Advancing the Low-Carbon Transition in Irish Transport: Discussion

I remind members and witnesses to turn off their mobile phones.

I would like to particularly welcome representatives from the National Economic and Social Council, NESC, and researchers from Dublin City University, DCU, school of law and government. We are joined by Dr. Jeanne Moore, policy analyst and Dr. Larry O'Connell, senior economist, NESC; and Dr. Laura Devaney and Dr. Diarmuid Torney, Dublin City University, school of law and government.

By virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to the Committee. However, if they are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and they continue to so do, they are entitled thereafter only to a qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and they are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person, persons or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable.

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 House or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.

I invite Dr. Jeanne Moore, policy analyst, and Dr. Larry O'Connell, senior economist, NESC to make their opening statements.

Dr. Larry O'Connell

I thank the Chairman and members of the committee for the invitation to appear.

With regard to our background, NESC is a Government body that advises the Taoiseach on strategic policy issues. Its members are appointed by the Taoiseach and represent business, employers, trade unions, agricultural, community and voluntary organisations, and environmental organisations. We also have heads of Departments and independent experts on our council. The composition of the NESC means that it plays an important and unique role in bringing different perspectives from civil society together with Government. Dr. Jeanne Moore and I are here as members of the secretariat.

There is a strong and growing consensus across society, the Oireachtas and Government that ambitious and meaningful policy action is urgently required to address climate change. In the council's latest report, Climate-Change Policy: Getting the Process Right, we argue that what is required is a mission-oriented approach to climate that will help us to drive the development of actions and solutions that will decarbonise our economy. That would allow us to capture the full range of positive benefits from what we have seen must be a just transition to a low-carbon future in terms of our economy, health, well-being, air quality and enhanced biodiversity. However, the council points out that ambitious goals such as these without a rigorous and reflective policy will not be sufficient to deliver a transition to a low-carbon future.

What the council has focused on in its report is to ensure that growing ambition is matched by action. What is required is a process of policy development and continuous improvement, which over time can force emissions downwards at the scale and pace we require. The system we talk about uses target setting at a specific level, action and review that will ensure ambitious actions on climate, which would often encounter difficulties, costs and contested ideas, need to be grappled with and not glossed over. We accept that in many areas of climate change policy the precise details about how we will act are not yet fully worked out but progress has still to be achieved in the face of that uncertainty.

The council talks about continuous improvement in policy and I will focus on what that means for climate and specifically for transport. For climate policy, the council strongly supports the Government’s proposal to adopt a policy and implementation process modelled on the Action Plan for Jobs. The process it outlines in its report also bears close similarity to the proposal of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Climate Action to establish a climate action implementation board. Such a process and structure can provide the key mechanism that will allow for intensive reporting and monitoring of action. However, the existing range of known actions on climate policy, even if fully implemented, will not be sufficient. The council, therefore, recommends that along with the monitoring process in the Action Plan for Jobs, which rightly focuses on the need to check implementation and deliverables, it should in the case of climate change be enhanced to make sure that Government agencies actively explore, find, trial and cost new solutions for specific contexts. In doing so, the Government agencies will have to engage and collaborate with each other and with the non-Government actors in their respective networks. This Action Plan for Jobs plus process at the centre of Government will have a key role in trying to pool the learning from action on the front line in various sectors to prompt co-operation between Departments and sectors to find and exploit the co-benefits for health, well-being and the environment.

On transport, the council identifies three key additional activities and processes that would support future climate action. First, the council strongly supports the role of task forces in searching for appropriate solutions. The report by Dr. Torney and Dr. Devaney focuses on a low emissions vehicle task force in transport as something that seems to have the capacity to do the key element of grappling with the complexity and uncertainty that characterises some of the actions that are required in the transport sector. Running such task forces and learning from their work should form a core part of the climate policy and not only be tangential to it.

Second, the council highlights the role of departmental and agency-led processes that would support breakthroughs and innovation, and scale-up promising solutions. They would achieve this by using the full range of tools available, including regulation, acting as facilitator and convenor, and using the traditional instruments that shape behaviour such as taxes, charges and subsidies.

Third, the council recommends that an enhanced research and knowledge-generating capacity and capability are required in transport because they are lacking in transport compared to other sectors such as agriculture and energy where Teagasc and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, SEAI, are key resources. What the council envisages is a research approach and capacity that are very close to practice and that help in finding new solutions and identifying obstacles and challenges to progress. Examples we cite are research trials on practical issues such as parking policy, cycling and safety, how we might prioritise pedestrians in urban areas and congestion charges. The second area is how we engage people and communities in trying to find and see the co-benefits of having a more sustainable mobility system. The third area is using our research to develop best-practice guidelines and standards, and advisory support where it is needed, for example, in creating safe walking routes in rural areas.

These three innovations-task forces, which would move specific issues forward, using more of the co-ordinating force and instruments of the State to increase the pace of change; and an enhanced practice orientated research programme would in the council’s view create the means of continuously improving the sustainability and quality of our mobility system and wider climate policy process.

I thank the committee for the opportunity to present our work. My colleague, Dr. Jeanne Moore, and I are happy to answer any questions committee members have.

I thank Dr. Larry O’Connell. I invite Dr. Diarmuid Torney to make his opening statement.

Dr. Diarmuid Torney

I thank the committee for the invitation to present our research, Advancing the Low-Carbon Transition in Irish Transport. My colleague, Dr. Laura Devaney, of the School of Law and Government in Dublin City University and I completed this research which was commissioned by the National Economic and Social Council, NESC. However, the analysis and conclusions are ours and do not necessarily represent the views of the council or its secretariat.

The climate crisis has gained unprecedented prominence in Irish politics, media and society in recent months. This is not before time but better late than never. Stark warnings last October from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, highlighted the risks involved if we fail to limit global heating to 1.5°C. These risks include more extreme droughts and floods, as well as severe impacts on ecosystems and human communities. The IPCC report was equally unequivocal in highlighting that we are on a dangerous pathway. The world has already warmed by approximately 1°C and we are currently headed for 3°C of heating. To have a chance of limiting heating to 1.5°C, we need a radical change of direction that will bring us to zero net greenhouse gas emissions by the middle of the century.

Young people took to the streets across the country in their thousands in March and again last month to put pressure on politicians to tackle the climate crisis which poses a grave threat to their future. The results of the recent European and local elections illustrated that climate change has indeed moved to the centre of politics. Momentum for necessary climate action is growing. However, emissions projections from the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, show that Ireland will, in a best-case scenario, achieve a 0.4% reduction in emissions in the sectors of the economy outside the EU Emissions Trading Scheme by 2020. This compares to a 20% decarbonisation target. Nobody claims that Ireland’s transition to a climate safe future will be cheap or easy. If it were, we would have done it long ago. What is beyond doubt, however, is that it is necessary and achievable.

