Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill 2015: Committee Stage

We have received apologies from Deputy Barry Cowen, for whom Deputy Charlie McConalogue is substituting. We have also received apologies from Deputy Brian Stanley, who is being substituted by Deputy Michael Colreavy. I understand that at some stage during the meeting today, Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett will substituite for Deputy Catherine Murphy.

I remind members to turn off their mobile telephones because they interfere with the microphone system. UPC and RTE will not broadcast the proceedings of the committee if there is interference. I have heard such interference myself and it is not appropriate. Given the importance of these committee meetings, it would be a pity if something like mobile phone interference were to prevent us from getting media coverage.

I remind members that the meeting will be conducted in public. It has been convened for the purpose of the consideration by the Select Sub-Committee on the Environment, Community and Local Government of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill 2015. The Bill was referred to this committee on 25 March 2015. I am proposing that the sub-committee will consider the Bill from now until 7.15 p.m., if necessary. If the proceedings on the Bill are not concluded by 7.15 p.m., we will suspend for 30 minutes and resume at 7.45 p.m. Is that agreed? Agreed.

This Bill provides for plans by Government relating to climate change; the establishment of a body to be known as the National Expert Advisory Council on Climate Change; and provides for matters connected therewith. The Bill contains 16 sections and there are 52 amendments proposed. I welcome the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Alan Kelly, and officials from his Department, Mr. David Walker and Mr. John O'Neill. I must remind the officials that they cannot speak at this meeting. The grouping listing has been circulated. Is the listing agreed? Agreed.

I will now deal with the amendments which were deemed to be out of order by the Bills Office by reading into the record the note I have received from the Bills Office regarding same. The Bill as currently drafted does not set out any quantitative emission target reductions. The setting of specific national mitigation targets, that is, actions aimed at reducing emissions and the implementing measures required to reach those targets, for example, energy efficiency or renewable energy policy measures and so forth, would impose financial costs on the Exchequer. Amendment No. 2 in the name of Deputies Stanley and Catherine Murphy proposes inserting a new definition of low carbon into the Bill to provide for an aggregate reduction of at least 80% compared with 1990 figures. The amendment could involve a potential charge on the Exchequer and must therefore be ruled out of order in accordance with Standing Order 156 (3). Amendment No. 3 in the name of Deputy Catherine Murphy proposes deleting section 3 of the Bill in its entirety and replacing it with an alternative section entitled "Emissions Reduction Targets". This new section proposes setting mitigation targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for 2050, interim targets for 2030 and annual targets. This proposed new section also requires the Minister to ensure the net emissions account for the year 2050 are at least 80% lower than the baseline and that the net emissions account for the year 2020 are at least 42% lower than the baseline. The amendment could involve a potential charge on the Exchequer and must, therefore, be ruled out of order in accordance with standing order 156 (3). A number of other amendments in the name of Deputies Stanley, Catherine Murphy and Cowen have also been ruled out of order for the same reason.

The reason behind the rulings is the very same. Again, I refer the members to Standing Order 156 (3).
SECTION 1

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 4, between lines 1 and 2, to insert the following:

“ “baseline” means the aggregate amount of—

(a) net emissions of carbon dioxide for 1990, and

(b) net emissions of each of the greenhouse gases other than carbon dioxide for the year that is the baseline year for that gas;

“baseline years” for greenhouse gases other than carbon dioxide are—

(a) for methane, 1990,

(b) for nitrous oxide, 1990,

(c) for hydrofluorocarbons, 1995,

(d) for perfluorocarbons, 1995,

(e) for sulphur hexafluoride, 1995;”.

There is no reference to any baseline years for carbon dioxide or any other greenhouse gas. The years proposed for the baselines in this amendment are highly ambitious but that is what we should be trying to achieve in this legislation. With regard to amendments Nos. 2 and 6, which amendments I will not speak to, it seems strange that by not including emissions targets, we may actually be costing the State money. People will be reading the deliberations of this committee in time and will be making that very argument and wondering how the alternative argument could be made.

This amendment proposes to set out definitions of baselines and baseline years in respect of greenhouse gas emissions with a view to more wide-ranging amendments in sections 3 and 4 of the Bill. I will reserve my principal observations on the more wide-ranging amendments until later in the debate. As I do not agree with the proposed large-scale amendments to section 3, I consider this amendment to be redundant. Setting out such definitions here is completely unnecessary as both legally binding EU and international instruments establish such matters in a far more comprehensive manner. Moreover, in Ireland the Environmental Protection Agency deals with such matters as part of the preparation of its greenhouse gas emissions projections. I ask the Deputy to withdraw her amendment on that basis.

Are we within our right to resubmit the amendment?

Correct. How stands the amendment?

We will press it.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendment No. 2, in the name of Deputies Stanley and Catherine Murphy, is out of order because of a potential charge on the Exchequer.

Amendment No. 2 not moved.
Question proposed: "That section 1 stand part of the Bill."

I am surprised that amendment No. 2 has been ruled out of order and that a number of other amendments were also ruled out of order. I looked at the report that was produced by the committee and the amendments that we have put forward. The amendments, in many cases, were arising directly, or almost directly, from the report produced by this committee. Therefore, either the committee report was out of order in many of its aspects or this decision was very strange. I do not see the rationale underlying the removal of some of the amendments under section 1.

Although the Chairman stated Standing Order 156(3) does not allow for the imposition of any undue expense on the Exchequer, surely we should be allowed to debate these amendments in the Chamber. Rather than ruling them out of order, would it not be in the interest of transparency for us to discuss whether there may be a future cost to the Exchequer, or whether the amendments would save the Exchequer money? I would have believed this Chamber was a good place to make this argument rather than rule the amendments out of order at this stage.

The advice is that the ruling on a potential cost to the Exchequer relates to all amendments irrespective of the proposed legislation, it is not just this legislation on climate change. As I stated, the Bills Office makes the judgment on the amendments. In any event, the Deputy can still raise issues when discussing the sections. I will allow all speakers to come back on each section as we speak on it.

Question put and agreed to.
Section 2 agreed to.
SECTION 3

Amendments Nos. 3 to 6, inclusive, have been ruled out of order as they involve a potential charge on the Exchequer.

Amendments Nos. 3 to 6, inclusive, not moved.

I move amendment No. 7:

In page 6, between lines 6 and 7, to insert the following:

“(d) the principle of climate justice.”.

We are moving the amendment because climate change is generating serious weather consequences, the impact of which is increasingly turbulent weather systems which are being felt most of all in developing countries. Drought and severe weather conditions are having the greatest impact on the countries that have contributed the least to emissions. The Minister should accept the amendment.

The Minister's committee recommended that the legislation include the principle of climate justice. It does not and we think it should.

I thank the Deputies who tabled the amendment, Deputies Barry Cowen and Catherine Murphy, and their substitutes, Deputies Charlie McConalogue and Mick Wallace, who are proposing it, to include a reference to "climate justice" when the Government is considering for approval a national mitigation plan or a national adaptation framework. Few, if any of us, doubt the validity of the concept of climate justice which considers the impact of climate change on those who have made the smallest contribution to the problem. Such persons also have the most limited means to address the issue when they are affected. Collectively we all accept this and I am no different. Climate change exacerbates many problems, not only in developing countries but in all countries, and the aim must be to provide for practical actions.

By far the single most important contribution any country can make is to take ambitious action to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions as part of the global effort to limit climate change and its impact. That is what the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill is all about. It is about putting in place an institutional framework to ensure robust mitigation policy measures will be developed and in a timely fashion. Ireland, through the European Union, is active in the international negotiations that aim to deliver this December a legally binding global agreement on combating climate change. We will play a very active role in that regard. The Bill already recognises the importance of these international discussions in having regard to our obligations. Ireland has maintained significant support, reporting climate finance of €34 million in 2013, mostly for adaptation projects in Ireland's key partner countries in sub-Saharan Africa in particular. Work is continuing to explore options on how to maintain and enhance such support into the future.

From the point of view of principle, I ask that the amendment be withdrawn. While I support the spirit of the term, I do not believe we can legislate for it. I do not know of many countries that have legislated for it. From memory, Bolivia is the only country I know of that has legislated for it, although I am open to correction. While the spirit is right and I agree with it, it is not appropriate to legislate for it.

It is essential that poorer countries be enabled to work with better-off countries to address the issue of reducing carbon emissions. Inserting it into the Bill would place a legislative requirement on the Government to ensure climate justice was a key part of our negotiating stance in the Minister's engagement with international partners. He should enshrine it in legislation. He has not given us a strong enough reason as to why that should not be the case.

That many other countries have not done so does not mean we cannot do so. The Minister has not outlined a particular reason we should not actually take the lead in this regard. He should reconsider this and, at the very least, indicate that he will do as proposed between now and the next Stage of the Bill.

If we were to take the bold step and legislate for this, it would really be a signal of our intent to take these matters seriously. At present, 50,000 Bangladeshis have to leave the coast every month and head to the cities because they are being swamped and cannot make a living any more. This is just one simple example.

Sadly, I do not believe people have really woken up yet to the catastrophe that is awaiting us in this area. The world is a little bit asleep still. I really fear it will almost be too late when governments that can have an impact and positive influence in these areas actually do anything. We seem to be waiting until the problems get worse before we decide to take the matter seriously. If the Government were to legislate for this, it would be a game changer and a really positive move for Ireland.

Obviously, we all agree that climate justice has to be achieved if there is to be equity and fairness across the world, including in developing nations. We have a very proud record in Ireland in the areas of social and political justice, as demonstrated by Irish people working abroad with GOAL and various other voluntary organisations. Our commitment to the Third World is top class.

I do not see why we should not commit to this proposal in this legislation, notwithstanding what the Minister said. He said it is aspirational and does not have legitimacy in terms of the law. It is aspirational but we should include it in our legislation as an ideal for us to strive to achieve. We all strive for it, as was rightly stated. To paraphrase the Minister, the whole ethos of our society has been to give and not to be taking, and to support and defend those who are least able to defend themselves. Every single day we read the newspapers, we learn about major unparalleled and unprecedented events associated with climate change that are affecting people living in the very poorest regions of the world. I suggest to the Minister that, for Report and Final Stages of the Bill, he consider this proposal again, notwithstanding the advice that I accept has been given to him in good faith. If we were to legislate as proposed, we would be seen to be standing with those who are least able to fight and those who are most oppressed economically and most exposed. I understand that many of the people who will be affected most by climate change live on flood plains and plains where the very principle of rotating crops can be applied no more.

If the spirit of the amendment, with which I do not believe any party would disagree, could be incorporated in legislation, it should be. We accept that the amendment is aspirational. Could the Minister outline the negative impact he believes might arise if the amendment were accepted? What does the advice have to say about it? Did the Minister seek the advice of the Attorney General or a law officer on the impact? The provision, if included, would be very important.

I become disturbed when I hear Ministers say they agree with the principle of an amendment but cannot legislate for it. This indicates to me that while what is proposed is good and right and should be done and while we need to protect the weaker, we will not play ball because the bigger guys will not do so.

It is good and right and should be done. We must protect the weak. Because the stronger, bigger guys will not play ball, neither will we. This can be much more than aspirational. Ireland has the opportunity to take a lead and make the bigger nations ask themselves whether they are prepared to translate the principle which everybody accepts is a good one into action. Unless some nation takes a stand and translates the principle into action, everybody will hide under the cloak of it being a good idea and "Lord, make me pure, but not yet".

