I thank the Senators for tabling this debate. I do not need to tell people in the House that it is probably one of the most important challenges that face humanity. As we reflect on a decade during which the country has achieved extraordinary things, as we reformed our Constitution, changed our outlook and brought an economy from bankruptcy back to full employment, which were fantastic achievements and show the resilience and capacity of people to reinvent themselves, we have to bring the same creativity to bear on this, which is the greatest challenge that faces humanity.
We cannot avoid recognising that in recent years, since the recovery commenced, it is very clear we failed to break the link between economic prosperity and the emissions that are doing untold damage to the globe. It is against this background that we developed the process in place. It was part of the programme for Government to have, in the first instance, the Citizens' Assembly evaluate this challenge. It came back with a very strident demand on the Oireachtas to reform in a range of areas. We followed this up with a model that was used in some of those other very difficult changes that we had asked people to come with us upon, such as changing our Constitution.
We followed them up with in-depth hearings held by Members of both Houses at the climate action committee which included Senator Lombard. It laid very important foundations. I will not say entire consensus was reached, but a great deal of common ground was found within the Houses on the challenges and direction in which we had to travel.
I have produced a climate action plan which sets out in detail the targets on which we aim to deliver in the period to 2030. I have adopted it on the precautionary principle which is in accordance with dealing with environmental challenges of this nature. I have sought to achieve the 30% reduction without recourse to things like assuming the price of oil will be high which would make it much easier to achieve or that we will use certain flexibilities to transfer moneys that would have come to us in the ETS to offset credits because of our failure to reach our targets. It is an ambitious plan which is consistent with our very strong support for the proposal that Europe adopt a net zero target by 2050. We will undertake the work to see what it would imply in detail between 2030 and 2050. In designing this set of proposals we have been conscious that they should be consistent with meeting a net zero target by 2050.
How we frame the debate is important as we move from a position where there is a great deal of common ground within the Oireachtas on what we should do to bring people with us. While the Government has an obligation to lead this change, every sector of Irish society needs to come with us. It is important for us to present it in a way that will bring people with us. A number of features of the plan will help us to do that. First, we have chosen measures that are both sensible and fair. In using the word "sensible" we have evaluated the least-cost proposals to get us to our targets. In what areas can we achieve them without creating the greatest burden on people and which ones would open the most opportunities?
The plan contains specific proposals such as eliminating non-recyclable plastics; establishing microgeneration; setting the 70% renewable target for the power system; having 950,000 electric vehicles which would amount to one third of purchases between now and then; expanding park and ride facilities; reinforcing public transport; having heat pumps in 400,000 homes;·the specific accountability in each sector for carbon budgets of each of our ministerial colleagues who oversee transport, construction and so on; having very strong oversight driven by the Oireachtas which is very much at the heart of the plan; and retrofitting 500,000 homes. We have chosen this approach to do the things that can help us to achieve our targets with the least burden and also to have governance and oversight to deliver on them. We have been at pains to ensure they are seen to be fair in that we are demanding that every section of Irish society contribute. That is why we have very strong sections on the obligations of enterprise, farming and the public service, as well as the changes we need to achieve on the roads, in our homes and the habits we develop. We recognise the importance of supporting the people who are most exposed such as those in the solid fuel sector that will see a very sharp decline or the individuals who are least equipped in this transition such as those on very low incomes.
How we describe what we are trying to achieve is important. Many people, including some colleagues, have asked what the cost and our targets will be. If we start to present it that it is about hitting some global targets set for us by the United Nations and talk about imposing cost on people, we will have undersold why we are doing it. We are doing it for the good of the planet, not because some UN body has happened to set a schedule in which we appear. We are doing it because we are part of humanity, the love affair of which with fossil fuel has done enormous damage which will accelerate unless we redress it. It is about the resilience of people in the future. We need farms, homes and enterprises that are resilient because they have taken action now to protect themselves, instead of waiting and postponing when the cost of making these changes will be far greater and the damage will have been done to the planet we are seeking to protect. This is very much about the responsibility and desire of every generation to protect the heritage it has received and pass on to our children something that is robust and resilient and will support them in the future. Our current pattern will not do that. We are, therefore, asking people to make the change for their children and coming generations. That is at the heart of the plan and it is important to recognise it in that way.
