetence, hypocrisy and tokenism that underpins this Government's approach to agriculture and the environment. It will result in fewer and poorer farmers and, without doubt, will drive people out of rural communities, but it will deliver precisely nothing for the environment.

Why not adopt an approach that will work, starting with not taxing people more for things for which there is no alternative, delivering an ambitious vision for Irish agriculture which supports and encourages entry into organics and a forestry policy that is good for the environment, communities and the economy, and tackling the factory controlled feedlots rather than our suckler farmers? Rather than allowing the importation of peat from Latvia, wood from Scotland, beef from Brazil and milk from New Zealand, why not add value to those sectors here that deliver climate action in Ireland?

If the Government is to continue on its current trajectory, it should not insult us by using the term "just transition" because it is doing nothing to deliver it.

I am sharing time with Deputy Barry.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

Blah, blah, blah is what we have heard for 30 years from politicians. Greta Thunberg got it correct about the Taoiseach and the UN Security Council, as in regard to much of the debate that has happened today. The gulf between the promises, the rhetoric and the talk and the reality of the action or lack of action grows wider and wider. The Taoiseach was correct when he said at the UN Security Council that climate change is the defining challenge of our generation and that the council must do more on the issue of climate and security. He did not, of course, mention that sitting in the room with him were representatives of the US military, which is the biggest polluter in the world and the biggest contributor to climate catastrophe and the biodiversity crisis we face.

I listened earlier to the contribution of the Minister of State, Deputy Smyth. I did not catch all of it, but he was making the point that we all used to reference GDP whereas now we, including the CSO, no longer rely on GDP. There is a gulf between that talk and the reality of the Government's action around data centres. The argument used by the Government for why we have to proceed with data centres, despite that it is an absolute contradiction in terms of meeting the Government's inadequate 51% target by 2030 in terms of climate change, is precisely the argument around GDP. The Government is absolutely committed to that so it is complete and rank hypocrisy.

A climate emergency suggests an emergency response. If your house is on fire, you call the fire services. You do not pour petrol on the flames. That is what the Government is doing in driving ahead with the construction of additional data centres on top of what we already have here and the building of further fossil fuel infrastructure such as liquefied natural gas, LNG, terminals. This is completely at odds with the commitments the State has made under the Paris Agreement, its own promises, what was said today and what was said by the Taoiseach at the UN Security Council. It will consign all of the targets to the bin, but nonetheless that is what is being pushed ahead.

There has been a great deal of focus on the aspect of the People Before Profit-Solidarity Planning and Development (Climate Emergency Measures) (Amendment) Bill 2021 that would ban data centres. The other very important part of that Bill, which will debated later this evening, is to ban investment in further fossil fuel infrastructure. It makes no sense to sink further money into fossil fuel infrastructure that will be with us for decades into the future. The more money that is invested in fossil fuel infrastructure, the more the vested interests, the capitalist class, will push to stick with it because they will not have made their money back from the investment. It makes no sense to have any energy investment in fossil fuels from which we have to move away rapidly.

All investment in energy should be going into energy solutions rather than creating more energy problems, yet the Government is also going to oppose that aspect.

There has been an amount of commentary generally about the IPCC report, which is very stark in its conclusions on the speed and scale of the disaster we are facing. Something a bit less commented upon was the leaked second draft of the IPCC report on mitigation strategies. It states we must move away from the current capitalist model to avoid surpassing planetary boundaries and climate and ecological catastrophe. That is scientists saying that, not socialists. It is scientists who are looking at the reality that capitalism is driving us towards disaster. Deputy Barry makes the correct point that they could be scientists who are also socialists.

That could happen.

Indeed, I suspect many climate scientists who are looking with open eyes at what is happening are drawing the conclusion that a system that treats nature as free, one that bases itself on the exploitation of labour and of nature and treats damage to nature, in terms of both the biodiversity and climate crises, as an externality and something it does not have to care about is incompatible with the kind of change we need and the timeframe within which we need to have it to avoid absolute disaster.

I conclude with reference to what a proper climate action would look like. It would start with that recognition that capitalism is the problem. We must move out of and break radically with a system that prioritises profit and the growth of a certain sort that goes with that. I am referring to growth that does not add to people's quality of life. It would be an eco-socialist green new deal to transform people's lives for the better. It is not to make people's lives harder but to make them easier and better while also having a rapid transition to a zero-carbon economy in developed economies like Ireland by 2030. What that would mean is that instead of investing in more motorways we would invest in free, green and frequent public transport. People do not want to be sitting in cars in gridlock for hours every day. People would jump at the opportunity to be on quality, decent, free public transport on a daily basis and it would dramatically cut emissions. It would mean investing in a green jobs programme, retrofitting every building across the State, rewilding, rewetting our bogs, afforestation and renewable energy but investing also in care jobs and building a national health service, a national childcare service and improving our education service dramatically.

It would mean moving to a sustainable model of agriculture. The truth is our model of agriculture is built around the interests of big agribusiness and it drives a model based on intensive production of beef and dairy. Instead, we need an approach based on the principles of food sovereignty, we need diversification and we need to incentivise farmers to farm sustainably. We must guarantee them an income and ensure they are paid for the carbon sequestration activities they are engaged in. It would mean a four-day week without loss of pay, which frees up time for people. It improves the quality of people's lives dramatically and would reduce carbon usage. It would mean taking the key sectors of the economy out of the hands of the private corporations which run them for profit and which run the whole economy for profit, not caring about what happens to our environment. Instead we would plan in the interests of people and our planet.

Last night the Dáil voted on a Social Democrats motion calling for a moratorium on data centres pending an environmental impact assessment. Given data centres now consume 11% of Irish electricity output, as opposed to a global average of 2% to 3%, this was a very modest proposal. It was, for example, significantly less strong than the People Before Profit-Solidarity Bill that goes before the House tonight, which calls for a ban on new data centres until such time as the climate emergency has passed. The modest proposal was shot down by 80 votes to 61. Fianna Fáil Teachtaí Dála voted against the proposal. That is no surprise. Fine Gael Teachtaí Dála voted against the proposal. That is no surprise either.

I want to draw attention to the vote of the Green Party Deputies. All 12 Green Party Deputies showed up for the vote last night. It was a full turnout, 100%. Every one of those Green Party Deputies voted for the Government amendment which shot down the proposal for a moratorium. If the Green Party Teachtaí Dála had refused to cast their votes for an amendment which shot down the proposal for a moratorium on data centres, the anti-moratorium vote would have been reduced to 68. If the Green Party Teachtaí Dála had actually cast their votes for the moratorium proposal, its support would have increased to 73. In other words, if the Green Party Teachtaí Dála had cast their votes the way the climate movement and people active in it would have wanted them to, the proposal for a moratorium on data centres would have been passed by Dáil Éireann last night by 73 votes to 68.

I hope this short story of parliamentary arithmetic, while not providing complete lessons for young people getting active in the climate movement as to who they might rely on - that is a bigger issue - certainly provides strong and definite lessons as to who they cannot rely on.

It must be exhausting being on the left and in a constant state of outrage. What Deputy Barry left out, of course, is Dáil motions are meaningless. You might as well go out on the plinth and give a press conference.

I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for the opportunity to debate this particular issue. Throughout history there have been many times when the world has come close to ruin, and on this Continent we have seen the horrors of war tear the fabric of society and engulf the globe in death and destruction. The threat of nuclear annihilation, for instance, dominated geopolitics for decades. Economic crises plunged nations into depression. War, nuclear weapons and economic crises are a product of human endeavour and can be stopped or prevented through the goodwill of everyone on this planet. Such events underpinned the creation of the United Nations and the development of the European Union, in which Ireland proudly participates, but climate change is different. We risk letting the impacts of climate change slip beyond our control through our desire for growth and expansion.

The world has known of the impacts of our actions on the climate for decades now, yet we are the first generation to begin acting on this knowledge at a national level. The ambitious goals and targets set out in this country and in the international community are noble and attainable but we must act now. We cannot afford to lose any more time. The cost of the international community missing these goals would be catastrophic. Young people in Ireland coming home from school about now will witness climate disasters in the decades ahead that until now belonged in the realm of fiction. We owe it to them and all those who come after to deliver them a legacy of responsibility, action and achievement.

