No. 2 is the annual national transition statement on the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015. This is quite unusual because there will be seven Ministers or Ministers of State, each of whom will have five minutes, while group spokespersons will have five minutes for their contributions. The Minister of State, Deputy D'Arcy, will be called on to reply at 6.10 p.m., and statements will conclude at 6.15 p.m.
Annual National Transition Statement on Climate Action and Low Carbon Development: Statements
To clarify, may we respond to each Minister or Minister of State separately or will we allow all the Ministers and Ministers of State speak before we ask questions?
I should have clarified that and I thank the Senator. Each Minister or Minister of State will speak in sequence, after which Senators will have an opportunity to respond.
I call the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Bruton.
Five minutes is a short time and, therefore, I will try to be concise.
I attended the UN climate conference in Poland yesterday and the message was stark for anyone who was not already aware. It was made clear that the window for the world to respond to the massive challenge we face is closing fast, and that the consequences of failing to respond are truly catastrophic, not only in the impact on individuals and countries but also on migration, the natural environment and civilisation, as David Attenborough said. It was also stark that, in general, the technology to achieve the set targets is already available. People are not, therefore, being asked to do something impossible or original. We have the technology. The clear message was that if we fail to respond to a challenge of this scale, it will have such an impact on the prospects of future generations that we will have utterly betrayed the people who will come after us.
It was a stark message and it puts our transition statement in perspective. During the crash, we seemed to conform to many of our climate obligations but once the recovery resumed it was clear we had failed to break the link between growth in emissions and growth in the economy. As of today, by 2020, for which we had a target to reduce emissions by 20%, we will have reduced emissions by only 1%. No sector other than the power sector is on track or has even reduced its targets by a significant degree. Some areas such as services, which are generally good, are better than others such as the transport and agriculture industries, which are quite bad. No sector, however, is on track to reduce emissions at the scale that was intended.
The UN also maps the measures that are in place and how they will have an impact. It has calculated the impact of the published national development plan, with which the Senators will be familiar. It is encouraging to see that the plan will have a significant impact. It is calculated that its impact will be 2,200 million tonnes cumulatively over the period to 2030, which will be just short of half of what we need to do by then. It shows the measures we are introducing are important and will have an impact but also that we need to step up our ambition considerably. The Taoiseach admitted we are a laggard in this area but it is my intention that we seek to be a leader in it, and the mandate that I have received supports that intention.
We have the opportunity and the seriousness of this has been underlined by not just the UN conference, but by our Citizens' Assembly and by the Oireachtas which has set up an all-party committee to report by the end of January. I intend to work in parallel to the work of the Oireachtas committee. I intend to produce an all-of-government plan by the end of February. I am working on a similar schedule to try to bring together the measures that can make an impact.
I plan to look at this under six headings. One is the regulatory framework.
Excuse me, Minister. Could we have some quiet at the back of the Chamber? I ask the usher to ensure that the door is closed because it is very distracting.
I will outline the six headings under which I hope to develop a whole-of-government policy working with my Government colleagues in all Departments as this cannot be confined to a single Department. One is the regulatory framework. The second is how we spur the adoption of known technologies throughout the community. The third is how we address market failure. As many Senators will know we have clearly signalled that we need to set a trajectory for carbon price. The fourth is how we will drive change in business models. As well as posing a challenge to business there are great opportunities for business in moving to a low-carbon environment. We need to ensure businesses anticipate and become leaders not followers in that sphere. The fifth is how the public sector can lead by example. The public sector owns a very substantial stock of housing and buildings. It purchases many vehicles and has other procurement. Much of that can impact and lead the way to a low-carbon environment.
The last heading, which in some ways is the most important one, is how we will engage with citizens and communities so that everyone plays their part. This cannot be funded by the State. For example, the cost of upgrading our housing to the standards we need to achieve by 2030 would be about €50 billion. Over the next ten years the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Donohoe, has allocated about €4 billion to my Department in supporting that. The vast majority of the funding has to be achieved by people making investments on their own. While they will pay back, the payback periods will be long. We will need to consider how we can support the funding of these changes that people will need to make.
The same is true as we go through each sector. While it is very important that we accommodate a just transition, which was very much a theme yesterday, Senators must bear in mind that the State cannot fund all the change that must be made. A just transition cannot mean the State picking up the cost because that is simply not possible. We must make major behavioural change as a community, including in enterprises, in homes and in the way we travel, live and eat. It goes across every segment. I am delighted to have the opportunity to say a few words on the transition statement today.
I thank the Minister and I apologise for the tight timescale. The next speaker is the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Creed. He is also against the clock. We do not normally put Ministers against the clock in the Seanad. He has five minutes.
Is it correct that the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment comes back in at the end? I thought that was the original-----
No. The Minister of State, Deputy D'Arcy, will come in at the end.
I knew there was a concluding Minister. I just wanted to confirm that.
There is a concluding Minister. I laid that out at the outset.
I am pleased to appear before the Seanad to present the annual transition statement for the agriculture, forest and land-use sector. As one of the key sectors involved in the country's national mitigation plan, it only right to restate the vision for the sector which is an approach to carbon neutrality in the agriculture and land-use sector, including forestry, that does not compromise capacity for sustainable food production. This is consistent with the principles of both the Paris Agreement and the European Union Council conclusions of October 2014, which recognised the role of agriculture and land use in tackling climate change and their contribution to achieving climate ambitions.
One of the first actions we committed to in the national mitigation plan was to engage with research to further elaborate on the concept of carbon neutrality.
We expect that project to commence shortly. In the meantime we are continuing to take a three-strand approach to emissions reduction by reducing emissions where we can, increasing carbon sequestration and displacing fossil fuel and energy-intensive materials with renewable sources. The sector has been engaging in many positive environmental actions but I will focus on some of the actions we have been taking since I presented last year's transition statement.
In the context of the rural development plan, we continue to invest in our mitigation measures. Approximately 49,000 farmers are active in the green low-carbon agri-environment scheme, GLAS, and almost 25,000 farmers are participating in the beef data and genomics programme, with over 1 million animals genotyped to date. Building on the success of the latter programme, we will introduce a new pilot scheme in 2019 targeted at suckler farmers, namely the beef environmental efficiency pilot, BEEP. This new scheme will aim to further improve the carbon efficiency of beef production.
Given the importance of afforestation to the achievement of our sequestration ambitions, one of the new mitigation measures we have identified and introduced this year is a knowledge transfer group scheme for forestry. Other forestry measures taken this year include increasing the rate of financial support across all categories, with larger increases for broadleaf planting. A change in supports for road building was also made. We have also seen the introduction of the woodland environmental fund which will help to further expand Ireland's native woodland resource.
On the energy efficiency side, farmers are availing of investment options such as biomass boilers and air source heat pumps under the targeted agricultural modernisation scheme, TAMS, II, pig and poultry and young farmers capital investment schemes. This year also saw the launch of a new collaborative initiative between Government and industry, the agricultural sustainability support and advisory programme. The Department, Bord Bia, and Teagasc are working together to progress further positive changes at farm level through research, advisory services and carbon audits.
My Department is also busy preparing its first statutory adaptation plan for the three areas identified in the national adaptation framework for which my Department has responsibility, namely, seafood, agriculture and forestry. We published an adaptation planning document for the agriculture and forest sectors last year and advanced work on the seafood element which will set the groundwork for future adaptation planning.
Increased environmental ambition is a key element of the new CAP proposals and I see this as an opportunity. However, having a well-funded CAP is more important than ever if we want to see this ambition become a reality. Our farmers are custodians of the land and supporting them in good environmental practices and enabling them to respond to climate challenges and opportunities is not only an investment in our agriculture sector but also in our wider rural communities.
I thank the Minister for his opening statement and in particular, for his brevity. I now invite the Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Kevin Boxer Moran to make his presentation.