I know that it is controversial to talk about putting a price on carbon, saying it is €20 today and will be €80 in 2030 and so on. The reason we talk about putting a price on carbon is that it is doing enormous damage. The 1 tonne or 10 tonnes of carbon a household issues each year is doing serious damage. If it was seen as a big plume of smoke coming from the roof of a house, we would all recognise the damage, but because it is invisible and silent and its origin is not clear to us, we do not see it as damage. With the price trajectory we are trying to ensure people, in making their decisions on whether they should use solid fuel, oil, gas or a heat pump, will recognise that their decisions will have a profound impact on the damage that will be done to the planet. Although they are doing it individually or making a small contribution, it is an essential choice and we can convey that message by putting a price on the damage caused. It is the oldest approach that has always been taken: the polluter pays. We need to recognise that there is damage and that the originator of that damage must in some way be responsible for it. That is why we need a price on carbon. We are not putting a price on it to gather money into the Exchequer to fund other things. We will recycle it in a way that is best placed to help people in this transition. It is a signal of the journey we need to take, but the money can be really valuable if it is redeployed to support people on the lowest incomes who have the biggest challenges to meet to fund the retrofit programmes needed on the journey.
Bringing it out into the community is important. The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, SEAI, has been doing great work in helping communities. It has a really good programme, Sustainable Energy Communities. There are now almost 300 programmes, but we need to increase that number to 1,500. We need to explain and create opportunities for communities to participate in the transition. That is why when we come to have renewable energy auctions, we will have a pot confined to community generation. We will develop microgeneration. We will try to make it real for people in order that they can see the plan as an opportunity for them to become more self-sufficient in using renewable sources to meet their needs and that if they have a surplus, they can sell it into the grid.
We need to support new technologies that are coming down the road in an appropriate way. We have a €500 million climate action fund in which we will be seeding new technologies.
Members will already have seen from this year's allocation that biogas is one of the areas for which we have provided support. This year, we are providing a grant for biomass to replace fossil fuels. We have had a pilot for solar generation in homes. We will move towards having a proper scheme for microgeneration. It is very important, therefore, that we bring people together.
When considering greenhouse gas inventories, although the waste sector accounts for only 1 million tonnes and looks like it is trivial, we should realise the way in which we manage materials from their birth to the end of their life is crucial to the way we think about climate and climate change. It is very important that people recognise the importance of preventing the generation of waste and moving towards a circular economy whereby one tries to maximise the use and reuse of materials rather than furthering the disposables culture that has been part of life in the past 25 years. It is very important that we rethink this. By doing so, we will rethink our set of habits. I refer to how we use materials and fuels, how we create the fabric of our homes and how we travel. It is important that, although waste might figure on a carbon inventory as very inconsequential, its significance is very great. Some estimates suggest that 60% of all emissions come from materials and how we produce, use and dispose of them. Getting people to think in this different way is a big part.
The Oireachtas has done a great job in creating a foundation on which we as a community can move forward together. Of course there will be differences, arguments in favour of one instrument of policy over another, and scepticism, and we will be learning as we go, but we are using the approach that was adopted in the Action Plan for Jobs. When I launched that plan, people said to me it was ludicrous and there was no way in which 100,000 jobs could be delivered. They said they were expected to believe in the plan when there was no evidence to support it. Now, with 500,000 jobs created in this economy, we reflect and see the benefit of being ambitious and bringing all the community together behind a set of actions. They will not all be perfect but they will start a process that can act as a catalyst in making the change we need.
The position on the climate plan is the very same. Members of the Government and Oireachtas have to start the process but it will be a catalyst to much wider change that we need to achieve. That is why this is going to be a long journey. We will be reflecting continually on, consulting on and amending the plan and introducing new policies where some have failed. It is a journey but, at the end, the challenge will be well worth facing up to. It will mean cleaner air, warmer homes and, more profoundly, it will mean our farms, enterprises and homes will be resilient for the future. We will be putting our children into a position in which they can look to a decarbonised world with confidence because we have started and have not allowed ourselves to take the view that we should delay, wait for new evidence, wait for something else to happen or wait until we can afford it. There are so many reasons for waiting but it is very important to start this journey. We now have a plan that we can oversee through the new arms of the Oireachtas and hold Ministers to account in the years ahead.