Ireland has struggled to decarbonise transport. Emissions from this sector fell during the recession but have grown significantly since and remain responsible for approximately 20% of our national emissions. The NESC commissioned Dr. Devaney and I to undertake a study of how governance structures enable or constrain low-carbon transition in Irish transport. It is important to note that, in focusing on governance structures, our report does not go into detail on what the appropriate balance is between different specific modes of transport or what policy instruments are best placed to spur low-carbon transition.

Governance institutions are key enabling factors for decarbonisation across economy and society. The international literature on governance of low-carbon transition points to the importance of bottom-up innovation and experimentation, as well as top-down direction from central government. Drawing on desk-based research and interviews with key stakeholders, we show how a low-carbon transition in Irish transport could be better facilitated by modifications to governance institutions and the broader policy system.

There are three dimensions to our diagnosis of the challenges facing the transport sector in transitioning to a low-carbon future. First, the Irish transport sector is inherently complex. There are tensions between public and private actors in charge of different transport options, rural and urban divides, as well as special interests playing a strong role. Delivering transport also interacts in complex ways with broader policy systems, including where we locate our housing, schools, hospitals and other facilities. Second, low-carbon transition is not yet a priority in transport. Contestation between different players has shaped the development of a carbon-intensive transport system to date. There is also disagreement over what low-carbon transition might entail across different elements of the transport sector such as between passenger and freight transport. Third, our system of transport decision-making is deeply fragmented. Authority is spread among multiple institutions whose mandates often have not kept pace with the urgency of the climate crisis.

I thank Dr. Torney. I invite Dr. Laura Devaney to make her opening statement.

Dr. Laura Devaney

I thank the committee for the invitation to present our research and the potential solutions uncovered by it. These recommendations were developed in advance of the Government’s publication of its climate action plan on Monday.

Building on the diagnosis of the transport sector, as outlined by Dr. Torney, our research identifies recommendations and poses questions for stakeholders who wish to strengthen low-carbon transition in Irish transport. These align with our three key research themes.

First, acknowledging complexities in the transport sector, transport governance should be built on the following principles. We need to adopt a collaborative, adaptive and reflexive approach to policy making. This requires input from a diverse range of public, private and civil society actors whose voices are not sufficiently heard. Stakeholder engagement is essential to enhance transparency, legitimacy and trust in decision-making, along with generating better outcomes. We should support bottom-up approaches to low-carbon transport. This approach takes into account geographical and technical variations, as well as the rural-urban divide which results in different transport solutions and investment required in different areas.

We need to understand transport as a social practice to promote positive behaviour change. This means that we must consider the socio-cultural, technical and governance forces that shape our mobility choices. Designing and implementing appropriate combinations of these interventions will ensure we have the right incentives, options and new social norms to make low-carbon transport easy to choose.

Second, challenging institutional priorities that to date have not included a strong focus on low-carbon transition, we propose several recommendations. Transport policy-making should be aligned with international sustainable mobility thinking that promotes an avoid, shift, improve, ASI, framework for both passenger and freight transport. For the systemic change required, this would more clearly emphasise a hierarchy which focuses on reducing journeys in the first place through better land-use planning, for example. It also aims to achieve modal shift, for instance, to public transport, walking and cycling in passenger transport, as well as rail and alternative last-mile delivery options in freight. Finally, the ASI framework focuses on improving vehicle efficiencies, for example, through using alternative fuels, electrification or enhancing engine efficiencies.

The Government needs to provide low-carbon direction. This will signal a new pathway to investors, consumers and citizens. This includes leadership from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport but should also be underpinned by a whole-of-government approach to climate action. The mandates of transport governance actors should be revised to include a statutory commitment to prioritise low-carbon development. More detailed carbon accounting, along with a heavier weight assigned to this, could feature in project appraisals to inform decisions about transport investments.

The public sector should lead by example. This could include not just central government but also, for example, local authorities switching fleets to electrified alternatives. The Civil Service should give greater priority to low-carbon transition in its hiring, promotion and travel schemes.

Changing who shapes transport outcomes, our research identifies a variety of institutional remedies which can help to advance the low carbon transition.

Focused taskforces could combine insights from public, private, academic and civil society actors around specific transport challenges. This could build upon the success of the low emissions vehicle taskforce that provided a structured forum and brought together key actors to unblock policy action for electric vehicle incentivisation. Multimodal transport hubs that connect transport options hold promise for decarbonising Irish passenger transport, along with enhanced redistribution hubs to decarbonise freight. Public private partnerships may help to progress such low carbon hubs, combining funding and expertise for change. Forums for peer learning can help villages, towns and cities across Ireland to learn from each other and to scale up innovative low carbon transport solutions. A variety of settlement sizes could learn from one another’s experimental approaches, while recognising important differences across the transport landscape. Deliberative forums for stakeholder and citizen participation could enhance transparency and moderate the impact of lobbying by special interests. Public information offices could be established, along with structured citizen assemblies for deliberation and engagement. Research infrastructure for transport policymaking that supports more diverse and inclusive transport research is needed, as well as channels of communication and absorptive capacity for more evidence-based policymaking. This includes the potential for intermediary institutions and for enhanced knowledge exchange between academia and Government, as well as participatory backcasting approaches to create implementable transition frameworks.

None of these solutions by themselves are a silver bullet but, together, they can provide a governance framework that adequately addresses the climate crisis. We need to tackle Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions head on. The recent declaration of a climate emergency by the Dáil made international headlines but it will be meaningless if not backed up by concrete action. Transport would be a good place to start.

I thank the witnesses for their collective wisdom and knowledge and for providing the paper they published some weeks ago. I asked them to attend when I saw that publication. In parallel to their thinking, the Government has also issued a plan, and one of the key issues is how we dovetail both. I like very much the principles that have been enunciated today. It is up to the politicians, the parties and the public to put practical examples in place that will be successful and will actually work.

We move to questions and comments from members. I call Deputy Troy.

I thank the witnesses for giving their time today. As was rightly said, in the past six months there has been a huge uptick in interest among the public and policymakers in terms of how we tackle climate change. It is welcome and timely that the witnesses are here, given the Government published its climate action plan earlier this week. As transport is the second-largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, it obviously has a key role to play in terms of how we tackle this.

There is huge emphasis in the Government plan on transferring people from fossil fuel cars to electric vehicles, and it seems to be one of its key points. In 2010, there was a plan to have 200,000 electric vehicles by 2020 but that was revised downwards in 2014 to 50,000 vehicles and further revised downwards in 2018 to 20,000. Therefore, despite setting our plans, we have failed abysmally in terms of achievement.