This Government is committed to these ideals and the Climate Action and Low-Carbon Development Acts are groundbreaking legislation that exemplifies Ireland’s commitment to providing a future for all peoples. I spent a great deal of time working on it myself with the climate committee and I am very proud of the report that came from the committee which informed the Department and indeed Government of our ambitions for that legislation. Our commitments to retrofit 500,000 homes by 2030 will have significant benefits from creating jobs, ending fuel poverty in Ireland and, most importantly, it will dramatically cut the emissions produced in Irish homes every year. The installation of heat pumps and smart metering across the State will also contribute to this endeavour and create a new era of home energy in Ireland.

We have ambitious goals that will revolutionise the production of energy and of electricity. It is the ambition of this Government to reach 70% renewable electricity by 2030 and we are making real progress on this front. In 2010 just 15% of our electricity came from renewable sources. By 2019 that figure had risen to 36% and preliminary reports show that in 2020, despite Covid-19, we managed to attain 38%. We must do everything in our power to foster growth of renewable energy in Ireland including investing in wind, solar, wave and tidal energy as well as cutting the burdensome requirements companies are required to go through to develop this sector.

The passage of new legislation and the further development of policy in this area is essential. The Government must remain cognisant of the need to ensure we have the labour force to carry out these vital projects and the infrastructure necessary, without which we will struggle to align our ambition with our ability.

We must also clarify our own policies, particularly in the context of peat production. Quite rightly, there has been confusion over recent reports of imports of peat to Ireland countering a long-held tradition of peat production in Ireland. While not all boglands are retrievable, many on the islands are but importing a tiny national requirement for the horticultural sector, thus producing even more carbon emissions, is not the answer.

Encouraging greater uptake of electric transport will further enhance the country's attempts to become carbon neutral. This ranges from growing the number of electric cars and vans on our roads to electrifying our public transport network. Investment in capital projects such as MetroLink and Dart+ will provide us with clean alternatives to existing transport options. We can achieve all of these things and many more. I do not claim that it will be easy or that it will be a smooth transition but it can be done. To achieve this, we need every home, business, Government Department and company to work together to realise the change that we must see. By doing so, as we have done so often in the past, we can make an outsized impact on the wider world. We can show the way for countries around the world and ensure that when the spotlight of history is shone upon us, we will not be found wanting.

By its very nature, climate change reaches into every policy area and housing is no exception. We have ambitious plans to build hundreds of thousands of homes in Ireland but we must have joined-up thinking when it comes to Government policies. Concrete, for instance, is a major contributor to emissions. In that context, the construction industry must consider environmentally friendly ways of meeting our climate action responsibilities while also meeting the need for significantly increased housing supply.

Our role at the United Nations affords us a unique position during one of the most crucial periods in the fight against climate change and it is incumbent upon us not to let this moment pass. A ramping up of our engagement with our allies in international organisations will allow us to drive home the values we have stood for and for which we continue to fight. The Government must lead by example by ensuring that we meet our own targets.

A great majority of the Irish people wants to see a profound change in how we deal with this problem so that we deliver real success on climate action. Increasingly young people are anxious about what kind of future they will have and the implications for their lives. This touches almost every aspect of their lives from where they choose to live, the kind of work they do and even whether they have children. Key to the success of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021 will be a deliverable and clear climate action plan and I look forward eagerly to the publication of that plan in the near future. The plan will build upon the valuable work done in 2019 when Fine Gael published its first climate action plan.

We all recognise the severity of the crisis, which is not a crisis of one nation but of all nations. In such a scenario, it can be overwhelming and individuals may not know where to start. Indeed, some governments in the world face similar quandaries, as do some sectors in Irish society. Despite the complexity of this crisis, through bold action, progressive policies and vocal engagement in international settings such as the UN, we can provide a more hopeful future and bring about real change.

As a member of the Joint Committee on Climate Action, like Deputy Farrell, I have a particular interest in this debate. The committee spent much of the past year examining and improving the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill before it was passed in July. The Act creates the legal framework and sets out the actions that must be taken to ensure we deliver on our commitments to reduce total carbon emissions by 51% by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. The Oireachtas has done its part and passed the legislation. The challenge now is to make progress on implementing the legislation to ensure Ireland meets its international and moral commitments under the Paris Agreement. To achieve our 2030 targets, we need to move quickly and take steps now. I would like to see a greater sense of urgency, particularly on larger projects. I accept that the Covid-19 pandemic has had an impact on the implementation of a range of initiatives but efforts must be redoubled because the clock is ticking. Last year, during a debate with the Minister, I called for public transport projects such as MetroLink, DART+ and Luas upgrades to be fast-tracked. It was disappointing to hear comments this week about potential delays. People accept there will always be issues with large-scale infrastructure projects but to suggest that they could be delayed until 2032 or 2034 is not good enough. The Minister needs to take a far more hands-on approach, particularly on public transport. Agencies will follow his lead and there must be a far greater sense of urgency from the top. Equally, we need to see progress on the BusConnects project, which involves the redesign of the Dublin Bus network. We were promised new bus routes and higher frequencies and there is an urgent need for these to be delivered. However, even if we achieve our 2030 and 2050 targets, a large element of climate change is locked in. We must plan to take measures to mitigate the impact and safeguard our people and our national infrastructure. The Minister will know I have expressed concerns about the impact of the forecasted rise in sea levels on the DART line. We have seen the DART out of service on several occasions in the past few years due to flooding and this is set to increase. Urgent action is required. We need an integrated national plan for flood prevention around Dublin Bay from Sandymount in the Minister’s own constituency of Dublin Bay South, through Booterstown, Blackrock, Monkstown and Seapoint to Dún Laoghaire Harbour and even further south from there. This section of the coast is extremely vulnerable. As part of any flood prevention measures, we should use the opportunity to complete the Sutton to Sandycove coastal promenade and cycleway, known as S2S. This project would open up our wonderful coastline to everyone while also protecting homes and safeguarding the DART line. This is nothing new; the project has been in the pipeline for over 30 years. In fact, the himself was one of the original champions of the cause and I hope he will include this project in the revised national development plan next week. I welcome the comments of the Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Ossian Smyth, on the circular economy. This must be accompanied by concrete measures to support the sector and consumers. Reducing VAT and other taxes for this sector in budget 2022 would be an encouraging start. Equally, the Government must do more to support energy microgeneration. At the very least, every new school, Garda station and public building should have a microgeneration facility but I want to see this go much further. When will we see a plan to allow microgeneration operators to access the national grid? Points about solar panels and other measures on farms in Europe were well made by Deputy Cahill earlier and we need to see action on this front too. I am very concerned about the impact the crisis in the forestry sector will have on our ability to meet our 2030 and 2050 targets. We urgently need a national plan to get the sector back on track and encourage farmers to plant trees.

On housing, we must move quickly to retrofit homes. A commitment has been made to retrofit almost 500,000 homes but we need to see tangible measures in budget 2022 on this front. The Minister’s announcement on the allocation of €57 million for community energy projects is very welcome and we need to see more action in this area. Fuel poverty is a real issue for too many families, particularly those on low incomes and the elderly. The recent increase in energy costs will create hardship for many families this winter and we need to see significant action in the budget to help these families. We also need to consider ramping up innovative solutions, such as the initiative being provided by companies like EnergyCloud which uses surplus wind power to store energy by heating water in homes, thus helping to reduce fuel poverty.

It is clear, having listened to Deputies across the House, that there is great support for the implementation of the climate action plan, for retrofitting homes, facilitating microgeneration and improving public transport, particularly MetroLink, light rail, BusConnects, and coastal and inland cycleways like the aforementioned S2S. I hope the Minister will take this sense of urgency on board ahead of the national development plan and budget 2022 being finalised.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on the upcoming climate action plan. I agree with Deputy Devlin's comments on the S2S. It is very important infrastructure that will be very welcome and a huge asset to Dublin.

The disastrous events across Europe this summer have brought home the painful reality of what lies ahead as the climate continues to change for the worse.

The impact it will have on our day-to-day lives becomes clear when we see flash floods killing nearly 200 people in Germany and wildfires ravaging through Greece and Italy, burning hundreds and thousands of homes and leaving a trail of destruction and misery behind. Even here in Ireland, we had a number of wildfires that we struggled to bring under control. Howth was ablaze for almost a month and the fire there threatened to wipe out a number of homes on several occasions. These disastrous events will become more and more common as the years pass and we fail to tackle climate change effectively.

