United Nations Climate Conference in Kyoto: Statements.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to report to the House on the third conference of the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. I pay tribute to the officials of my Department and the official from the Department of Public Enterprise for their hard work and commitment to looking after our interests in Kyoto. This was commented on not only by the media people present, but by people at European Council level. I appreciate their endeavours during the ten days of the conference.

Two weeks ago, Environment Ministers and representatives of more than 170 countries gathered in Kyoto to respond to the growing threat of climate change influenced by human activity and recognised this as the greatest environmental challenge facing us. Climate change involves all countries. It requires responses from Governments, economic sectors and society. It brings us face to face with the real meaning of sustainable development — the balance between environment and development which we must secure today to sustain future generations.

This third meeting of the conference of the parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Kyoto was an important step in a process that started in the 1980s. The process reflects a growing scientific consensus that human activity is having an adverse effect on climate. In response to the emerging evidence that climate change could have a major global impact, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change was signed in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992. Ireland signed the convention in Rio and ratified it in April 1994.

The ultimate objective of the convention is the stabilisation of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. The convention recognises that developed countries should take the lead in combating climate change. It calls on these countries to aim to return, individually or jointly, to 1990 levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2000; to adopt policies and measures to mitigate climate change; and to provide technology transfer and financial resources to help developing countries.

Ratification of the convention by a large number of parties, and its entry into force, was remarkably rapid, reflecting the seriousness attached to climate change throughout the world. However, a view quickly emerged that the convention commitments were inadequate and needed to be strengthened. Accordingly, at the first conference of the parties in Berlin in April 1995, a negotiating process to strengthen the convention was established. This was to focus on additional commitments to be entered into by the developed world for the post-2000 era.

The need for additional action and stronger commitments was underpinned by the second assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This report concludes that the balance of evidence suggests there is a discernible human influence on climate change, and unless urgent action is taken, global temperature will rise by about 2 degree centigrade by 2100. This would mean an average rate of warming greater than any seen since the end of the last Ice Age and a 50 centimetre rise in sea level. The second assessment report clearly demonstrates that intensified action to abate climate change is needed. If allowed to occur, change of the magnitude indicated would have profound consequences for human health, food security, water resources and coastal areas. It would impact heavily on global security and our economies. The conclusions of the second assessment report have been widely accepted by the world community and were noted by the second conference of the parties to the convention in July 1996 as an urgent basis for finalising the negotiations to strengthen the convention's commitments It was against this background that the third conference of the parties took place in Kyoto from 1 to 11 December 1997, to conclude the negotiations commenced in Berlin two and a half years earlier. Throughout the negotiating process, and at Kyoto, the European Union took a lead role among developed country parties, seeking to ensure the most ambitious outcome possible. The EU also wished to avoid a situation where additional flexibilities in the terms of the protocol could dilute the commitment to real action to reduce emissions.

The outcome at Kyoto is, necessarily, a compromise. It is, however, a considerable step forward, having regard to the low level of ambition associated with some opening positions by developed country parties. Kyoto provides a foundation on which future action can be intensified. It establishes, for the first time, legally binding targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. It also confirms the capacity of the international community to co-operate in action to deal with a major global environmental problem. The alternative to agreement at Kyoto would have been an admission that we are not prepared to tackle climate change on the global basis that is necessary. That would be a serious setback for a process which depends on global commitment and needs to be advanced steadily and progressively into the future.

The centrepiece of the protocol is the legally binding commitments of developed countries to reduce, individually or jointly, emissions of six greenhouse gases in the period 2008 to 2012 to below their 1990 level. The targets agreed will result in an overall reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by developed countries in the period 2008 to 2012 of more than 5 per cent below I990 levels. Bearing in mind that in a "business as usual" scenario emissions in that period are projected to be some 30 per cent above 1990 levels, it is clear that the reduction targets adopted are demanding. While the overall reduction will be in excess of 5 per cent, the targets applicable to individual parties vary somewhat.

The EU and the associated countries are committed to — 8 per cent reduction, the US is committed to — 7 per cent, Japan to — 6 per cent, while others, such as Russia and Australia, are committed to stabilisation or growth limitation targets. The EU's — 8 per cent reduction target will apply to the Union as a whole. The Union's internal arrangements for achieving the target will be the subject of an agreement under article 4 of the protocol which provides for parties jointly to meet an emissions commitment.

The outcome in relation to targets is, I think, positive and encouraging. This is particularly so when one considers the starting position of, for example, the US and Japan who sought stabilisation and a small — 2.5 per cent reduction, respectively. The agreement secured on reduction targets is in no small measure due to the strong role played by the EU and the headline it set with its proposals for a 15 per cent reduction.