We are discussing amendment No. 7 and can include amendments Nos. 18 and 20 under the principle of climate justice. Trócaire Ireland suggested these amendments, with many others submitted. I seek clarification from the Minister on what the amendments would mean for the overall design process of mitigation plans.

The concept is not the issue, as we all subscribe to it. I am knowledgeable in this area and accept the spirit of the loose term. The issue is how it can be defined in law. We must be careful about inserting something into Irish legislation without having a clear definition. This is a major issue. We must ask whether it would have knock-on effects or unintended consequences down the line in our discussions with the European Union. These are all considerations. They are real issues, which is why we cannot include it in the Bill.

Did the Minister receive legal advice?

We did not seek legal advice from the Attorney General, but I will do so, if necessary. Our legal advice from within the Department was clear.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendment No. 8 has been ruled out of order as it involves a potential charge on the Exchequer.

Amendment No. 8 not moved.
Section 3 agreed to.

Amendment No. 9 has been ruled out of order as it involves a potential charge on the Exchequer.

Amendment No. 9 not moved.
NEW SECTIONS

Amendments Nos. 10 and 11 are related and will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 10:

In page 6, between lines 6 and 7, to insert the following:

“Setting annual targets

5. (1) The Minister shall, by order, set the annual targets for each year in the periods mentioned in paragraphs (a) to (g) of subsection (2).

(2) The Minister shall set the annual targets for each year—

(a) in the period 2015-2022, no later than 31 October 2015,

(b) in the period 2023-2027, no later than 31 October 2020,

(c) in the period 2028-2032, no later than 31 October 2024,

(d) in the period 2033-2037, no later than 31 October 2028,

(e) in the period 2038-2042, no later than 31 October 2033,

(f) in the period 2043-2047, no later than 31 October 2038,

(g) in the period 2048-2050, no later than 31 October 2042.

(3) The Minister shall, when setting annual targets, have regard to any advice they receive from the relevant body as to the cumulative amount of net emissions for the period 2015-2050 that is consistent with a reduction over that period of net emissions accounts which would allow the 2050 target to be met.

(4) The Minister shall, when setting annual targets, also have regard to the following matters (the “target-setting criteria”)—

(a) the objective of not exceeding the fair and safe emissions budget,

(b) scientific knowledge about climate change,

(c) technology relevant to climate change,

(d) economic circumstances, in particular the likely impact of the target on—

(i) the economy,

(ii) the competitiveness of particular sectors of the Irish economy,

(iii) small and medium-sized enterprises,

(iv) jobs and employment opportunities,

(e) fiscal circumstances, in particular the likely impact of the target on taxation, public spending and public borrowing,

(f) social circumstances, in particular the likely impact of the target on those living in poorer or deprived communities,

(g) the likely impact of the target on those living in remote rural communities and island communities,

(h) energy policy, in particular the likely impact of the target on energy supplies, the renewable energy sector and the carbon and energy intensity of the economy,

(i) environmental considerations and, in particular, the likely impact of the targets on biodiversity,

(j) European and international law and policy relating to climate change.

(5) If annual targets for a period are not set by the corresponding date mentioned in paragraphs (a) to (g) of subsection (2), the Minister shall set the annual targets as soon as reasonably practicable afterwards.

(6) In this Act, the “fair and safe emissions budget” is the aggregate amount of net emissions for the period 2015-2050 recommended by the relevant body as being consistent with contributing appropriately to stabilisation of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.”.

The amendment relates to target setting which is at the heart of many of the amendments. We need to move beyond aspirations to specific, concrete and binding targets if we are to seriously address runaway climate change.

The discussion was had to a significant extent on Second Stage and I am sure the Minister is well aware of the arguments that are being put forward, not just by Deputies here but also by just about every credible environmental NGO and scientist who takes seriously the issue of climate change and the disastrous consequences that are likely to ensue if we do not address it. The concern is that this Bill is long on tokenistic aspiration and very short on concrete measures and targets that are binding and that will force real action for dealing with climate change. That is the point and nothing I have heard from the Government side in the debate on Second Stage or to date adequately explains why the Department will not buy into targets. I think I speak for the majority of environmental NGOs when I say that such targets are imperative. I await the Minister's response to see if he has developed his arguments any further but we do not think that anything less than serious targets can address the issue.

On the same theme, detail on the setting of annual targets in order to achieve the interim target by 2050 is completely missing from the Bill. There are no time-frames or criteria provided for. Amendment No. 11 outlines the criteria that the relevant advisory body should take into account when giving advice to the Minister in advance of setting annual emission targets. It also details the framework for the publication of that advice and the publication of the Minister's response to recommendations, including his or her reasons for not taking certain recommendations on board. The lack of detail illustrates that there is no genuine effort on the part of the Government to incorporate transparency and accountability into its plans to address the challenges in this area. That is not good enough and the Government should have a re-think on the entirety of its efforts.

Will the Minister look at the question of targets between now and the next stage? This Bill is very important but I am somewhat frustrated by the way in which targets are being treated in the legislation. I would like the targets to be reached at an earlier stage. I ask the Minister to look at that issue again before the next stage of the Bill.

I am surprised at the Government's unwillingness to accept these amendments because they represent a sensible way to actively monitor our progress vis-à-vis the targets we set ourselves. It is nonsense to say that we are aiming for an improvement in something while also saying that we refuse to measure it. There is no point in measuring it in five-year increments because there could be so much regression in five years that the target becomes unachievable for the next five years. It simply makes sense that there would be time-bound targets against which we can measure progress and if we are not achieving those targets, we can then take corrective action in time. That is good business practice, if nothing else and I am surprised that the Government is not accepting these amendments.

I will speak on amendments Nos. 10 and 11 together. Amendment No. 9 has been ruled out of order and while Deputies are welcome to submit another version of that amendment on Report Stage, amendments Nos. 9, 10 and 11 all pull together. In practical terms, with amendment No. 9 having been ruled out of order, the provisions in amendments Nos. 10 and 11 do not add up.

I say this genuinely. As I did not make an introductory statement, I think it goes beyond just Government versus Opposition as regards the amendments. I am looking at taking some amendments on Report Stage following on from this discussion. I will take on board everything everyone has said and will look at taking some amendments. I will make reference to it throughout. I did not get a chance to make it yet because I have only got to this stage. In response to Deputy Dowds, I will look at this again. As amendments Nos. 9 to 11, inclusive, are related and amendment No. 9 has been ruled out of order, it is not something we can establish here.

The proposal to establish annual mitigation targets for each year from 2015 to 2050, having an interim target in 2020 and a final target in 2050, will demand a lot of consideration. It does not take account of the legally binding mitigation targets that are being set by the EU to which we are bound as part of the international process. There can only be two outcomes. Either domestic mitigation targets are lower than those set by the EU, in which case they would be redundant, or they are higher than those set by the EU, in which case they would be seeking decarbonisation not least as a cost to the national economy and thereby endangering our economic recovery and putting us at an economic disadvantage compared to the rest of the EU.

Those are the two options. We might bear this in mind when we come back on Report Stage and look at this again. I should also add that the report of the joint committee on the outline heads of the Bill did not establish domestic mitigation targets separate to those decided upon as part of successive EU effort sharing decisions. We will come back to this on Report Stage and I will look at it again. In this context, I ask that the amendments be withdrawn. If the Deputy wishes to submit them in a different way, we can look at that.

How stands the amendment?

Are we allowed to respond to the Minister?

Of course.

I seek clarification from the Chair. If we push these to a vote now, is it the case that we cannot resubmit them on Report Stage?

That is correct. If they are not pushed to a vote, the Deputy can resubmit them on Report Stage.

We can press and withdraw.

Correct.

I acknowledge that the Minister is saying that he is open to further amendments around these areas. However, I do not accept the choice that he is giving us or at least I do not think the stark choice he is giving us is the right way to look at this, particularly if we talk about exceeding targets, saying it could damage our economic recovery. It sees the argument put forward by people concerned about climate change, namely, the need for serious, binding and effective targets; a proper system of reporting on the meeting of those targets; ensuring that there is a strategy to achieve targets and real accountability in that area; and overshooting the targets that might be set by the EU as a threat to the economy. It is quite the opposite. If we do not address climate change, the threat not just to our economy but our society will be far greater in the medium to longer term so I do not think we should pose it in those terms. We need to break from that mindset. Even now, one could argue that flooding and the impact of climate change are already having a huge cost for the economy, the Exchequer and indeed for agriculture.

Often we imagine we are defending agriculture against environmentalists when, in fact, that is the wrong way to look at it. If we do not address this issue, everyone in the entire economy will pay, including those involved in the farming sector. The logic behind the amendments is that we should be leaders in this area and should not engage in special pleading on behalf of particular sectors. We should not engage in special pleading with the European Union to duck out of targets in certain areas and argue that Ireland is a special case. We should be leaders in this regard because there is no more urgent and serious matter than runaway climate change and the need to address it. That is the logic behind the amendments. Obviously, given the restrictions on the amendments we can table in order that they will not be ruled out of order, to a large extent we are in the hands of the Minister. We can only make the arguments-----

In fairness, it is not in my hands. It is the Bills Office-----

The Bills Office rules on amendments.

In reality, the amendments we would like to see could only be tabled by the Minister. We can make the arguments and table amendments on Committee and Report Stages to flag issues, but in reality, only he can table the amendments required. The amendments are a way of flagging the need to go much further than the Minister is willing to go in the Bill and move beyond tokenism and aspirations to actions that would be effective.

What we are hearing from the Minister indicates that there are not enormous differences between Deputies in terms of what we want and what our objectives are. In setting targets we could make significant advances in the State and semi-State sectors, including schools, hospitals and other high energy users. We could, for example, set a target that within two years every school, hospital, local authority and so forth should develop and publish its plans to reduce its energy use. That would demonstrate that we were serious about tackling climate change by drilling down into local communities. Several years ago a climate action committee was set up by the local authorities in counties Limerick and Clare. It developed a strategy and drew up plans to deal with climate change. The Department could issue instructions to all local authorities to revert to it by the end of the year with their plans for the transport and other sectors. We need to look at the transport sector, including private cars, heavy goods vehicles and so forth. What could be done in that sector to alleviate the effects of climate change?

The Government must lead a very ambitious programme for the commercial and semi-State sectors to enable them to work together, put protocols in place and review progress annually or bi-annually. That would make a lot of sense. That is how to tackle climate change. Does the Minister have a view on this? I know that the heating system in the Houses of the Oireachtas, for example, was totally changed and is now run on bio energy sources. That is a fantastic development about which not many people actually know. Will the Minister ask the local authorities to draw up plans, in conjunction with the experts in voluntary bodies and so forth? We need to develop plans and targets that we can meet and which will stand up to scrutiny. In that way, we will show that we are really serious about tackling climate change.

To refer to a hugely controversial planning issue, I am very disappointed that so many people in Ireland are opposed to the development of wind energy projects. If there are plans to erect pylons within 100 miles of a person's home, he or she will object hugely, but if we are really serious about tackling climate change, we must bring wind energy supplies which we have in abundance to the marketplace and people's homes.

Why are we facing a situation where tens of thousands of people all over the country are opposing the development of wind energy projects when it is a clear and obvious method of reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprint? As a nation, we need to challenge ourselves on all of these issues. We must set targets for ourselves. We must choose to rely on the rothar instead of the gluaisteán and not opt for the most convenient method over the most carbon efficient option.

I am sorry to interrupt the Deputy, but a vote has been called in the Dáil. When we come back, there will be two further speakers on this amendment.

That is fine, but may I finish my point when we resume?