Meaningful change and just transition seem to be completely missing from this Government's approach to climate change. We are not just failing when it comes to just transition or the need to reduce domestic CO² emissions; we are also failing Irish coastal communities which, on a frequent basis, have raw sewage flowing into their swimming areas. Sandymount strand is a site of enormous value to the many thousands of people across Dublin who use it for recreation. Sandymount and Dollymount are important biosphere sites of international importance and are recognised by UNESCO. At the mouth of Dublin Bay we have a wastewater treatment plant that was at capacity from the very first day construction was completed. When it rains, raw sewage is discharged. As we live in Ireland, that means there are regular discharges of raw sewage into Dublin Bay. That has serious consequences for people enjoying the sea, including swimmers and the rowing community. As we enter the winter months, increased rainfall will result in more frequent raw sewage leaks into Dublin Bay. Sea swimming has never been so popular in Dublin Bay. The Half Moon swimming club, which is located along the walk to the Poolbeg Lighthouse, is really popular. Over lockdown, sea swimming has increased dramatically in popularity, something that is likely to continue. It is a really positive activity and we must do everything we can to protect it. Allowing raw sewage into the sea is not doing that.

Ringsend has two rowing clubs, St. Patrick's and Stella Maris, both of which put a huge amount of time and energy into training and into training children. Both of these clubs have contacted me to express concern after their members have seen raw sewage floating past them on the River Liffey. How is it acceptable in 2021 that we allow this polluting of Dublin Bay to continue? The Government cannot stand idly by and let the leaks continue while we wait for upgrading works to be completed. I accept that there are plans to increase the capacity of the wastewater treatment plant. Even when the construction of the extension is complete, however, it will still be at capacity, which means we will still have raw sewage being discharged into Dublin Bay after the extension. We need a short-term and a medium-term engineering solution to ensure our swimming areas are not no-go areas. The poor methods of communication between Dublin City Council and the EPA to the public when it comes to swimming bans on our beaches and shorelines need to be urgently addressed because realistically they are dated and ineffective. If you want to find out whether there is a ban or see what the water quality is, you have to dig into websites and so on. The public just wants to go down and have a clear message of whether it is it safe to swim, and it should be in real time. We need swimming bans to be publicised in local media so that the public knows whether it is safe to swim.

The climate action plan is a monstrous piece of legislation for a monstrous problem. It includes certain key goals which are well known at this stage. These include reducing our net carbon emissions by half by 2030 and trying to get to a net zero carbon economy by 2050. The plan outlines Ireland's current greenhouse gas emissions and targets across a range of all our major sectors, including electricity, enterprise, the built environment, transport and agriculture. The list goes on. Some 183 recommendations have been set out in the policy to reduce greenhouse gas.

A new climate action plan is being developed. This will develop five-year carbon budgets and sectoral targets, establish a climate action delivery board and establish an independent climate action council as a successor to the Climate Change Advisory Council. Within that there is a range of initiatives that I will return to.

The Government is also stepping up climate action governance which is welcomed. This is to allow Ireland to transition to become a climate-resilient, biodiversity-rich, strong and environmentally sustainable economy. These are all laudable aspirations, no doubt. We absolutely have to recognise that we are in an emergency, but we are not alone. Ireland is very small in the overall scheme of things. It is a very small emitter, albeit large per capita, in overall terms in world emissions. In order for us to take a leading position, and we should take a lead, we must not damage ourselves competitively by trying to be an outlier if the rest of the world does not follow suit. I would like to see a lot of work done at Government level and particularly at EU level to try to bring our EU colleagues with us on this journey. Some may be more advanced than others.

I now turn to some of the sectoral things that are outlined here. Increasing renewable electricity to 70% by 2030 is something we have heard a lot about in the House lately, particularly on the development of offshore wind. The east and south-east coasts are largely targeted for the first developments of offshore wind which will largely be ground-attached pylons and floating offshore rigs. They would seem to be more pertinent to the west coast and the deeper water but that technology is still in its infancy. Those farms are probably ten years away. What are we building all of these wind farms for? It is obvious that they are being built to create greater renewable energy, but two more questions follow from that. First, how are we to build them? Second, what is this renewable energy going to support? I have raised the designation of a new wind energy port in the country. The Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, has previously said that this is a competitive process. I am not sure what the parameters of the competition are but I contend that this port should be Rosslare Harbour for a number of reasons, not least its location adjacent to the fields and to the coast of Wales. Beyond that, it has deep water and it is geographically well placed to service all the offshore developments around the south-west coast. Quite apart from all of that, the south east needs major capital infrastructural investment from the State to address 20 years of imbalance. This would go some way towards that. There are lots of good strategic reasons for doing that.

The second question relates to what we will use all of the wind capacity for. It seems to be tailored largely for data centres. This has been raised several times in recent days in the House and rightly so. I have written to the Minister to ask how many memorandums of understanding have been engaged with to date in terms of private sector data centre development. I still have not received an answer. The media is now saying that the figure is over 75. That sounds like an incredible number of data centres in the country. In recent days, the energy regulator or someone from his office speculated that data centres could account for as much as 70% of our future electricity generation. Something is not quite right within those numbers, and that plan needs to be looked at and revised.

The Minister mentioned the establishment of a microgeneration scheme to allow producers to sell back electricity. Such schemes have been going around for ten years. Many people have set up private windmills. Many windmill farms have been approved on land but have not been developed simply because there is no way of getting a feed-in tariff to supply back into the grid. There is talk of creating better community participation in renewable energy projects and prices. That is basically the community rating. Again, no information has been forthcoming from the Minister or from anyone in the Department on what the legislation will require in terms of community ownership of wind farms.

As the retrofitting of houses has been raised many times, I will not go over that again. We will have to get over many issues around that. Accelerating the uptake of electric cars and vans so that all new cars and vans are electric vehicles by 2030 is a great aspiration, but it will not happen unless we do something extremely independent and new around taxation. That is the only way you are going to make these vehicles work out for a lot of people in the country and make them economically viable for purchase. I say "yes" to improving public transport.

I will conclude by speaking about increasing the rates of afforestation and the rewetting of bogs to act as carbon sinks.

The forestry sector at the moment is in absolute chaos, if the Minister is not aware. The present number of applications for felling licences and afforestation is nothing short of abysmal, to be quite frank. This is something the Minister is going to have to look at. I welcome the overall tenets of the plan, but we have a lot of work to do to succeed with it.

I would like to read into the record an article by Ciaran Fitzgerald that was published yesterday in the Agriland.ie journal:

Since 2016 with the UK Brexit vote, Irish agriculture and the Irish economy, have faced a huge challenge of 'economic iceberg' proportions in terms of regional and rural economic impact from the UK’s exit from the single market. A self-imposed ideologically driven decision to suppress Irish agri output, despite this resulting in an increase in global emissions, looks like providing a second one.

There is a lot of smug amusement currently in Irish political and media circles about the latest manifestation of the post-Brexit mess created by the UK government. The sporadic inconvenience of empty supermarket shelves has now morphed into a full-blown petrol crisis, because the UK (in pursuit of its identity-based idealism), ignored the impact that leaving the single market would have on a whole range of jobs, most particularly lorry drivers.

Unfortunately for the ordinary people of Ireland, the British may well have the last laugh. As bad as Brexit continues to be, Ireland’s impending sectoral carbon budgets, in particular the likely budget for Irish agriculture, could make the UK’s 'own goal' over Brexit seem trivial in comparison.

Irish agriculture has been steadily and consistently marginalised in terms of public perception and demonised, particularly over the last two years. There has been deafening silence about the stellar performance of the sector through Covid-19 and much shrillness and mischaracterisation of Irish post-quota dairy growth e.g. as 'intensification based on exporting food'. Two huge crimes in an environmental lexicon that refuses to look at facts or basic comparators that show, that for all this talk of intensification, the average cow herd in Ireland is now 86 versus 56 in 2014. This compares to a Northern Ireland average herd of 130; Wales – 150; GB – 160; and Scotland – 200. And what about New Zealand at 550 and U.S in the thousands?

It is perhaps no surprise that these facts or this context does not wash well with environmental lobbyists, but when and why does some media have to accept this ideological guff about exporting? What is the small open economy about? What is foreign direct investment (FDI) about, if not exporting?