As somebody who piloted an electric vehicle for six weeks in the run-up to the local elections, I can see why people would not make the transition. Our infrastructure is extremely poor, in particular the number of charge points. I live in a village nine miles outside Mullingar and it has no charge point. When I come to Mullingar, the provincial town of County Westmeath with a population of 15,000 people, there are six public charge points but no high-speed charge point. If we are talking about enabling people to make the transition, we have a long way to go. It is not so much a question of encouraging people because there is a willingness, but there is the practical question of whether people can actually do this. After six weeks, I found myself asking whether I could survive with an electric vehicle and the answer at the moment, until the range improves, is "No".

One of the witnesses made the point that while it is welcome there are goals or targets, there are no timelines for implementation of these targets or any precise details. Page 90 of the Government's climate action plan contains a measure that will "Require new non-residential buildings with more than 10 parking spaces to have at least one recharging point installed by 1 January 2025". Therefore, there might be a car park with 200 spaces that has one charging point by 2025, which is just not ambitious enough. From what the witnesses have said today, electric vehicles should nearly be the last piece of the jigsaw whereas the Government policy seems to make it the first piece of the jigsaw.

To follow on from what one of my colleagues said earlier, it would be great to make public transport free but, even if that was introduced in the morning, we have no extra capacity on very many routes. Our ticketing system is not even integrated, never mind the system being integrated for users. That is another issue.

Dr. Devaney raised a point on forums for peer learning. Despite the obvious uptick - the results of the last local and European elections demonstrated there is further acknowledgement and awareness that this is a real issue - there is still huge scepticism on climate change and a huge reluctance as to how we are to make the transition so that it will not cost us. The Government said this can be done in a nudge, nudge way but I do not think it can be. Significant sacrifices will need to be made, which will cost money.

I would be interested to hear the witnesses' views on the Government's climate action plan. Perhaps I am being unduly hard on it, and coming from the Opposition benches, that may be natural. I would be interested to hear their views. I would also be interested to know if the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport has had any engagement with the National Economic and Social Council in regard to its research, in particular how it can extract the NESC's key findings and implement them in Government policies. Given we have failed to achieve all the targets we have set ourselves to date, how would the witnesses prioritise the changes that need to be made? As an example, if any of them were Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport tomorrow morning, and had an opportunity to make three or four changes with immediate effect that, in their opinion, would give the greatest return in terms of reduction in carbon emissions, what would they be?

Those are very good questions.

Dr. Jeanne Moore

I might start before passing to my colleagues. On whether the Department has been involved in any way with the research, Ms Laura Behan from the Department was on the steering group for the research. She was supportive and had good input into the work as it was done. The work has just been published and we have not met Ms Behan since. I acknowledge that because it was an important part of us commissioning the work. It was a short piece of research and, therefore, I commend my colleagues on getting under the skin of the transport sector in the way they did. We wanted to examine a process aspect in respect of institutional governance, which NESC is interested in, along with the specific technical issues that my colleagues will be able to address.

On the necessary shift in the system, the individual must be put at the centre of the policy and transport system. If we are trying to create a system of sustainable mobility, not only do we need to think more about the technical changes to electric vehicles, EVs, as the Deputy mentioned, but also social aspects need to be at the heart of policy-making and planning. That involves the digital transition as well as the wider issues of the opportunities that stem from a low-carbon transition. That framing, namely, starting to put the individual at the centre, means that different questions must be asked. Given that we have thought about how to persuade people not to use their cars, we must ask how we can make the infrastructure supportive of them cycling and walking. The latter are risky activities in the city centre at present. We need to think about putting the individual at the heart of the issue, and building out questions and supporting networks to understand how it might be developed. My colleagues might wish to comment further on some aspects.

I welcome the climate action plan and the significant steps towards thinking about the governance arrangements therein, which we acknowledge in our report. We noted that a climate action delivery board is important for delivering concrete actions. As Dr. O'Connell stated, our report favours an Action-Plan-for-Jobs-plus type of approach. As well as the kind of delivery mechanism outlined in the climate action plan, we must ask what kind of process is it necessary to generate, tailor and generalise solutions. We must also ask what else can be done to try to get under some of the innovative, bottom-up practices that my colleagues have outlined, and how could they be fed into the process. I welcome the signal that governance is being taken seriously. My colleagues might comment on how to embed some of those solutions.

Dr. Laura Devaney

I almost wrote another full opening statement on my reaction to the climate action plan, although I will not bore the committee with it. Echoing what Dr. Moore stated, I welcome the plan. It is timely and necessary for the climate to receive such political attention. Getting the top-down governance right has been an important part of the plan and is welcome in respect of the direction, the carbon budgets, the emphasis on just transition and citizen engagement, all of which are elements the authors got right.

On transport, I reiterate that mine is a personal reflection based on my experience from research of various forms of environmental governance and our research did not focus on the climate action plan. I worry about the overemphasis on the "I" part of the avoid, shift, improve framework that we mention in our research. The "I" is about improving efficiencies and, as the Deputy correctly noted, the overemphasis on EVs as being capable of solving everything. There is a nod to other aspects, such as avoiding journeys by work-from-home models and more compact growth, and there is a bit on the shift to public transport and the establishment of a cycling office. Unfortunately, however, the predominant focus is on EVs. I do not agree with that from a progress or transformative perspective. EVs are part of the solution, however, and they will be important in rural areas that do not public transport or where people cannot cycle to certain places. In such sprawled settlements, they will have a low-carbon benefit, albeit only if the energy source is decarbonised. If we move from a low-carbon framing to one for sustainable mobility, EVs have contradictions, such as not addressing issues of congestion or the costs, stress or health implications associated with that, not reducing accidents and not promoting active transport. There are also social sustainability concerns, even in respect of the sourcing of materials for EVs, as we mention in our report. There have been cases of increases in child labour, such as in Democratic Republic of the Congo, where cobalt is sourced for EV batteries due to increasing demand. We must be careful, therefore, to understand the life-cycle analysis aspect of EVs. That is my reflection on the wider focus of the transport chapter.

I have similar questions about the focus on compressed natural gas, CNG, given that it is a fossil fuel, even if it is the only option, such as for freight. I would be worried about being locked into another fossil fuel in that regard. Research done in Europe has shown that while there may be carbon savings from CNG, there is a potential for methane leakage, which is a much more potent greenhouse gas emission. The emissions benefit, therefore, might not be what we expect.

Similar sourcing conflicts in the case of biofuels affect food and feed. The sustainable production of the virgin material is essential. If using used cooking oil or waste, we should ask whether it is being imported from abroad, what the emissions profile is and whether we are achieving the desired objectives of the plan.

I was struck by the neglect of aviation. Obviously, it is part of a different regulatory scheme. It can be part of the emissions trading scheme and there are other international regulations relating to it. However, it is remiss to ignore aviation, particularly as there has been discussion about establishing and investing in Waterford Airport or, potentially, a third terminal for Dublin Airport. There is no mention of the environmental impact of such decisions relating to infrastructure. For more cohesive, transformative policy-making, we need to consider aviation with the climate action plan. In a nutshell, there has been too much focus on technology, EVs or CNG solving everything, whereas there are not many tangible ideas for public transport, such as Deputy Coppinger's suggestion of free public transport. There was a note on the sharing economy but there has been no progress in respect of, for example, developing sharing schemes for bicycles, electric scooters or cars, which would have a much more positive, sustainable impact on emissions and the necessary social aspect.