Yes, as long as the Deputy is brief because Deputies Mick Wallace and Michael Colreavy are waiting to speak.

Sitting suspended at 5 p.m. and resumed at 5.20 p.m.

I want to finish the point I was making before the suspension of the meeting. There is a gap between legislation and what people think. While the law and the obligations we have are black and white, people believe changes should be made and we, as legislators, must cross over to the way they think. We must initiate, through them and the targets we are discussing here, probably initially by way of voluntary measures with communities. We must all step up to the mark and try to bridge the gap. Local authorities have excellent conferences around the country. I do not know if there is a local authority conference on climate change or plans for climate change. We could tell every local authority that by 1 September we want it to have held a meeting and put forward proposals on climate change, how each council is going to change how it uses energy, how it organises transport and how it is going to show leadership in the community by going out and encouraging change.

While I am not up to speed on this and the Minister or his Department would know more about it, there were climate change officers in some county councils whose job it was to deal with climate change and proactively, outside the black and white of legislation and planning, to push the agenda forward. Schools are a very important resource, particularly students in transition year. Perhaps we should hold a competition, which the Department might support, to find the best school in the country for climate change. Schools would outline how they are going to change their energy use in school and influence their parents at home. Education and information is a major issue and there is a major gap on which we must follow through, namely, how organisations such as An Taisce inform schools on green schools and how they change. The concept of water is very topical and controversial. We could do much more to bridge the gap.

We could do an inventory of the high energy users in each county. Counties Clare and Limerick have worked together. Tipperary and another county - perhaps Kilkenny or Waterford, I am not sure - did that and had a plan which was signed off by the local authorities and the council staff. It was a plan to alleviate climate change in their communities but going bigger than the county and involving big energy users, for example in a city such as Limerick. I am throwing out ideas in terms of strategies the Department could use to bring about the change or meet the targets, which, in many respects, is the objective of the proposal we are discussing. I would be happy to hear the Minister's response.

Somebody's telephone is interfering with the recording technology. The proceedings will not be recorded or reproduced on television channels if there is interference.

The Minister said that given that amendment No. 9 was ruled out of order, it undermined amendments Nos. 10 and 11. We do not agree with amendment No. 9 being ruled out of order.

The Minister has made the point that we need to be careful that we are not transgressing EU rulings. I understand we still have a Parliament in Dublin and that we can make decisions here. We should be trying to be elected to a parliament in Berlin if we are not going to have a say as a country. We forget that the Scots have some very good legislation in this area. They have set targets of 42% to be met by 2020 and 80% by 2050. I do not really see any reason Ireland could not do the same.

I am deputising for Deputy Brian Stanley who is unavoidably absent and I apologise on his behalf. He had another meeting he absolutely had to attend.

I seek clarification. If I call a vote on any of the amendments my party has tabled and it is lost, does that mean that it cannot be resubmitted for the next Stage?

It can be resubmitted.

Even if it is pushed to a vote?

Correct.

That was not my understanding.

It would not have been mine either. With a committee of the whole House, it is different, according to the advice I have just been given. I was of one mind with the Deputies.

My final point is in line with that of Deputy Fergus O'Dowd. It seems there are a number of areas in which we agree in principle on something good that needs to be done but realise there would be difficulties, technicalities or potential risks to social or economic development in this country if it were done on foot of legislation. Is there no mechanism by which the spokespersons could meet the Minister and his staff to work through these matters? I do not believe that because something is complex, we should skirt around it. We should address such issues and use the best information all of the spokespersons have to try to come up with a solution. I accept that matters can be very complex, but surely the more voices and perspectives that are brought together in drafting or amending legislation, the better the outcome. Is there any such mechanism? Would the Minister consider it?

I shall respond directly to a number of the comments made which I have taken on board. Obviously, we have our national climate change policy which commits us to having an 80% decarbonised economy by 2050 and carbon neutrality in agriculture. We also have our 2020 targets for greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, we do have targets. I have said what I have said about the targets being set through the European Union and will not repeat our two options.

With regard to Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett's comments on not threatening the economy and the issue of balancing economic and environmental considerations, I agree with him in principle in respect of future generations. However, we have to make sustainable decisions - decisions that ensure we strike the right balance between these two competing factors. They do not always have to be competing. A low carbon environment could be a significant economic driver. It just depends on getting the balance right, but, in principle, I do not disagree with the Deputy.

With regard to the comments of Deputy Fergus O'Dowd, there are preparations ongoing for the national mitigation plan. I take on board all of the comments the Deputy made on schools, hospitals, etc. He is correct that the work needs to continue and what we are doing will be part of it.

I will be launching a public consultation process very soon, in a matter of days. It will open up this discussion to everyone, which is necessary. It needs to be transparent and open, as nobody here has a monopoly of ideas. Those who come together and engage in some engineering could actually achieve great things.

Deputies Fergus O'Dowd and Richard Boyd Barrett raised the issue of local authorities.

On Report Stage I intend to do something about them and their role. I was going to refer to this later, but since it has just come up in the debate, I will make reference to it now. I intend to enhance the role of local authorities in this important area. Therefore, I intend to introduce amendments on Report Stage. I have been considering them based on the remarks made on Second Stage by a number of Deputies, including the two opposite. Members should please bear in mind that I am taking on board the comments made.

Deputy Fergus O'Dowd is correct that a number of local authorities have been very proactive in this area. Some have been more proactive than others, as is always the case. I have seen considerable work being done in some local authorities in preparing for this. The local authority in County Tipperary, for instance, engaged in a process of installing solar panels on all of its buildings. This has reaped great dividends and resulted in savings. I must draw attention also to the lead the local authority has given in this area. There are other examples in other local authority areas. I appreciate the comments made on this issue.

The Deputy made reference to wind energy. To be honest, I have been frustrated in this regard. It is a question of getting the mix right. I have been frustrated at the fact that other avenues have not been considered as part of the mix. The lead time that was necessary in which to provide for these avenues may not have been used. I am trying to prepare the groundwork for these avenues in other areas and they will bear fruit in the future.

Those are my replies to the individual comments made.

The Minister did not respond to the direct question I asked him.

I apologise to the Deputy. I did not write down his question. With regard to the mechanism he mentioned, I do not have any issue with it in principle.

Is this another one where the principle is good but the mechanism is-----

No. I do not believe that is fair.

In general, it is a process that often occurs. Of course, it can be done.

With regard to the rule for committees, once an amendment is discussed at a select committee in any form, it can be raised again on Report Stage. The interpretation we believed applied relates only to taking Committee Stage in the Dáil Chamber.

How does that relate to the tabling of an actual amendment?

Different rules apply, depending on whether one is at a select committee or in the Dáil Chamber. The rule here is that once an amendment is raised in any form, it can be raised again on Report Stage.

The Chairman has more or less answered my query. It means that the amendment we voted on can be raised again.

Correct.

I had thought the same as the Chairman.

We have all been educated. There is a difference in the rules applied in the Chamber and here.

Correct. We all believed the rule that applied in the Dáil Chamber applied here.

I welcome the open approach of the Minister at rhetorical level and the positive indications that he is willing to consider further amendments tabled by us, or himself, based on the discussions we have had.

I am just catching up with the debate. I came in a little late because I was in the Dáil. The point I really want to make is that while we can all make very positive noises about the need to do something about this matter, we return to drift again. That is the fear. We do not have the luxury of returning to drift.

There are a number of elements to be considered. When considering the next amendment, we will discuss the time allowed for the mitigation report and the procedures for reporting back. On the specific matter of targets, if we do not have them, there will be nothing to discipline us to prevent drift.

Even with the best will in the world it will drift. If we are to get into the type of discussions mentioned by Deputy Fergus O'Dowd where we have to get down to the detail, rather than drift along in the hope that something is happening but really nothing is happening, there has to be a much tighter disciplinary framework which forces us at local authority and sectoral levels in terms of the timetable and the numbers to be achieved to do that. Then all the rest will follow - engaging with school students, forcing us to think about it at local authority level, forcing people in particular sectors of the economy to look at the detail as to whether every new house is built with solar panels. Are we going to look at local community energy co-operatives which utilise a mix of different renewable energies where there is a real focus and say that people have got to deliver?

Let us have the discussion about wind and the different mix. I am sceptical about the industrial wind but let us have the discussion. Targets will force us to deliver; however, we do it, we have got to deliver. How many houses in one's area have been insulated in the past year? How many houses needing insulation across the country have been insulated? Without targets I do not see how this will happen, we will drift along with aspiration but little to tie us, or to say whether we have achieved anything. If there is not a target against which to match something, people can trot out numbers to say they achieved such and such in the past year. If there is not a target against which to test it, what does that really mean against what we have to achieve? The point about targets is that they force that discipline on us, from which the rest will follow. That is the argument. The rationale and the logic for it are simply irresistible if we are serious about delivering.

I do not have much to add except to say that I agree with the principle enunciated by the Deputy. However, we have very defined targets from a European process. I ask the Deputy to trust me on this issue. The European Union will push us to ensure we meet our targets. We are not far off achieving those targets. They are not that far away. I will be launching a consultation process on the mitigation plans in the near future in which everyone will be able to play their part. We will get down to the level of detail required. Those are the areas which excite me.

In my wider role in the Department I derive much energy and enthusiasm from the volume of new technologies which come from every corner of the country to deal with this issue. I see more technologies every week. When we get into the mitigation plans and the encouragement of the technologies and, dare I say, from an economic point of view as regards creating value and wealth, the export of those technologies to China, which I visited a couple of months ago, and other countries which need them, at least they can help improve the concept in our own country. That is the nitty gritty I want to get down to. However, we need to pass the Bill. Whatever one says about this Government, Ireland is one of the first countries to pass a Bill such as this, though it may not meet everyone's desires, targets or terminology. To be honest, there is probably no right or wrong answer to some of the questions on levels and variants but we need a starting point. The starting point is that we must pass this legislation. We have targets based on the European Union. They are difficult targets. As a country, given our profile and our background they are very difficult targets.

Given our rural and agricultural profile, there would be significant challenges. From the baseline of where we have come from an economic perspective, it would bring even further challenges. Before this job, I worked with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. The capacity to make changes in transport, which is a very capital-intensive area, was very limited. I did as much as I could with sustainable transport, for example, with bikes, the Leap card and public transport changes. Having said that, it would not be fair to say we do not have targets. We are in a system, through the European Union, and that is the system we must stick to. We will be doing very well to meet them.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 11:

In page 6, between lines 6 and 7, to insert the following:

“Advice before setting annual targets

6. (1) The Minister shall, before laying a draft of a statutory instrument containing an order under section 5(1)* before the Government, request advice from the relevant body.

(2) The request for advice shall include requests for the relevant body’s views—

(a) in the case of annual targets proposed for years in the period 2015-2020, as to whether those targets are consistent with a reduction over that period of net emissions accounts which would allow the interim target and the 2050 target to be met,

(b) in the case of annual targets proposed for years in the period 2021-2050, as to whether those targets are consistent with a reduction over that period of net emissions accounts which would allow the 2050 target to be met,

(c) in any case—

(i) as to what annual targets are appropriate by reference to the target-setting criteria,

(ii) as to the extent to which the annual targets should be met by taking action to reduce net emissions,

(iii) as to the respective contributions towards meeting the annual targets and the domestic effort target that should be made—

(I) by the traded sector of the economy,

(II) by the other sectors of the economy,

(iv) as to the respective contributions towards meeting the annual targets and the domestic effort target that should be made by—

(I) energy efficiency,

(II) energy generation,

(III) land use,

(IV) transport.

