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Seanad Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 5 Apr 2022

Vol. 284 No. 4

Carbon Budgets: Motion

I move:

That Seanad Éireann shall approve the carbon budgets, copies of which were laid before Seanad Éireann on 24th February, 2022, pursuant to Section 6B(7) of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Acts 2015 to 2021 regarding the approval of the carbon budget.

Thank you, a Leas-Chathaoirligh, for inviting me to this session to discuss the proposed carbon budget programme which, following a lengthy consultation and review process, received approval from my Cabinet colleagues back in February and is now before both Houses of the Oireachtas for final approval.

As part of the consultation and review process, the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Environment and Climate Action undertook an extensive review of the carbon budget proposals. I greatly appreciate the work undertaken by the members of the committee to examine the proposals and engage with numerous stakeholders and experts in order to fully interrogate the carbon budgets and, more broadly, seek political consensus in support of robust climate action.

I am also grateful for the committee's recommendation to adopt the proposed carbon budgets and I appreciate the other recommendations delivered in its report, particularly with regards to monitoring our progress, ensuring a just transition, identifying opportunities to enhance our ambition, and the need for effective citizen and stakeholder engagement.

The need for swift robust climate action is critical. Last year at COP26 in Glasgow, we witnessed the powerful testimony of many international leaders from climate-vulnerable nations, who painted a stark picture of the impact that climate change is already having on their nations and communities. The climate budget programme will support Ireland to deliver against its domestic, EU and international climate action obligations.

Last year saw a step change in our approach to climate action, with the signing into law of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021 and the publication of the national development plan and the Climate Action Plan 2021. The introduction of our carbon budget programme will help us to build on the momentum from last year.

The 2021 climate Act establishes our climate objectives in law and will underpin national climate action in the medium and long term. Under the Act, the Climate Change Advisory Council, CCAC, submitted its first carbon budget programme in October 2021. The programme submitted by the council establishes a pathway to achieving our legally binding climate objectives. That means it will deliver on our commitment to a 51% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 and it will set us on the way to net zero by 2050. Last December, I caused a copy of this proposed carbon budget programme to be laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas. Dáil Éireann then referred the carbon budget programme to the joint Oireachtas committee for its consideration and on 7 February, it published its report recommending that the proposed budgets be adopted by both Houses of the Oireachtas.

Following consideration of the public consultation, the recommendations of the joint committee's report and input from my Government colleagues, I took the proposed carbon budget programme to Government on 22 February and received Cabinet approval. The motion being considered today on the Government's proposed carbon budgets taking effect is the final step in the adoption of the carbon budgets but only the beginning of the implementation process.

The motion under consideration represents a significant milestone on this journey. Should the motion be approved by both Houses of the Oireachtas, the carbon budgets will then come into effect and set out an emissions framework for the country that will support our overall climate objective. Once these overall, economy-wide carbon budgets are adopted and have come into effect, my Department and I will begin the process of preparing the sectoral emissions ceilings. These ceilings will determine how each sector of the economy will contribute to the achievement of the carbon budgets. It is my intention that the sectoral emissions ceilings will be presented to the Government for approval by the end of June.

Preparation of the emissions ceilings will include extensive consultation with all Ministers and will be informed by new and existing analysis undertaken by members of the climate action modelling group, as well as additional external technical support. The work undertaken as part of the consultation and review process for the carbon budgets, including the joint Oireachtas committee report, will also inform and support the preparation and development of the sectoral emission ceilings. Once the ceilings have been prepared and approved by Cabinet, they and the carbon budgets will be reflected in the next climate action plan, and that will replace the indicative ranges of emission reductions for each sector that is in the climate action plan that was published in 2021. The process to deliver the next climate action plan will include further consultation with other Ministers, the public and various experts and stakeholders.

It is crucial that while we prepare our carbon budgets and sectoral emissions ceilings, delivery of climate action in Ireland continues at pace. The 2021 climate action plan, which I launched on 4 November alongside the Taoiseach and Tánaiste, provides a detailed roadmap for meeting our climate ambition under the climate Act. The Government has also published an accompanying annexe of actions to support the delivery of the climate action plan. The annexe sets out the detailed actions and measures, with timelines included, that are required to drive delivery and ensure our emissions reduce. The annexe also identifies the key Departments, State bodies and other key stakeholders that will oversee and implement these actions.