The protocol also provides for the promotion of sinks to absorb CO 2, the establishment of an emissions trading regime, joint implementation and the adoption of policies and measures. In relation to sinks, the protocol will require parties which have directly ensured afforestation, reforestation and deforestation since 1990 to offset the amount of carbon sequestered in these sinks against their target. This is a restricted approach to the counting of sinks, linked very clearly to quantifiable human action. There is also provision for the inclusion of additional sinks related to human activities once rules, modalities and guidelines for these additional sinks are agreed at a future conference of the parties, taking into account uncertainties, transparency and verifiability. While sinks will help some parties to meet their targets, it must be recognised that they cannot provide a long-term offset against continuing emissions from fossil fuels.

Emissions trading between counties with defined targets is allowed in principle under the protocol. Provision for emissions trading was a critical element for several parties, but during all stages of the negotiations the EU sought to ensure that trading would not become a major loophole. The requirements that trading may be supplemental only to domestic action and that relevant principles, modalities, rules and guidelines will be defined by the conference of the parties, reflect the concerns of the EU in this regard.

Because of the importance many parties attach to resolving this issue prior to their ratification of the protocol, I expect the next conference of the parties in Buenos Aires will decide on the necessary principles, modalities and rules to allow for emissions trading. Provision is also made in the protocol for parties with defined targets to share reduction credits where one party invests in a project in the territory of another with the aim of reducing emissions or enhancing sinks. Such projects could, for example, be investments in energy efficiency or high efficiency power plants and the credits involved would reflect the savings in emissions accruing on account of the investment.

Separate provision is made for a clean development mechanism. This will allow developed country parties to gain reduction credits for investments in appropriate projects in the developing world. This is similar to joint implementation between developed country parties, but additional safeguards and provisions attach to the clean development mechanism. These are the following: the projects must assist developing country parties to achieve sustainable development; the mechanism will be subject to the authority and guidance of the conference of the parties to the protocol, which will elaborate modalities and procedures for the whole process and independent certification of reductions must be achieved. This mechanism, the details of which remain to be worked out, provides an incentive for the provision of additional financial support and technology transfer to developing countries to facilitate their participation in global efforts to control climate change.

In relation to sinks, emissions trading and joint implementation, the EU was particularly concerned to ensure the provisions on these matters would not allow parties to avoid their responsibilities. The EU secured a good measure of success in this regard. It will now be a priority at EU level to actively pursue the further elaboration of the rules and modalities which the protocol provides for in these matters. At a meeting of the European Council of Environment Ministers earlier this week it was indicated that work would start between the Presidency and the Commission to bring forward proposals in this area for the March Council meeting.

In achieving their targets and commitments and to promote sustainable development, developed country parties will be obliged to adopt a range of policies and measures in accordance with national circumstances. The areas involved include enhanced energy efficiency, protection and enhancement of sinks, renewable energy, promotion of sustainable agriculture, reduction and phasing out of fiscal incentives for fossil fuel use and reduction of transport emissions. Co-operation between parties to enhance the effectiveness of individual action is encouraged, and the conference of the parties may consider ways and means to elaborate the co-ordination of such policies and measures, should it decide this would be beneficial.

I acknowledge this provision is not as strong as the EU would have wished, for example, in relation to mandatory effect and mechanisms for international co-ordination. However, I am satisfied the requirements of the protocol nonetheless represent a step beyond the framework convention and provide a basis for further development in the future.

To emphasise that the protocol is another stage in what will be a long and ongoing process, it is worth noting that provision is made for the second meeting of the parties under the protocol to review it in the light of best scientific information and assessments of climate change and its impacts and relevant technical, social and economic information. This will provide a relatively early opportunity to reassess the commitments made in Kyoto and to ensure that the global momentum to deal with climate change is maintained and accelerated.

I have now outlined the main elements of the protocol. Coming into the negotiations, however, the issue of developing country commitments was a major concern for some developed country parties. In the negotiations, developing countries were successful in their insistence that the terms of the Berlin Mandate be respected, that is, that no new commitments for developing countries be included in the protocol. They also prevented the inclusion of a provision whereby developing countries would voluntarily take on emission limitation commitments. While some parties pressed for meaningful participation of key developing countries through the assumption of binding obligations, the EU regarded this as unhelpful. If it had been insisted on, we probably would not have had such a successful outcome. I hope the provision for joint implementation through the clean development mechanism will provide a sufficient basis for all parties to proceed towards ratification.

The Kyoto protocol presents a challenge and an opportunity for Ireland. We are part of the most ambitious position taken at Kyoto. In my address to the plenary session I indicated the areas in which we have already intensified our action to limit greenhouse gas emissions. I acknowledged, however, that efforts to date, globally and nationally, have not been enough to ensure reasonable progress towards the ultimate objective of the convention. Like others, we were there to state our ambition for the future and to define the means to achieve it. I underlined that our vision for the future must be matched by action now.

