Thursday, 24 January 2019

Questions (3)

Timmy Dooley

Question:

3. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to address freshwater temperatures in view of increased fish mortality rates in summer 2018. [3369/19]

View answer

Oral answers (7 contributions) (Question to Communications)

The Minister is aware that the increases in water temperatures during the summer of 2018 had a considerable impact on fish mortality rates. Will he outline to the House any proposals he has to address this issue?

Observations show that Ireland’s climate is changing in terms of sea level rise, increases in average temperature, changes in precipitation patterns and weather extremes. The observed scale and rate of change is consistent with regional and global trends, and these changes are projected to continue and increase over the coming decades. Climate change will have diverse and wide-ranging impacts on Ireland’s environment, society and economic development, including managed and natural ecosystems, water resources, agriculture and food security, human health and coastal zones. Ireland's first statutory national adaptation framework, NAF, was published in January 2018. The NAF sets out the national strategy to reduce the vulnerability of the country to the negative effects of climate change. Under the NAF, Departments are preparing sectoral adaptation plans, which are due to be completed by September 2019.

Inland Fisheries Ireland, IFI, is the State agency charged with protection, management and development of the inland fisheries resource.

I am advised that climate change has been identified by IFI as one of the greatest threats facing the wider aquatic environment and fish populations and structures in the medium to long term. This will require significant efforts to overcome the considerable uncertainties and research requirements in relation to the impacts of climate change on Irish fish species, populations and habitats. IFI has been proactive in this regard as the impact on fish stocks can be a barometer of climate change.

In addition, IFI is exploring the building of an evidence-based assessment programme to assess the impact of climate change on the Irish fisheries sector in both freshwater and estuarine environments, with the ultimate aim to inform and build capacity for fisheries conservation and protection measures.

The Minister of State has outlined the impact of climate change but the sad reality is that this is the tip of the iceberg of the horrific impacts of climate change. Since 1980 there has been a 50-fold increase in the number of places experiencing dangerous or extreme heat. The five warmest summers in Europe since 1500 have happened since 2000. We are playing Russian roulette with the future of our planet.

When the Taoiseach was elected, he claimed the Government would be taking new initiatives in respect of climate change in the wake of budget 2018. Looking at this Department his assertions are laughable. That is the case across Government. Our transport, energy and home heating sectors amount for almost half of our emissions yet the Government has done almost nothing to move them to a greener future. All the time we see the impact on our economy. The impact on freshwater fishing has an effect on our salmon stocks and the industry around that, which is valued at €100 million based on the 2016 levels. We have to get real on climate change and start extrapolating the impacts of climate change on our economy in a real way.

Project Ireland 2040 which was launched in February 2018 consists of the national planning framework which sets out a spatial strategy for the country. It also sets out the expenditure on the national policy position, a planned €21.8 billion investment including €14 billion to be invested by semi-State companies and private sectors in the national strategic low carbon and climate resilience plan, to prepare for that.

There will be a transition period because we cannot just stop one thing and change to something else. For example in agriculture and fisheries, it has to be built upon. I am confident in the plans we have set out and the Minister, Deputy Bruton, has been given permission to set up an all-of-Government action plan for climate change. The investment is there but we need to make sure we change in such a way that we do not leave people behind or target the wrong people.

While I accept that the development plan for 2040 contains certain targets, the difficulty is that when we start pushing something as far out as 2040 that allows people to glaze over and effectively say that is for another generation, it is for somebody else beyond this electoral cycle. The principle of carbon pricing was introduced by the then Government in 2012. Fine Gael-led Governments since then have failed to even raise that by €1 or a cent since 2012. If appropriate measures are taken in time, it means less will have to be done in the latter part of the target period. I see nothing here or elsewhere that suggests to me that the Government is serious about tackling the impacts of climate change or addressing the future concerns the Minister of State has rightly identified. He has laid out the difficult road ahead for this sector. Unless we can bring that back to specific Government action, we will be failing future generations and our environment.

Project Ireland 2040 is the lifespan of the plan. The Minister has already announced that seven major climate action projects will share €77 million in funding, leveraging a total investment of €300 million in the first round of applications for the climate action fund. These projects will support decarbonisation of transport, heating, electricity and agriculture and demonstrate the type of investment that is happening here and now, not in 2040. We will be building on this and for example, we want Bord na Móna, one of the companies in my remit, to change from brown to green and show by example how it can be done for the rest of the country. I am very confident that we will see tangible results in the immediate future, rather than waiting for 2040.

We move now to the next available Deputy and Other Questions.

Question No. 4 taken after Question No. 6.
Question No. 5 replied to with Written Answers.