I am delighted to present to the Senate the annual adaptation transition statement on the policy measures adopted by the Office of Public Works, OPW, during the past year to help adapt to the effects of climate change on flood risk management. In the past year, the OPW launched the flood risk management plans that detail the risk and feasible measures to address flooding from rivers and the sea, the primary sources of our flood risk. We not only looked at flood risk and its impact for today but also studied the flood risk and impact for two potential climate change scenarios in the future.
The catchment flood risk assessment and management, CFRAM programme which delivered these plans was the largest national study ever undertaken of our risk from significant flood events or one-in-100-year floods and it followed best practice. In 2012, 300 communities were selected for this study as they were most likely to be impacted by future flooding. These included 90 coastal communities. These communities represent 80% of the national potential risk and they are home to almost two thirds of our population. While CFRAM assessed flood risk in all our large urban areas, approximately one quarter of these communities had populations of less than 500 people and half had less than 2,000 people. On 3 May 2018, accompanied by the Taoiseach, I launched the flood maps for these communities and the plans that set out how we can manage flood risk both for these communities and nationally. I also announced a €1 billion investment in a further 118 flood relief schemes over the coming decade which, together with the 42 schemes completed and 33 under way, means the Government can protect 95% of properties assessed to be at risk from a 100-year flood event. I also launched a new website, floodinfo.ie, where people can view the maps and plans by location.
At the start of this ten-year programme of investment, I announced that the OPW, working with local authorities, would be commencing work on the detailed designs for 50 of these 118 new flood relief schemes. I am delighted to report that there has since been proactive engagement between the OPW and the local authorities on the arrangements and structures to be put in place to advance the implementation of these first tranche projects. Project inception meetings have focused on the establishment of project steering groups, governance structures and the resource and procurement requirements. The OPW has already put in place panels of engineering design consultants and environmental consultants, which is helping to expedite the delivery process. In the past year, the OPW has either completed or begun work on flood relief schemes to protect 80% of those properties assessed to be at risk of significant flooding. All schemes are designed and built in line with international best practice, including making sure they can be adapted in the future for potential climate change.
It is also important to refer to the measures we have put in place for those at-risk properties where investment in a flood relief scheme is not feasible. The minor flood mitigation works and coastal protection scheme continues to be a valuable measure to address localised flood risk. In the past year, the OPW has committed a total of €5.6 million for 65 localised schemes by local authorities.
The work of the interdepartmental flood policy co-ordination group, of which I am chairman, is also focused on climate change adaptation measure for flood risk management. Significant progress this year has been achieved by Met Éireann and the OPW in establishing the flood forecasting service, including the appointment of a chief hydrometerologist who is leading the delivery of this service. The publication by the OPW in the past year of the flood risk maps developed by the CFRAM programme, including maps reflecting the impact from future climate change, are a valuable resource to inform local authorities in their preparation of their local and sectoral adaptation plans in 2019, for planning decisions as well as for planning emergency responses. The work by the OPW in the past 12 months on adopting measures to adapt for climate change has been significant. In particular, the launch of the flood risk management plans demonstrates our proactive approach to addressing the possible impact from climate change, both in our planning to manage our flood risk and in the delivery of flood relief schemes. I am confident that our focus on climate change in flood risk management will allow our investment today to be easily adapted to deal with the impact from climate change in the future.
I thank the Minister of State and invite the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to address the House.
As we have already heard this afternoon, Ireland faces an enormous challenge in its transition to a low-carbon society. It is a challenge which must be met by all sectors in Government in a collective effort if we are to begin to achieve our long-term climate goals. I understand the significant role the transport sector plays in this effort, and we are delivering a range of measures to reduce transport emissions and improve our transport sector’s resilience to the effects of climate change. While we have made progress, we still have a mountain to climb.
From the outset, we should recognise that the transport journeys of today are lower emitting than ever before and the substantial gains we have seen in the energy efficiency of vehicles are expected to continue. In fact, some projections suggest that CO2 emissions from cars alone will decrease by an additional 40% by 2050. However, there is a real danger that this significant progress in efficiency and emission reductions will be largely offset by strong global growth in transport demand. Ireland is no different in this regard and there has been strong growth in travel demand in recent years. We only need to look at our roads or any of our public transport services to see the increasing volume of people on the move.
It is positive to see greater movement of people and goods as it is a sign of an active economy. Nevertheless, we must continue the decoupling of the growing economy from climate emissions and we must achieve that without negatively affecting national progress. In transport, we are working to reduce emissions on four main fronts. The first is through increasing capacity and improving the attractiveness of public transport and the active travel modes to cater for the growing demand and to provide a meaningful alternative to the car. During the reporting period of 2017 alone, an additional 16 million public transport passenger journeys were made in Ireland and the number of walking and cycling trips also increased, particularly within the Dublin area. We are working to ensure that this trend continues. I have prioritised investment in this area with €8.6 billion allocated to sustainable mobility under the national development plan. This investment will allow for the development of MetroLink, the roll-out of BusConnects in all major cities, which will include significantly enhanced cycling facilities in those cities, the DART expansion programme in the greater Dublin area and increased funding generally for cycling and walking infrastructure across the State.
Our second key line of attack on transport emissions is supporting the transition of vehicles away from fossil fuels. Even with an expanded and enhanced public transport system, some people will not be in a position to move away from the car. In those cases, we need to limit the impact of car use by encouraging a move towards alternative low or zero-emission fuels and technologies. In 2017, my Department published the National Policy Framework on Alternative Fuels Infrastructure for Transport in Ireland 2017 to 2030. It is in this framework that we set out our ambition that by 2030 all new cars and vans sold in Ireland will be zero emissions capable. To support this ambition, a low-emissions vehicle task force was established to support and accelerate the deployment of low-carbon transport technologies. Phase 1 of the task force focused solely on incentivising electric vehicles and a number of its recommendations were adopted in budgets 2018 and 2019, expanding the suite of supports available for electric vehicles. Today, we are reaping the rewards of those incentives with a marked increase in the number of electric vehicles on our roads.
The third pillar in reducing transport emissions relates to the biofuels obligation scheme. It is arguably the most important mitigation measure we have in our arsenal at the moment, as it reduces emissions from conventionally fuelled vehicles essentially disturbance free. The scheme ensures that a percentage of conventional fossil fuel is replaced with sustainable biofuel and added to the fuel mix. Currently, 8% of our transport fuel is biofuel and a welcome incremental increase in this rate for 2019 has been announced. Biofuels have played a significant role in reducing transport emissions. In 2017, it accounted for 450,000 tonnes of reduced CO2 emissions, a 3.4% saving.
The final front on which we are tackling emissions is through vehicle production standards. We are pushing strongly at a European level to ensure that more efficient production standards for cars, vans and heavy good vehicles are introduced. That will mean the Irish consumer will be presented with cleaner vehicles, making the greener choice an easier option. In parallel with reducing emissions we must also equip the transport sector to prepare for and react to the ill effects of climate change.
In 2017, my Department published our first sectoral adaptation plan, Developing Resilience to Climate Change in the Irish Transport Sector, in which the risks facing the sector were identified, such as damage to infrastructure and disruptions to public transport services from high winds, storms and flooding. We are building our capacity for climate adaptation within key transport organisations. I was pleased to see proactive engagement from the sector, notably Transport Infrastructure Ireland's publication of its Strategy for Adapting to Climate Change on Ireland's Light Rail and National Road Network and Irish Rail's ongoing work developing its coastal railway vulnerability index. My Department will build upon the adaptation plan in the coming years by working to quantify the cost of climate change, raising awareness of vulnerabilities within the sector and ensuring that our investments are future-proofed, especially in light of the increasingly severe weather events we are experiencing.
To conclude, we face a significant challenge to decarbonise Irish society. Achieving the necessary emissions reductions will require continuing and strengthening mitigation measures already in place as well as introducing an array of new ones. That requires continued close co-operation between all Departments and support for the whole-of-Government, least-cost approach we are deploying. I will ensure it remains a priority in the transport sector.