There is an over-reliance on tax to change behaviour. From my experience of working in sustainable consumption fields, I know that we need to use tax as the motivation for behaviour change. I refer to a social practice approach, as Dr. Moore referred to and our report outlines. As the Deputy Coppinger noted, we should consider the charging network and incentives to buy EVs - both timely issues - but we must also examine the position regarding education and information awareness promotion. There could be positive incentives if we moved away from punitive measures.

I acknowledge that it is just a plan and that the next step is to implement it and create policy. Nevertheless, it is important to get the plan right in the first place. There should be a greater focus on avoiding journeys in the first instance, while shifting to public transport options and alternatives to CNG for freight are essential.

I reiterate my final question. If our guests became Minister with responsibility for transport, what three changes would they make with immediate effect?

Dr. Diarmuid Torney

I cannot hope to match my colleagues' forensic analysis of the climate action plan. My response to the Deputy's final question builds on what Dr. Devaney said about the overemphasis in the transport chapter on technological improvement. As our report shows, we need to recognise that transport systems vary and there are different challenges in different parts of the country. There is a place for EV roll-out but one of the main constraints in that regard is the charging infrastructure. The costs are decreasing significantly.

The action plan makes reference to the fact that Bloomberg New Energy Finance, which has crunched the numbers on this, projects that by 2022 electric vehicles for private transport will be cheaper on a total cost of ownership basis than internal combustion engines. That means that just three years from now, the combined purchase cost and running cost of electric vehicles over their lifetimes will be cheaper. They will become the obvious choice but not if the charging infrastructure is not in place. That is one thing we really need to focus on and prioritise.

To pick up on Dr. Devaney's emphasis on the avoid, shift, improve approach, we need to prioritise public transport to an extent that is not reflected strongly enough in the climate action plan. I refer to more funding for public transport, cycling and walking infrastructure. When we were waiting to come in this morning we remarked on the importance of things as simple as traffic light sequences. Cyclists and pedestrians seem to be an afterthought in the way that we design our public spaces and allocate space to different modes of transport. I would place a priority on that. As Dr. Devaney said, this does not come through strongly in the climate action plan published on Monday.

Dr. Jeanne Moore

I wish to pick up on that point. I was struck by the example of Vienna, where the city was designed on the basis of whether a child could navigate it. An approach like that puts pedestrians at the heart of public transport planning. I cycle and I nearly collided with a bus this morning. Thought must be put into urban design.

With regard to the forum for peer learning, there is considerable motivation to change. People recognise how serious the situation is with regard to climate action. Peer-to-peer learning is important. I am very struck by the example of the sustainable energy communities. Communities themselves come up with energy solutions and renewable energy planning. They then talk to other communities about how they did it and the lessons learned. Something similar could apply to local transport based solutions that would engage public participatory networks at a local level. The national dialogue on climate action has a lot of infrastructure at community level which could help people to arrive at bottom-up solutions. The policy system could learn from these and then roll out the approaches that work. One change I would make would be to resource bottom-up solutions and put in place a mechanism to learn from them and pick up initiatives that work.

I like Dr. Moore's views on the forum for peer learning for villages, towns and cities. We have been quite lazy. Certainly local authorities have been quite lazy. Many years ago, we got funding for cycle paths and the local authorities built footpaths. There are much stricter conditions in place now. We are talking about cities and it is great to see so many cyclists in Dublin. I live in a rural area. Carrick-on-Shannon is a central town for north County Roscommon and south County Leitrim. It would only take 45 or 50 minutes to cycle from Boyle to Carrick-on-Shannon or vice versa. Much more can be done, as is shown by the model of Germany, Belgium or the Netherlands. People could be able to cycle between little villages. Many things are happening but the infrastructure is still not in place.

Dr. Moore's suggestion of allowing towns and villages to come up with ideas for helping the environment would be a great incentive. Perhaps those villages and towns could save money or learn from one another. We are on the cusp of something great. As I have said, I have seen the approach taken by most local authorities. They use the funding for cycle routes to build their own infrastructure, which is wrong. There is a much better way.

We all want to use public transport. There is a squeezed middle out there. I do not have free transport. Living in Dublin I can get a Leap card and take the bus, which is great and good value. However, we do not use the trains or buses as often as we might. Let us suppose there was an incentive. Let us say €5 was charged for every train journey. What would that cost the taxpayer? Would it cost billions or millions? Is that incentive provided in any other country? The train service is not as bad in Ireland as in the UK. Is there any incentive that could motivate people in the middle ground who do not have annual tickets to get off the roads?

Dr. Larry O'Connell

I will come back on that question and also refer to Deputy Coppinger's proposal for free public transport. The recent Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, conference was attended by the mayor of Vienna. Vienna did not quite introduce free transport. Rather, the authorities introduced a pass, costing about €300 for a year, covering all of a holder's public transport needs. Senator Feighan asked about costs. It would have to be analysed but the Viennese approach almost paid for itself. A big subvention was provided by the authorities but the uptake was huge. It was quite interesting to see what happened when an entry point was provided.

The essential issue and the view of the National Economic and Social Council, NESC, is that many issues around decarbonising transport will be complex. We need to get into the detail of how projects work. I am very interested in public transport. As was discussed earlier, part of the question is whether there are international examples. That will get us so far but the specific details will then become complex. The minute free public transport is offered, we will need much more of it. We will need more bus lanes. Then we will encounter the complexities of communities and how they will react. All sorts of risks will arise. Ticketing was mentioned. All of that has to be resolved. Safety issues arise when many more people are taking public transport or walking in cities. This is not an argument not to do it. This question goes beyond transport in a sense. As has been said, it will create costs for the Exchequer and raise issues around planning and community engagement. The NESC view is that if we are serious about climate, those are exactly the types of projects the Government must take on and analyse seriously. This project would be of interest to NESC. We need to get involved in initiatives with that degree of complexity and ambition.

As Dr. Moore noted, that project also depends on community engagement and a process of collaboration. We recently came across a project in Inchicore where the residents are proposing a contraflow system. That might allow public transport to operate by having lanes move in different directions at different times. That is what we want; somebody in the community coming forward with the solution. We must ask what type of process we need to create in local communities to get solutions on the table early. When NESC talks about the projects being complex we are not discouraging them. The question is how to delve into them. I am very interested in the suggestion of a session of one or two days discussing public transport. That is something in which NESC would be interested.

I am glad to hear the witnesses are open to the idea of free public transport. I realise that there is a limit to what academics and NGOs can argue for. What the witnesses are arguing for is relatively conservative compared with what other cities have done around free public transport. I am glad the witnesses are open to the idea. The crisis we have is not an ordinary one.