(3) The Minister shall publish the advice requested under subsection (1) as soon as reasonably practicable after they receive it.

(4) As soon as reasonably practicable after laying such a draft, the Minister shall publish a statement setting out in respect of the annual targets set by the order—

(a) the reasons for setting those annual targets at those levels,

(b) the extent to which those targets take account of the target-setting criteria.

(5) If the order under section 5(1)* makes provision different from that recommended by the relevant body, the Minister shall publish a statement setting out the reasons why.

(6) Advice requested under subsection (1) or a statement under subsection (4) or (5) may be published in such manner as the Minister considers appropriate.".

Amendment put and declared lost.
SECTION 4

I move amendment No. 12:

In page 6, line 9, to delete "24 months" and substitute "6 months".

This is pretty straightforward and the reason for the amendment is clear. It would require the publication of a national plan within six months rather than the current two years outlined as part of the Bill. The delays leading to this Bill in the first place have left Ireland well behind many of our European counterparts, such as the UK, and further delays will only exacerbate the challenge of tackling climate change. The Paris Summit in December demands that Ireland takes a strong negotiating position. Having a clear plan, at least provisionally, at that stage would strengthen our hand. It goes back to some of the arguments previously made about targets and their absence within the Bill. Where there is a particular benchmark, the publication will be within two years, which is too far down the line. It can be done much more promptly than that, so I urge the Minister to accept the amendment so the publication can be within six months.

Deputy Boyd Barrett has referred to "drift", which is a good word. This legislation was being worked on prior to 2011 and it is now 2015 and we are at this stage. I understand that there are complexities and many elements that need to be worked through. This certainly could be accelerated and we should be further advanced than we are. This amendment is aimed at ensuring that we take the drift out of the process and try to enforce discipline in getting this much-needed legislation implemented. If we are serious about getting this in place, it can be done.

This amendment is proposing to ensure drift does not happen. This smacks of kicking an issue a considerable way down the road in a worrying way. If the Minister wants to make an argument that this takes a bit of time and there is some work to be done, he could plausibly make an argument for a year. The provision for two years is really crazy and there is no sense of urgency in saying we do not have to formulate a plan for two years. The Minister should consider this amendment as the process is too important to let it drag on for that long.

I question the practicalities of implementing the suggested amendment in the timescale mentioned, which is six months as opposed to two years. The first new low carbon transition and mitigation plan is likely to be the most difficult to produce, so is this feasible within that period?

I appreciate the concerns of people and I want to get the Bill enacted as soon as possible so the clock can start ticking. I mean that and this is why I have prioritised it in government. I want to get it done before the recess and as quickly as possible. I want to drive it on. Despite all the discussion and differences between us, there are many good elements in the Bill and I hope people appreciate that. It is unique.

A timeframe of 24 months is specified to allow sufficient time to conduct a strategic environmental assessment and an appropriate assessment for a draft plan, as mandated under EU directives. As this is the first time, there must also be sufficient time for public consultation. This is the maximum time period and I hope the report could be done before two years pass. I do not want to set this in such a way that this cannot happen.

It is unrealistic to say the process can be done in six months. We might have been having a different argument if the Deputy had specified 12 or 18 months. Public consultation alone will take a long time and we must do that; we should do it anyway as it is the right way to proceed. There is a level of detail involved in this. We have only had a discussion on a couple of small sections but we could have talked about them forever. For example, I could discuss different types of vehicles, standards, emissions and the electric car sector, for which I have an affinity. We could speak for a long time on such individual issues. A six-month timeframe is not realistic and, although some might say 24 months is excessive, it is the maximum time allowed. I need to set a realistic limit.

I accept that six months is probably tight, given that public consultation is required and essential to this. The strategic environmental assessment is also required. Nevertheless, two years is still too long, and I am not just saying that for the sake of making a political point. The Minister could achieve what needs to be done with the sense of urgency that is required while having the necessary consultation and complying with the required regulations sooner than that. I ask the Minister to consider this, as I will certainly try to do my homework between now and Report Stage. I will speak with people who know more than I do about how we can put this plan together and what timeframe is realistic. I am inclined to think a year would be reasonable, as it would have implicit urgency but it would give us the time to cover the bases mentioned by the Minister. I ask him to consider that before Report Stage.

I said earlier that I will consider such requests. There are number of areas like this. I am not too sure about this but I will certainly consider it. There are other areas where I will definitely make amendments.

I will withdraw the amendment for now.

We are happy to withdraw the amendment as long as the Minister reconsiders the timeframe. Two years is too long.

In doing that, we are putting trust in the Minister.

We still retain the right to bring it back on Report Stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 13:

In page 6, line 11, to delete "submit to the Government for approval" and substitute "submit to Dáil Éireann for approval".

This is very important for many reasons.

One of the reasons is that the issue of addressing climate change must become a matter that is at the right, front and centre of public consciousness. If it is something that is just discussed in committees and decisions are just made in ministerial offices, we will not have the necessary oversight, accountability and rigorous debate and scrutiny that is necessary. Furthermore, that does not send out a signal regarding how serious this matter is.

Every year, we have a prolonged, detailed and public debate about the public economy. This debate on the budget is the most important debate we have. We have a long run-in to the budget, with many submissions and extended debate. For the best part of several weeks, the country is focused on the fine detail of the budget and how it affects different sectors of society. We have this because, "It's the economy, stupid". Even people who do not think about politics or what goes on here most of the time focus on this debate because they know it will impact on them. If we are serious about climate action and meeting targets, we must put that issue into a similar space. That culture change is necessary if we are to deal with the issue.

I share the Minister's view, as I suspect many others interested in this issue and environmental groups do, that if we make this space, it could prove exciting, because it would allow us and the people to think about all the exciting changes, technology and changes in practices that could be beneficial, not just at the environmental level, but at an economic and social level also. That is the logic we need here, first, because we need accountability and transparency and, second, because we must push this issue into the centre stage of public debate and political life.

I strongly disagree with the Deputy on this amendment. I believe the Government should be the authority and be held accountable for these approved plans. It is elected to deal with these issues. Delegating approval to the Dáil would undercut the Government of the day, which should be held accountable and stand over its approval. I believe it would be detrimental to accountability if approval was undercut to the Dáil rather than the Government. The Government must and should be held to account. This amendment could weaken the capacity of a Government to show ownership of these plans, particularly if they are not its top priority. The Government should take responsibility for this and should be held to account. That is my strongly held view on the issue. The Government should be forced, with accountability in mind, to implement and drive this forward.

I am concerned also that if this is dealt with in the manner suggested by the Deputy, it could introduce a delay in the process. That is less of a concern, but I disagree with the Deputy in principle.

How stands the amendment?

I wish to press the amendment. I am not convinced by what the Minister has said and would be curious to hear what other Deputies have to say. I have made my argument and do not see the logic of the course suggested by the Minister.

What is the Deputy's logic?

It is precisely as I said.

It is precisely as I stated it also.

It is about pushing it to the front. Let us be honest, the issue is not central at the moment.

It will be very much front and centre once the Bill is passed. Once this Bill is passed, this issue will be front and centre in everyone's mind, because there will be legislation in place underpinning the need for plans and changes that must take place. That is the level of detail we will be getting into. We will get into a significant level of detail as part of the mitigation and adaptation measures.

Therefore, the issue will be front and centre of our plans. We have no choice, particularly once the legislation is passed.

I do not believe many people actively involved in climate change would agree with the Minister's statement that this Bill will be a game changer. Most of the people who have been campaigning in this area would see this Bill as a massive damp squib and disappointment rather than a game changer. The Minister made the point earlier that there is no point in us doing something that is unsustainable. If there is a big debate regarding what is sustainable for big business and what is sustainable for those in favour of addressing climate change, we do not have a prayer of holding big business to account unless we include targets. Our track record on this is abysmal and will continue that way without targets. Therefore, I do not see how the Minister can see this Bill as a game changer in its current form.

It should be eminently possible to come up with a solution. I believe Dáil Éireann should have a role in this. I understand the Minister when he says it needs to be submitted to the Government for approval, but I believe the legislation could and should contain a provision that the Government should put the matter before the Dáil for debate. I agree with Deputy Boyd Barrett that we should bring it centre stage and keep the pressure on. That would be a positive way of dealing with it. Certainly, it should not be beyond the ability of legal draftsmen to incorporate this.

I agree with that. We have rarely had a Dáil as controlled by the Government as we have today. The Government has traditionally a majority in the Dáil and to seek the Dáil's approval as suggested in the proposal would serve the purpose of ensuring there is debate on the issue. It would be healthy to proceed in this manner rather than to centralise everything in the hands of the Government, which has been the tendency. As Deputy Colreavy suggested, there should be a way to ensure it could be approved by the Government to come before the Dáil for approval. The Minister should reconsider his position on this.

I wish to make one further point. I am trying to get my head around what the Minister has said and to understand the logic behind his opposition to this. If he believes this amendment dilutes in some way the requirement or compulsion on the Government, that is a legitimate concern. Perhaps he could clarify that. However, I do not believe the Government and the Dáil should be set off against one another. The legislation could compel the Dáil to pass this in order that there would have to be a mitigation plan and in order that the mitigation plan would have binding targets we must pass. However, the point in saying that it should go to the Dáil also and not just to the Government for approval is that the issue and responsibility for it should be front and centre of political and public life. The plan should become a big event and be interrogated in a public way. The arguments around the plan and different views on how best to put the plan together should be discussed and then the decision should be made on the plan. The requirement to have the plan, one that will be effective, is compulsory. There is no choice about that. The Government must present the plan to the Dáil.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 14:

In page 6, between lines 14 and 15, to insert the following:

“(a) include agreed targets of reductions in CO2 emissions through 2050,”.

It is getting to feel like Groundhog Day here. This amendment goes to the nub of our discussion.

If we do not have targets, we are simply talking about aspirations.

Let us assume I want to travel from here to Manorhamilton by 9 p.m. I know I would have to reach Mullingar, Longford and Carrick-on-Shannon by certain times. In other words, there are stages along the way to help me judge whether I will reach my destination by 9 p.m., but I cannot see such stages in the legislation. I cannot for the life of me see how we can evaluate whether we are doing well if there is an absence of stages and measurement techniques. We should not have a situation where we must wait for the European Union to whack us if we are doing badly and praise us if we are doing well. We need to know in order that we can fine-tune certain sectors. If we are not on top of the matter, by the time the European Union tells us it will be too late. Awareness is the kernel of the debate on this matter. It seems we agree in principle, but it is difficult to have the provision included in the legislation.

It is stated in the Bill that the mitigation plan should specify the manner in which it is proposed to achieve the national objective of transition to a low carbon, climate resilient and environmentally sustainable economy by 2050. I have said we would look at the matter again, but I do not consider it appropriate or necessary to include a quantitative target in the Bill to be met by 2050.

I contend that the manner in which it has been done is different from the specific values that need to be set in order to monitor the achievement or non-achievement of targets.

This is a repeat of the previous debate.

We have very clear written instructions on our targets to be met by 2020. I hope that post what will happen in Paris we will have targets to be met by 2030. The targets are very clear. Let us remember that plans are made every five years. In terms of the nitty-gritty, they can be altered as we move along. I will also have to make statements and every Minister will have to be accountable for his or her actions under this provision. Ultimately, that is where the matter lies. I have outlined clearly why I believe it is impossible to go the way the Deputy has advocated.

Is the Minister happy that monitoring is conducted in a five year cycle?

I am quite happy with what has been proposed in the Bill. An expert group will also monitor the position, a matter we will discuss later.