Over the next six months or so the EU will review all the implications of the Kyoto outcome. This will include the burden sharing for member states involved in joint achievement of the legally binding 8 per cent reduction target adopted in Kyoto. As I have indicated, the minus 8 per cent reduction target applies to the EU as a whole. The internal EU burden sharing arrangement must be finalised in the coming months so that the Union and its member states will be in a position to sign and, in due course, ratify the protocol. In doing so, the EU must take account of the inclusion of three additional gases in the overall basket of gases covered by the protocol. In the context of the determination of the EU position for the Kyoto negotiations, Ireland adopted an indicative national target of limiting the growth in emissions of the three main greenhouse gases in the period up to 2010 to 15 per cent above their 1990 level. It is my intention to adhere to this level of ambition.

Once the EU burden sharing arrangements are finalised, the Union and member states will be in a position, as required under the protocol, to notify the other parties of the terms of the agreement and to proceed to ratification. The growth limitation target for Ireland set out in the EU agreement will then become our target under the protocol.

I acknowledge the hard work done by the Department officials on behalf of the Government at Kyoto. The EU adopted a unified position and at its recent meeting the Council reiterated its determination to be ambitious in this area. I thank the House for the opportunity to make this statement and I would welcome another chance to discuss it further at the Oireachtas committee in the new year.

I wish to share my time with the Minister of State at the Department of Public Enterprise, Deputy Jacob.

Acting Chairman

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I thank the Minister for sharing his time with me. I compliment him and his officials for representing the people and the Government effectively and efficiently at this important conference in Kyoto last week. The outcome of the intensive negotiations in Kyoto last week signals a new point in the response to the global challenge of climate change. My colleague, the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, Deputy Dempsey, has just given a detailed statement on its background and outcome. The European Union was a major player in the negotiations and Ireland, as part of the Union, was fully represented also, including representation from my Department. As we enter the third millennium we find our world is defined by many global issues, markets, information technology which crosses all borders and in the matter of climate change, a global challenge ultimately requiring a global response.

Globalisation must not be seen solely in terms of financial markets and competitiveness; it also means globalizing risks and responsibilities for the future of the planet. The challenge posed by climate change is undoubtedly global and it brings a need to redefine international co-operation. It has never been in the forefront like it is today. Scientists have confirmed that the planet is becoming warmer, precipitation patterns are changing, sea levels are rising, and this change is influenced by human activity. That is why nations gathered to negotiate and adopt a protocol that will be a milestone in addressing climate change and will allow us to ward off the potential significant economic and social damage, which could be particularly acute in developing countries.

Climate change is a truly global issue because it pervades our daily behaviour and economic thinking. Public opinion, Governments, non governmental organisations and industry have recognised that action has to be taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to protect the environment and to create opportunities for the economy. Based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibility and of the historical responsibilities of developed countries in the emission of greenhouse gases, we have accepted that developed countries must take the lead in modifying the trends of emissions, However, no one country can act on its own to protect the global climate system. A commitment by all to a partnership approach will be of vital importance to the success of the protocol. A partnership approach within and between countries, between different economic sectors and government and business is necessary if we are to have effective climate change policies.

For Ireland, the challenge posed by the outcome of the Kyoto process is a national one and all sectors must be prepared to respond. Inside the EU, Ireland will be expected to play its role in contributing to the limitation and reduction of greenhouse gases. The question of the internal sharing of the EU's commitment will arise in the context of the outcome of the negotiations. The internal distribution of the EU's burden will be negotiated in the coming months. With this in mind, it is important to state that the distribution of the burden must be carefully calibrated across different sectors of the economy.

In so far as the energy sector is concerned we are not starting from scratch. Progress has been made towards implementing our commitments under the Convention. Our second national communication already outlines the policies and measures which have already been put in place to limit greenhouse gas emissions. These include: electricity generation by alternative energy sources; the establishment of the Irish Energy Centre and Energy Advisory Board; improved insulation standards incorporated into the building regulations for new buildings; a demand side management policy by the ESB to limit the growth in demand for electricity; improved public transport and measures to reduce traffic congestion in Dublin and the Waste Management Act.

Notwithstanding action already taken, I share the Minister for the Environment and Local Government's belief in intensifying existing policies and measures and undertaking additional measures to address climate change. That is why a major consultancy study has been jointly commissioned by my Department and his. A consortium of consultants led by Environmental Resources Management is undertaking the study, assisted by the ESRI and Byrne O'Cleirigh. They have held discussions with representatives from all sectors relevant to limiting and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, including private, semi-State and public sector organisations. A number of environmental and renewable energy representatives have also met the consultants. Their findings are expected early in 1998 and will form a core element in developing a further refinement on overall national strategy.