I am sure everyone knows the now Greta Thunberg's legendary quote that we ought to act like our house is on fire. What the Government has put out has pushed them a little further than they would have gone a year or two ago. We can thank the young people who took to the streets and the fright many people received during the elections. However, we need not just radical changes but also revolutionary ones globally to tackle climate change if we are talking about a window of ten to 12 years. Governments are still standing with their arms folded. My ideological view is that as long as the economy and the transport sector are in private hands, it will be extremely difficult to make the changes that are necessary.

It is good that we will have a session on transport. There was a special conference early last year on free public transport when the figure was about 100 cities. It has increased and now includes Luxembourg. Initially, it was treated as if the idea was absurd and it was said there would have to be huge investment. The Taoiseach said we did not have the capacity. He was asked about it yesterday by The Journal, as was the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, who pooh-poohed the idea even more because he was so committed to private transport. The Taoiseach and I represent the same constituency. He has noted that he comes from the commuter belt and that he would be very worried about the impact if we had it straightaway, but nobody is saying we should do it straightaway. Most countries do it one year after it is announced. The bus fleet could be increased straightaway, or quickly. It would also be necessary to examine light rail systems. I will carry out some research in that regard. In this country they are not built quickly, but I have seen reports that they have been built in two years elsewhere. If it is really considered to be an emergency, that is what must happen.

Some of the benefits of investing in public transport include reduced numbers of road traffic accidents in all of the cities in question, cleaner air, less noise, faster emergency response times which also save money and the abolition of ticket infrastructure. People may recall the time when there were toll booths on the M50. I went through them daily and it added about 30 minutes to journey times. There is a saving to be made on infrastructure. There is the use of the free travel pass at limited times, but in these cases more people started to use public transport, which enhanced commerce in cities and businesses started to make more money. People in parts of Clonee or Mulhudart are marooned and isolated because they cannot get into the city. When I was teaching in west Tallaght I recall bringing some of the pupils into the city centre which was like a different universe for some of them because they did not spend much time there. For so long there has been neoliberal concept that everything must be paid for, but in the past many countries had free public transport, which is probably why countries such as Poland have so many cities where it is provided. It has been introduced in many cities in China. In Tallinn in Estonia passenger numbers increased eightfold very quickly when free public transport was introduced. There was also a tourism boom as more people visited the city. Yes, there would be an initial investment which would require progressive taxation of wealth to pay for free public transport. It cannot come only from ordinary workers and the working class all the time, which is the Government's default position. It must come from huge increases in taxation. As Dublin is now the slowest moving city in Europe, we must examine this issue.

Dr. Larry O'Connell

We agree. I am interested in the project. I am only pointing out that part of the NESC's approach on the issue would be trying to probe some of the complexities. There are some when one tries to figure out some of these things.

There is a clear recommendation in the climate action plan that the NESC have a role in monitoring the just transition as the climate plan is implemented. We are very interested in that work. One of the big challenges is how does one identify who is the most vulnerable and impacted on by the transition. Transport is one area that arises for consideration in that context. When one models it, the high-level transport sector emerges in the ESRI's analysis. For information, one piece of work we propose to do is qualitative research in the transport sector to identify some of the workers who would be most vulnerable in the low carbon transition.

Does this refer to farmers or people who drive freight vehicles? They will be impacted on greatly. Part of the issue is selling the message and the policy and ensuring the economic impact of the changes on people in the workplace will be reduced as much as possible or that they will be assisted and supported in the changes they will have to make in order that the economy will not suffer and that the work will still be done. Is that not the reality? That is where we must get to. I have no issue with these policies, but the problem is that when one tries to put renewable energy infrastructure in place in a rural community, there is absolute war. Thousands of people object and there is hassle over it. Therefore, a huge message must be sold. It must be seen that there is a real economic benefit to the communities in which the infrastructure is placed. They pay the price for the energy that is supplied from A to B as it does affect their quality of life. These are the issues we must address in the bigger picture.

Dr. Jeanne Moore

I thank the Chairman for the comment he made on engagement with communities on wind energy projects. We did such work in 2014. We found that if communities were involved and given a share of either the economics of a renewable energy project or the social benefits, they were much more open to the idea. It is also a justice issue. It is about not only procedural justice - it must be a fair and transparent system - but also distributive justice in the sense that people need to get something back. It is a broader issue in the decarbonisation of the economy that it is not merely about taking out emissions but also about creating a new social vision of the kind of society in which we want to live. There is a social aspect to it. That is why when we consider renewable energy projects, we cannot forget that people must be brought along and that there must be community engagement. I do not think we would make that mistake now, knowing as much as we do. It would be nice to think that in assessing every technical challenge we can think of in terms of decarbonisation we would also think about the social aspects and how we could involve and engage communities.

On that point, if 20% comes from renewable energy sources and the target is to reach 70% in a number of years, people such as the delegates will have to find the best way to get communities to accept the change and make it clear that there will be justice and that they will benefit independently and separately in energy being supplied through their community, rather than, from their perspective, getting nothing in return and having to put up with it.

Dr. Laura Devaney

I agree completely. It goes beyond getting people to accept change to having them involved from the get-go in co-designing solutions. We have had these discussions at the NESC and DCU. There is often the accusation of NIMBYism when people reject the idea as a case of "not in my back yard". However, as we have discussed, it is often not NIMBYism but because they were not engaged with from the outset when they were merely presented with the final plan and asked to accept it.

Especially the plan for Dublin. We support the BusConnects project because nothing makes more sense than getting people to their place of work and home at twice the speed. They are being consulted, but we need to strike a balance in terms of whether we remove trees or cars. That is the question for some communities, or does one find alternative routes, travelling one way in the morning and a different way in the afternoon? It is about finding imaginative solutions to the problem.

Dr. Laura Devaney

It is from the bottom up. As Senator Feighan said, especially from the point of view of a rural solution, they know their landscape. He knows how long it takes to cycle to Boyle. Such structured inclusions are the kind of ideas and bottom-up approaches that we are advocating for in our recommendations.

Dr. Diarmuid Torney

I have a couple of comments. First, picking up on this discussion, this is one of the weaknesses or lost opportunities in the climate action plan. The strength, picking up on what Dr. Moore stated earlier, is the Government's structure. It is good at putting in place a robust reporting and accountability framework. The plan is to be updated annually, and reported on quarterly. There is an implementation board in the Department of the Taoiseach, and a beefed-up climate action council. All of those are good in terms of the top-down piece but there is a missed opportunity in the report is in respect of the bottom-up infrastructure, and in other ways as well. The Oireachtas committee report has a chapter on communications and education but that is almost a footnote in the climate action plan. In various ways, the climate action plan replicates our traditional approaches to policymaking in Ireland, which is a shame. However, it is a good start, and something to build on.