I agree with that proposal.

The Deputy should trust that I will listen to his comments on that issue.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 15 to 17, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 15:

In page 6, between lines 28 and 29, to insert the following:

“(e) specify the projected total national emissions for the period of the plan after all the policy measures specified in the plan.”.

The amendment is similar to the previous motion brought forward by Deputy Michael Colreavy. It seeks the setting of targets, but we are not seeking to have specific targets included in the legislation today. The Minister will bring forward and put in place the mitigation plan which will specify the various measures the Government will take and the various sectoral measures it will seek to implement. We are asking that specific targets and projected savings for each of the objectives set be stipulated, with the plan.

The Government wants to draft a plan and outline all of the various measures, due to the overall objective of reducing emissions, without specifying what it expects each measure will achieve and without setting targets. Such an omission defies the logic of having a plan and clearly outlining why each measure is in the plan in the first place. I do not see the reason the Minister has adopted such a position. We want to put in place an overall plan which is clear about what can be achieved but also one that can be measured. The UK Government has set specific targets on a five year basis. The Minister should adopt the same approach and I urge him to accept the amendment.

I wish to make the same argument. I believe that the plan, in its current form, does not have and will not have the facility for ongoing monitoring of the rate of achievement or non-achievement of targets that we set ourselves, and not those targets imposed by Europe. Ongoing monitoring will be impossible without such checkpoints.

I remind the committee that amendments Nos. 15 to 17, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together. Amendment No. 15 was tabled by Deputy Cowen, amendment No. 16 was tabled by Deputy Stanley and amendment No. 17 was tabled by Deputy Catherine Murphy.

We have rehearsed the argument so there is not a whole lot left for me to say.

The Minister has said that we have European targets which are difficult to achieve and, therefore, Ireland does not need its own targets. In response, some of us are concerned that the Government is making a special plea to the European Union for exemptions to be applied in particular sectors.

Does the Deputy mean the agricultural sector?

Yes. There is a bit of slippage. One will get off the hook if one argues that there is something exceptional about the Irish economy and, therefore, the targets in a particular area should be relaxed. If we insert targets in the Bill then there will be no getting around the requirement for all sectors to move in this direction, and no exceptions. In fact, the Government would be in breach of domestic law if it failed to comply with that requirement. Some people believe we have a crisis. Some of us believe there is an emergency hurtling down the tracks towards us. Therefore, we also believe targets should be stipulated in domestic law, that there should be no ways around this situation and no exceptions. We believe we should just grasp the nettle and be required to set targets in our own law which would rule out the possibility of exceptional deals or opt-outs at a European level.

For clarity, these amendments call for the inclusion of a new paragraph in section 4(2) which requires a national mitigation plan to specify the projected total national emissions for the period of the plan, after all of the policy measures in the plan are implemented. Obviously I disagree with the Deputy's proposal on the basis that the national mitigation plan is designed, pursuant to section 4(2)(c), and already takes into account any existing obligations on the State under EU and national laws. Accordingly, each successive national mitigation plan must abide by our legally binding mitigation obligations. Specifying projected national emissions, after each successive plan has been implemented, would be redundant. Moreover, the Bill, as currently drafted, does not deal with specific national emission levels so introducing the element here would be out of place. That is just a practical issue. We have been around the Houses in terms of debating this issue.

In response to Deputy Boyd Barrett, every country is different. We must look at our own profiling. We have very strict targets under the Europe 2020 goals. We have set ourselves very strict targets in our policy statement for 2050 as well. We would be foolish if we were not to respect the profiling of our economy and the direction in which it is going in how we deal with the issue. The Deputy hinted to a sector but he did not refer to it, namely, agriculture. When one takes into account the deregulation of the milk industry and where we are going as a country, of course we must take advantage of that in terms of our capacity in the production of baby powder and other dairy products. I make no apologies for that. Without a doubt we are the best in the world at it. We need to leverage the potential. I would be surprised if anyone disagreed with me.

I do not believe any sector will be let off. Agriculture will face significant challenges. There will be no special case. We will argue for the best fit for our profiling, as we have always done, and as we do in every other case. In many respects agriculture has already faced and met serious challenges. I reject the idea that we would put in changes and get each sector to individually stick to targets in the process that has been outlined. We must stick to the targets set out in the European process, which are very difficult. I do not believe in penalising a sector, for instance, agriculture, which in the specific area I mentioned is very sound environmentally. It is not just this Government or on this side of the country that we have made the sound arguments outlined. It could be the case that the way the profiling of this country has been done has not been correct. We need to argue for that and ensure we get the best outcome. I do not think anything proposed will allow any sector to get out of meeting its requirements. As a country we must do what we are doing in terms of arguing for the profiling we need in order to meet our EU and other targets.

I wish to make a point about agriculture. There is no doubt agriculture is a powerful indigenous industry and that it is very important to this country, but if we are not going to seriously consider targets we will do a disservice to it. There are areas where changes can be brought about. Our agricultural emissions are way out of sync with the rest of Europe and there are ways to address the matter. We have not even considered the different types of animal we can use to deal with challenges in this area. We are about to increase the dairy herd out of all proportion, which will probably drive down the price of milk and drive up emissions. In spite of that, we will bury our heads in the sand and say we cannot touch agriculture. We all want to look after agriculture but let us do it in a sustainable way. I accept that what the Minister calls sustainable and what I call sustainable are probably different. We are not being fair to agriculture if we do not address the challenges agriculture faces in this area because what will happen is that it will have to face them at a later stage and that will result in bigger problems. In not setting targets now we are being unfair to agriculture.

We have targets.

The targets-----

It is unfair to say we do not. We have very challenging targets.

The targets are not set out in the Bill.

We have been around the houses on the matter.

The Minister is talking a lot of sense. Agriculture is an expanding part of our economy and if it can add greatly to our wealth by selling the best product across the world, why would we not encourage developments in the sector?

Hand in hand with these developments, we must examine issues related to developments in assessing the potential for transforming agricultural waste into energy. Some time ago I visited a farm in County Limerick on which a waste to energy system was used very efficiently. It was able to supply a significant amount of energy to the national grid. We need to encourage all such approaches and also to consider the potential in industry to transform waste into energy. If we did not have a recession - none of us wanted one - we would be even further from meeting our climate change targets than we are. As the economy improves we have a considerable opportunity and challenge to ensure future developments will be carbon neutral in so far as is possible.

In my area there is a cement factory which has a significant waste to energy policy in place. The company has changed its fuel source. It is far more productive and intelligent for us to think in that way. From speaking to industrialists who are creating employment, they are very much in agreement with such an approach. They want to be part of a better world and bring about a reduction in CO2 emissions. The more modern and bigger they are, the more they want to do it. One of the problems with energy production in this country and elsewhere in Europe is that it is becoming so expensive that high energy users that have been responsible for high CO2 emissions in the past and remain in that category are moving out of Europe because they can no longer compete. Owing to energy costs their products are far too expensive and this has given rise to a major crisis. If we are serious about the issue, we must change the way we think about the energy we use, from where we can get it, including wind energy, which is a huge plus if one looks at it in the right way. If the research continues into wave and tidal energy, we could potentially have a bonus in terms of new energy sources that will never run out. If we change the way we think, we will do much better. I agree with what the Minister said, but we must consider the challenges that are met regularly and interrogated frequently. The Minister said no Minister would get off the hook in respect of meeting the targets set.

My final point is about transport and issues such as electric cars, walking, cycling and encouraging low carbon activities. Nantes is one of the best places in the world in which to live. It has focused on the provision of public transport and bicycles. Using a car is not considered to be the way in which to travel. Previously, there were eight lanes into the city, but that number has been reduced to two to make everyone use public transport. I do not know, however, whether everyone would agree with me on that point. However, they are the challenges we must meet and we must wake up to them. While the legislation is not and never could be perfect, it is an improvement on what we have in place.

We will not save agriculture or any other industry by having targets. It is not about targets but about checkpoints, measurements and refinements to plans. I see the proposals as safeguarding agriculture and every essential industry we have because we will need refinements and periodic checks. We cannot wait until the end of a five year period or 2020 before somebody hits us with a stick because we have not reached an overall target. That is crucial to the entire debate. We need to shine a light on the issue because without good information, how can we make the proper decisions?

How can we encourage the proper refinements without good information on a sector by sector basis? Are we saying we will have the information but will not publish it? Either we have the information on a sector by sector basis, the checkpoints that will allow us to measure what we are and are not achieving, or we do not. This gets to the heart of the issue. Without that information, we will not be able to protect our most precious industries and businesses, including agriculture.

It is important that our overall plan be sensitive to Ireland's set-up, particularly agriculture, given its potential and contribution to the economy. This is a separate issue from the overall point, namely, our national objective and setting specific targets across sectors. Unfortunately, the Bill is too much about vague aspirations rather than the clear targets we need to set. Section 4 indicates that the national mitigation plan shall "specify the policy measures that, in the opinion of the Government, would be required in order to manage greenhouse gas emissions and the removal of greenhouse gas at a level that is appropriate for furthering the achievement of the national transition objective". That is what the mitigation plan sets out, yet we will make no mention of how each of the policy measures will contribute to the overall objective. Again, we are going around in circles. It is essential to the Bill, given its weaknesses, and we should reconsider the issue.

As we have been over the argument, I will try not to repeat it. While we want to protect agriculture and the specific character of the economy and important sectors in it must be a consideration, in addition to what Deputy Mick Wallace has said on the matter, putting all one's eggs in one basket is dangerous, not just from an environmental point of view but from every point of view. We have made these mistakes before with disastrous consequences, for example, the property basket. It is a mistake to set off the absolute imperative to transform the economy to deal with climate change against the defence of a singular view of agricultural interest and Irish agriculture. We need to diversify in a very considerable way what we consider to be agriculture and not to have all of our eggs in one or two baskets.

While we are throwing out good ideas, albeit slightly off the specific amendment, a simple measure a Government could take would be to have a scheme in the public service and the Civil Service whereby everybody would have the opportunity to move within them to work in any outlet near to where he or she lived. People would enthusiastically embrace it, given that it would improve their quality of life.

It would also very significantly reduce needless transport for many people commuting from one part of the city to the other if there was an option for them to work in the public or Civil Service closer to home. That is a specific measure which the Minister could consider.

On the issue of good ideas and to pick up on-----

There are many good ideas in the Bill, Deputy.

To pick up on Deputy O'Dowd's' point about transport, I am a bit mystified as to why he was part of a Government that showed zero interest in rail. I would suggest that the Government change its tune in that regard.

On that last remark, I have shown an enormous interest in rail.

On the concrete issue, the Deputy is right. I have seen the changes in that sector. I met representatives of the industry and spoke at their conference. They have made huge changes and I respect that. I also fully agree with the Deputy on the issue of waste to energy. Waste to energy is a phenomenal sector that has huge capacity. We spoke earlier about environmental technologies and some of the technologies in this area are the most exciting I have ever seen. They are amazing. The growth capacity in this area is huge, as is the potential for exports.

On the issue of sustainable transport, I am a huge fan of rail. I also expanded the Dublin Bikes scheme and set up similar schemes in Cork, Limerick and Galway, which Deputies should not forget.

On the question of mitigation, the consultation period for the national mitigation plan will begin in the next few days, hopefully. This will tease out the issues and get down to all of the layers involved. I assure Deputy Boyd Barrett that it will include discussions on the serious challenges for agriculture.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 16:

In page 6, between lines 28 and 29, to insert the following:

“(e) specify the projected level of emissions once the policy measures outlined are implemented.”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 17:

In page 6, between lines 28 and 29, to insert the following:

“(e) specify the projected total national emissions for the period of the plan on the basis of all the policy measures specified in the plan.”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 18 and 20 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 18:

In page 7, between lines 33 and 34, to insert the following:

“(a) the principle of climate justice,”.