The 2021 plan sets out indicative ranges of emissions reductions for each sector of the economy. Following the legal adoption of carbon budgets and sectoral emissions ceilings, these ranges will be finalised and reflected in this year's climate action plan. The Government will support the changes through major public investment announced recently in the €165 billion national development plan, including increased funding for retrofitting our homes, building new public transport, reskilling workers and supporting a just transition.

While the climate action plan 2021 builds on the ambitious targets of the 2019 plan, it represents a significant step up in terms of ambition and implementation. To highlight a number of the most significant measures included in climate action plan 2021, the plan commits to, first, an increase in the proportion of renewable electricity to up to 80% by 2030, including an increased target of up to 5 GW of offshore wind energy. Second, there will be a significant reduction in transport emissions by 2030, and measures will include enabling 500,000 extra walking, cycling and public transport journeys per day by 2030, and supporting the take-up of electric vehicles to reach almost 1 million by 2030. Third, there will be implementation of a new national retrofit plan to increase supply capacity and make retrofitting more affordable. Fourth, our enterprise sector will see a faster uptake of carbon-neutral heating, increased electrification of high-temperature heating and the phasing out of high global warming potential F-gases. Fifth, reducing emissions associated with agriculture will be central to achieving our climate ambition. This plan provides a pathway to reduce emissions while supporting world class food production through an innovation and science-based approach. There will be a reduction in chemical nitrogen and more targeted use of fertiliser, while maintaining our position as global leader in grass growth through multi-species swards. Sixth, there will be a reduction in emissions from land use and a move to being an overall store of carbon, which will involve further bog rehabilitation, increased afforestation and the rewetting of peat organic soils. A new forestry programme will be prepared for launch in 2023.

This plan places a just transition at its core. It sets out four principles that will guide our policy-making and implementation over the coming years to ensure that we can effectively monitor and manage our transition and that our responses remain flexible so we can respond to future transition challenges and target the areas in need of support. Each Minister, as well as the Government as a whole, will be expected to consider these principles as we develop and implement our climate policies. We have committed in the plan to establishing a just transition commission, which will make periodic recommendations to Government, building on research, engagement through the National Dialogue on Climate Action, and the annual review from the Climate Change Advisory Council, CCAC, on how Government policy can further the just transition.

In delivering this ambitious climate action plan, we must ensure we bring people with us and that the transition is fair. The National Dialogue on Climate Action, which was launched in March 2021, will facilitate public engagement, participation, community action, networking and capacity building activities on climate action, giving everyone in society the opportunity to play their part. In November last year, I announced €60 million in funding from the climate action fund for community climate action projects to support and empower communities to shape and build low carbon, sustainable communities in a coherent way.

As I mentioned earlier, the testimony presented at COP26 in Glasgow laid out the risks and challenges climate change presents us with.

I ask the Minister of State to conclude as we want to get all speakers in. He will be able to speak again when wrapping up the debate. I call Senator Róisín Garvey.

I wish to share time with Senator Pauline O'Reilly.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I thank the Minister of State for coming to the House. We have been talking about climate change for a long time but we now see from the IPCC report that the time for talk is over and we need action. Unfortunately, the Green Party has not been listened to for the last 30 years. Luckily, we are in government now and we have worked very hard on this climate action plan and this climate budget and, for the first time ever, we will see sectoral targets. I am spokesperson for enterprise, trade and employment and rural development. We have had a lot of ambitious talk, greenwashing, and "sustainable this" and "sustainable that" happening for years. Businesses have caught on to the talk and some big business lobbies have caught on to the talk, but we need targets. Without targets, it is a waste of time. It is like being an archer with no bullseye. This sets out proper targets.

For example, in enterprise we need to reduce carbon emissions by 29% to 41%, so it is no good just saying “Oh yes, we have a little thing where we turn off the lights” or “Look, we use reusable bags. We are green.” That game is over. We need proper targets. This is what we need to do. We needed to do it 20 years ago so, without further delay, we need this motion passed and we need to move into action mode. The carbon budgets must be approved by both Houses. The Dáil will debate the motion on Wednesday, which is a formality following the Oireachtas committee deliberations.

