I propose to take Questions Nos. 158 and 160 together.
The Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021 (the Act), enacted in July 2021, significantly strengthens Ireland's overarching climate governance framework and embeds a process of carbon budgeting, including sectoral emissions ceilings. The plans and strategies established on a statutory footing under the Act will require that policies are put in place to ensure carbon budget ceilings are not breached. Putting these requirements in legislation places a clear obligation on this and future governments for sustained climate action.
The Climate Change Advisory Council (CCAC) has recently proposed its initial carbon budget programme comprising three consecutive five-year economy-wide carbon budgets for the periods 2021-2025 and 2026-2030, and a provisional budget for 2031-2035. Not less than 12 months prior to the expiry of each carbon budget the Advisory Council shall prepare and submit to me, or my successor(s), a proposed carbon budget in respect of the period following the third such budget in the carbon budget programme. In this manner, the carbon budget framework will support long-term planning and policy continuity, but similarly ensure that budgets and policies are developed in accordance with the most up-to-date scientific evidence.
The Act explicitly provides for evolution in national climate policy in line with developments in scientific evidence and best practice. When preparing the annual Climate Action Plan and National Long-Term strategy which set out the practical policies and measures that we must implement to achieve our national climate objective, the Minister for Climate Action is required under the Act to account for the relevant scientific or technical advice and any recommendations or advice of the Advisory Council. Furthermore, the Act specifically provides for “the fact that the means of achieving a climate neutral economy and other measures to enable the State to pursue the national climate objective may not yet be fully identified and may evolve over time through innovation, evolving scientific consensus and emerging technologies”.
We have introduced an ambitious and robust best practice climate action framework, which will enable Ireland to continue to develop and implement effective climate action policy, now and into the future, in line with our national climate objective.