Further context was provided in several EU reports which I previously highlighted, and from analysis of the Green Deal by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), as well as a 10-year Outlook Report from Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO)/Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). They conclude:

· Suppression of Irish and EU agriculture under the Green Deal or national climate action legislation, will lead to lower global food production and higher food prices for the poorest regions;

· Much higher global emissions from agriculture because suppressed production from Ireland/EU will be replaced by production from regions that have emission levels 20 times greater than those applying in the EU and Ireland.

Perhaps a bit like what is happening with not just petrol, but also gas for home heating, a contrived shortage will have to be created for some sense of proportionality or long-term strategic planning to prevail.

Unfortunately, in addition to the extreme prejudice and ignorance being applied to Irish agriculture in the modern Irish economy, the response from Irish agriculture, to both insult and add grave injury, has been both poor and self indulgent. This was evident in the debacle over the remarks made by Teagasc retiring director, Gerry Boyle-----

Is the Deputy still reading from the article?

It is most unusual to read out an article.

It may be, but this article defines where we are in relation to climate change.

Is the Deputy reading it into the record and saying that she is agreeing with the content?

I do, absolutely. I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle. I may now go over a little.

I will go back to the article:

So, while the looming carbon budget could totally undermine Irish agriculture sector output in the name of an environmental ideology that views livestock production as equivalent to oil exploration, there is a row in the agri dressing room about sucklers versus dairy beef. A row equivalent to a fight over the deckchairs on the titanic, with the iceberg visible in plain sight in my view. [That of the journalist.]

Ireland’s economy and society is facing a tough post Covid-19, mid-Brexit challenge, with headwinds also likely from the new approach to a minimum single Corporation Tax of 15%. Within the modern Irish economy, sectors such as agriculture (which supports 260,000 jobs ...) can continue to underpin this unique Irish economy impact. At the same time, they can decarbonise production processes based on science reason and balance, while also responding to real customer and consumer demands.

We really don’t need to out do the British with a set of climate bills and budgets that perversely lead to, not just Irish economy suppression but, global food price increases and increases in global emissions from agriculture.

And the sooner the focus of all in Irish agriculture is on articulating both the damage caused and the opportunity that can be grasped, the better.

There is a lot about the Government's policy that does not match the words we hear from the Government. If we were to put 100,000 electric cars on the road in Ireland today, the infrastructure would not be there to support them and the grid would collapse. We are already hearing that with just 30,000 cars the grid is in trouble, and we may well have blackouts for the winter. We do not have the solar farms to circumvent situations when we do not have the wind blowing. In Wexford when the sun shines the wind does not blow. We do not have the ability to feed the electricity from solar farms into the grid because the grid cannot take it.

I must come back to the Deputy on the reading out of a whole article. It is most unusual. It is not in keeping with precedent to read out a whole article. The Deputy chose to do that today and my attention wandered a tiny bit, so I put the blame on myself. I will come back to the Deputy.

It was a wonderful article.

I thank the Deputy.

We are going to move on. We are going back to the Government now.

I was here when the House declared, unanimously, that we have a climate emergency. None of the Rural Independent Group and none of the Regional Independent Group demurred. We are not behaving in this House like there is a climate emergency, and that is the reality. Ramping up higher and higher targets is not a response. It is particularly not a response to keep saying that "someone else must take the initiative before you ask me to do anything", which is what I hear continuously here. I regard it as climate cynicism. It is about "the data centres must do something or LNG must do something". There is always someone else who must do something before people will face their own responsibilities.

Fair play. Fair play. Fair play.

The truth is that carbon dioxide is toxic to our globe. It is a drug and it is slowly killing our planet. This is a reality. It may not emit fumes. It may not give out poison to people who may contact it. What is sure, as night follows day, is that it is killing our planet and that our society is hooked on it.

Ireland is not a small country that should be taking modest steps. The United States of America uses 18 tonnes per person, Ireland uses 13 tonnes per person, China uses 9 tonnes per person, Brazil uses 5 tonnes per person and India uses 2.5 tonnes per person. Ireland is well up there among the high emitters of carbon dioxide. The onus is on us to respond to this challenge.

We might want to blame fossil fuel barons but like any addiction we must confront why we are so dependent on fossil fuel, and make changes. At the core of this is that the polluter pays principle must apply. It is one thing on which I agree with Deputy Paul Murphy. This is damaging to our globe and people must pay for the damage that carbon dioxide does. Yet, day after day people come in here and say that carbon pricing is not going to happen: "It will happen over my dead body; I will not have it; it is unfair to this person and unfair to that person."

It is unfair to all of us if we continue to damage our climate the way we do. The reality is that we will not do a favour to our farmers, enterprises or our children who are coming after us if we do not respond robustly. Farms that do not respond to this challenge will not be economic in decade. Enterprises will not be economic. Homes will not be a legacy for people's children unless we respond. That is why we are here.

The most important thing in an emergency is that we co-operate and act to look out for the vulnerable. That does not mean saying we will not change until everything is in some sense fair. We have to start changing and we must develop policies that are as fair as we can possibly make them but we must act. There is worrying slippage from the previous climate plan for which I was responsible. I am disappointed that some measures have not happened.

I know Covid-19 made it difficult, however. On the other hand, I am full of praise for what is happening with the cycling infrastructure in Dublin city and across the country. That has shown an ability to respond in the face of an emergency. There are too many pressures to put off and we need to respond quickly.

I will comment on the circular economy for which the Minister of State, Deputy Ossian Smyth, is responsible. This is a positive way to approach it. It is about removing environmental damage throughout the entire supply chain. It embraces producers as well as consumers. It means we seek to deliver a service without doing the damaged.

Shared vehicles, for example, which we are now beginning to see, is a major solution. We would not need underground car parks in our new higher-density buildings if we were sharing more vehicles. Design thinking is what is needed. The Bill the Minister of State has published is not ambitious enough. Relying on the EPA to implement a plan is not sufficient. At the core of the climate Bill should be a whole-of-government strategy.

I will make two other comments in respect of the climate action plan. The climate plan must be a framework, not a straitjacket. While Ireland is right be ambitious and determined, we are part of a European Union and it sets the wider obligations. It designs trading systems-----

Now the Deputy is blaming the EU.

-----that are in place to ensure we promote the most carbon-efficient production anywhere in the Union where it can be done. We must be flexible enough to allow that principle to apply in areas like agriculture in which we are competitive.

Second, the science is continually changing and developing. The EU approach to biogenic methane is simply wrong. The IPCC report states, "man-made CO2 leads "to net warming, while reductions in CH4 ... lead to a net cooling". That is a dramatic difference. If you keep emitting carbon dioxide, you build a problem forever. If you can start to stabilise and reduce methane levels, you actually start to cool the globe. They are entirely different but they are not treated differently in the way we calculate. That must change. Lumping the two together is unsustainable.

Let us consider a country such as Botswana, which I know a little about. How can we tell a country that regards having a small livestock herd as the very basis of its society that it must reduce in other sectors in order that it can cut its biogenic methane down to acceptable standards, according to that method of calculation? That is not sustainable. We need to show that we are responding. If the agriculture sector can respond and reduce biogenic methane, it will be save other sectors of the economy changes that could cost €1,000 per tonne. Let us think about that.

I do not think anyone disagrees with the problems we are facing in how we interact with the planet in our daily lives and what we need to do to make life better and more sustainable. Much of the rhetoric and commentary on this particular proposal, particularly from the Government side, is to placate the Green Party. That is my honest opinion.

It is not matching the reality of life. This is the reality I face every day in my constituency. Let us consider farming and the suckler cow issue, an activity in which many families are involved. How do we have a just transition that moves that farming family from one activity to the other? There is no discussion about that. If we are building a new cheese plant in south Kilkenny and encouraging people to have the supply chain ready for that, how do we change them midstream? This is not a decision farmers made; it is a decision Government made. It decided that it wanted to increase the herd and that this was a good thing for the economy. How is the Government going to fund that just transition moving them from one activity to the other?

Peat and forestry were mentioned. We must be the laughing stock of Europe that we would stop producing peat and then start to import it. It is the same with timber. What is happening in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine that has caused such a horrific collapse in the process around licences of one kind and another with no real political response? The consequence of that is importing more timber from abroad and burning more diesel, with all that entails and the damage it does to the climate. What practical steps are being taken to rectify that for the world in which we live?