I thank the Minister, Deputy Ross, and I invite the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Madigan, to make her presentation to the House. I apologise for putting her on the clock. She has approximately five minutes.
My Department is preparing two sectoral adaptation plans, one addressing biodiversity and the other on the built and archaeological heritage. A draft climate change adaptation plan for biodiversity has been drawn up by scientific staff in the National Parks and Wildlife Service, NPWS, of my Department. That has been circulated to staff within the NPWS, external biodiversity and climate change experts, members of the interdepartmental biodiversity working group, and the biodiversity forum, which is represented by NGOs, academics and other relevant stakeholders. The draft plan also formed the basis of a stakeholder workshop, held on the 16 October. There were 40 participants at the workshop, representing various sectors, and included the regional climate change offices and NPWS staff. The workshop sought feedback and inputs on various matters, including climate impacts and consequences for the biodiversity sector, adaptation actions and cross-sectoral linkages. The draft plan is now being redrafted and reformatted to reflect the sectoral guidelines published in May 2018 and the feedback and inputs received from other sectors and actors.
We endeavour to ensure that this revised draft biodiversity sectoral climate change adaptation plan will go to public consultation in January 2019. The following climate change risks to biodiversity have been identified to date. The first is changes in species abundance. The second is changes in species distribution. The third is disruption of species interactions. The fourth is loss of species. The fifth is the arrival and spread of non-native species. The sixth is changes in the composition of communities. The seventh is the loss of habitat area. The eight is changes in the functionality of habitats. As well as the direct impact to biodiversity there may be consequences for the delivery of ecosystem services required for human well-being. As an example, changes in the functionality of habitats may reduce the capacity for water retention or the control of non-native species, which may be very costly to the Exchequer.
In terms of the built and archaeological heritage, expertise has been appointed in October to assist in the preparation of a sectoral adaptation plan. This will build on a background research study commissioned by my Department and completed in 2017. Stakeholder advisory meetings were held in February and October 2018 with discussion feeding into the preparation of a tender for the delivery of a climate change sectoral adaptation plan for built and archaeological heritage. Stakeholders include representatives from the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, the Office of Public Works, OPW, the City and County Management Association, CCMA, the National Museum of Ireland, the Heritage Council, the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland, the Irish Landscape Institute, the Royal Irish Academy, the Discovery Programme, the Irish chapter of the International Council on Monuments and Sites, ICOMOS Ireland, and the Federation of Local History Societies. Contact continues with counterparts in the UK - Scotland, England and Northern Ireland - and further afield who are working on climate change adaptation of heritage sites with a view to exchanging information and ideas that will inform the sectoral adaptation plan.
Discussions with the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, ensured that built and archaeological heritage impacts were built into the climate pillar call for achieving resilience in the marine and coastal environment.
My Department made a presentation to the national adaptation steering committee on 4 July of this year on the potential impacts of climate change on the built and archaeological heritage. There are some climate change risks to the built and archaeological heritage which have been identified to date. These arise from the potential for warmer and wetter winters, increased intensity of storms, sea level rise and coastal erosion and, of course, increased flooding. The effects may include: structural damage to monuments and historic properties; coastal erosion undermining structures or leading to loss of ground adjacent to the structure; the exposure and erosion of archaeological sites; the collapse of unstable masonry elements, such as chimneys and roofs; the loss of historic landscape features, such as trees; and the impact on building fabric, including increased saturation, mould and fungal growth to interiors and contents, as well as increased corrosion of metal elements.
It is the intention to have a plan launched and produced by summer 2019, including a period of public consultation. My Department very much welcomes the close ongoing working relationship with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment in regard to the development of both plans by autumn 2019.
I am delighted to be here today, with my Government colleagues, to address the Seanad on this very important issue. I want to first talk about the context for my own Department as we address these issues, which is very much set out in Project Ireland 2040, which the Government launched earlier this year. It is the overarching planning and investment framework for the social, economic and cultural development of Ireland. As the House knows, it includes a detailed capital investment plan for the period 2018-27, which is the national development plan, NDP, in support of a long-term transformational spatial strategy for the country, detailed in the national planning framework, NPF, element of Project Ireland 2040.
The aligned and shared vision of the NPF, in tandem with the NDP, represents a joined-up planning and investment strategy for Ireland’s future growth and development, focused on a series of ten shared national outcomes. Foremost among these is climate action and the national objective to transition to a low carbon and climate resilient society by 2050. Policy that will assist in making that transition and meeting our climate obligations is woven throughout the NPF and the NDP. When we talk about shared outcomes reflected in both documents that are fundamentally supportive of climate action, we are talking about compact growth, sustainable mobility and sustainable management of water, waste and other environmental resources. All include significant elements of policy that provide a strong platform for the development of measures and actions in response to climate change. The overall NPF strategy seeks to achieve a better balance of development between the regions, a greater focus on Ireland's cities, supporting Ireland’s rural fabric and targeting more compact growth in the development of settlements of all sizes, from the largest city to the smallest village.
The Department is currently undertaking a review of the 2006 wind energy development guidelines. This review is addressing a number of key aspects, including sound or noise, visual amenity setback distances, shadow flicker, community obligation, community dividend and grid connections. We will shortly commence a public consultation on the revised draft guidelines, together with the comprehensive environmental report under the strategic environmental assessment, SEA, process, with the aim of issuing the finalised guidelines, following detailed analysis and consideration of the submissions and views received during the consultation phase, in the early part of next year. When finalised, the revised guidelines will be issued under section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended.
My Department, in collaboration with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, which leads on renewable energy policy, is exploring the potential for enhancing national planning guidance on solar energy, taking account of solar energy projects being assessed by planning authorities, and the scope for future development of the sector, in the context of the ongoing development of renewable energy policy. Further to this ongoing engagement between the two Departments, should the need for specific planning guidance for solar farms be identified, this work will be further scoped and progressed.
I will now turn to measures related to the built environment. In Ireland approximately 40% of total energy produced is used in the building sector. The energy performance of buildings directive sets ambitious goals for energy efficiency and renewables in buildings by requiring nearly zero energy building, NZEB, performance for new buildings from 31 December 2020. In addition, the directive also requires that major renovations to existing buildings are completed to a cost-optimal level, where it is feasible. The implementation of NZEB is a key action for the built environment in contributing to Ireland’s national low carbon transition and mitigation plan. This has been completed for buildings other than dwellings and will take effect from 1 January of next year. It is planned to be in place for dwellings from mid-2019. This will contribute to emissions reductions from 1 January 2021.
A new element of the revised energy performance of buildings directive is the provision of infrastructure for charging of electric vehicles. Lack of recharging infrastructure is seen as a barrier to the take-up of electric vehicles in the EU and the revised energy performance of buildings directive has new provisions which aim to accelerate deployment. We are in the process of drafting these regulations and will be publishing them for public consultation in 2019, and we will have the regulations in place by March 2020.
Local authorities are currently undertaking an ambitious programme of insulation retrofitting, with the support of the Department, on the least energy efficient social homes. The programme has two phases. Phase 1 focused on the lower cost improvements, such as cavity wall and attic insulation. Phase 2 is now targeting higher-cost, deeper retrofit measures, for example, fabric upgrades and glazing. Since 2013 funding of some €120 million has been provided to improve energy efficiency and comfort levels in over 65,000 local authority homes, benefiting those at risk of fuel poverty and making a significant contribution to Ireland’s carbon emissions reduction targets and energy reduction targets for 2020.
In regard to climate adaptation, our water services policy statement 2018-28 sets out the key policy objectives which must be pursued by Irish Water when planning capital investment and framing current spending plans. This includes adapting water services to withstand the impact of climate change and weather-related events, consistent with the national adaptation framework.
All of the above measures are key actions in the contribution of the built environment to Ireland’s national low carbon transition and mitigation plan to address climate change. We will continue to work hard on all of them, notwithstanding the other challenges we face in terms of building up our national housing stock. Furthermore, I will work to identify additional measures with the Minister, Deputy Bruton, in the development of the national energy and climate plan 2021-30. I am confident the measures outlined will contribute significantly to mitigating against and adapting to climate change.