When it is popular, many people are green and they are into green things, and when it is not popular, they are not into green things. We have seen this recently. It is said that we are not doing enough one day and then we are doing too much another day. At the end of the day, if there was not a Green Party, we would not be having this debate. Let us stop playing political football with something that is actually threatening human life. It is not just global because we are going to have a huge issue here. Even in my own county, I see farmers losing much more land than ever before to flooding and coastal areas are in serious trouble. Towns and villages all over Ireland are going to be threatened unless we plan properly and take it seriously, and every single section of society has to do this. When this is passed, we can move towards a stage where the Ministers have to set out their sectoral targets. That is what we need to do. We needed to do it 30 years ago but we certainly need to do it today and we need to take it very seriously. Even if you do not care about the migrants all over the world, care about your own house, your own neighbour. This is real and it is on our doorsteps.

I thank the Minister of State for coming to the House. I feel passionately about this, as a member of the Committee on Environment and Climate Action. We looked in detail at the carbon budgets and we had members of environmental organisations in as well. Fundamentally, as a committee, we recommended that the two Houses pass the carbon budgets. That is my position and that has always been my position. There may have been one Senator and one Deputy who did not take that position. However, it was the opinion of the majority of the committee that we pass them.

As Senator Garvey said, we cannot keep saying that we need more action when, at the end of the day, what we need is urgent action. What the IPCC report laid out is that, by 2100, we are reaching 3.2°C above pre-industrial levels. That needs to be a shockwave that is sent across these two Chambers. I implore people to ensure we have these targets. It is not the end, by any means. In previous Governments, we did not meet our targets because we did not have that legislative basis and we did not have the climate action plan that we now have. At this point, we need the targets and then we need the sectoral targets. That is where the majority of the consultation must happen.

As the Minister of State outlined, there has been significant consultation to get us to this point. I know, from the local authorities, how difficult it is even at a local level to get some of these actions happening. People have to be held to account. They have to have their feet held to the fire and that is what these targets do.

We have strong voices from County Clare today and another is from Fianna Fáil Senator Timmy Dooley.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate. I had the pleasure of sitting on the climate change committee in the last Oireachtas on behalf of Fianna Fáil and I was probably in the minority in that we were in opposition, yet I supported the principle of carbon tax. We were not in government and we did not have to do it, but we did so because it was the right thing to do. I very much welcome the fact the Greens are part of government and that they have brought forward certain elements that will help us to address the climate crisis.

I have always advocated that we need to take the climate change debate away from environmentalists and academics. For sure, the science is there but if we start getting into the science of anything, we lose the vast majority of the population. That is not to suggest in any way that they do not understand it, because they do, but it is about how it impacts on their life. The vast majority of people I meet every day of the week fully understand where we are at with the climate crisis. They do not need to hear from the IPCC and they do not need to hear about targets. They just know there is a problem. They see the significant changes, they see famine in sub-Saharan Africa, they see it encroaching on arable lands in those regions and they see the migration issues that fly from that.

They see it in their own back gardens. They see the very significant change in weather patterns. I do not want to get academic about this, but we all know that weather patterns change over certain cycles and they are not always cognisant of or consistent with climate change. When we have seen such diversity over a critical period of time, people are starting to accept that something is amiss. The science and evidence back that up.

We park that and then ask people how, from a farming perspective, they are going to address the continued pressure on an annual basis in terms of the supply of fodder for cattle in order to keep animals over the winter. This has come into sharp focus this year because we would normally expect to import significant amounts of grain from Ukraine. That will not happen because the grain will not be planted there. We are heading towards a crisis unless we are fortunate with the weather.

Senator Garvey and I are familiar with areas of Clare where we were told 15 or 20 years ago that flooding was a once in 100-year event. Just two years later, there was a another once in 100-year event. There are once in 50-year events. The average punter may not have a depth of scientific research behind him or her when commenting, but he or she knows full well there is a problem.

There is a significant problem with our debate around biodiversity and the practices that have developed which have lent themselves in a negative way to our environment. For the continuation of farming it is important that we change our ways. It is not about reducing things. In these debates, we get into an argument about how many cattle people want to cull and when the size of the national herd will be reduced. That is the sort of binary debate that some in the media love to engage in. They are doing so at the moment on the question of whether we should wear masks and who is right or wrong. Let us understand that we have a problem and need to reduce our carbon output. That is all. How we do that is up to the different systems that will operate within various sectors. Carbon budgets provide a good model for doing that.