Beef farmers are being accused of all sorts of things, yet we are being asked to support them. They are being encouraged to expand. We have a large beef market abroad for the type of beef we produce. Are we telling them to stop? Where is the just transition there from one activity to the other?

In the transport business, a person cannot buy an electric truck unless he or she has a fantastic sum of money. They are not available and the servicing of those trucks is a complicated matter. If, therefore, we were to encourage people to buy the trucks, and if the money was within the transport sector, that cost is simply going to be passed on to the products and services that the truck and operator transport companies run up. The person at the end of the queue, therefore, is going to pay again. What is being done by Government to make sure there is a just transition for a transport company to become an electric transport company? Who is going to save the consumer in all of this? I am not against what we are talking about. I am against the fact that Government seems to think somebody else is going to pick up the tab for the agenda it has set and is now about to try to change dramatically.

What are the Deputy's solutions?

I have solutions. We should support the transport sector to make that just transition.

I thought the Deputies were in government together.

Invest in them. Invest in farming to get them to a point we want to get them. I do not see one shilling for the just transition in the midlands.

No, there is not.

Many bus and coach operators that bring in visitors here and travel all over the country, some of which are based in my constituency, made the effort and could not get the vehicles. They could not afford the vehicles. They decided then they were going to change tyres and have proper green-types of tyres, and guess what? The tyres wear quicker, cost more and a person has to use two of them compared to one standard tyre. How is the Government going to pay for that just transition? Does it expect the business to pay for it? That is fair enough if it does. At the end of the day, however, the consumer will pay for it.

With regard to just transition in terms of those who are most in need in our society, the Tánaiste, Deputy Varadkar, said the Government would increase the pension by €5 a week. The Fine Gael parliamentary party said the rate should be increased by €10 per week. The Government has to increase it by €20 a week and tell people they will get increases of €20 next year and €20 the following year because they will be swamped by costs.

The other issue is we want to buy our electricity from France and Wales and are happy to take nuclear electricity from them, but not prepared to discuss it here. That is the problem with the alternatives. There are alternatives and cost solutions to all of this, but the Government and the EU are supposed to lead it, but they are not and, therefore, we have to lead by example and try, through financing, to bring people with us and sustain their businesses, retain jobs and ensure we reach some sort of targets. Please do not be daft with targets or in the treatment of businesses that are struggling, even at present. My contribution within my parliamentary party is to change the nonsensical course upon which it has embarked.

We have had a number of interesting interventions in the past while. There is an acceptance of the situation we are in with regard to climate change and the necessity for changes to secure our future. I agree with the commentary on a whole-of-government response and if we are talking about just transition and ensuring security, sustainability and capacity to deliver on climate action, we need such a response. We need a connectivity of ideas and not what is happening, in that sometimes we have silo options and elements of government, the Civil Service and others, which do not communicate and we do not put solutions in together. I will deal with some of this later.

There has been much talk in the past while on energy security. A large cohort of people are worried they will end up brutally impacted, not only by the rising energy costs, some of which I accept is outside the control of Government, but also the fact they might not be able to purchase or avail of energy, due to brownouts and blackouts. We need to ensure everything is done. This highlights a failure to plan over the last period. I am sure even data centres are not entirely impressed at being in a place where they do not necessarily have energy security. That is accepting data centres are part of the world in which we live. We accept the companies that use them. We accept the importance of all that, but we need to ensure we have a facility, capacity and an energy system able to deliver for our people, before we look at any future planning and building of data centres. That is why a moratorium is called for until the necessary due diligence is carried out.

The questions on the grid are in the open. There is talk, even if some of it is anecdotal, about the capacity and the storage capacity we do not have, if we finally get our act together on wind energy. Will we lose significant energy through dissipation, because our infrastructure is not up to scratch? We need to ensure an audit of the highest calibre is carried out and that we know the ins and outs and put a plan together.

We all accepted years ago where we need to go, but we need to put a plan in place. There has been talk for many years of microgeneration. We have heard farmers talking about their difficulties with plans that have been put in place on solar panels and the rest of it, which is all too little, too late. No one is putting together a fully thought-out project or system that will work and through which we can get more people to play a role in generating power and removing the pressure in the system. We are not putting the parts in play to make this happen.

We talk about transport. People are being hammered by carbon taxes and they do not have alternatives. We still have the school transport farce every year. A large number of people cannot avail of the scheme and we force parents to take children to school in cars. We, as a State, are not being part of the solution. We need to get all this together. The Minister spoke yesterday at the transport committee, about planning difficulties with certain projects. Large public transport infrastructure projects have been delayed and others may be delayed. This is frightening, but if there is a difficulty with the planning system, it needs to be reviewed as quickly as possible.

County Louth has a development plan. The Office of the Planning Regulator makes a decision, the local authority operates in another silo and then there is the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage officials and all the others. None of it works, nobody communicates and we do not have a proper conversation. The same goes for rural housing and the need to maintain rural communities, but we have never had the full conversation. Politicians are talking out of both sides of their mouths and there is no sign of a solution. That is across the board and we need to deal with that and get serious.

Deputy Bruton has a brass neck. He was part of the Government that encouraged dairy farmers to increase their herds only a few short years ago. Now, many of those dairy farmers are being told they are the cause of much of the emissions. It is not right, proper or in any way acceptable. The Government seems to think the electorate has a short memory, but it will get its answers on the door in rural Ireland, because it is constantly punishing them for a fantasy aspiration that is totally detached from any reality or logic. That is my view and the view of many of my constituents in Laois-Offaly, which has been decimated by ideology that is not connected to any sort of reality. No alternatives are put in place. An unfair and unjust transition is imposed on my constitutions and no job alternatives.

The Government closed power plants, such as in Shannonbridge and Lanesborough, County Longford, and now we are faced with electricity blackouts. What sort of logic prevails? Is there any common sense in Government? What it is doing to people is unfair and beyond belief, in that it is imposing terrible hardship on people. My county of Offaly will experience 53% of the job losses, because of an unjust transition. We were told we had until 2030 to transition and then that was sped up. Deputy Bruton comes in here and seems to think that is acceptable. From where I and my constituents who are suffering are coming, it is not acceptable. It will never be acceptable and it is high time this Government woke up, because the policies are extreme and radical and we need common sense. I urgently call on the Government to make sure it reopens the power plants at Shannonbridge and Lanesborough. This Government is dragging us back to the Dark Ages. We will not even basic electricity.

I was here a while ago listening to Deputy Bruton and thought I may have been on a slightly different planet to the one on which he is, because, he is certainly not living on the reality planet in Ireland. As regards what we are facing in agriculture, I now see what the plan is, because he let it slip. If agriculture makes its cuts, it will help other sectors. Now we know what is happening in Dublin and Kildare and other places. We will save other sectors of society and the farmers of rural Ireland will have to take their cuts and hits, just like the people of rural Ireland. This climate action Bill was blindly supported by Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, the Green Party, Sinn Féin and a couple of nod-and-wink Independents. They supported the infliction upon most of their constituents, but it does not matter to the Green Party Deputies, who are city-based and will not be worried about what they will get in rural Ireland, because they will get nothing there, only run from the doorsteps since people are furious.

Look at the people trying to pay for their fuel from day to day. Mothers and fathers are trying to take their children to school because there is no public transport in rural Ireland. We are totally dependent on the ordinary people who sit into their cars and who pull up the filling stations. They were able to buy their fuel for €1.10 a litre last year. They are paying €1.48 a litre now in many of the filling stations. This is thanks to the Green Party, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael and even to Sinn Féin, who voted for this climate action Bill. This is what they have done. They have attacked the ordinary people in the ordinary towns and villages of rural Ireland. We are paying for it.

Now I am hearing that the Minister for Transport, Deputy Eamon Ryan, bought three beautiful buses for €2.4 million for Dublin. We are paying for that. We cannot afford to carry the country on our back. The Government parties have to understand that. We are facing electric blackouts. Let me tell Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, and the Green Party, that if there is an electric blackout in this country they will be ran out of the Dáil. They should not think that they will not. They had better be petrified and watch what they are doing. The are taking this country to the edge.