I am grateful to have the opportunity to update the House on this important matter on behalf of the Minister, Deputy Harris. Climate change adaptation planning within the health sector is crucial. It involves two key areas, first, the protection of the health and well-being of our population and, second, ensuring the resilience of our health service so it can continue to operate during severe weather events.
The Department of Health continues to work with key stakeholders within the wider health sector and other key sectors to identify the priority actions associated with climate change adaptation for the health sector. The Department is represented on the national adaptation steering committee since 2014 and, more recently, on the Government’s high-level climate action steering group, chaired by the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment. The health sector has also been represented by a specialist in public health medicine in the HSE at the national adaptation steering committee and a variety of other relevant fora, including the Climate Change Advisory Council adaptation committee.
Vulnerability assessment of the health infrastructure and services is a key component of our planning. Some of this is already occurring through severe weather planning and emergency management structure in the HSE. It provides for vulnerability assessment for all services provided by the HSE and will form the basis for the bulk of vulnerability assessment across the sector. The planning is service and geographically based, and overlaps with business continuity planning in many cases. There has been preparation and activation of emergency plans followed by “lessons learned” during the weather events of 2017-18, such as Storm Ophelia, Storm Emma and the heatwave experienced during summer 2018, which will be incorporated in future planning scenarios. Current weather and climate-related risks continue to be assessed. For example, during severe weather events, there have been dynamic public health risk assessments and public health medical advice developed to protect the public. Future risk assessment may largely depend on the results of the vulnerability assessment but also on the adaptation actions of other sectors, as health impact is mainly an end point of the effects of climate change on other sectors. Adaptation options that are already required to manage current risks are being implemented and will continue to be mainstreamed, monitored and reviewed.
Ongoing business continuity planning will meet some of the requirements.
Another important action involves assessing current information systems in order to develop appropriate data capable of identifying changing patterns of illness and disease related to climate change, and to measure and monitor them through health surveillance and investigation. Work has commenced with the EPA to agree a research agenda for the sector relating to climate change adaptation and health.
In addition to the work relating to climate-change adaptation within our sector, the health sector is providing expert public health expertise to other sectors on the health impacts that need to be addressed in their plans. The delivery of a climate-change adaptation plan for the health sector will require a high level of collaboration across sectors on an ongoing basis to create evidence-based solutions that are collectively aligned with our pursuit of a transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient and environmentally-sustainable economy together with the achievement of a healthy Ireland.
On a point of order, I ask the Chair to clarify if the statements that have been made on environment and climate change are under the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015. If the statements are being made to be compliant with that Act, the Act is not being honoured in the statements that have been made here. If it is to fulfil the 2015 Act-----
That is a point for debate and not a point of order.
I believe the statements have been made to fulfil the statutory requirements of the legislation, but they do not.
It is not a point of order in this case.
Is it not being done under the Act?
The statements are under Standing Orders so it is not a point of order. Can we proceed because we are really tight on time.
Does that mean we will have statements under the Act at a later stage?
Does the Senator see where we are coming from? It is up to the Ministers to comply with legislation.
They are either compliant with the Act or they are not. The speech-----
These statements are being made under Standing Orders and not made under the Act.
So we will have statements compliant with the Act.
These are being made under Standing Orders.
That is grand. The clarity is that there will be further statements that will comply with the 2015 Act.
That is a matter for the Leader and the Senator might bring it up on the Order of Business tomorrow morning.
We are really tight on time and we must proceed with the debate. While eight minutes have been allocated to speakers, I ask them not to use the eight minutes or otherwise people will not get in. I call Senator Leyden who has eight minutes, but I ask him not to use them.
I welcome the Ministers, Deputies Bruton, Creed, Ross, Madigan and Eoghan Murphy, and the Ministers of State, Deputies Moran and Catherine Byrne, to the House. It is impressive to have practically half the Cabinet here for the statements in the House, which is very appropriate. I will not take all the time because the Christmas tree lights are being turned on on the lawn at 5.30 p.m. It might not be appropriate with climate change-----
-----to be cutting trees down-----
That is okay.
----- but I will not be Scrooge about it. Other trees will be planted to replace it.
I welcome the Minister focusing on this issue. Yesterday we got a stark warning from David Attenborough on climate change when he said that civilisation is now nearing collapse. It was one of the starkest statements I have heard from anybody. He has outlined exactly how serious the situation is.
Ireland can only contribute so much to the whole issue, but bigger countries such as the United States, China and India must come up and do their bit as well. It is most regrettable that the President of America, Donald Trump, would decide to pull out of the Paris Accord. I notice that a former Governor of California has criticised the President and said that most of the other 50 states of the United States are doing their bit. They said that Washington would not control what they do in each state. I was very encouraged that the individual states of the United States are active in climate change and very conscious of the situation.
I compliment the work of Oisín Coughlan of Stop Climate Chaos. He has made very good submissions to the Minister, including a letter he wrote the other day outlining his current concerns. It concerns people when the Taoiseach, with respect, said we were laggards. If the Taoiseach is not very happy with the situation, he could actually do something about it and grasp the nettle.
We in Fianna Fáil are very conscious of the situation and we are fully committed to tackling climate change and to ensure that Ireland meets its obligations. We fully accept the findings of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. Its report finds that limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require a rapid and far-reaching transition in land, energy, industry, building, transport and cities. This action needs to be taken within 12 months. Despite this the Government is failing to meet its targets. We will not meet our 2020 targets, nor are we on target to hit 2030 or even 2050 commitments.
The failure to meet these targets will have consequences. Short-term compliance costs to try to close the gap are now likely to be in excess of €100 million. Ireland will also be exposed to significant penalties post 2020. The Government has failed to introduce an increased carbon tax in this year's budget. This will require more drastic increases in coming years. A number of actions should be taken next year in order to put Ireland on the correct course.
Instead of committing to completing a plan as announced by the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, the Government should set about implementing the recommendations of the cross-party committee first. The Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015 should be amended to include setting specific targets for the reduction of emissions. Fianna Fáil has tabled a Bill to achieve this. Carbon tax should be increased with the funds raised used to protect communities in which the impact of such attacks would be worst felt. The tax should also be invested in meeting targets.
I will not go through each Ministry. Regarding agriculture the whole course of environmental work is very important. The more trees we grow the better. Every farmer should be encouraged to grow a number of trees. We have an organic farm and my wife has been pushing the idea of growing more trees, particularly broadleaf trees, on the land. If everyone did that, it would be a move in the right direction. These are simple steps that can mean a lot.
I was very encouraged when in recent days a major restaurant chain in London decided not to import avocados from Australia because of the transport cost of bringing that fruit from Australia, even though it is a beautiful fruit. We have to get real in this case and we must reduce the costs. We should provide more horticultural products in this country. It is a shame and a scandal that we import potatoes from Italy and Cyprus, and import cabbages from different parts of the world. All those products can and should be produced here. North Dublin, Wexford and other areas are pretty good at that. The Minister needs to provide more incentives and encouragement. The major supermarkets, Aldi, Lidl, Dunnes Stores, Tesco and SuperValu, should be lobbied to ensure they source their foods in this country where possible.
One implication of Brexit is that when the United Kingdom leaves and then decides to have negotiations with Argentina and Brazil, it will bring in steers from America into the United Kingdom when they can be sourced here, next door in the Republic of Ireland.
On renewable energy, more action is needed to provide offshore wind turbines. These are operational in Denmark and many other parts of the world but for some reason, even though significant wind is generated off our shores, that option is not being pushed. I ask the Minister to respond to that. Furthermore, proposals to cover vast areas of land with solar panels are questionable at best. Will the Department provide grant aid and subsidies to developers of solar farms or would it be better to use that land to grow trees or other renewable combustible materials?