The job of the Opposition is to highlight all that is wrong, but when carbon budgets are published it would be welcome if there was a coherent debate. I hope that when Opposition Members see the carbon budgets they do what they say they regularly do regarding financial budgets of the State, namely, put forward alternatives and show us how we get to where we need to be within the timeframe concerned. I see no difference across the debate, except for a small minority of Opposition Members, when I sit on committees. The vast majority of the Members of these Houses recognise the crisis we are facing.

Some do not want a carbon tax. Quite frankly, I would prefer not to have a carbon tax; I would prefer to have no tax. It is a small part of the mix at the moment, but is highlighted as being much greater. It is a bit like corporation tax. The model set out for carbon tax gives certainty to the market. We are going through a significant shock to the energy system. That will come to an end at some point, and we will get back on a regular trajectory, but there needs to be certainty for all of the people who have made investments that in the future the price of oil, gas and fossil fuels will increase based on the damage they cause to the environment, whatever floor eventually comes back when we reach the end of the Ukrainian crisis.

I appeal to all sides to face this debate with honesty. If there is a dispute or difference of opinion, we should be truthful to everybody and come forward with a worked alternative that shows the capacity to reach the targets scientists have identified. All we should be debating is how we should get there. We do not have to get into the hows, wheres or whats, but only how we get there.

I agree with a lot of what Senator Dooley said. He referenced the concept of the average punter. I talk about that a lot in this House. What does the average man or woman on the streets of provincial towns like my town, Dundalk, want to be able to do? We all realise there is a climate crisis and everyone wants to be able to play his or her part, but it is about making it financially viable and easy for people to play their part in moving towards sustainability and dealing with the impact of the climate crisis. That is what we are doing through legislation such as we have.

Carbon budgets are the vehicle we will use to hit our sectoral targets by 2030 and 2050. They allow people across Irish society, including those involved in business, agriculture or whatever else, to be able to see the level of sectoral emissions they have to get to in order to get to a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy. The same applies to carbon tax.

I sometimes try to think of an analogy, and the one I thought of throughout the week is that it is the equivalent of being in a burning house. The fire brigade comes along to put out the fire, but people tell it there is no need to spray water on the burning house because the fire will go out itself. That is the concept I think of when people say they want to defer the carbon tax, do not want to have a carbon tax at all, are not so sure about sectoral emissions or want to do this or that. The reason we are introducing all of these climate measures across society is to avoid a climate collapse, not today or tomorrow, but for our children, grandchildren and future generations. That is the overarching aspect of this.

It is a debate that is happening in our party at the moment. Some people want to defer the carbon tax, something with which I fundamentally disagree because I believe the money that is raised from a carbon tax goes back into society to help people with the climate crisis. Some 30% of it is going towards social protection, which will increase the fuel allowance by €5. It will also increase the living at home allowance, qualified child payments and the threshold for the working family payment by €10. That is what the carbon tax is going to do when we talk about social protection.

Some 15% of the carbon tax will go towards agriculture. That will include paying people involved in agriculture to help them with schemes to re-wet bogs and replant land. It will provide financial assistance for farmers to engage in more sustainable farming practices. At the Joint Committee on Environment and Climate Action today we discussed retrofitting. Some 55% of the carbon tax will go towards retrofitting, which will provide 100% free energy upgrades to those most at risk of fuel poverty. Those on the lowest incomes in our society will have 100% free energy upgrades. Those who are eligible will have an 80% upgrade. Those who want a full and deep retrofit will be able to avail of a 50% loan. The other 50% will be paid by low-cost loans where the finance is de-risked because the Government is going to put up State money. People will be able to get loans at interest rates of 2% or 3% over ten, 15 or 20 years. That is the benefit of the carbon tax or setting carbon budgets. They get us to where we have to be.

It is not just about providing financial aid to people or getting people into warmer homes so their health can improve and they can save energy. The main reason we are doing all of this is to avoid a climate catastrophe and climate collapse. I would be very reluctant to see a debate on carbon budgets or the carbon tax become a political football year in and year out. For the six years I sat on Louth County Council, I saw the property tax become a political football each year when we discussed whether to increase or decrease it, or keep it the same. The reluctance of politicians to make hard decisions meant property tax in Louth County Council stayed the same for six years and then we did not have money to help people with housing maintenance or upgrade sections of road throughout our county.