The edge is close for a lot of people, because they cannot afford to put the fuel in the tank. Green energy would be lovely and beautiful, but it is not happening. Warmer homes are not being delivered in rural Ireland. People cannot buy coal because the Government has put it out of their price range. They cannot buy the fuel for the fire. When is the Government going to stop? When is it going to understand that people are suffering? These are ordinary, country good living people that voted for Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil but never the Green Party. Now the ordinary people are getting a kick in the teeth when they listen to Deputy Bruton and his dream. He wants to let agriculture take its cuts so that other sectors can be saved. Well, wow, that is the dream. That is not where Fine Gael came from. They are not the roots of Fine Gael. Many would turn in their graves from listening to this kind of an attitude that Fine Gael has today. The way things have happened is shocking. They have had lots of opportunities. I put one before Minister sometime back about a floating LNG terminal in Cork to try and turn things around but he is not interested. I do not know why he is not interested. That is a way to turn things around. Experts are coming back to this country and are willing to invest in this country. We need to put something in place. All we are doing is ruining things. People cannot sow forestry in this country. Because we cannot sow forestry, we have to import it. We have to import the peat moss from Latvia all over the country. We are the laughing stock of the world. The Brazilians must be falling over in stitches because of what is happening in this country. For the love and honour of God, everyone in government should wake up and smell the grass grow each

I can see things from talking to my constituents. They should go out and knock on the doors of their constituents and ask them if they can afford to take a hit from €1.10 per litre to €1.48. They are trying to drive their children to school. They are trying to go to work. Businesspeople tell me that they are struggling to keep the shirts on their backs and to keep the employees going, because they cannot pay what Government expects them to pay. The Government parties down on their backs. They are expecting too much. They expect that they are going to get away with what they do without looking round.

They have not even touched public transport. Shame on them. We have the same transport service that we had 25 years ago in west Cork. It has not moved one way or another, only for West Cork Connect, and Damien Long, a local operator, who is trying to do it off his back and taking people up in Cork. Only for that, we have nothing. That is what we get in rural Ireland, zero, so that we can feed the Government above in Dublin. That is not going to continue.

I, too, am critical of this, as well as of the sneaky way in the budget last year the Government put in a carbon tax, which we cannot even debate on the finance Bill for next year, or for the nine years. This trick o' the loop job is a three-card trick. We all agree that climate mitigation is necessary. However, we are being destroyed in rural Ireland. It is pure folly. Many speakers earlier who spoke about what I have been speaking about, which is the pollution that is being caused out by county councils up and down the country. We have Deputy Chris Andrews talking about it in Dublin. I could bring anyone to ten, 15 or 20 villages in Tipperary. I could bring them to different towns that are spewing out raw sewage. The Government parties are crucifying the ordinary people. They will not allow people build houses in rural Ireland. They are trying to drive the people off the land.

The young farmers, who I support wholeheartedly, were encouraged by Government, especially by Deputy Bruton’s Government, and encouraged by Teagasc to up their game and their production with cheese plants in south Kilkenny. An Taisce, a band of roving bandits, is holding that up and being reckless, having been in court four or five times. It is shocking. What is the Government then doing? It is funding An Taisce with the taxes of those people that it is crucifying. This just would not go on in an asylum. The lunatics are definitely in charge here.

Deputy Nolan spoke about the just transition. It could not be more unjust. She mentioned the power plants and asked to have Lanesborough and Shannonbridge reactivated. I am told that the plant in Lanesborough has been taken down, been exported to Germany and has been recommissioned there in. We are importing peat as well. The poor people out there are just devastated. The Government parties think that they can fleece them on the price of food. How are we going to get a tractor that is driven by electricity? How are we going to get electric trucks, as Deputy McGuinness said? If we ever manage to have them, their costs will have to be passed onto the businesspeople, who now cannot even afford the cost of fuel. God help the people for the winter.

I, too, want a €20 increase a week for pensioners, carers, and vulnerable people in the budget, although that would not even cover the increasing costs. We are now going to have blackouts. We have been warning this for the past 12 months, because EirGrid told us. Now, Government is saying that it might happen. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael backbenchers here told us that they would not be culling the cow herd, when this famous Bill was going through the House. Where are they now? We can see it in front of our eyes. They told downright lies to the people. Are they so stupid themselves that they will not even question what they have been told? It is propaganda and spin-----

The Deputy cannot say “Lies” and he knows it.

That is what they said.

I would prefer if you would withdrew that remark and used other language as you required under Standing Orders.

These are the most basic untruths. Are they asleep at the wheel? They will hear about it from their electorate, when they go back. It is shocking that they will not allow timber to be cut. We will bring forward Private Members' legislation to deal with an issue with afforestation. There are people, who in good faith, enter 25-, 30- or 40-year cycle, with the expectation that they could harvest their crop. When people sow their potatoes, beet when we had it, wheat, barley, miscanthus, or any other crop, they have a right to have the expectation to cut it. I want the same thing for forestry, as well as to get rid of the legions of inspectors that the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is recruiting. The Minister of State, Senator Pippa Hackett, is playing mind games with people who are trying to harvest their timber to build houses. We are talking about Housing for All and we cannot cut a stick.

We cannot cut the handle of a brush without getting a licence. We need to go back to harvesting our crop and to reaping what we sow. I can tell the Government parties that they are going to reap what they sow.

I now return to the Government slot and call on Deputy Ó Cathasaigh, who is sharing time with Deputy Higgins. They six-and-a-half minutes each.

I wonder if we sandboxed today's debate, set it aside for 30 years and reopened it again like a time capsule, how would it be judged then? By mid-century, when the effects of our emissions have further worked their way through into the climate system; and when floods, droughts, and storms are more frequent and severe; when creeping inundation threatens our coastal settlements, how will all of our talk here about incrementalism, exceptionalism and relativism be received? When my sons are my age what will they think about what has been said here today?

Following this line of thought, maybe the statements on climate action in the UN General Assembly are the wrong focus for a debate here today. Maybe we should look instead to the Youth for Climate event that happened over the past three days, ahead of COP26. In what was Greta Thunberg’s corrugating assessment for global record of climate action, she said:

This is not about some expensive politically correct dream of bunny hugging, or build back better, blah blah blah, green economy, blah blah blah, net zero by 2050, blah blah blah, climate neutral blah blah blah. This is all we hear from our so-called leaders: words, words that sound great but so far have led to no action, our hopes and dreams drowned in their empty words and promises.

What are we to make of that assessment? That is how our young people, the ones who will reap the whirlwind of our actions and inaction, view our collective efforts. It will not do. It will not do when my middle child asks about sea level rise before he drifts off to sleep. I cannot turn to him and give him, "Blah blah blah". I feel that responsibility hugely. The weight of my voters, of the school kids I have taught, of generations yet to come, all of us in the Green Party feel that responsibility. However, that is not enough. We cannot do it on our own. We are prepared to make the difficult decisions, but we need others in this House to walk the walk as well.

Our Government partners are coming with us bit by bit, and I thank them for it, but we have to up our game, to increase our pace, and to be more radical and more ambitious in our agenda. We need our colleagues on the Opposition benches too. There are no two ways about it. The kind of changes we need to undertake as a people and a nation to achieve our decarbonising targets will mean undertaking a radical overhaul of our society and economy.

We need the help of Opposition Members to bring their voters and supporters with us. Quips and memes will not do the job. Simplistic sloganeering will not do it. Traditional Opposition politics of all sweets and no dentists is all blah blah blah. This is a call to arms for the Opposition as well. I agree with Deputy Bacik and the members of the Citizens' Assembly in that the State, in collaboration and solidarity with all its citizens, must lead and drive this transition. On the one hand, the Covid crisis laid bare the myth that the free market is the cure to all ills and, on the other hand, demonstrated the capacity of the State to respond in times of crisis, when supported by the people or communities and wider society.

In this current Dáil, we have made a step change in the scale of targeted ambition. The Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act set out the legislative groundwork. The next steps will be the setting out of our revised climate action plan, laying out our carbon budgets for the next 15 years, and publishing the revised national development plan. This will be challenging and it has to be because incrementalism will not cut it. It will create strain within the coalition; it has to. If it did not, it would mean that we were not pushing hard enough. It will create opportunities for Opposition Members and it will be up to them to decide on how to respond. Future generations are watching them as well as us.