Whether we like it, a large power plant is in operation in Moneypoint, County Clare, which is burning fuel imported from Columbia. We have to live with that and while I acknowledge that jobs are involved here, an alternative fuel must be found for that plant. I would like the plant to continue in operation but I would like the material burnt there to be produced in Ireland or at least as close as possible.
I congratulate the Minister on his appointment and wish him well with his new responsibilities. I know that he has read into the brief and am confident, on the basis of his ministerial record to date, that he will give this his very best. He is an experienced Minister and I am sure he will give this issue the attention it deserves.
Notwithstanding anything in today's Order of Business, I propose that the annual national transition statements conclude no later than 6.30 p.m.
Is that agreed? Agreed. I invite Senator Victor Boyhan, who is sharing time with Senator McDowell, to contribute to the debate.
I welcome the Minister to the House. I also thank the various Ministers and Ministers of State for coming to the House and making statements, although I am somewhat disappointed that they are not here now to listen to what Senators have to say on the matter. That is not too much to ask of them. Some might think it was a sign of Seanad reform that seven Ministers or Ministers of State have been in the House for the debate. However, while they came in relatively slowly, they got out quickly and did not stay to listen to Members. That is disappointing and it says something about the importance of this issue to them.
We are here because in accordance with the framework provided by the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015, the Government must prepare and submit to the Oireachtas an annual transition statement. In support of this written statement, relevant Ministers must provide oral reports to each House of the Oireachtas. The aim of this process is to ensure that the responsible Ministers are directly accountable to the Oireachtas and to assess their progress in reducing emissions in their respective ministries. Will the Minister confirm that this is the context for the appearance of various Ministers and Ministers of State in the House today?
The former President, Mrs. Mary Robinson, spoke on radio this morning about the importance of this matter. I liked her tone on "Morning Ireland" when she talked about a just transition, to which the Minister also referred. What is meant by a just transition? It is a principle, a process and a practice to build economic and political power to progress sustainable development. A just transition is a vision-led, unifying set of principles, processes and practices, which mean approaching the production and consumption cycle in a holistic and waste-free way and in an environmentally friendly and sustainable manner. We want to gradually decarbonise society but the transition must be just and equitable. It must redress past harms and create new relationships to allow for sustainable development. If the process of transition is not just, then neither will the outcome be just.
I wish to focus on a number of areas, including Irish peat in the midlands and the workers there and carbon taxes in the context of what happened in Paris last weekend. Parts of that city were nearly burned down because of objections to taxes on diesel. That is the reality of it. We have to move and while I do not want to slow this process down, we must be pragmatic and realistic. We must recognise that we live in an economy as well as a society and we must be particularly mindful of jobs. This is a sensitive area and the transition must be managed carefully to ensure it is both fair and equitable. We must focus on agriculture and I am glad that talks on a reformed CAP refer to ambitious targets to reduce emissions from agriculture. We also need to focus more on sustainable forestry and other issues.
In an effort to be as effective as possible in the short time allowed to me, I wish to read something into the record of this House. On Saturday 1 December 2018, The Irish Times published the following:
An Oireachtas committee's efforts to tackle rising carbon emissions will amount to "a flash in the pan" if it is dissolved in January, according to an environmental policy expert. A strong, resourced climate action committee in parliament was critical and one of the key of ensuring stronger governance in responding to climate change, Dr. Diarmuid Torney of Dublin City University told a conference in Dublin on Thursday.
The Oireachtas committee on Climate Action which was established in July is due to be disbanded in January after considering how to implement radical recommendations of the Citizen’s Assembly and reporting on what should be in the National Energy and Climate Plan.
I call on the Minister to use his good offices to ensure that the aforementioned committee is not disbanded in January but is given a new and renewed focus to address these key issues. I would appreciate a response to that call when he replies.
I welcome the Minister to the House. While I wish to indicate some degree of disquiet on my part, I am not going to go into point scoring mode. This annual transition statement was apparently published at lunchtime and we are supposed to respond to it now and oral statements were supposed to be made on it within four or five hours. That is not satisfactory. I do not blame the Minister who has barely warmed his seat in the Department but it is wrong that we are being treated in this way.
I am a member of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, which marks the Minister's Department. I hope that his tenure will be marked by a new approach in the Department to its relationship with the Oireachtas. I have sat at various meetings of that committee and the constant impression I get is that we are being fed out of date information and obscurantist language. What has been so clear to everyone who has attended the meetings is that Ireland is nowhere near meeting any of its targets, has no real capacity to do so and it will breach all of its targets. This fact has constantly been kept hidden from us until it is too late to conceal it.
I will give one example to the Minister, of which I have some knowledge, namely the data centres which are being established in Ireland. As I understand it, four or five data centres will be established in Ireland with the active encouragement of the Government because it is part of their alliance with the IT sector and the social media sector, in particular. While I can see the commercial justification for it, each of those data centres will increase the demand for electricity in Ireland by between 6% and 8%. If four or five of them are constructed, as is current Government policy, the overall demand for energy in Ireland on that account alone, will increase by between 30% and 35% over the next few years. At the same time, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, SEAI, is saying to the committee of which I am a member that we must reduce electricity consumption in Ireland by 2030 by approximately one third. These targets do not coincide. The Department was bending over backwards to avoid admitting that the targets in the areas for which it has responsibility will not be met and that other Departments were pursuing radically different policies, which will increase the demand for electricity in Ireland by an order of one third at a time the SEAI is seeking a reduction of 25% to 30%.
We cannot have it every way and we have to have a degree of honesty in all of this. I know that this evening's session has been prepared in haste and we have a list of bullet points from a series of Ministers and Ministers of State with no response or input and that was not what the Act was about or what was envisaged. It was envisaged that members of the Government would come into both Houses of the Oireachtas and orally present and defend what they were going to do, but coming in here with little wish lists of bullet points and aspirations is not the way to achieve that. I do not want to sound mean minded or conclude on a mean-minded note but this is approaching farce this afternoon.
I welcome the Minister to the House. It is the first time that he has been present since he changed portfolio. Six different line Ministers have given presentations. It has been informative and positive but it also brings into question where we are with this dilemma of a just transition and how to move forward. The just transition is an issue if society and the economy is growing, be that an agricultural economy, in the context of us going from a 1% reduction in our targets today to a 20% reduction and where we need to be by 2050, which will be a challenge with an increasing population.
I refer to agriculture. Food Wise 2025 provides for significant growth in our dairy industry in particular but we must examine how all sectors of the agricultural industry tie in with the carbon issue and how we can deliver. Therein lies the challenge. We have an expanding economy but we need to reduce our carbon footprint. Senator McDowell mentioned issues in this regard and that is the challenge for us as a Government and a society.
The House has put a special committee in place on this issue and I am a member of same along with six other Members, including Senator Grace O'Sullivan. Several Secretaries General have appeared before us over the past two and a half months to give presentations. From our point of view, they lacked that dynamism and vision and the committee will consider that issue going forward because we need to have ambition, drive and a stake in how we can proactively reduce these emissions. It is not about what we did in the past but what we need to do in the future and that will be a change of ethos for the entire Government. That is why the Minister brings something different. This whole-of-government approach is something that we lacked previously and that will be the key if we are to reach those targets and that is what we need to drive forward.
It also has to be community-led. As much as Government will do what Government does around changing policy, the tie in with the community, how communities change what they do and change their approach will be a major issue. We need to start talking about initiatives such as plastic-free Kinsale, which is a powerful, community-based initiative that is driving businesses to change how they operate for the sake of the environment. We need to talk about how we can engage those communities, get down to the grassroots itself and change the ethos of how people live their lives. That will be a challenge for us.
In many ways, the younger generation are probably there. The middle to senior generations will take the most convincing that this is how we need to change our approach. Whether it is diesel cars or single-use plastics, there are a multitude of issues involving behavioural changes that will be important for us. That is why this debate is important. It is televised live and it gives an insight into what the Government is doing. It also gives an insight into what we need to do as a community and a society and that will be the core hardline issue.