I am against playing political football. I am not saying that anybody else is playing political football. I want to be clear about that. I am, however, very against the concept of politicising something as important as carbon tax or carbon budgets when it is the safety of future generations and the very world that is at stake.

I am another member of the Joint Committee on Environment and Climate Action who listened intently to all of the discussion around carbon budgets and the climate Act. The Opposition played a very constructive role in improving that Act. One example is the just transition, which was not mentioned once in the original version. While the legislation did not go as far as we wanted, it is certainly an improvement on what was presented and that is what constructive Opposition is all about.

During the conversation on carbon budgets, I listened to all of the experts who presented at the committee. They were stark and brutally honest. The Climate Change Advisory Council told us that, in its view, this was the most ambitious strategy that could be delivered. Independent academics told us the following day that the proposal was not good enough. The tragedy is that they are both right.

Even with these ambitious targets that are on the table today, we are taking from the carbon budgets of the global south. That is the truth. However, we also have a responsibility to ensure the communities in which we live are not hurt. I do not believe this Government can deliver on the targets that are in the carbon budgets and do so in a fair, equitable and just manner. There is a big body of work for the Opposition to make sure the situation to which I refer does not happen. We are happy to work with the Government to ensure it does not happen.

I am not optimistic that we will meet our carbon budgets, however. Industry emissions were up 15% last year. I refer to the scale of what needs to be done in order to deliver on those targets. We are always being told we have an enormous opportunity in renewable energy, yet all those who want to get involved in renewable energy, whether from community energy schemes or multinational corporations, are saying that Ireland is seen as a cold house for investment. Why would a firm do business in Ireland when it can go somewhere else and get the job done more quickly? They are telling us the cost of renewables is too high and our planning process is underfunded. I make the point, for the benefit of Fine Gael, that they are not saying we should try to make it more difficult for people to object; what they are saying is that we need a properly funded An Bord Pleanála, as well as dedicated courts to make decisions in a swift and timely manner. For the benefit of those who are calling for environmental NGOs to have their funding cut, those who want to get involved in renewable energy were all saying we need those environmental NGOs to be adequately resourced. We also need the National Parks and Wildlife Service to be adequately resourced so that planning decisions can be sped up. There is no statutory timeframes for decisions taken when it comes to planning. We are one of only two EU countries that do not have a green hydrogen strategy. I know it too is coming.

It seems like the Department is working in silos. The epitome of this is what happened with the climate action delivery board that rests within the Department of An Taoiseach. The Climate Change Advisory Council criticised that delivery board where the buck stops with the Taoiseach. It stated that the climate action delivery board was not meeting during Covid. Rather than taking on board that criticism and rather than the Taoiseach saying he hears the CCAC, there will be no working in silos and the delivery board will fulfil its obligations and address the issues of how we deliver on our carbon budgets and emissions reductions, instead the climate action delivery board revised the terms and conditions under which it does business and renewed the obligation to submit reports to Cabinet.

Sinn Féin supports these carbon budgets. I will admit they do not go far enough, but I do not think they are deliverable because what is lacking is the joined-up approach that is fundamental to ensuring we deliver on the scale that is required. I hope I am wrong when I say that I do not believe it will be delivered in a fair and equitable manner. I do not think just transition is at the heart of climate action in this country but I am hoping to be proved wrong.

I thank the Minister of State for coming to the House. I welcome this debate and, in particular, the important move on behalf of the State to move towards carbon budgets. While it is important that the budgets are agreed by the Houses for the next two years, I do see competition coming down the line from various Departments that may seek to offset their carbon emissions by using carbon budgets. I do not want that to happen. Offsetting is greenwashing. Collective and sustained action is what is needed. It would be preferable for the House to come back to discuss those sectoral carbon budgets each year.

I came from a meeting of the housing committee today at which we were specifically considering this issue. I am not sure it has sunk in within that industry how much we need to change in order to meet climate targets, even those in housing. There is a real challenge in meeting our housing targets and the large number of revised targets we should have if we are to meet the housing needs of those fleeing war in Europe. However, planning permissions are still being granted that involve the demolition of perfectly good buildings with materials that could be reused and repurposed to build carbon- and energy-intensive replacements. We need to be considering that. There is real competition in terms of delivering on both housing need and retrofitting. I want to see us achieve both those objectives, but I want that to be done in a way that ensures the housing need of people is put first.