Turning to the international context and the specific title of this debate, it was welcome to see the growing profile of climate change at the UN General Assembly and, importantly, Ireland's role in elevating that profile. Our counterparts in the developing world and climate vulnerable communities will look to us to demonstrate the follow-through that will come after the high-level events and meetings have finished and gone. Facing continual and increasing devastating climate impact, many countries cannot cope with the reality of climate change. Solidarity with the developing world cannot just be in words. It is in action, support on the ground, funding and finance. It means putting our money where our mouth is. We need to make good on the promise of the Paris Agreement and see a credible flow of finance provided without conditionality and at the scale necessary to drive sustainable development. We need to see a funded green recovery and finance package for developing countries with a delivery plan for $100 billion and delivering on adaptation, loss and damage. Ireland has a long-standing and proud legacy as a donor of high-quality overseas development assistance and climate finance. We need to build continually on this legacy, particularly as climate impacts intensify in countries that stand to lose the most.

The Yeats poem, "Easter, 1916" speaks to a very different historical context, yet it keeps rattling around my head in the run-in to COP 26. It opens with:

I have met them at close of day

Coming with vivid faces

and closes with:

... [All] changed, changed utterly:

A terrible beauty is born.

It is my children's vivid faces I see, and it is for their sake we need to change and change utterly. This is our generation's moonshot and we must bend all of our collective genius and resource to the task. This is nothing less than an existential crisis not just for humanity but for so many species that form this incredible biosphere, this pale blue dot which sustains life in a way no other place in our known universe can.

Earlier this year, the climate action Bill set out Ireland's ambition to be a world leader on climate action. I know a lot of what is contained in the Bill will be used to drive delivery of climate action and will be included in the climate action plan, and I look forward to reading it when it is published. My expectation is that the upcoming action plan will be every bit as ambitious as the climate action Bill and I welcome the spirit of that ambition. I hope the Government will deliver fully for current and future generations from whom this is so important. It has been said time and again, but we really are running out of time. Immediate action on climate change is needed, and it is needed urgently.

We know sustainable transport is a huge issue that needs to be addressed to deliver on climate action. No country can survive without reliable transport systems, and no climate action plan would be complete without a plan to deliver on sustainable transport. I was delighted to see Ireland's newest railway station, Pelletstown, open in Dublin last week. Developments like this will go a long way towards helping us to achieve climate goals. However, I must say I am very frustrated that one of my local stations remains closed. I have been contacted by so many disappointed constituents who eagerly await the opening of Kishoge rail station in Lucan. Kishoge was built before Pelletstown and we are still waiting to see it opened. We should not be waiting until more homes are built to open it because it is already within a ten-minute walk or cycle for a significant number of south Lucan residents. The sooner it is opened, the better - better for Lucan and, indeed, better for climate action. MetroLink will be another massive transport infrastructure boost towards achieving our climate goals. The sooner the Government can deliver on this commitment, the better.

The Taoiseach told the United Nations General Assembly that "the climate crisis threatens our very existence" on the planet. One of the factors that was no doubt discussed was the massive amount of waste we throw away and send to landfill every year, both globally and nationally. Our waste management ought to be a priority of the climate action plan. According to the EPA, people in Ireland produce more than 13 million tonnes of waste every year, in our homes, places of work and places of leisure. I watched a very good video on Instagram yesterday published by Roz Purcell. People might be familiar with her as a social media influencer who talks about many different topics, including sustainability and fast fashion. The video was a refresher for me on what can and cannot go into recycling bins. The good news is, as we all know now, that there is very little that cannot go into your recycling bin now. Earlier this month, we learned that soft plastic can now go into your recycling bin, and it is easier than ever for people to recycle their household waste. However, it is something we as a Government should be doing more to publicise.

Ireland's record on recycling is improving but we have a way to go to. We are making good progress in tackling our over-reliance on plastic, but there is no doubt this was impacted by Covid-19 and our return to single-use plastics during the pandemic. As we emerge, we must tackle this issue again. Businesses need to be pumping less plastic into the market. We need to look at how we package and transport goods and products, and there needs to be a renewed emphasis on reusable and recyclable materials.

The Government must emphasise the importance of playing a part in the circular economy, and I am glad to see Fine Gael had an event on this only last week. Being green or sustainable is very much in fashion now, but it is also very important. It is very important that our ambitions and the ambitions of big companies and big corporations are not just performative. There cannot be room for greenwashing in our climate action plan. I can list countless examples of brands giving misleading impressions that their garments or products are made from sustainable materials when their production methods are far from that. According to the 2020 Government waste action plan, Ireland dumps 63,000 tonnes of textiles every single year. It is a very significant problem and is evidence of the very damaging relationship we have with fast fashion in Ireland and our throwaway culture that leads to more waste. Fast fashion is an issue I would like to see our climate action plan addressing. It is just one of many issues that need tackling, but we must move to reduce the negative impact the fashion industry has on our environment, whether that involves investing in research and development around sustainable fabrics, increasing the availability of textile recycling facilities, or supporting and promoting the second-hand thrifting and vintage movement. We must make it easier for people to make environmentally friendly decisions when buying things to wear and keep products and materials within the circular economy for as long as possible.

We are no longer living through a time of climate change; we are living through a climate emergency. We owe it to our younger generations, who have been so vocal about their feelings on this issue, to follow through with our commitments. Before the pandemic I was so proud to see Irish people taking to the streets and using their voice and collective power to call for action on climate change. Last week, we saw them once again gathering outside Leinster House. We cannot and must not let them down.

I would like to take a moment to respond to some of what was said in earlier contributions. Living in an asylum was one phrase used. To be honest, people must be living in an asylum themselves if they think climate action is not real. Opposition Members said today that those of us who support action on climate change are not living in the real world. I hate to burst their sound bite, but the real world is a world where glaciers are melting, temperatures are rising, and floods, storms and weather events are causing destruction and loss of life. That terror is the truth and not a lie. Climate change is the truth and not a lie. We cannot continue down this road. We need to play our part and act. We owe it to the next generation to leave our country in a state that is fit for their purpose.

Before we continue, I advise the House that 16 minutes are left for this debate, with 20 minutes of contributions remaining. The Minister of State has, therefore, kindly agreed to curtail his closing remarks to allow the Members of the Independent Group to complete their contributions. I call Deputy Joan Collins.

I thank the Minister of State. Most people in Opposition recognise that climate change is happening. There is no doubt about it. We saw the wildfires in Greece, the fatal floods in Belgium and Germany and record temperatures in Sicily and there is no doubt that Europe is now squarely on the front line of a climate crisis. We also saw what happened in the United States and the loss of permafrost lands in the steppes. Ice glaciers have been also melting in the northern hemisphere. All these changes are having an impact. Unless we deal with this situation collectively, internationally and in local communities, we will not even be able to begin to attempt to deal with this issue. This issue comes down to trust.

The IPCC report rings alarm bells. We are seeing the cost of decades of climate inaction. On the other hand, the report also identifies an opportunity to limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5C. It is a slim possibility. Importantly, though, it is scientifically, technically and economically possible. Mention was made of Covid-19. While some parts of the strategy of this Government in the past year and a half worked, much of it did not. There was much mistrust from people. People knew what needed to be done, though, and people know what needs to be done regarding climate change as well.

It has not gone unnoticed that the rich world's failures in tackling Covid-19 in an equitable fashion, especially in respect of the production and distribution of vaccines, has increased the distrust between the global north and south. There is no doubt about that. The same can be said when we look at the pharmaceutical industry. I refer to the contracts that sector engaged in with the governments of the US and Europe.

Yes, the two years. There was also the reaction of not delivering doses of the vaccines needed in the Third World. Therefore, people are asking many questions regarding how governments are going to respond to the climate issue, as well as big companies. Some 100 companies have been the source of 70% of the world's emissions since 1988. The relentless exploitation of the world's oil, gas and coal reserves by 20 fossil fuel companies can be directly linked to more than one third of all emissions in the modern era. Those companies must be responsible and move to green energy. It must not be greenwashing, but a genuine move to green energy. They must be accountable, transparent and governments must hold them to account and be able to see how they are implementing these targets.

There will be no breakthrough in Glasgow without trust. At a bare minimum, rich countries must finally honour the finance promises concerning the provision of €100 billion that were made in respect of climate change. Those promises were made to developing countries more than a decade ago now. There must be climate justice. There must be a just transition. We must reverse the reality of global warming in respect of those who contributed the least to creating this situation now suffering the direst consequences. There must be a just transition for workers and communities. Industries based on fossil fuels must have alternatives. Governments must be prepared to provide such alternatives and to work with these industries to bring them along in what must be done to deal with climate change.