There was a significant announcement last week on a new fund for climate change and it related to public lighting, for example, but one of the initiatives that I found interesting, which I have been promoting all along, is the increase the number of charging points for electric cars. That is the space we need to start talking about and that is the investment that is required because if we can give the consumer who buys the electric car confidence in the network and the charging points, then there will be change in modes of transport, which is something that needs to happen.
We experienced a major change previously from petrol to diesel, which in hindsight, was a disaster and that has to be acknowledged. Now we need to see that new change and the new ethos of moving towards the electric car. We have seen a positive start in the past week or two but now we need to get the message out that this needs to be the approach going forward. There are a multitude of initiatives out there, be it the €5,000 exemption for the vehicle registration tax, VRT, or taxi drivers getting an extra €7,000 of a grant and they are positive initiatives but we do not talk about them. As far as I can see, there should be no taxis in the cities that are not electric because the advantage of going electric is positive for taxi drivers, for the environment and for society itself.
We have a lot to do to bring the just transition into communities to bring the communities with us. The action plan that the Minister mentioned is positive and that is the roadmap we need as a society. It will bring change but the challenges are great. In an expanding society with an increasing population and increasing economic activity, lowering the carbon base will probably be the greatest challenge we face.
We are unlike other societies such as Germany or France where population is not increasing like it is here. They are fixed on a mode of public transport which can be provided to some degree with our cities but which is a challenge in our rural hinterlands. We have the largest school transport system in Europe by population but we have no rural transport system per se. We need to talk about that and try to tie everything together because if we do, there will be changes in our carbon footprint.
The statement was published this afternoon and six Ministers and Ministers of State came to the House. I have never seen that before so that is a great step and a great sign and we now hope to move forward to get real action on the ground.
I thank all the Ministers and Ministers of State who attended. Hopefully, it is an acknowledgement of the gravity of what the planet faces and the need to work together and speed up what we need to do to change fundamentally.
I have two observations. I reiterate to the Minister of State, Deputy Catherine Byrne, that 7 million people die annually from air pollution alone, according to figures released by the World Health Organization, WHO. The significant increase in respiratory diseases has an impact but that has not been accounted for within the health portfolio. We also do not account for famines and starvation because of failed crops, food insecurity and toxic land, nor do we account for new and emerging contagious diseases. We need only look at the dreadful state that Yemen is in with 17 million people at risk of starvation there.
As a member of the Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, I am looking over the Citizens' Assembly recommendations and our report will be due in the next two months. Hopefully, there will be another debate on that in this Chamber but when we speak of climate change globally, we must first speak about the effect it is having on the third world. Indigenous peoples living ancient ways of life from the Arctic Circle to the nomadic peoples of the African continent are suffering the most from the actions of the so-called luxurious western world because of our emissions and the effects they are having on the poorest countries.
We all listened to his eminence, David Attenborough, yesterday. He was a special guest at the climate summit and he stated that the collapse of our civilisation is on the horizon. I do not believe it can be put more starkly than that and I do not know if we can take that in.
When we speak about climate action in this State, unfortunately, we have come late to it and it has been a failure so far. Although we are a small State, we are an island that can lead by example. We must see climate change not as something on which to blame people but on which to encourage people. We need to see climate change not as a burden but as an opportunity to improve our environment, create long-term jobs and create security of supply of energy on this island.
The shocking reality, unfortunately, is that all our targets to address climate change are failing. Emissions are rising and not decreasing. We will not reach targets of renewable electricity and we will be well off-target when it comes to renewable transport and heat. Many key players in energy and climate change, operating the electricity grid, regulating the industry, suppliers and the Government directing this policy have failed. We have all failed. We have failed by our inaction and not doing enough to prevent further deterioration in our climate and environment. The energy types of our very near future will be very different. The power system of the future will be very different. We need to take more than the baby steps that are being taken now.
On energy sources, for instance, microgeneration, it will play a part in building a wide portfolio of energy sources and we wish speedy passage of Bills that are sitting in the Dáil or Seanad, because we cannot delay them. The Minister needs to be pro-active and get those Bills, from whatever party they come, passed and he should not put obstacles in their way.
The development of a wide portfolio of renewable energy sources needs to displace fossil fuels. Some provision is made in the new renewable electricity support scheme, RESS, on offshore wind, but there is no movement on the streamlining of the arduous planning reform needed for offshore development. We need vision and ideas to be able to see the opportunities. We have one of the best resources in Europe for offshore wind and we have barely anything in place. Scotland is a country with a similar population and its level of offshore wind is phenomenal.
Our peat plants are converting to biomass, but we are not establishing a native biomass industry. Instead we will be importing fuel from across the globe for this industry which is a contradiction in terms. We have one of the best resources in the EU for biogas and we barely have any developed. Developing this energy will help on emissions from agriculture and is a renewable gas that may also be used as transport fuel.
On the transition statement and some of the actions, which we are trying to take on board as this was just published today. It needs more in-depth consideration than the quick scan of it we could do today. In respect of this transition statement and some of the actions, we can look at transitioning the Moneypoint plant away from coal by the middle of the next decade. No decision has yet been made on this and from what has been said, the State would seem to wish to convert the plant to natural gas, at a cost of €1 billion. This is a limited vision.
We are to have at least 500,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2030, with additional charging infrastructure to cater for planned growth. The current figure for this charging infrastructure is tiny. I do not know how we are going to cater for half a million vehicles over the next ten or 11 years.
The climate action fund of at least €500 million was announced. I think that was announced previously and it equates to €50 million a year, which is welcome. It will see development of areas where we are way behind, but the amount is minimal compared to what people already contribute to renewable energy on their electricity bill through the PSO levy.
Addressing climate change crosses many different areas. We had seven Ministers in here today. It is about changing planning legislation, developing new crops, changing housing regulations, and transforming our transport infrastructure. It will need changes to training, new apprenticeship schemes and new industries like biomass and biogas. These cannot be plans for the distant future because we need them now, with joined-up thinking between different Government Departments.
Climate change has often been described as thinking globally and acting locally. We need to stop being short-sighted in our approach. We need to think globally, which we are not doing, and we need to act locally. We need action now.
Will the Minister of State support now the Just Transition Declaration made in Poland this week to implement such a transition here for the protection of workers while we shift to a sustainable environment?
The Senator is out of time.
What is the use of developing the science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we are willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?
The Minister of State was in Katowice yesterday to hear scientists and communicators, such as David Attenborough, warn global leaders of the gravity and scale of the climate crisis we face. I was here in Ireland and I felt like crying when I heard the words of Sir David Attenborough. Global warming is happening, and has been happening for the last number of decades and action is required now.
The Joint Committee on Climate Action has been holding hearings with officials from the Minister's Department and other Departments over the last few weeks. It is hard to believe that we are talking about the same global climate crisis. The subtext from the Departments is one of "business as usual". No big changes are being put on the agenda. Details and figures are missing. David Attenborough warned us, including the Minister, that humanity faces the greatest threat it has faced in thousands of years. If we do not take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of our natural world are on the horizon. That includes us.
That is the message the Government is failing to hear. I do not care that seven Ministers were here. Overall, this Government is failing to hear the cry of nations on the plight of climate change. At our committee, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform acknowledged that the national development plan was adopted without assessing its impact on the climate. Project Ireland 2040 has no climate consideration added whatsoever. We have a project that has not taken cognisance of the plight and impact of climate change. The Secretary General of the Department of Finance told us that no one had asked him to design a €100 carbon tax. This was six months after the citizens of the Citizens' Assembly expressed its willingness to pay increased carbon tax.
David Attenborough also spoke about what citizens are saying globally. The world's people have spoken. Their message is clear. Time is running out. They want the Government, the decision-makers to act now. They are supporting the Government in making tough decisions. They are also willing to make sacrifices in their daily life. I and my family are prepared to do it. The people at a public meeting in the Midleton Park Hotel last night are prepared to do it.
