Election of Chairman

Clerk to the Committee

I thank the members for attending. As we have a quorum, I wish to call the meeting to order. I remind members to turn off their phones as they interfere with the sound system and with broadcasting. I have received apologies from Senator Paul Daly, for whom Senator Horkan is attending as a substitute. Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the Houses or an official, either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.

The first item on the agenda is the election of a Chairman. There are no provisions in Standing Orders that require a nominee to be seconded. I call on members to make nominations.

I propose Deputy Timmy Dooley.

I second that.

I propose Deputy Naughton.

Clerk to the Committee

As there is more than one nomination, I will now put the following question: "That Deputy Timmy Dooley be elected Chairman of the committee."

Question put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 10; Níl, 11.

  • Butler, Mary.
  • Chambers, Jack.
  • Devine, Máire.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Horkan, Gerry.
  • Lahart, John.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Nolan, Carol.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Stanley, Brian.

Níl

  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Lombard, Tim.
  • Marshall, Ian.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Neville, Tom.
  • O'Sullivan, Grace.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Sherlock, Sean.
Question declared lost.
Staon: Deputy Paul Murphy.
Question, "That Deputy Hildegarde Naughton be elected Chairman of the committee", put and declared carried.
Deputy Hildegarde Naughton took the Chair.

Chairman

I thank the members and my nominator, Deputy Eamon Ryan. It is an honour to be elected Chairman of this important committee. The work we will do over the next few months will have a huge influence on Ireland's future and it could also mean that we will show world leadership in the area of climate action. I take this opportunity to commiserate with my colleauge Deputy Timmy Dooley, who was a member of the Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment with me. We have worked very well together in the past and I know we will do so again. I look forward to working with all members in a very open and collaborative manner. I commend the work of the Citizens' Assembly because it is because of it that we are here today as a special committee to consider its work under the great chairmanship of former Ms Justice Mary Laffoy. We will recommend in our report at the end of our work whatever actions we, as a committee, consider appropriate.

I thank the Chairman. I propose, since we have all members in attendance, that we take this opportunity to fill the position of Vice Chairman.

Chairman

Yes, if members agree. Are there nominations?

I propose Deputy Stanley.

I second that.

I propose Deputy Sean Sherlock.

Chairman

I am required to put the following question: "That Deputy Brian Stanley be elected Vice Chairman of the committee."

Question put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 11; Níl, 9.

  • Butler, Mary.
  • Chambers, Jack.
  • Devine, Máire.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Horkan, Gerry.
  • Lahart, John.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • O'Sullivan, Grace.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Stanley, Brian.

Níl

  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Lombard, Tim.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Neville, Tom.
  • Nolan, Carol.
  • Sherlock, Sean.
Question declared carried.
Staon: Deputy Paul Murphy and Senator Ian Marshall.

Chairman

I congratulate Deputy Stanley and offer my commiserations to Deputy Sherlock.

I commiserate with Deputy Sherlock. I know I will work well with him on the committee. I thank the members for supporting me. I will work with all the members.

We face an important challenge, and I look forward to supporting Deputy Naughton in her role as Chair. The challenge facing the country is significant and we have a great deal of catching up to do on the issue of climate change. This committee is probably the most important one to be formed in the Thirty-second Dáil, given the life and death issues at stake. Nothing is more important. I look forward to working with everyone.

Chairman

I thank the Deputy. We might move on to the next-----

May I speak before we start?

Chairman

Yes.

Well done to the Chairman and Deputy Stanley. It is important that we mark the work of Stop Climate Chaos, which is a coalition of environmental NGOs. Following the Citizens' Assembly's report, Stop Climate Chaos wrote to the Dáil Business Committee asking that the Dáil follow up on it. The Business Committee referred the matter to the Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment, of which the Chairman and I are members. Deputies Dooley, Stanley, the Chairman and I have worked well together on that committee, so I am confident now.

When the Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment was asked to consider this matter by the Business Committee, we realised that we did not have the scope or strength to take on what needed to be done. That is why this committee has been established. We have done some preparatory work at the relevant Oireachtas committee, but we now have a major opportunity to make this Oireachtas work and to follow on from some of the experience of recent committees, particularly the repeal committee, which followed on from a Citizens' Assembly recommendation, in doing a similar scale and importance of work. We should recognise the role of Stop Climate Chaos and the Environmental Pillar in helping to initiate the establishment of this committee.

Chairman

I concur.

I will move through some housekeeping items, the first of which is the approach to our work programme. In view of the short time available to us before the final report is to be produced, the committee needs to have a focused work programme that is both targeted and realistic. The work should result in meaningful recommendations that can be monitored and achieved over time. The Citizens' Assembly report contains all of the relevant evidence. As with the Joint Committee on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, there is little value in trying to duplicate the assembly's work. Therefore, it is proposed that the committee should not actively seek submissions from the public and should seek expert opinion only where the committee agrees to that. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I congratulate the Chairman. What is the committee's timeframe? By when are we meant to publish a report?

Chairman

By 31 January, but I hope to have our work done by Christmas and to tie up loose ends in January. We should focus on having our work done by the end of this year.

I thank the Chairman.

Chairman

There will be an interim report by 11 September. Is that agreed?

The interim report will be published by when?

Chairman

That is to be published by 11 September.

That will never-----

How are we going to do that?

It is a significant volume of work.

Chairman

It will be set out in the work programme. That will all be covered in what we are about to discuss, namely, a terms of reference group. We can change the date; I am in members' hands in that regard. Is it agreed that we only seek experts where the committee agrees to do so? Agreed.