We discussed earlier the importance of including the concept of climate justice in the legislation and I will not rehearse the arguments now. A number of Opposition amendments have been ruled out of order because they could potentially result in a charge to the Exchequer and because there was too much substance to them. On the other hand, the Minister's argument against inserting climate justice into the legislation was that it was too aspirational. The principle is a worthy one which should inform the spirit of this legislation. I urge the Minister to accept this amendment on that basis.

I do not propose to go back over our earlier discussion again but will be pressing amendment No. 20 when we reach it.

My position is the same. We have already had the discussion.

I wish to return to something that we discussed earlier. I was not clear in a question I directed to the Minister and appreciate that I should have been clearer. When the Minister was looking for legal advice did he get it from the Department?

We sought it from within the Department but I will also commit to consulting the Attorney General.

I would welcome that.

I have already asked for that to be done.

Does the Minister wish to respond on amendments Nos. 18 and 20?

I do not want to delay proceedings but would simply restate the issues referred to earlier with regard to clarity, making sure that what one proposes to insert into the legislation is clear and addresses definition problems and the potential legal consequences. I have made the case on all of those points and do not propose to go over them again now. However, I will do what I said.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 19:

In page 8, line 11, after “measures” to insert “including the management of soil carbon and the protection and rewetting of wetlands”.

This is a technical amendment to ensure information on soil carbon and wetlands would be integrated into the national plan. They form a vital part of the ecosystem in terms of the capacity to absorb carbon.

The amendment calls for the inclusion of references to the management of soil carbon and the protection and rewetting of wetlands when I, as Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, perform functions under section 4. The Deputy may be aware that BirdWatch Ireland is keen to have this amendment included. In the first instance, I fully accept that both the management of soil carbon and the protection and rewetting of wetlands are proven means of maintaining and developing carbon sinks and an important option in reducing the overall carbon footprint of the State. As such, these activities fall under the heading of mitigation policy measures. The Bill, as initiated, makes no reference to a particular mitigation policy measure for good reason, in that the nature and extent of such measures will change over time up to 2050, as successive mitigation measures are taken. For that reason, I do not consider it appropriate to single out this mitigation policy measure for inclusion in the Bill. They more properly belong in the content of national mitigation plans and I look forward to seeing them being included in such plans when specific soil carbon and wetland management measures will be specified.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 20:

In page 8, between lines 18 and 19, to insert the following:

“(j) the principle of climate justice.”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 21:

In page 8, between lines 18 and 19, to insert the following:

“(j) the need to promote sustainable consumption and production,

(k) the protection and promotion of public health,

(l) other benefits likely to arise from the transition to a low carbon economy,

(m) the protection of and restoration of biological diversity consistent with Ireland’s obligations under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity 1992,

(n) the importance of ensuring coherence with national policy on overseas development.”.

In this amendment Deputy Catherine Murphy proposes to add to the requirements that must be met when the Government is preparing the national mitigation plan. The Bill sets out a number of requirement, but Deputy Catherine Murphy's amendment would make some good additions. She refers to the need to promote sustainable consumption and production; the protection of public health; other benefits that are likely to arise from the transition to a low carbon economy; the importance of biodiversity and the importance of ensuring coherence with national policy on overseas development. This clause would contribute to international solidarity on climate change and deal with how we might be contributing to climate change elsewhere.

The amendment calls for the inclusion of further considerations in national mitigation plans. As the Deputy said, there are many things that could be included in section 4(7) and good arguments could be made for the inclusion of worthy sentiments which would make the subsection very lengthy and unwieldy. However, the proposals included in the amendment are relevant and, for the most part, covered by existing provisions in section 4. While I am not fully minded to expand the list, I will reflect on the amendment to see how we might usefully expand the list. I am, therefore, committing to reconsider the amendment, with a view to expanding the list. There is certainly merit in looking again at the conditions included in the amendment.

The Minister's response is reasonable. I will re-enter the amendment on Report Stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 22:

In page 8, to delete lines 33 and 34 and substitute the following:

“(10) A national mitigation plan shall be approved by a resolution in both Houses of the Oireachtas as soon may be after it is approved by the Government.”.

In this amendment Deputy Murphy proposed that the national mitigation plan would be approved not only by the Dáil but by the Seanad as well. I made the argument that we want the national mitigation plan to be front and centre of public debate. We want all the public representatives at national level to be part of the discussion to advance the campaign to deal with climate change, and therefore it is logical that the Seanad would be included in signing off on it.

I see little merit in this proposal as the Government has to approve the plan in any event. There also could be unintended consequences. For instance, what happens if someone wants to play politics in circumstances where there is a temporary minority in either House? I do not think that is in anyone's interests. It adds another layer of bureaucracy. I oppose this amendment.

We had an earlier discussion in the context of another proposal. I think the Minister could deal with his concern by amending the legislation to the effect that there would be a legal requirement on the Dáil and on the Seanad to pass a plan. If there were binding targets and even if the Government were resisting them, it would have to have debate and vote on the nature of the plan. In the debate on the content and component elements of the plan Members will put forward different perspectives, so it makes sense that prior to the adoption of a plan it would be debated in both Houses.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Section 4 agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 23 and 24 are physical alternatives and may be discussed together.

NEW SECTION

I move amendment No. 23:

In page 8, after line 38, to insert the following:

“Progress towards targets

5. (1) The Minister shall in each year, beginning with the year 2016, request the relevant body to prepare a report setting out that body’s views on—

(a) progress towards achievement of—

(i) annual targets,

(ii) the interim target,

(iii) the 2050 target,

(b) whether the annual targets, the interim target or the 2050 target are likely to be achieved,

(c) any further effort which may be necessary to achieve annual targets, the interim target or the 2050 target.

(2) No later than the end of the second year following a year for which an annual target has been set (a “target year”), the Minister shall request the relevant body to prepare a report setting out that body’s views on—

(a) whether the annual target for the target year was met,

(b) whether the domestic effort target was met in that target year,

(c) the ways in which those targets were or were not met,

(d) the action taken by the Minister to reduce net emissions during that year.

(3) The Minister shall lay a response to the relevant body’s report under this section before the Houses of the Oireachtas as soon as reasonably practicable after they receive that body’s report.”.

The same arguments apply to this amendment.

Amendment put and declared lost.
SECTION 5

I move amendment No. 24:

In page 9, line 38, to delete “Dáil Éireann” and substitute “and approved by both Houses of the Oireachtas”.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Section 5 agreed to.
Section 6 agreed to.
SECTION 7
Question proposed: "That section 7 stand part of the Bill."

Section 7 is opposed by Deputy Catherine Murphy. I call Deputy Boyd Barrett.

What is the number of the amendment?

There is no amendment. The section is opposed by Deputy Catherine Murphy.

What is the number of the amendment again?

There is no amendment to it. The section is opposed.

Some of these amendments are mine, some are Deputy Wallace's and some are Deputy Murphy's. I will formally move it, though.

There is nothing to move; the section is opposed.

There is nothing to move because there is no amendment. The section is opposed.

The section has already damaged the effectiveness of the Bill. Earlier today, six amendments were ruled out of order as they involved a potential charge on the Exchequer. The section states the need to achieve the objectives of a national adaptation framework at the least cost to the national economy and to adopt measures that are cost-effective and do not impose an unreasonable burden on the Exchequer. This is ludicrous. The transition will be costly, but only in the short term. There is a growing body of evidence that the transition to a low-carbon economy creates jobs and stimulates the economy. Furthermore, the short-sightedness of such an approach is flabbergasting. The cost of not tackling this problem with everything we have will be considerable. Anyone who does not see this reality needs to seriously question whether they are actually working in the interests of the public.

This is a useful section as it specifies the matters that I, as Minister, and the Government of the day need to take into account in performing our functions in respect of the adaptation frameworks and sectoral adaptation plans. One of the more unusual features of the Bill is the prominence and priority it gives to adaptation matters, which is only right, given the potential impacts of climate change on the State in decades to come. We have seen some of those impacts already. They include more severe weather events and increased rainfall, which we certainly had in May, with the potential for greater incidence of flooding and so on. We have seen the impact that has had in recent years. Accordingly, the Bill provides a comprehensive institutional framework to gather the capacity of the State to meet the adaptation challenges head-on and I do not believe deleting this section is appropriate.

The point the Minister made about flooding becoming less predictable is a good one. That is why Irish Water wants nothing to do with it.

Question put and agreed to.
SECTION 8

Amendments Nos. 25, 34, 51 and 52 are related and will be taken together.

I move amendment No. 25:

In page 12, to delete lines 11 to 15 and substitute the following:

“(2) There shall stand established, on the establishment day, a body which shall be known, in the Irish language, as An Chomhairle Chomhairleach um Athrú Aeráide or, in the English language, as the Climate Change Advisory Council (in this Act referred to as the “Advisory Council”) to perform the functions assigned to it under this Act.”.

This amendment is about the independence of the expert advisory council and it is a matter of extreme importance. I am trying to keep track of these amendments. Which one are we on now?

We are on section 8, amendment No. 25. It is related to amendments Nos. 34, 51 and 52 and they are being taken together.

The Deputy asked for my help, so I will give it. It is on the advisory council.

It is a change of name. It should be changed to the climate change advisory council for the purposes of clarity and simplicity and maybe because the word "expert" jars a little in these matters. Experts have led us into a great deal of trouble in the past. It is a very subjective notion in any event.

It took us so long to get to this point. I do not agree with some of the amendments, but I understand them. I am looking at other amendments because I can see the validity of the arguments. The name is obviously very important to some people, so I will take the views of the Deputies into account if they write to me.

I will certainly take this idea on board and look at it before Report Stage because it is important to some people. To be honest, I do not see it as the biggest priority, but I will look at the idea because it is important to others.

I can understand the Minister's point because he is pretty sure just changing the name will not cost him anything and it will not go against the grain.

We were getting on so well.

In that light, how stands the amendment?

I will look at changing the name.

The Minister is saying he is open to the idea.

Yes, definitely.

We will withdraw the amendment for now in the hope the Minister might-----

Even Shell or Topaz would not object to the change.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos 26 to 28, inclusive, are related and will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 26:

In page 12, between lines 15 and 16, to insert the following:

“(3) The Expert Advisory Council shall be independent in the performance of its functions.”.

As we know, the Minister has announced the composition of the council which includes many individuals of very high calibre. However, various action groups have raised concerns about the lack of an explicit guarantee of independence for the new council. It is vital that, as with the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council, the Advisory Council on Climate Change be able to operate independently and speak its mind, even if it conflicts directly with the Government of the day. It is important that this be stated in the legislation.

In one way or another, the three amendments call for an explicit statement that the expert Advisory Council on Climate Change will be independent in the performance of its functions. I appreciate that there have been some concerns raised that the presence of ex officio members on the council would in some way render it less than independent in its advice-giving functions. I do not agree with that argument, but I respect it and will reflect on it. The presence of the ex officio members should not be seen as an impediment to independence, rather they will provide the council with much needed practical experience of policy implementation by organisations that already have a well established low carbon agenda. They will add to, rather than diminish, the standing of the council.