I received the Minister's annual transition statement this morning and I will be studying it over the coming days. A quick look at it has told me that despite acknowledging how badly we are doing, climate change is still very low in the Government's priorities. In the update report I read, throughout 2017 and 2018, Departments and agencies were to deliver 41 actions under the national mitigation plan. Of those 41 actions, 21 were completed. The remaining 20 actions are under way but have been delayed, giving a completion rate of 51%.
The Minister of State and his predecessor have both acknowledged that the national mitigation plan is not sufficient to meet our targets. The Minister of State has now admitted that half of the actions that were supposed to have been completed at this point are still outstanding. Tomorrow, we will hear from the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, as to how we are doing in the context of reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. Unfortunately, there is very little prospect of good news. Ireland continues to be a climate laggard and there is no doubt that our 2017 emissions are part of an upward trend. I hope we will see the Minister of State at the meeting of the joint committee tomorrow at which we will discuss this. I take this opportunity to inform him that people are sick and tired of the lack of real action on the part of the Government.
The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Bruton, spoke of his return from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, summit in Poland. When I attended an IPCC summit ten years ago, we spoke about matters being urgent. A decade later, they are past being urgent. That is clear to every child in the street. We hear that generation speaking very passionately about their concerns regarding climate change. In many parts of the world, concern has been replaced by grief for animals, birds, land and lives that have already been lost, and the further losses people will see in their immediate lifetimes.
Something that often happens at climate conferences, in this House, and in politics generally is that people speak about general urgency before referring to many particular and complicated stories. There are always stories about who is a worse polluter than ourselves, why we cannot be as good as somebody else, what special exemptions are necessary and why matters are more complicated for our country, our Departments or certain sectors. The position is complicated for every country, every Department and every sector and they must all grapple with this issue.
Irish people are particularly adept at telling stories and using words - as evidenced by what has already been stated during this debate - but that is not sufficient. We must look to take action. It is a basic narrative logic. Watching a disaster movie where there are 12 minutes left, where the characters have not started to run or where they have not begun to change direction, one must consider that things may not be turned around in time. In reality, each of these minutes represents one year. The impacts are very real and there will be no sequel. It is urgent at this point. We have 12 years, and in that context, we cannot afford to waste a year.
The point of these statements was supposed to be for the Government to speak to Senators directly about what will happen in 2019 and what had happened this year. That has not proven to be the case. I agree with Senators who stated that it would probably be necessary for the various Ministers to return in January in order to address the specific actions during the year, as they are required to do under legislation.
Next year is particularly crucial because it precedes the 2020 threshold. The EPA has indicated that Ireland is likely to achieve only 1% of its 20% target for reductions. That is seriously inadequate. We heard about the climate action fund. Should that not be tripled in size? Should we not put €200 million into climate action next year rather than lose similar amounts in fines that we will be obliged to pay in 2020? It is very difficult to justify inaction in the next year, which is one of the 12 crucial years and the year prior to 2020 targets.
I was very concerned that so many contributions, with few exceptions, focused very heavily on adaptation. I worked on adaptation for four years. It is a very serious issue but where are the references to mitigation? Are we simply accepting that we will just increase our targets, that we are ploughing ahead with business as usual but that Ireland will be okay because we will put a few things in place to deal with the bad weather if it comes? That is not sufficient. We have a global responsibility, we are visiting devastation upon other countries and we must say what our mitigation plan is because if it is only delivering a 1% reduction by the end of 2019, then it is a massive failure.
The subject of these statements is transition. Is it a transition to a devastated future or are we transitioning our model? I want to acknowledge the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment who was one of the only Ministers to contribute this evening who referred to transition in the sense of changing our model of business. Right now, the Minister of State currently representing the Government in the Chamber is from the Department of Finance. His Department must take that to which I have just referred on board.
The Senator should conclude.
Six things to which the Minister for Communication, Climate Action and the Environment referred relate to finance. These include issues such as public sector spending and really climate-proofing public procurement in the context of every penny devoted to the national development plan and every project listed in Project Ireland 2040.
The final point I will make-----
I must stop the Senator. If I do not, other Members will not speak at all.
Okay, wait -----
I should have allowed Senator Joe Reilly earlier. He is sharing time with Senator Lombard. He only has one minute. I am sorry.
If we are making an exception. I will speak one final sentence, which is very -----
There are two other Senators waiting.
I have one final sentence. I would have been done by now.
I cannot allow it. I am sorry.
If one is to challenge ------
I cannot allow it.
I appeal for people to take up the challenge in the context of hedge cutting, the storage of oils, importation and all these other areas because we cannot have it every way.
Other people are due to speak. I call Senator O'Reilly.
The Acting Chairman is changing the Order of Business.
I welcome the Minister of State. I take the science as a given - there are no climate deniers left - so I will simply mention a few practical issues. We should have community-based local microgeneration in order that, as was the case with the co-ops of old, small communities would have small wind turbines which serve them and which provide them with free electricity. The excess could then be supplied to the grid. We need to work on education and create a consciousness of what is happening among people. There should also be clusters of solar panels in small communities.
In agriculture, it is important that GLAS should continue. I welcome the position regarding beef genomics and the new development in the context of suckler cows. With incentivisation, there are probably areas on most farms where there could be a small bit of planting that would work. It is important that we remember that the purpose of the common agricultural policy is to ensure an adequate supply of food at an accessible price and of a particular quality. That must continue and we can do it by supporting green energy.
The IFA has put forward an interesting proposition to the effect that we should re-examine the climate metrics applied when calculating methane emissions, particularly in view of its short life in the atmosphere. I ask that the Minister of State might undertake that re-examination and challenge the existing position if it is found to be wrong.
The Senator is over time.
Reducing CO2 emissions through natural carbon sinks such as forests and permanent pastures should be included in the measurement. Not enough is being done to incentivise small businesses to retrofit their premises to become energy efficient.
I thank the Senator.
There is much more that could be done to make schemes more accessible.
When I hear Senator Buttimer state that there are no climate change deniers, I wonder that he does not look more closely at his party and its record over the past three budgets. Senator Lombard stated that he welcomed the seven line Ministers to the House. They have to come here because they are obliged to do so under the relevant legislation. The Government has not honoured the Climate Action Low Carbon Development Act 2015. I do not see a plan. I do not see the Government being accountable for its actions in the past year in the context of climate change. Not one Minister stated whether he or she had set himself or herself a target last year or, if targets were set, whether they had been clearly measured or met. The Government is not honouring the plan.
In 2014, many NGOs and environmental groups spent endless hours drafting the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act. Deputies and Senators put in great amounts of time to develop the legislation. There was an expectation that the Act would be honoured. However, that is not happening today. We have not seen one clear plan or target and we have not seen the Government being accountable for its actions over the past three years. The Government has failed and failed again and that is unacceptable. Ministers who are responsible for ripping out hedgerows have come to the House today and stated that everything is wonderful.
It is quite the opposite. I feel extremely angry because I was one of the Deputies who spent hours and hours developing the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015 at that time. The principal gain in that Act - over which I fought tooth and nail with Phil Hogan - was that Ministers would be answerable to both Houses. The Ministers have failed. They are not giving a plan or details and they are not taking responsibility for their lack of action. That is despicable.
The only possible gain I now see is the Climate Change Advisory Council. That had to be battled for and fought for. It was not easily won. I am thankful that it was won, because Fine Gael is now ignoring the rest of the Act. It is extremely disappointing to hear Minister after Minister say that everything is wonderful, that they are going to do better, and that although they did not increase carbon taxes they are going to do something else. I am sorry; it is just not good enough. It is not just me who says that it is not good enough. We should be thankful that the Climate Change Advisory Council is independent as the then Minister, Phil Hogan, would have much preferred to appoint his cronies to it, but we stopped him. That council has said that the Government has failed over and over again. It told the Government what needed to be done and explained the reason the carbon tax had to be increased, which is that we need the carrot and the stick.