Second, I refer back to Deputy Coppinger's question, where we began, on free public transport. It is a promising idea, either completely free or not completely free but certainly much cheaper than public transport is here in Ireland. As Dr. O'Connell said, I was at the EPA conference as well where the mayor of Vienna talked about a cost of €1 a day. That is worth considering. I am glad that the committee will discuss that in the future.

I would raise one note of caution, which picks up the point about justice and the urban-rural dimension to this. Often, in climate policy debates, we hear complaints from rural communities saying it is all very well for us up in Dublin to raise the carbon tax because we have the choice of cycling, walking or taking public transport. My fear with the proposal for free public transport is that it benefits certain parts of the country much more clearly than it benefits others. That is not an argument for not doing it but it is an argument for taking seriously these questions around justice and how we manage those.

Free public transport should be free everywhere. On the idea that it would only apply to certain cities, as I have heard that people react like that, one would decide that public transport would be free. Either way, there has to be a considerable enhancement of public transport.

On the assertion that people have a choice of cycling, unfortunately, not everybody can cycle to work, for example, if someone lives 14 miles away and does not have the physical capacity or whatever. It is not a question of choice.

The carbon tax that I am hearing about would be on someone's ESB bill or on a bag of coal or logs. It will apply. It applies to everyone at present, both rural and urban. The choices one makes do not necessarily free a person from it.

I apologise as I was longer than anticipated elsewhere. There was a row and a suspension, and another row.

Who won?

Those are the joys of trying to be in two places at once.

Many of us who have been dealing with the transport issue for a long time want action. Some of us have seen good plans in the past. We went into that in an enthusiastic way, for example, in a deliberative forum. When the Dublin Transportation Initiative was rolled out in the early 1990s, both Deputy Eamon Ryan and I were on a consultative panel-----

Advisory panel.

An advisory panel and we put great time and energy into what contained some good provisions when it came out.

My view on plans now is predicated on that enthusiasm and what happened. There was consideration of where people lived and scenario testing, and we examined the worst-case scenario where we were to have higher densities in the city centre and linkages with public transport, and the investment was to be aligned with best case scenario. Of course, that is not what happened and we are not trying to retrofit some of the mistakes of not designing things in the way that it was hoped.

Obviously, I am only looking at one location. The witnesses are considering places such are Galway, that is choked with traffic, and what is being suggested as the solution. They are considering Cork and Limerick because there is a dispersed population pattern in the more rural areas. That is more difficult to deal with from a public transport perspective.

I am looking at the plans that have been provided and I want them to work. We not only want them to work but need them to work. I know the next generation. I know their names. I can see them. Some of them are my grandchildren. I am aware of the kind of fallout that they will have to pick up if we do not do our job today.

However, I have a significant sinking feeling about the Government's climate plan because I am looking at exactly what is being proposed from a transport perspective. There is no proposal to review the national development plan. A climate emergency was declared. We do not dispute the science but there has not been a shift towards funding public transport over and above the roads projects, which are more heavily funded in the plan than public transport.

I have been going on about DART underground or the interconnector for 20 years. I do not see how one can solve Dublin's transport problems without delivering on major projects such as DART underground, which was part of the Dublin Transportation Initiative. European funding was delivered in different ways but there was a shift in the early 1990s towards having to make an argument as to why funding should be given. It is interesting that the argument made to seek European funding was that Dublin, including the outer counties because there is a focus towards the city, had become uncompetitive because of traffic congestion. We are now, as Deputy Coppinger pointed out, one of the slowest cities in Europe.

I am struggling to see the coherence in the Government's plan from a transport perspective. If it is predominantly about building roads and shifting people from diesel and petrol cars into electric cars or hybrid cars, the State must produce the electricity to start with. A programme was broadcast in recent weeks on Moneypoint where capacity and making that shift are major issues. However, there is also a vision. We will still have traffic jams unless public transport is put in place, but they will be cleaner traffic jams. That is my feeling on how this will play out. Unless there is investment in large public transport projects, we will not make the sizeable shift needed. Until we address the issue of where people will live and where they work, we will be constantly trying to retrofit.

I would like this Government plan interrogated. It is almost like hearing that the Opposition will always be critical.

There is good reason to be critical of this plan. I want to see that criticism coming from non-political sources, and as heavily critical as it needs to be, because we have to make it work. I do not see in this plan how we are going to achieve that shift, unless we take the dramatic step of putting our money where our mouth is. Putting our money where our mouth is means putting money into public transport. I do not see any other way of doing it. There is a limit in terms of what can be achieved with electric vehicles, but there is no escaping the big step that is needed to get the attention necessary, which for me is the shift in how we fund public transport.

The committee can invite in the Minister to interrogate the 2040 plan. That is a choice we can make. Page 2 of the recommendations states that the public sector should lead by example. In that regard, the committee could write to all the State and semi-State bodies that report directly or indirectly to the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport asking that they provide to it, by whatever date decided, their plans for change in regard to their transport activities. On the point regarding local authorities, I believe that not only the local authorities but all bodies that receive taxpayers' money, including An Post, should be accountable in terms of their plans. I think it would be constructive if the committee were to communicate in that regard with all the bodies concerned.

We also need to know how they propose to do fund their proposals.

I understand that. Notwithstanding some of the views expressed, DART expansion, MetroLink and BusConnects are important. The strategic park and ride facilities are also important. It is not correct to say that there is not already huge investment in public transport, which is very welcome. I am happy to take everybody's point of view but as a committee we need to hold the Minister and the transport bodies accountable to us in order to get those policy shifts and changes. Today's contributions are very helpful in that regard.

Returning to the farmers and the freight operators, this is where the push-back is going to come from because their costs will increase and it will not be as easy for these them to sell their product abroad because it will be more expensive. We need to provide for a benefit to them, economically, from this change, either through supporting the physical transport infrastructure or through taxation measures. Tax policy was mentioned. It can be constructive to bring about change. I would welcome the witnesses views on that point because I think that is a huge part of the argument. Of the 20% of CO2 that comes from transport how does that breakdown between farming and so on? Is it possible to breakdown that 20% in terms of the origin of the CO2 emissions? Do the witnesses have a pie chart which we could look at that provides that information?

The witnesses spoke about the people who will be most affected as being those people who are going to be most economically affected. Is that not the truth of it? Also, our economy will be affected if we do not get this right.

Dr. Larry O'Connell

The just transition piece we are interested in doing seeks to do just that. I will ask Dr. Torney to comment later on the numbers because he has been doing some work on transport. Deputy Catherine Murphy's comment that the interrogation of the plan would be beyond the political system is interesting. We would not be in a position personally to comment on the plan but NESC could be invited to interrogate it. The officials in the Department who are working on the plan could come to NESC so that its members, which as I mentioned earlier includes a diverse range of organisations, could interrogate the plan. The NESC should contribute to the conversation around interrogation of the plan with a view to commenting on it at a future point.