Tomorrow I hope to announce the membership of the expert advisory council to be established on an administrative basis in advance of enactment of the Bill. With this announcement, I trust that everyone will be able to see the quality of the personnel involved and that there will be little doubt about how effective the body will be in providing completely independent advice for the Government. Those on the council are of the highest calibre and I am delighted that they have agreed to be on it. I asked some of them to become involved and do not believe it would be possible to take away their rigour and analysis. I have met and spoken to the NGOs about their concerns. Given these concerns, I will give further consideration before Report Stage to including an explicit statement on independence because it is something some people desire.

On the basis of the Minister's commitment to look at the matter before Report Stage, I will withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 27:

In page 12, between lines 15 and 16, to insert the following:

“(3) The National Expert Advisory Council shall be independent in the performance of its functions.”.

I was going to call a vote on this matter, but in view of the Minister's commitment to look at it before Report Stage, I will withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 28:

In page 12, between lines 15 and 16, to insert the following:

“(3) Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act or of any other enactment, the members of the Advisory Council shall be independent in the performance of their functions under this Act.”.

I appreciate that the Minister has taken on board our concerns, but, to add to what has been said, there must be real independence in this regard. There cannot be insiders, although I know the people about whom the Minister is talking are of high calibre. I am simply saying a great deal of pressure could be put on a body such this as time rolls on. It is a big job. Therefore, guaranteeing its independence is of critical importance.

However, I welcome the fact the Minister is looking at it but we need to get that right. I will withdraw the amendment and will await the Minister's amendments.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 8 agreed to.
SECTION 9

I move amendment No. 29:

In page 12, to delete lines 19 and 20 and substitute the following:

“(b) not more than 5 ordinary members who shall be independent of the state or stakeholder interests.”.

This amendment relates to the five ordinary members who shall be independent of the State. In view of the Minister's commitment, I will withdraw this amendment, although subject to what he proposes in his amendment. However, I clarify that it is withdrawn on condition that it can be re-introduced on Report Stage.

That is correct, Deputy.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 30 to 32, inclusive, are out of order because of a potential charge on the Exchequer.

Amendments Nos. 30 to 32, inclusive, not moved.

I wish to make a comment on that decision. There was nothing here which would have generated an additional charge on the Exchequer. We are talking about people who are already working in the public service and about them having an additional responsibility. I would regard that decision as a lazy excuse for turning down potentially good amendments.

Section 9 agreed to.
Sections 10 and 11 agreed to.
SECTION 12

I move amendment No. 33:

In page 17, line 25, to delete “30 days” and substitute “10 days”.

This amendment proposes to delete 30 days and substitute ten days. It is in keeping with the spirit of the council's independence and ensuring that the council can act as an effective watchdog and that its report should be published as swiftly as possible. The potential for the Minister to delay reports for up to three months is entirely unnecessary. The amendment will reduce this time period to ten days.

The amendment calls for the shortening of the time frame for publication by the expert advisory council from 30 days to ten days, as stated. By way of explanation for what is already provided in the Bill the 30 day timeframe is to provide an opportunity for the annual report to be seen by the Government before it is published. I hasten to add that there is no intention or provision for the Government to seek to alter or amend the annual report. The 30 day timeframe is merely to afford this courtesy to the Government of the day in respect of the busy schedule that is always at hand. I do not believe that the maximum 30 day wait for publication - this is a maximum and it may not always be that length of time - could be said to constitute any undue or untoward delay. The expert advisory council will publish the report in full without any interference from the Government. I hope this amendment will be withdrawn as a result of this clarification.

I take on board the Minister's reply but I still believe that 30 days is excessive. If the council is supposed to be independent I do not believe a delay of that nature is consistent with that independence. I suggest the Minister should reconsider his position on Report Stage.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 34:

In page 17, line 26, to delete “Expert”.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Section 12 agreed to.
SECTION 13

I move amendment No. 35:

In page 17, line 29, to delete “18 months” and substitute “6 months”.

The expert advisory council is supposed to conduct a review every 18 months to monitor progress in meeting objectives and securing the transition to a low carbon economy. The amendment proposes that 18 months after its establishment is too long a period before that review would be conducted and it proposes that the period should be six months instead.

Like many of the amendments we have proposed the issue is one of moving things along faster than is being proposed in the Government's legislation. The logic of the amendment is fairly self-evident.

The amendment asks for the timeframe for the first periodic review to be changed from 18 months to six. This will be the most important review because it will be the first. The council is specifically charged with analysing progress made in meeting our mitigation targets up to 2020 under the EU effort sharing decision of 2009. It is unique. I understand the reason Deputies Richard Boyd Barrett and Catherine Murphy would prefer a shorter timeframe, but we have to be realistic.

The membership of the council will be announced tomorrow. The council is not a full-time entity, although it will have at its disposal a secretariat provided by the Environmental Protection Agency. Moreover, it will require a certain period to bed down its operational structures and then to begin its work of collating and analysing all available information and data. It is not reasonable to expect it to do all of this work and turn around a major review of mitigation policy and its implementation in Ireland in just six months. That is not possible. We have had discussions at this committee on the range of issues involved which we could discuss forever. It would be impossible to do it in a period of six months. It is critical that there be a certain period of time to carry out the first review. The work involved will be substantive and challenging and the council will need time to add value and collate all of the relevant information and data available. Six months is too short a timeframe. I will be meeting the council tomorrow when I announce its membership. I am confident that members will regard a period of six months as being too short.

The Government can state such and such a timeframe is not sufficient. However, it is a case of priorities and things can be made to happen very quickly when one chooses to do so. There is a general feeling among those who have serious concerns about climate change that there is a massive element of kicking the can down the road. Not providing for an early review seems to be an extension of this same philosophy and attitude. Given the fact that so many are really disappointed about what we are getting, the least we can do is provide for an early review in order that the position can be reviewed quickly. If the Government were to commit to a period of six months, I hope it would take a more serious look to see how things were going. Kicking the can down the road is soul destroying.

When we were discussing the period during which the Government would produce the mitigation plan, the Minister acknowledged that two years was a little long, but he made the argument that a period of six months would not allow enough time and that perhaps we might meet somewhere in the middle. I acknowledge that there is a lot of work involved, but 18 months seems to be a long time. I, therefore, ask the Minister to at least consider reducing the time period for the reasons stated by Deputy Mick Wallace in order to impose urgency and discipline on us while being reasonable about what would be regarded as practical. Even a 12 month period, instead of the 18 months proposed, would indicate seriousness on the part of the Government in terms of the urgency of the matter.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 36 and 37 are related and may be discussed together, by agreement.

I move amendment No. 36:

In page 18, to delete lines 7 to 10 and substitute the following:

"(i) progress towards achievement of-

(I) annual targets,

(II) the interim target,

(III) the 2050 target,

(ii) whether the annual targets, the interim target or the 2050 target are likely to be achieved,

(iii) any further effort which may be necessary to achieve annual targets, the interim target or the 2050 target.".

This is related to the earlier discussion about targets because it would require that the expert advisory council in its reviews would look at the question of interim targets, the 2050 targets, and meeting them. Obviously if there are no targets the Government is unlikely to be disposed towards supporting this. We have made the case as to why we believe the targets are necessary so I will not go over that ground.

Amendment No. 37 is not just about meeting the annual targets but is trying to break down the targets into different areas which we need to focus in on and report on the progress that is being made in those different sectors so we are not talking in general but looking in detail at what progress is being made in those different areas. The sectors are outlined in the amendment. I think they are very reasonable proposals. They also give the additional right to the advisory council to make recommendations in the areas where it feels we are not making sufficient progress.

In view of what the Minister has said in the context of the independence of the council and given the stature and professionalism of those involved it would be unwise to be prescriptive in terms of what it should and should not do. With respect to what Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett has said and notwithstanding his concerns, I cannot imagine anybody on that council not having these and other concerns. I would be happy to leave it to the advisory council in its wisdom to pronounce as it sees fit. I have no doubt it will be extremely analytical and authoritative. The whole point is that it will have the authority, knowledge, respect, and commitment to be definitive and to bring about significant change in the event of a disagreement, at some stage, which may be profound between what the Government may want and what the advisory council, in its collective wisdom, would state. I would welcome those differences of opinion and clarity of opposition to Government policy if that is what is needed but also support for it, if it is going the right way. For that reason I would be happier if these amendments were not accepted.

To ask the advisory council to look at certain items and to address them in a certain way is not to cast aspersions on any member of the advisory council but it brings greater clarity. One does not have to tell it what to do or say but to ask it to take certain points on board. I do not think that is unreasonable.

Both amendments Nos. 36 and 37 call for the expert advisory council to report and provide advice in respect of proposed annual targets. I do not accept the validity of the inclusion of such domestic targets in the Bill. I will not rehash the whole argument. For reasons of similar thoughts expressed by Deputy O'Dowd I will not accept the amendments.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 37:

In page 19, between lines 9 and 10, to insert the following:

"(f) when providing advice under subsection (1)(a), the Advisory Council shall express a view as to-

(ii) the respective contributions towards meeting the annual targets that should be made by-

(g) when providing advice under this subsection, the Advisory Council may also express a view as to any other matter that body considers appropriate including, in particular, as to any sectors of the economy in which there are particular opportunities for contributions to be made towards meeting annual targets through reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases,

(h) when providing advice under this subsection, the Advisory Council shall also express a view as to the cumulative amount of net emissions for the period 2010-2015 that is consistent with a reduction over that period of net emissions accounts which would allow the 2050 target to be met.".

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 38 and 39 are related and may be discussed together

I move amendment No. 38:

In page 19, to delete lines 10 to 12 and substitute the following:

"(8) Not more than 10 days after submitting a periodic review report to the Minister in accordance with this section, the Advisory Council shall publish the report by such means as the Agency may advise.".

This amendment is self-explanatory. A periodic review report should be published not more than ten days after it is given to the Minister. As a member of the Joint Committee on Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform, I am aware that the fiscal advisory council reports are published and are very useful documents in terms of breaking down all the different elements of the economy. I do not know whether it is required under the legislation to do that. Having something like that produced and a requirement that it be published within a specific timeframe is a very useful exercise in accountability. That is the logic of the amendment.

I accept the positions of both Deputies. The expert council will embark on periodic reviews. That will not necessarily be the norm. I should say that any reviews will not be amended by Government. I give a commitment to look at the timeframe of between 60 and 90 days. A timeframe of ten days is unreasonable. I will certainly look at it to see if we can reduce it but certainly it will not be ten days.

How stands amendment No. 38?

If the council has already prepared its report and given it to the Minister what is the problem about publishing it? The reason I mentioned the fiscal advisory council is that it has those reports and they come before the finance committee two or three times a year. If the Minister has already got the report it is possible to publish it soon afterwards. I do not see where the difficulty is.

If the Department was criticised specifically in the report, it should be given an opportunity to respond but it should not be an unreasonable time and should be within a couple of weeks. Ten days might be too short.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 39:

In page 19, line 10, to delete "Not less than 60 and not more than 90 days" and substitute "Not more than 10 days".

While the Minister has said he will reconsider this issue I do not see the need for any more than ten days. The Minister has agreed to consider it and will come back on Report Stage when I hope he will have a positive response.

Section 14 agreed to.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 13 agreed to.
NEW SECTION

I move amendment No. 40:

In page 21, between lines 2 and 3, to insert the following:

"Guidance to Advisory Council

15. (1) The Advisory Council shall have regard to any guidance given by the Minister to it in relation to the exercise of its functions under this Act.

(2) The Minister may not give the Advisory Council guidance as to the content of any advice or report.

(3) The power to guide guidance under subsection (1) includes power to vary or revoke the guidance.".