People in this House are not proposing increased carbon taxes because we want to tax everybody. We want to see a carbon tax put in place so that we can see our housing stock being deeply retrofitted, as is needed. We heard the Minister of State say that we need €50 billion to upgrade our housing stock but his Government will not even introduce a lousy carbon tax to put some money in place to start such retrofitting so that houses can be warm, comfortable and use a reduced amount of energy. It is a total and utter failure.
I do not believe this Government. I have absolutely no faith in it because what was supposed to happen here today was clearly laid out in the Act and the Government has dishonoured that legislation in word and in deed. It is just not good enough. We listen to the experts in the world explain what we need to do. What does Fine Gael say? It says that we might get around to it next year or the year after.
The Minister of State, Deputy Moran, was in the House talking about the catchment flood risk assessment and management, CFRAM, studies. Maybe he should go back and look at them. Let him go and have a look at what the raise in ocean levels will mean because part of the CFRAM studies explain how water might possibly flow in the back gate of Leinster House, up onto the lawn, and into the House. That is part of the CFRAM studies. That is the risk. The Minister of State should think of the thousands of families that will be made homeless by the flooding. Can we fix everything? No, we cannot. However, we can give leadership. We have so far failed to give that leadership. I include myself in that. Above all, however, I blame the Taoiseach and the Ministers who were in this House today because they have shown no leadership in this regard. There is no leadership with regard to planning or tightening building specifications in respect of energy efficiency. There is no leadership in respect of retrofitting our housing stock.
One Minister talked about the growth of mould cultures in houses. I can bring him to local authority houses in which there is mould growth at the moment. That is occurring as a result of climate change. A Minister boasted in here about MetroLink and BusConnects and yet he is making submissions to himself about BusConnects and why parts of the plan should not be carried out. Is the Government really serious about doing anything? The Taoiseach gets up and says we are lagging behind on climate. He is the Taoiseach; he should show leadership.
I have eight minutes. I know the Leas-Chathaoirleach would prefer if my contribution was shorter, but I will only use my eight minutes.
In accordance with the Order of Business for today, I am advised that I must call on the Minister of State to conclude. He has five minutes from 6.25 p.m. to 6.30 p.m.
He will not be able to do it in five minutes.
That is what is laid down in the Order of Business.
I know the Leas-Chathaoirleach is in a difficult position-----
He does not have five minutes.
-----and that he needs to protect the Government so I will sit down at this stage.
I cannot do anything about the Order of Business for the day.
However, I very clearly state our disappointment at the coach and four this Government is driving through what I thought was decent legislation enacted in 2015. It is totally despicable.
On a point of order, to be fair to the Minister of State, he was not here when the questions were put to the lead Minister and therefore cannot answer them.
I am afraid that is not a point of order. I am caught by the Order of Business.
The Minister of State cannot answer the questions because he did not hear them.
In accordance with the Order of Business for today the Minister of State has five minutes to reply. The next debate, on the-----
We will have to have the Ministers back this week.
------Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017, is ordered for 6.30 p.m.
I propose a suspension of Standing Orders tomorrow.
The Senator is wasting the Minister of State's time. I call the Minister of State, who has five minutes to conclude.
I thank the Leas-Chathaoirleach.
He cannot answer. He does not know what the questions were. It is a farce.
The Minister of State has a typescript to reply to a debate to which he did not listen.
The Senators can do something about it on tomorrow's Order of Business.
I would like the support of the Leas-Chathaoirleach.
The Senator will have it tomorrow on the Order of Business.
I thank the Leas-Chathaoirleach for that commitment.
The Minister has come in here with a typescript to answer a debate which he did not attend.
It is a joke.
I respect the Senators' point of view, but I have to call on the Minister of State to respond.
I will respond on the sections which I heard Senators raise. I did not hear all of the debate. I do not think anybody heard it all, so the criticism-----
I have. I have been here.
We are going to hear the Minister with respect.
I do not believe any Minister heard it all.
We need to have all seven of them back.
That is a matter for the House. From the perspective of the Department of Finance, last month Ireland launched its first sovereign green bond. That was a really welcome development. It was a €4 billion bond, which was oversubscribed, raised by the National Treasury Management Agency, NTMA, to put into projects that will be sustainable and green energy-led. These will be the future. That is something we cannot ignore.
I also want to take up the point on hedgerows. The people in charge of the countryside are landowners, of which I am one. Nobody looks after the land and the environment better than the farming sector. We cannot ignore the amount of hedgerows being planted through GLAS and the number of trees being planted by the farming sector. I know people just want to ignore that and the perception is-----
We are talking about Government action, not about the actions of farmers. They are custodians of the environment. I accept that.
The GLAS policy is-----
The Senator was heard without interruption. We are now going to hear the Minister of State.
The GLAS policy is a governmental policy which has been implemented by the farming sector. I thank all the Senators for their contributions this evening. The annual transition statement forms a key part of the accountability arrangements between the Government and the Oireachtas in terms of the Government's action on climate change. This year is the first year in which a number of other Ministers designated under the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015 addressed the House in respect of climate adaption policy. That represents an important milestone in extending to the whole-of-Government accountability for action on climate change. The annual transition statement sets out the progress that has been made by Government over the last 12 months on our transition objectives. It is an important record of efforts being made to tackle climate change. For the first time we have published, alongside the annual transition statement, progress reports on the implementation of the national mitigation plans actions and measures and an update report on sectoral adaption plans. This provides further transparency to the implementation of national climate policy and demonstrates where we are making progress and also where further efforts are required.
Another important accountability mechanism introduced by the 2015 Act is the independent Climate Change Advisory Council. The council is a key source of expert advice to the Government in the performance of our functions. The Government will carefully consider the council's advice as we continue to work on climate change.
I take the opportunity to thank Senators and to invite them to examine some of the current policy drivers such as that national mitigation plan and the national adaption framework in order to further engage with the basis of our policy approach on climate change, where we are now in terms of the range of measures already under way, and areas where we are working on taking further action in 2018 and beyond.
One of the key challenges we face is that the causes of climate change are deeply embedded in our way of life. From heating our homes to food and transport, the choices we make have implications for us as a society. Understanding these choices is the first step. It is clear that we require transformational change in all these aspects of our daily lives over the coming years.
The Citizens' Assembly and national dialogue on climate change point the way forward towards models of participatory engagement that can help to address these challenges by engaging with the wider public to create awareness, engagement, and motivation to act. It is a moral imperative that Ireland tackles climate change not just because we have promised to do so as part of international agreements to achieve outcomes, but more importantly because it helps to safeguard our future.
The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Bruton, has already said he wants to make Ireland a leader in responding to climate change, not a follower. That will require a further step change throughout Government. Being a leader means acting now, stretching ourselves and seizing the enterprise opportunities in a low carbon economy, including new circular and bioeconomies. Being a follower means the final costs of adjustment are much higher and opportunities are much lower or completely lost.
Does the Minister of State have much more to say?
We can adjourn the debate.
This requires a clear mandate to integrate the demands of climate action in the decision-making process of all our regulatory systems and programme evaluation throughout Government. Project 2040 and the ten year national development plan, which underpins it, is the first time an Irish Government has ever attempted to ensure that the future goal is compact and connected, reasonably balanced and sustainable. Implementing this vision and ensuring that the capital investment which will deliver that integrated vision will be a crucial challenge we must crack, in particular how we roll out our €116 billion investment under the national development plan. The €30 billion ring-fenced for climate action and sustainable transport can create a profound shift in behavioural patterns. This investment will enable us to deliver a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the period to 2030 and help to build the resilience of our infrastructure to climate change impacts. I thank the Senators for their contributions.
I gave the Minister of State an extra minute because he suffered interruptions at the start.
The Leas-Chathaoirleach is very kind.
That concludes the debate. I look forward to seeing all the Senators tomorrow for the Order of Business.
We look forward to the Leas-Chathaoirleach's support.