Dr. Diarmuid Torney

I have just been looking at the figures I have, which are from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. In terms of emissions from the transport sector, 76% is road transport; 17% is aviation; and 5% is maritime. Within that road transport sector, 52% is private car use and 26% is goods vehicles.

I ask Dr. Torney to forward the information to the committee after the meeting.

Dr. Diarmuid Torney

Yes.

It would be very helpful because it shows where we need to focus our thinking.

We are dealing with the aviation sector because the likes of Ryanair is headquartered here. I recall this issue was discussed a short time ago by the Committee of Public Accounts.

Am I correct that in the case of an aeroplane that originates in Ireland regardless of its destination the CO2 comes back to us?

Dr. Diarmuid Torney

I thought it is were the flight originates rather than where the company is based.

No. We were told it is about where the company is based. That needs to be examined. The headquarters here is important from that point of view.

I call Deputy Eamon Ryan.

Dr. Diarmuid Torney

May I respond to a couple of points?

Dr. Diarmuid Torney

The Chairman mentioned public bodies. One of the aspects of the climate action plan that I think is very welcome is the chapter on the public sector leading by example. Within that there is provision for all public bodies to have climate change mandates and reporting around that, which is very welcome as something we highlighted in our report. There is a risk that that would turn into a green washing exercise. Public sector bodies - I have none in particular in mind - could see this as box ticking exercise. The way to counter this is parliamentary scrutiny. The climate action committee is to be set up as a standing committee under the climate action plan. Parliamentary accountability would be strengthened if other Oireachtas committees were to do likewise. In other words, transport bodies would not only have to account to the climate action committee on the low carbon mandate but to the transport committee also. There is an important role for this committee.

Dr. Laura Devaney

The storytelling around this is important, as is the framing of it. The Chairman mentioned the increased cost for freight. There are huge cost savings that can be associated with many of the initiatives and solutions that we have put in place. For example, mandatory eco-driving reduces fuel costs, as well as emissions, and has other co-benefits. I welcome the inclusion of the freight sector. We are all in this together. Dr. Tara Shine referred to us as collaborative humans. Let us stop talking about detached stakeholders. We advocate a governance approach that would include these sectors in the decision making and in the solutions.

On Deputy Catherine Murphy's point regarding the funding of large projects and essential public transport investment, the parliamentary process in holding public sector bodies accountable could also seek to move us beyond short-term planning so that these one-off projects such as BusConnects or MetroLink are connected in the transport landscape rather than considered in isolation. What emerged in our research from within the sector was that planning in transport was planning on the hoof. We developed the Luas on two separate lines. Why was that not connected? The Luas will be rejigged again in order to facilitate the metro. There is need for something that takes us beyond the short-term political cycles and this longer-term vision, which is part of the transformative change that Deputy Coppinger referred to that needs to be embedded in the system for sustained climate action and that it is a long-term focus for these big projects and that it is not just in isolation.

Dr. Jeanne Moore

On that point, colleagues of ours who would be very cross if we did not mention them are working on transport-oriented development and are keen to present to the committee on the issue of linking land-use planning in these projects and transport. We know that the planning system tends to be centred on cars, but there are cities and places in the world where, essentially, the number of homes, jobs, services and amenities close to frequent high-quality transport services are maximised, where people live and work is planned for along with transport provision. Clearly, the State can use the uplift in land value to invest in affordable housing and other schemes. It is about thinking longer term on how one links transport and the urban fabric together. That is an issue being worked on by colleagues who would be happy to provide further information to the committee.

Should the issue of additional mandatory requirements for planning estates or other development in terms of a carbon-proofed analysis or some sort of document that would articulate in a scientific rather than aspirational way how it will impact on CO2 emissions be considered in the planning sphere? It might make sense to so do.

Dr. Larry O'Connell

We compiled a report on that issue. The suggestion by the Chair is a good one and it can be seen internationally. That will be our next step. Next Friday, we will be involved in an event with key expert stakeholders in the area to try to probe what that would look like in practice. When that is completed we may revert to the committee.

I am very glad that Deputy Catherine Murphy raised the issue of our common past on the Dublin transportation advisory committee. We were the poster children for the touchy-feely bottom-up civil engagement NGO contributory approach being advocated by the witnesses. It was brilliant because it educated us and we, in turn, educated the system. It led to better debate and analysis and it really worked. I agree 100% with the touchy-feely bottom-up engagement approach being advocated.

I was slightly disheartened by an approach previously taken. In the late 1990s, we wrote and were involved in a very good platform for change plan. It was very well done with good modelling, people and our best engineers. I will always remember a presentation given to us as the advisory committee in the closing stages of that process. I do not know whether Deputy Murphy remembers it. Those presenting told us that, whatever we did, we should build the metro and the DART interconnector first, rather than widening the M50 or investing in roads. They stated that was what we must do. The committee decided that it would do so. I kept telling my wife that Dublin was about to change and it was going to be a cycling city. We went to Utrecht for weeks and came back with the required information. Utrecht had been pursuing that approach for 25 years and knew what to do. What did we do in Ireland? We widened the M50 and put off the metro. We have done nothing on cycling or buses for the past 15 or 20 years.

I did not give up. I kept going, got into government and wrote a sustainable transport plan. I thought we should make the Dublin Transportation Office model bigger and do it all over the country and set up the National Transport Authority, NTA. What happened? My party went out of government and the sustainable transport plan was thrown away. Nothing has happened in respect of the models for what we needed to do over the past eight years. The NTA was taken over by the National Roads Authority. We have had a roads-based transport system for the past ten years under that structure.

I still did not give up hope. The recent national planning framework says the same thing we have been saying for 30 years: that we must go back into the centre and the core. I thought there may still be hope. I still said to my wife when I got home at night that the situation was about to change and that we were going to move to sustainable transport. What happened? The national development plan abandoned sustainable transport. It is all about roads, as is ever the case. It states that 50% of new housing will be built outside existing urban areas. How does one square that with the national planning framework? This is being run by IBEC. We have a big industrial base that knows how to make money out of roads. Even if the roads do not make transport sense, they make economic sense because people are good at making money out of making roads. I am sorry if that is a cynical attitude, but I am releasing 30 years of frustration.

Politics, which trumps everything, is part of the problem. One may have all the bottom-up touchy-feely approach but it is top-down politics that counts. According to the NTA household travel survey, some 75% of journeys - 80% nationwide - are by car, while public transport accounts for 5% of trips. Politicians are not stupid. Advertising agencies spend millions promising people that if we get another little bit of road, we will finally be free. Politicians represent the 80% who travel by car and are very sensitive to their wishes, so we steer based on that false promise.