The IPCC report published yesterday is a stark reminder - as it is every year, but particularly so at the moment - that the clear message we are facing is that we cannot delay climate action. The Labour Party does not agree with delaying the carbon tax because it is ring-fenced money to provide programmes such as retrofitting and it is an important tool in fighting climate change. All Members today received wide-ranging and comprehensive correspondence from Friends of the Earth. I wish to focus on recommendation No. 6, which is in the context of the cost-of-living crisis. It is a real shame that carbon tax has got caught up in this crisis because it is a very small proportion of the cost-of-living crisis people are facing. Friends of the Earth states that the Government should set up a just transition commission on a non-statutory basis now to secure a fair and just transition. It states that means a particular focus on retrofitting of social housing and targeting subsidies at those who are most at risk of energy poverty. I know the Department has an Economic and Social Research Institute, ESRI, study proposing offsetting the carbon tax increases to actually do that. That is why it is unfair that the focus has been on the carbon tax in a very blunt way in the political debate.

We cannot allow the action that is needed for climate change to be open to the populist approach we saw in the context of Covid. We cannot allow climate change deniers to use the crisis we have in energy and gas as an opportunity to spread disinformation about what taking climate action means and the consequences of that. Climate action will be uncomfortable for many but it also has the opportunity to provide new jobs and opportunities for people and, if done correctly, to distribute money raised from carbon tax back to those who need it most. We need to take the learnings from the digital revolution of the past ten years and apply them to climate action. Change is constant but our planet depends on climate action. It cannot become a cause for disharmony, fear and disinformation.

In the context of discussing supporting or not supporting the carbon budgets, let us be clear that, in fact, the debate is in respect of whether these are the right carbon budgets. Of course, if they are not approved today - I have no doubt they will be approved - the consequence would be that they would be revised.

There are problems with the carbon budgets as currently presented. Reference has been made to the need for urgent, intensive and robust action. The carbon budgets as now presented are not robust enough. They fall short. Even NGOs that have reluctantly supported them acknowledge they are not aligned with the Paris Agreement or doing our fair share. Why is it acceptable for Ireland to not do its fair share? We are not the worst-hit country in the world right now, at a time of multiple crises. Why should it be acceptable that we do not do our fair share? The average is 7.6% but, in fact, we should be doing more than that. Not only that, all of the Government parties agreed in the programme for Government to a 7% average per annum reduction but these carbon budgets provide for a 5.7% reduction. The climate crisis has become more urgent in the past two years, so it is hard to see why the level of ambition has been allowed to slip. Let us be clear that it is an inadequate level of reduction.

Some people may be concerned about whether we can meet the targets and how we are going to organise. It does take radical change. This needs to be treated as an emergency.

I refer to one of the witnesses who appeared before a recent meeting of the Joint Committee on Environment and Climate Action. I work very constructively with members of that committee. We debate very well the hows, the details, the sectoral emissions and specific policies, and I have no doubt we will continue to do so. However, what we are talking about now is the frame in terms of our ambition up until 2035. That is what is in the report that is being pushed forward, tying the hands of the next couple of Governments, by the way, in their level of ambition. That is what is being put forward.

Frankly, I always enjoy my engagement with the Minister of State, but the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, should be here to tell us how he has considered these matters because it is not visible how he has taken on board, for example, suggestions from the climate committee that there should be a requirement that there is no carry forward beyond 2030 and, indeed, the public consultation. We quote the average punter and the vast majority of the population. Let us not use their names in vain. The public, who care about this issue and are in many ways ahead of the Government and of politics in general on it, made submissions, but those submissions were not published. The report was not published. Unfortunately, when I contacted the Department I was first told that it did not have to publish it and then that it might publish it later. We should know what the public are saying because they can see the crisis. If they are honestly engaged with, they will respond in the same ways.

We have a situation, as the witness said, where we do not have the luxury of a single crisis. We are dealing with famine, an energy crisis and the horrific acts of war and war crimes taking place in Ukraine. The climate crisis is there at the same time. There is the same urgency to cut off Russian oil and gas as there is, from the IPCC report, to cut off all gas and all oil for the future. It is clear that we need to be finding our way out of fossil fuels and the same urgency is needed, but I do not see it in what is put forward.

How has the public consultation influenced the decisions here? Will there be plans for review-----

Thank you, Senator.