Regarding the structure of the committee's work programme, a modular approach is proposed. In light of the short timeline and the imminent summer recess, it is proposed that we agree a format at today's meeting for the first two modules of our meetings: setting out the context and background; and the departmental Secretaries General. The proposed modular approach to our meetings will be based on the structure that I am about to outline.

I propose that module 1 comprise two meetings. First, we will seek an overview from the chair of the Citizens' Assembly, Ms Justice Mary Laffoy, on its report and ask her to highlight any gap in the report that the assembly may be aware of. Inviting the chair of the assembly to present this overview is a recognition that the key provision of the special committee's orders of reference is to consider the third report and recommendations of the assembly. Inviting the chairperson of the assembly to the Joint Committee on the Eighth Amendment on the Constitution proved especially valuable, as she identified specific areas that the assembly's report on the eighth amendment did not cover. Doing so informed that committee's work programme significantly.

Second, I propose that we seek overview statements from the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, the chairman of the Climate Change Advisory Council, Professor John FitzGerald, Professor Alan Barrett of the ESRI, and the Environmental Pillar. The ESRI's statement would be of particular significance, given the emphasis placed on climate change at the national economic dialogue.

Turning to module 2,-----

Might I suggest that we also include a representative from the Environmental Pillar as one of the key contributors?

Chairman

Yes, the Environmental Pillar will be included. Regarding module 2, I suggest that we-----

The Chair is speaking to the modules now and we are being asked to agree them, but we are not-----

Chairman

This is just our initial meeting. We will invite the chairperson of the Citizens' Assembly, whose report we are reviewing. It is important that we have Ms Justice Laffoy attend.

I have no disagreement with that whatsoever. What I am trying to ascertain is whether we are being given a list of names and asked to agree them. I am hopeful that there will be some degree of flexibility regarding who we can invite-----

Chairman

There will be.

-----and that the witness list is not being presented to us as a fait accompli.

Chairman

Absolutely not. This meeting is just about setting the tone and background. Modules 1 and 2 are the matters we can decide on today.

I thank the Chairman.

Chairman

This is about our September meetings, and members' feedback will be needed as to which experts should be invited, as we may need more information on specific matters. This is just about getting the ball rolling in September so that we can have these people ready.

Chairman

In module 2, I suggest that we meet the Secretaries General of the relevant Departments, as per our orders of reference, to determine whether they are on track regarding the various actions assigned to them under the national mitigation plan, namely, the sectoral mitigation measures, and whether they have identified additional sectoral mitigation measures that could inform further implementation of the national mitigation plan and the preparation of Ireland's draft integrated national energy and climate plan, taking into account the recently published national development plan. Secretaries General can also inform us as to how the recommendations of the assembly can inform changes to those plans.

It is proposed that, over several meetings, we will engage with the Secretaries General and senior officials of seven Departments to examine their sectoral mitigation plans and adaptation plans and consider how the recommendations of the assembly can inform changes to those plans.

It is proposed that the meetings of modules 1 and 2 will be as follows. Members may wish to look at their diaries now. From 4 to 6 December-----

Chairman

I am sorry. From 4 to 6 September, we would have the chair of the Citizens' Assembly, the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, the Climate Change Advisory Council, the ESRI and the Environmental Pillar. From 11 to 20 September, we would have the Secretaries General of the relevant Departments. If members wish to go into private session to discuss these dates, we can.

To be helpful, I suggest that the list of dates be circulated. We could then have a brief meeting tomorrow. It is just that a great deal of information has been imparted and we need to look at our diaries.

I will make a suggestion on the dates. Perhaps we could do some housekeeping at the end of the meeting.

Chairman

We can revert on the dates.

We need to decide which Departments' Secretaries General to invite. We do not want all 14 Departments represented. Four are highly relevant. With a timeframe of approximately 16 weeks, the main part of our work will have to be tied up by mid-December. We should invite the four certain Departments, although one or two others may need to be invited as well.

Chairman

I will ask members to decide on which Secretaries General.

What dates did the Chairman mention regarding the second module?

Chairman

They are 4 to 6 September and, for the Secretaries General, 11 to 20 September.

Is the Chairman suggesting that we pick a number of meetings within that timeframe?

Chairman

Yes. A Wednesday slot at 1.30 p.m. is available. We can go into private session to discuss these dates if members wish.

Will each of the modules be one meeting or a couple?

Chairman

Several meetings.

They will be distinct modules over a period of days.

Chairman

Yes. Is that okay?

Yes. I thank the Chairman.

Chairman

Deputy Ryan wishes to comment.

A bit of work has been done by our other committee to prepare for this. I do not remember whether it was Deputy Dooley or Deputy Stanley's suggestion, but I agree that we do not have to decide the exact dates now.

As Deputy Stanley has said, we do not have to agree the exact details and date here. I understand that the second group from 11-20 September is the first of the Secretaries General to come in to the committee. It would not be the case that we would see all the Secretaries General within that timeframe; we would need a staggered approach so we have time to prepare for each meeting. That time would be for the first of those meetings.

Chairman

We would need to give the Secretaries General and Ms Justice Mary Laffoy an indication on dates now. We can do this over today and tomorrow.

If 11 September is the time for the first interim report, all that we would have done by then is module 1. Is that correct?

Chairman

We will be starting module 1. The interim report will be our work plan. We will be working on this over the summer. There will be a reference group also over the summer.

Can I make a proposal? I am the Chairman of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Business, Enterprise and Innovation. I believe that for discussion on this level of detail we should go into private session.

Chairman

Would the members be agreeable to going into private session for this item? Agreed.

The joint committee went into private session at 5.31 p.m. and adjourned at 5.58 p.m., sine die.