This week must have been a bewildering week for the workers in Moneypoint power station. We were told it was to close. Now we are being told we face power shortages across the country and the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Deputy Eamon Ryan, hinted that Moneypoint might not close as anticipated. We must bring to bear clarity on this point. If we have power shortages, we will be then importing power.

There will be nothing to import.

There is no guarantee that any power imported will be any greener than the power generated at Moneypoint. To be clear, I agree with the necessity to reduce carbon emissions. It is the political imperative of our time. I will draw the analogy, however, about the current situation. It is like if my grandfather in the 1920s, having read somewhere that tractors were soon going to be in Ireland, sold his horses and then had nothing to plough with the following spring because he had not yet acquired a tractor. We must do this. I look forward to the day when Moneypoint is an innovative and green hub of energy production and hydrogen fuel manufacture and we are harnessing the power of the Atlantic Ocean. In the meantime, though, we need to power the State. We must reduce our consumption of energy, but we must also meet that energy need. We cannot end up in a situation where we have blackouts and we also cannot end up staving off that possibility with imported energy that is no cleaner than the energy we generate ourselves.

Deputy Bruton talked about Botswana. What is good for Botswana is good for Ireland. Dr. Michelle Cain is a noted climate scientist. She has talked about global warming potential, GWP, masking the true effect of short-lived climate gases and the specific impact of methane. She compared a herd to a closed power station. If a power station belches out carbon dioxide and then closes, it is no longer taxed. A herd of cattle, however, once it does not increase in number, maintains the same level of emissions in the atmosphere throughout. Our national herd has not increased since the 1970s. There are issues with nitrates that must be addressed. We must equally look at forestry - not instead, but equally - in respect of what is causing a deterioration in the quality of our water. Regarding our national herd, there used to be huge cattle pens on the North Circular Road in Dublin. It was the same in Bristol. For decades, Ireland has fed the needs of cattle right across Europe. If we stop that production, are we going to just transfer that production to places in South America, where such feedstuffs will be produced with even greater carbon emissions?

The climate has changed drastically over the years and it will change again. I do not think anyone has a problem with technology, but we have signed up to stuff that is not attainable. I refer in particular to the EU 2030 climate target plan and what we have signed up to in that regard. I put on record that in energy, transport and agriculture, we are not fit to carry out what we have signed up to. We must own up to that fact. We are living in a fantasy world.

Turning to energy, we have one offshore wind farm. If we want to go offshore to supply our energy needs, then that will take ten to 12 years to come to fruition. If we choose hydrogen, then we will be looking at it taking 15 to 20 years to achieve results. RTÉ did a report on the production of hydrogen at Moneypoint and it seemed as if the hydrogen and wind turbines were going out on the sea the next day. The reality is that power station is burning coal and it is going to burn coal for the next five years. This is the lunacy that we go on with. We build up something that is not attainable. Take battery storage, for example. It is a technology for the future. It will be perfected, but it is not going to be perfected in the next few years. Solar farms must be brought on as well. These are things we must do. On top of that we also wanted data centres, and then yesterday no one wanted them.

We then talk about forestry. I drove 112 miles or 114 miles today. There were trees on both sides of the road on every part of that journey. Not one of those trees is counted in our carbon assessments. There is an acre of trees on every farm in the country, but that is not considered. No one seems to be bothered about it, and the agriculture sector is getting kicked and kicked again. Turning to transport, if we had these one million electric cars that have been talked about, where would we be today when we are on the cusp of our lights going out? Moving to school buses, a long time ago when I was going to school in the 1980s, there was a school bus in every village. Now we are not able to bring the kids to school. Instead, sports utility vehicles, SUVs, bring children to school and that causes an increased use of carbon. Why? It is because of the cuts imposed on rural areas. In addition, the beef and suckler herds in this country are the most efficient. Deputy McNamara talked about methane. It involves a ten-year lifespan.

Ireland is the best at something, and if we are the best in the class at it, we need to be kept at it. In addition, the Minister of State with responsibility for forestry is in the Green Party and forestry has been in disarray for the past 18 months. This year we will have fewer trees planted than ever before.

Another issue that must be addressed, which is becoming sickening for rural people, is the amount of objections coming in day after day from the environmental lobby. That will not be tolerated. As we saw in the programme the other night, the houses of the people around Lough Funshinagh in Roscommon are getting flooded. Someone with a garden containing nice green bushes, that has come from another country, has been telling people in Roscommon what we should and should not do, and about the law. I watched Greta Thunberg go blah, blah, blah the other day. She should do one thing: get into politics in her own country if she thinks she is going to solve the world's problems.

I thank Deputy Fitzmaurice and the other Deputies who spoke. I am heartened by the fact that, in general, nearly every Deputy here accepts that climate change is happening and something has to be done. We can work together on the challenges of how we help people to change their behaviour, how we give them a way out and something different to do rather than telling them what they cannot do. We must also examine how we fund them and give them what they need. What about the different roles of the Government and the public sector? What is their responsibility versus the role and responsibility of corporate interests, companies and private interests? Are they doing their share versus what communities and individuals have to do?

In terms of walking the walk and talking the talk, during the debate on the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill, many Deputies put forward great ideas. In terms of ambition, they questioned why we could not cut emissions by 60%, 70% or 80% rather than by 50%. There were great abstract ideas about what needs to be done, but when some of those same Deputies found there was a wind farm or cycle lane in their area, they were not able to bring themselves to support these developments in their own communities. We must walk the walk and do the stuff ourselves. We must lead by example. To help with that, the Government has an enormous expenditure programme which is being reviewed and is about to be announced shortly. It will be worth in excess of €100 billion, and much of it will be targeted towards helping the transition to take place.

Tools are used within the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to decide how good projects are and whether they qualify for support. The public spending code is one of those tools. It is used to evaluate the consequences of the capital investment decisions it faces. Every public investment project with a value above €20 million must conduct a full analysis on the potential costs and benefits associated with it. We must look at the rules in light of the changes in the environment. Given the challenging and legally binding greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets Ireland faces, it is critical to ensure the code takes account of the environmental consequences of any investment decisions. Already, the code requires that every project must estimate the impact it is likely to have on greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental factors such as air quality. Any greenhouse gas emissions are then valued at the price it will likely cost society to reach our climate targets by adopting an offsetting measure that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2019, the price of carbon that is applied in the code was tripled. This was based on estimated marginal abatement costs of achieving a 30% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030. The Government is now moving to the target of a 51% reduction by 2030. That means it becomes more expensive as we go along to achieve the carbon reductions. Accordingly, the shadow price of carbon will change, which means that for every project that emits more carbon, there are more negatives and it is harder to justify a project. In addition to the Government's target of reaching a 51% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, it wants to reach climate neutrality by 2050. It is clear the public spending code must adapt to reflect this new ambition.

A full reform programme on the climate and environmental aspects of the public spending code will be contained in the new national development plan, which is about to be published. In the first instance, the priority will be on increasing the cost of carbon that is applied in the code to reflect the Government's enhanced climate ambition. This work will be informed by the research that is underpinning the development of the Government's forthcoming climate action plan.

The Department is also working with the OECD and the European Commission on further reforms to the code. Work will be progressed on a new model for assessing the emissions impact of infrastructure investment. This is to ensure the full range of potential consequences for this type of investment are captured and valued correctly. For example, the greenhouse gas emissions associated with a new road investment are not just the emissions attributable to the construction work and the materials used in that road, but rather they should also incorporate some assessment of the emissions consequences of the future usage of the road, including the induced traffic. This work will entail considering how such assessments are performed at the moment and what reforms might be implemented to improve these assessments.

Work will be progressed on understanding the role of an instrument like the code in a scenario where net-zero greenhouse emissions must be achieved by 2050. The marginal value for 1 tonne of greenhouse gas emissions in 2050 should be based on the estimated cost of eliminating the last tonne of carbon or, more likely, the estimated cost of a measure that will sequester or capture this carbon. This cost is subject to considerable uncertainty but is likely to be considerably higher than the figure in use today. Ultimately, the objective of this programme of work is to allow the Government to take decisions that are fully informed by the best possible evidence on the consequences of these decisions.

I know that was quite technical, but the solution to this problem is going to involve respectful listening and talking to everybody, going out to communities, and working together. We have a common purpose and we can achieve this just as we did in the past year or two in the pandemic.