I am sorry, but I have three specific questions for the Minister of State. Will there be plans for a review of the 2025 budget based on the IPCC science which has emerged? Will there be plans relating to the 2030 and 2035 budget in respect of the principles of climate justice?

Thank you, Senator Higgins.

It is crucial that we get these answers-----

I know, and you have put the questions.

-----because the information has not been provided to us. Do not tell us about the plan, but about why there is this frame and how it is intended to approach this in the future.

I thank the Senators for their sincere comments. One Senator asked about the staffing in the National Parks and Wildlife Service. The Minister of State, Deputy Noonan, has managed to double the staffing numbers in the budget for it.

Senator Moynihan asked about building emissions. We have an ambitious national development plan. Naturally, there will be emissions as a result of a large quantity of construction and a large quantity of retrofit activity. There is a great deal of work going into making sure the embodied emissions in that construction are as low as possible while at the same time trying to build housing as fast as possible.

There were questions about how the monitoring of the carbon budgets will happen. There are quarterly monitoring reports under the climate action plan and those are overseen by the Department of the Taoiseach.

On the questions about the level of ambition and whether we are going to meet our obligations under international agreements, the carbon budgets have been prepared with the aim of complying with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC, and the Paris Agreement. Regarding the public consultation, which was completed in February, the results were collated and edited and I have asked the civil servants to have them published as soon as possible. The results of that consultation were used to inform the Minister.

In addition, I thank all the members of the committee, including those present. I read the committee's report and I have the recommendations with me here. I note the first recommendation, in particular, which is that the carbon budgets as proposed by the Climate Change Advisory Council be adopted by the Houses.

I stress the enormous importance of passing the motion to approve the proposed carbon budgets to enable us to meet our ambitious national climate objective and our international emissions obligations. The science is clear and definitive on the need for urgent action. The negative effects of climate change are already being experienced globally, and they will continue to increase exponentially in magnitude and volatility along with global temperatures. The joint committee report on the proposed carbon budgets recommended that the carbon budgets proposed by the Climate Change Advisory Council be adopted by the Houses. Following an extensive review and consultation process, the proposed carbon budgets have now received Cabinet approval. The carbon budgets will support and underline the ambitious commitments made in the Climate Action Plan 2021 and will provide a stable foundation on which we can build the future iterations of the plan in 2022 and in each year up to 2030.

The proposed carbon budget programme provides Ireland with a strong and deliverable framework for meeting our national climate objectives and our international obligations to climate action and emissions reduction. Moreover, the programme will allow for the development and implementation of the sectoral emissions ceilings. The process to prepare and implement these ceilings will include consultation with the relevant Ministers and technical input from the climate action modelling group, as well as additional analytical support from other technical support providers. These ceilings will be within the parameters set out in the carbon budgets and they will be reflected in the next climate action plan. The budgets and sectoral ceilings will replace the indicative ranges for sectoral emissions reductions that are currently in place for the 2021 version of the plan. Furthermore, the next version of the plan will be subject to its own review and consultation process, including a public consultation, and the results of that will be published.

As I mentioned earlier, a considerable level of co-operation and co-ordination will be required to ensure we can achieve these budgets, but I believe we have the capacity, commitment and determination to do this. As we transition away from fossil fuels and progressively decarbonise, we must ensure the way we decarbonise captures this unique opportunity to improve the quality of life for all. It is important to note also that the transition to a carbon-neutral economy will provide massive opportunities to foster innovation, to create new jobs and to grow businesses in areas such offshore wind, cutting-edge sustainable agriculture and low-carbon construction. While we all must act together towards our climate objective, I realise the costs of climate action will be more acutely felt by some than by others. The Government is committed to protecting those who are most vulnerable and to ensuring a just transition to a low-carbon economy.

I stress that the carbon budget programme is an important milestone in our efforts to tackle climate change. It represents a significant step on the trajectory towards the transition to a climate-resilient, biodiversity-rich, environmentally sustainable and climate-neutral economy by 2050. I again thank Senators on all sides of the House for their contributions.

Thank you. I welcome the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Deputy Eamon Ryan, to the Visitors Gallery.

Question put and declared carried.
Cuireadh an Seanad ar fionraí ar 5.58 p.m. agus cuireadh tús leis arís ar 7.01 p.m.
Sitting suspended at 5.58 p.m. and resumed at 7.01 p.m.
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