I propose to take Questions Nos. 210 and 218 together.
The Climate Action Plan, which I launched in June, sets out the comprehensive suite of actions to ensure Ireland can meet the 2030 climate commitments putting us on a trajectory to be net zero by 2050. Broader Government policy, including carbon pricing, and grant supports offered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, will play an important role in driving the changes required to reduce greenhouse gases at individual and business levels.
I am also confident that informed citizens will play a crucial role in the choices that they make in regard to climate action. The Climate Action Plan, therefore, addresses the role of citizen engagement and community leadership. The related actions include enhancing the effectiveness of climate-related communications, network building, and developing deliberative capacity, including through the National Dialogue on Climate Change (NDCA).
Communications and engagement will be closely intertwined with policy changes to be delivered. It will rest on three key elements:
- persuasive, consistent and effective external-facing communications on climate change and the need for action, including specific details on what the state is doing and what individuals can do to contribute;
- engagement designed to empower communities, that builds on the Climate Action Regional Roadshows, and quickly leads to mobilisation, capacity building and local action, and
- efficient exchange of information within the civil and public service, including all relevant commercial semi-state companies, directly related to supporting the Government’s climate action objectives.
The overall objective of this approach is create a long- term process to communicate with citizens on the national objective of transitioning to a low carbon, climate resilient society and economy by 2050 in which every citizen has a role to play.
Engagements, on a regional and local basis have already taken place, with stakeholders in Athlone, Tralee and Kildare. I have also held a series of regional town hall meetings since the publication of the Climate Action Plan to gather views in relation to its implementation. In consultation with the EPA, I am currently developing a model for implementation of the next phase of the NDCA which will focus on local activation.
Engaging youth is key to the driving and encouraging future behavioural changes and I am communicating with that generation through a number of strands, including supports for climate related activity for Green Schools, and ECO-UNESCO. Government is also establishing a dedicated National Youth Council for Climate Action and Climate Justice. The Council will be established by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, in close partnership with my own Department. Furthermore, the Government, through the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, has allocated in Budget 2020 for a new special fund for youth action on climate justice to enhance channels for direct engagement between young people and decision makers across Government and beyond. The overall goal will be to assist young people to engage in enduring dialogue with decision-makers, and support initiatives which are both youth-led and respond to the issues raised by young people.
I also welcome the recent initiative of the Oireachtas to hold the Youth Assembly on 15 November. It is heartening to see the active engagement and mobilisation to the climate crisis which is, without doubt, the defining challenge of our generation. I thank the members of the Youth Assembly for their recommendations for action to stop climate breakdown which I am currently considering.