Another reason that we have not moved to a sustainable transport system is that doing so is difficult. The bottom-up touchy-feely approach is needed because this involves reallocating space and it is difficult to do so when 75% of journeys are by car and one wants to reduce that rate. This is about parking, trucks and winning back space for children, cyclists, elderly persons, blind persons or anyone else who is not involved in the big industrial roads-based system which aims to keep making money out of cars and, as such does not count.

Dr. Devaney is correct in her point on framing. I saw Deputy Michael Healy-Rae with his flat cap on television last night. I have great time for him, but he was saying that he is not sure about the proposals for sustainability and asking what about the poor people and farmers. It is the same old framing. What about the 200,000 people who commute for more than two hours a day, which is injurious to their health? Some 80,000 of them have young children. What about the children who do not see their parents? What about the 80% of Irish children who do not get the recommended level of daily exercise because of the system we have created? Will that ever be taken into account on a prime time show or in the framing of this debate? It will not.

My hopes were raised by the climate action plan because it seemed that there was some urgency about it. Officials in the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport appeared before the committee, but their performance was excruciatingly poor. They did not know what was their ambition for 2030. Representatives of Transport Infrastructure Ireland appeared before the committee and were asked - I will never forget it - for their solution to gridlock in Dublin. The solution they published is to widen the N7 between Naas and Newbridge as well as the N6, the N3, the N2 and the N11. That was their answer to the question of how to improve transport in Dublin.

There is some brilliant stuff in the climate action plan around governance and the action plans approach to beginning to work on this area. Everything it contains in that respect is right. However, the section delaying with transport is an utter disgrace. Deputy Murphy is right that we need other people to start saying that. I challenge anyone to point out where I am wrong. The reliance on a McKinsey marginal abatement cost curve, MACC, is so early 2000s in terms of climate change policy that it is embarrassing. The promise of a cycling office is so 1990s. We have heard that promise so often that I am tired of it. The promise of a scrappage scheme that has not even been worked out sounds like it comes from Society of the Irish Motor Industry. It is ill thought-out and inappropriate. The doubling of the number of electric vehicles on the back of a McKinsey MACC curve is not good enough, given that we spent two years at this. The Department should be ashamed if that is the best it can come up with.

I do not wish to interrupt the Deputy's flow of thought, but we would welcome his presence at our meetings to make those points. He is entitled to his views. The bodies to which he refers have appeared before the committee. We would be very happy for him to attend meetings on these issues.

I would love to attend those meetings. I would ask the representatives choice questions such as-----

I will just finish my train of thought, if I may.

Hold on a second. My job is to chair this meeting. The Deputy is very welcome to attend. We would welcome it if he were to do so more often because the people to whom he referred would hear his points and we would be able to get answers.

I would love to do so. I am a member of five committees and I would love to make this a sixth.

This is the Joint Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport.

I agree. I am addressing transport issues.

This issue is key for the Deputy and he should, please, attend more meetings of the committee.

I will do so.

I want to hear what he has to say.

I will conclude by addressing the question of Deputy Troy as to what I would do.

I would send the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport to Rockall to manage haddock quotas. The Department is not doing its job. I would send TII, the NTA, CIÉ, the AA and the whole lot with them. It needs to change.

That is-----

That is my view. That is my answer to the question.

That is the Deputy's view.

I wish to make one last point to the NESC. Dr. O'Connell stated that he advises the Taoiseach. However, he also occupies a national position and he is looked to for leadership on strategic public policy. I want Dr. O'Connell, like Dr. Devaney earlier, to call out correctly the failings in this report, haul in those agencies and say: "You're not thinking strategically, lads, you've got to change." It is usually lads. If this is an iterative process, which is good in governance terms, the first iteration is that we throw out the transport section. Can we agree on that? We can then start with proper thinking about how we promote walking and cycling. We should start with those two. That is a difficult political thing to do. It has to be top-down as well as bottom-up. Transport requires a top-down approach. We will not get a switch completely, which we should do, towards a car-sharing system if we do not get a direction from the centre saying, "That's what we're going to do." It needs to be in 2022 and not in 2025 that all those car-parking spaces will be for car sharing. We will not need 1 million new electric cars; with 200,000 or 300,000 we could do the job the 1 million were supposed to be doing. I accept that Volkswagen would lose a few bob but so be it, the country would gain. Can we start being strategic? Can NESC start by showing some leadership in that by being honest about the failing in the transport section of the plan?

The Green Party did not do it when it was in government.

We actually got a substantial amount agreed when we were in government. We did not even have the transport Ministry.

Deputy Eamon Ryan is entitled to make his point.

We need sustainable transport.

I agree absolutely.

I want to try to keep this constructive. I understand the concerns expressed. We all share the same concerns. I hear what our guests are stating to the effect that we all need to work together in order to deal with this. That is what I and the other members are trying to achieve. We want to move forward with the collective wisdom of everybody involved, regardless of party or views. I do not expect our guests to comment on the political-----

What should we be doing on the important generic issues, in view of Deputy Eamon Ryan's comments on transport policy?

Dr. Larry O'Connell

To be very clear, I totally accept NESC that has a leadership position. In 2012 and 2013, we worked hard to be in a leadership position in terms of some of the thinking on climate. I am not in a position to comment on the plan as Dr. Devaney did. However, we feel it would be a very good service and in keeping with our leadership remit to have a discussion in NESC on the climate plan and then to form a view on that. That is more powerful than me taking a position. NESC has the leadership, not me, and I think we will do that.

Dr. O'Connell can come back to the committee on that.

Dr. Larry O'Connell

It has been on our agenda to bring it, but the plan has not been done. What we will take from the suggestions made here is that we see the need for NESC to play its part.

That is very positive.

I look forward to meeting the other agencies and questioning them on this plan and its patent failings in the context of transport.

In fairness to all the agencies, whether they are on Rockall or wherever the Deputy wants to send them, when they are in Leinster House and before the committee, He is always welcome to come in and contribute. This is the place to ask those questions.

I thank the Chairman.

Dr. Diarmuid Torney

I thank Deputy Eamon Ryan. I want to pick up on, not the detail but the broad thrust of his intervention. Our report is very strong on the need for not just bottom-up governance but also top-down direction from central government. As a result of the fact that such bottom-up collaborative governance is lacking in many cases, we have been drawn to that in our discussion. However, our report indicates that we see both as crucial parts of the governance jigsaw, both the bottom-up experimentation, learning and collaborative governance, and also the top-down direction from central government. The Deputy is right to point that out. Our report endorses that.

I thank our guests for their contributions. I acknowledge their commitment to come back to us after their consultation process is completed. I welcome their views on the committee becoming more actively involved in respect of transport issues and our role in that regard. Deputy Coppinger's proposal would be a good start way for us to get stuck into that policy. I appreciate our guests objectivity and ideas. Like us, they are really thinking seriously about these issues.

The joint committee adjourned at 12.25 p.m. until 1.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 26 June 2019.