This amendment is about the Government not influencing the advisory council and ensuring its complete independence. That is the thinking behind it. While the advisory council should have regard to guidance given by the Minister, the Minister may not give any advice as to the content of any report to ensure the report is a completely independent exercise and that there is no political interference in it.

Of all the amendments, this one was the most confusing. I respect the spirit of what the Deputy has just said. This has been looked for by the Deputy and Deputy Catherine Murphy. The first part of the amendment states:

15. (1) The Advisory Council shall have regard to any guidance given by the Minister to it in relation to the exercise of its functions under this Act.

I accept 15(2) and (3). However, subsection (1) could be interpreted as meaning that the Minister of the day will actually give guidance to the expert advisory council which is counter to what we have been saying. If the Deputy is not careful, I will accept it.

It is great when the Government helps the Opposition be the Opposition.

That is twice today that I have done that.

The Minister is absolutely right. We should switch seats.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 15 agreed to.
NEW SECTIONS

Amendments Nos. 41 to 49, inclusive, are related and will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 41:

In page 22, between lines 30 and 31, to insert the following:

“Reports on annual targets

16. (1) The Minister shall lay before the Houses of the Oireachtas a report in respect of each year in the period 2015-2050 for which an annual target has been set (a “target year”).

(2) The report shall state whether the annual target for the target year has been met. If the annual target has not been met, the report shall explain the reason for same.

(3) The report shall also state whether the domestic effort target has been met in the target year to which the report relates.

(4) If the domestic effort target has not been met, the report shall explain the reason for same. The report shall also contain the information mentioned in section 17.

(5) The report under this section shall be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas no later than 31 October in the second year after the target year.”.

The amendment proposes that there should be a report every year on meeting targets. We are back again to the issue of targets and the Minister and Government have made clear their view that targets should not be included, so we are going over the same old ground. However, the question of this becoming a central part of political debate and something we are required to discuss in the Dáil is important. Given that the mitigation plan, for example, only has to be produced every five years, there is quite a big time gap in between. That will not allow for adequate debate and focus on this critical issue. The logic behind the amendment is that we should be required to debate it at least once a year, as the budget is.

The committee is well aware of my views on this. I do not wish to repeat them except to say I will oppose the amendment.

The committee agreed to sit after 7.15 p.m. but I propose we sit until we conclude. Is that agreed? Agreed. Has the Minister responded?

I said the Deputy has put forward a similar argument before. There is disagreement on this and I do not want to repeat the argument except to say that I will oppose these amendments.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 42:

In page 22, between lines 30 and 31, to insert the following:

“Reports on annual targets: content

17. (1) In respect of each greenhouse gas, the report shall—

(a) state the amount of net emissions for the baseline year,

(b) state the amount of net emissions for the target year,

(c) state whether the amount of net emissions represents an increase or decrease compared to the equivalent amount for the previous target year,

(d) identify the methods used to measure or calculate the amount of net emissions (including in particular any change to those methods).

(2) The report shall also set out the aggregate amount for the target year of net emissions.

(3) The report shall also—

(a) state the amount of the net emissions account for the target year,

(b) state the proportion of the reduction in the net emissions account which is accounted for by reductions in net emissions,

(c) state the total amount of carbon units—

(d) give details of the number and type of those carbon units.

(4) The report shall also—

(a) state the amount of gross electricity consumption for the target year,

(b) state the amount of electricity generation for the target year,

(c) state the average greenhouse gas emissions per megawatt hour of electricity generated in the target year,

(d) state the average greenhouse gas emissions per megawatt hour, and the estimated lifetime cumulative emissions, of any new electricity generation capacity greater than 50 megawatts approved in the target year.

(5) The report for each year in the period 2011-2050 shall—

(a) state the amount of the net emissions account for each preceding target year,

(b) state the cumulative amount of the net emissions account for the target year and all preceding target years.

(6) If the method of measuring or calculating net emissions changes and that change is such as to require adjustment of an amount for an earlier target year, the report shall specify the adjustment required and state the adjusted amount.

(7) An adjustment under subsection (6) shall, in so far as reasonably practicable, be made in accordance with international carbon reporting practice.

(8) If an amount mentioned in subsection (3)(a) or subsection (5)(a) or (b) for an earlier period requires to be adjusted, the report shall—

(a) explain why the adjustment is required,

(b) specify the adjustment required, and

(c) state the adjusted amount.

(9) The report may contain such other information as the Minister considers appropriate and, in particular, may state the amount of electricity generation from each source for the target year.”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 43:

In page 22, between lines 30 and 31, to insert the following:

Reports on proposals and policies for meeting annual targets

18. (1) As soon as reasonably practicable after making an order under section 5(1) setting annual targets, the Minister shall lay before the Houses of the Oireachtas a report containing the information outlined in subsections (5) to (10).

(2) The Minister shall, before laying a report under this section before the Houses of the Oireachtas, lay a draft of the report before the Houses of the Oireachtas.

(3) The Minister may not lay the report before the expiry of the period for consideration by the Houses of the Oireachtas.

(4) In subsection (3), the “period for consideration by the Houses of the Oireachtas” means the period of 60 days, of which no fewer than 30 shall be days on which the Houses of the Oireachtas is not dissolved or in recess.

(5) The Minister shall, before laying the report before the Houses of the Oireachtas, have regard to—

(a) any representations on the draft report made to them,

(b) any resolution relating to the draft report passed by the Houses of the Oireachtas, and

(c) any report relating to the draft report published by any committee of the Houses of the Oireachtas for the time being appointed by virtue of standing orders.

(6) The Minister shall, when laying the report before the Houses of the Oireachtas, lay a statement setting out—

(a) details of any representations, resolutions or reports mentioned in subsection (5),

(b) the changes (if any) they have made to the report in response to such representations, resolutions or reports and the reasons for those changes.

(7) The Minister shall, as soon as reasonably practicable after laying a report under this section, and in so far as reasonably practicable, make a statement to the Houses of the Oireachtas relating to the report.

(8) The report shall, in particular, set out—

(a) the Minister’s proposals and policies for meeting the annual targets,

(b) how those proposals and policies are expected to contribute towards the achievement of the interim target, the 2050 target and, in each target year, the domestic effort target,

(c) the timescales over which those proposals and policies are expected to take effect.

(9) The report shall also set out the Minister’s proposals and policies regarding the respective contributions towards meeting the annual targets that should be made by—

(a) energy efficiency,

(b) energy generation,

(c) land use,

(d) transport.

(10) The report shall also explain how the proposals and policies set out in the report are expected to affect different sectors of the economy.

(11) The second and each subsequent report under this section—

(a) shall contain an assessment of the progress towards implementing proposals and policies set out in earlier reports,

(b) may make such adjustments to those proposals and policies as the Minister considers appropriate.”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 44:

In page 22, between lines 30 and 31, to insert the following:

Reports on proposals and policies where annual targets were not met

19. (1) This section—

(a) applies if the Minister lays a report under section 16 which states that an annual target has not been met or that the domestic effort target has not been met in the target year to which the report relates,

(b) does not apply if that report relates to the annual target for 2050.

(2) As soon as reasonably practicable after the report referred to in subsection (1)(a) has been laid, the Minister shall lay a report before the Houses of the Oireachtas setting out proposals and policies to compensate in future years for the excess emissions.”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 45:

In page 22, between lines 30 and 31, to insert the following:

Reports on emissions attributable to consumption of goods and services

20. (1) The Minister shall lay before the Houses of the Oireachtas a report in respect of each year in the period 2015-2050 containing the information outlined in subsections (2) and (3).

(2) The report shall, in so far as reasonably practicable, set out the emissions of greenhouse gases (whether in the State or elsewhere) which are produced by or otherwise associated with the consumption and use of goods and services during that year.

(3) The report may also contain such other information as the Minister considers appropriate.”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 46:

In page 22, between lines 30 and 31, to insert the following:

Reports on impact on emissions of exercise of electricity generation related functions

21. (1) The Minister shall lay before the Houses of the Oireachtas a report in respect of each year in the period 2015-2050 containing the information outlined in subsection (2).

(2) The report shall, in so far as reasonably practicable, set out the impact on net emissions during that year resulting from the exercise by the Minister of the functions conferred on them by virtue of any enactment relating to electricity generation.”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 47:

In page 22, between lines 30 and 31, to insert the following:

Report on progress towards meeting the interim target

22. (1) The Minister shall, no later than 31 December 2016, lay before the Houses of the Oireachtas a report on progress towards meeting the interim target.

(2) The report shall, in particular, state the progress that has been made in reducing net emissions and indicate whether this progress is consistent with a reduction over the period 2015-2020 of net emissions accounts which would allow the interim target and the 2050 target to be met.”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 48:

In page 22, between lines 30 and 31, to insert the following:

Report on the interim target

23. (1) The Minister shall lay before the Houses of the Oireachtas a report containing the information outlined in subsections (4) and (5) in respect of the year 2020.

(2) The report shall state whether the interim target has been met.

(3) If the interim target has not been met, the report shall explain the reason for same.

(4) In respect of each greenhouse gas, the report shall state the amount of net emissions for 2020.

(5) The report shall also—

(a) state the amount of the net emissions account for 2020,

(b) state the cumulative amount of the net emissions account for the period 2015-2020,

(c) state the total amount of carbon units—

(d) give details of the number and type of those carbon units.

(6) In subsections (4) and (5), the amount means the amount set out in the report for 2020 made under section 16.

(7) The report may contain such other information as the Minister considers appropriate.

(8) The report under this section shall be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas no later than 31 October 2022.”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 49:

In page 22, between lines 30 and 31, to insert the following:

Report on the 2050 target

24. (1) The Minister shall lay before the Houses of the Oireachtas a report containing the information outlined in subsections (4) and (5) in respect of the year 2050.

(2) The report shall state whether the 2050 target has been met.

(3) If the 2050 target has not been met, the report shall explain the reason for same.

(4) In respect of each greenhouse gas, the report shall state the amount of net emissions for 2050.

(5) The report shall also—

(a) state the amount of the net emissions account for 2050,

(b) state the cumulative amount of the net emissions account for the period 2015-2050,

(c) state the total amount of carbon units—

(d) give details of the number and type of those carbon units.

(6) In subsections (4) and (5), the amount means the amount set out in the report for 2050 made under section 16.

(7) The report may contain such other information as the Minister considers appropriate.

(8) The report under this section shall be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas no later than 31 October 2052.”.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Section 16 agreed to.
TITLE

Amendment No. 50 has been ruled out of order as it is declaratory in nature and a potential charge on the Exchequer.

Amendment No. 50 not moved.

I move amendment No. 51:

In page 3, line 9, to delete “An Chomhairle Chomhairleach Shaineolach Náisiúnta um Athrú Aeráide” and substitute “An Chomhairle Chomhairleach um Athrú Aeráide”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 52:

In page 3, lines 10 and 11, to delete "National Expert Advisory Council on Climate Change" and substitute “Climate Change Advisory Council".

Will the Minister remind me what he said in regard to the name change? The amendment changes the name from the national expert advisory council on climate change to the climate change advisory council.

I think the Minister said he would look at it before Report Stage.

I will look at it before Report Stage.

I will withdraw the amendment on the basis that the Minister will look at it before Report Stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Title agreed to.

Does the Minister wish to make any final comments?

I thank members for the amendments put forward. I will reflect on the issues on which I said I would reflect before Report Stage and I look forward to the debate then. I thank members and the Chairman for their time.

I thank the Minister and the officials from the Department for attending.