Conscious that the concept of enhanced renewable energy is a valuable and acceptable response to climate change I was especially pleased that for a two year period up to the end of 1999, a new tax relief to encourage corporate investment in certain renewable energy projects such as wind energy and biomass was announced in the budget. I wish to see such excellent measures extended to other forms of renewable energy. I aspire to that provision being made in the not too distant future and it is concrete evidence of the Government's commitment to the promotion of renewable energy, with particular emphasis on wind energy and biomass.

Many of the energy responses available for climate change policy have stand alone strong economic cases even without this element. Energy action on climate change can create opportunities as well as challenges. I reaffirm that we need to explore and reflect the beneficial effects of climate related measures for environment, energy, economic and other policies.

In the struggle against climate change, technology plays a unique role. Technologies already developed and those of the future offer the best prospects for curbing greenhouse gas emissions in an economically and politically optimal way, but scientific breakthroughs do not just happen. They require ideas and investment. Once achieved they need to be translated into workable, cost effective technologies and once developed, they must be widely and rapidly deployed where they will do the most good.

The energy sector is well placed to maximise the benefits of technology development and deployment. As Minister for Energy I reiterate the commitment of the sector to meet its obligations. I call on other sectors to share in the national response. Together we can meet the challenge and obligations of climate change.

I wish to share time with Deputy Currie.

Acting Chairman

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I welcome the opportunity to discuss the outcome of the Kyoto Conference, although this is the wrong time to discuss this issue. Information should have been provided to the members of the Dáil prior to the Minister travelling to Kyoto, as was requested on a number of occasions.

There is an agreement whereby Ireland is committed to reducing its emissions of greenhouse gases, but the people have had no input into the decision and neither have they any idea of how the proposed reductions are to be arrived at. I understand from previous discussions with the Minister that he has no idea of how we are to reduce our emissions. The decision that the EU would reduce its emission of greenhouse gases by 8 per cent below the EU level was made in isolation without consultation with the various sectors who will be involved in providing those reductions. Although it is not yet known where Ireland stands within the EU bubble, I hope we will stick to our original target of limiting our emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide in 2010 to 15 per cent above the 1990 level. We should, along with our EU partners, show leadership in this area and work within the targets to improve air quality for the benefit of those who have to contend with decreasing levels of air quality.

The commitment to reducing emissions of greenhouse gases should have been made in consultation with all the environmental partners. It is not only an issue for the Department of the Environment and Local Government but also for the Departments of Agriculture and Food, Public Enterprise, Enterprise, Trade and Employment and Marine and Natural Resources. They will be involved in contributing towards curtailment of our emission of these gases, yet they appear to have had no input to the targets set for them. The commitment made in Kyota concerns us all and the Minister should have consulted the relevant partners and obtained a consensus prior to agreeing to the setting of legally binding targets.

The Deputy will have to talk to her predecessor about that.

We are informed that man's activities are contributing to an increase in atmospheric temperature and are changing the climate pattern of the world. There are numerous examples quoted to prove this theory. The five hottest years have been in the 1990s and 1997 is said to have been the hottest since records were first kept in the 1860s, 0.43º above the average. A rise of 3º is predicted over the next 100 years threatening climatic changes of drastic proportions. A climate cooling of just 3º centigrade brought about the ice age. All this warming will melt the ice caps and cause expansion of the oceans thus leading to rising sea levels and flooding of low lying areas. The floods in Europe last year and here have been attributed to global warming.

There are many uncertainties and gaps in information and in the ability of scientists to project and detect future climate change, as most of the computer models used to detect and predict climate change are a matter of considerable dispute. Most of the models cannot predict with precision; they estimate that the amount of warming should be about twice as much as that which has occurred so assertions that future projections are correct need to be considered bearing this point in mind.

Nature is one of the greatest contributors of greenhouse gases. The eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991 threw up twice as much sulphur dioxide in three hours as the whole of American industry in one year. Every year the oceans yield 90 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide as do decaying plants compared with a man-made total of six billion tonnes. Man-made emissions account for approximately 4 per cent of greenhouse gases.

I am not putting forward these arguments to advocate complacency. The Kyota agreement underlines our commitment to the environment and recognises the negative effects of our activities on air quality. I note the cautionary words of the intergovernmental panel on climate change that "the balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate". We have to take the warnings on board and act for future generations.

The programme for sustainable development introduced by the previous Government puts an onus on us to examine all developments and their long-term effect on the environment. The effects of global warming and its implications for future generations need to be considered and policies need to be implemented to ensure air emissions do not have an adverse effect on the world for our children and our children's children. We have a responsibility to protect the environment and to examine our actions and measure their impact on the world in the year 2010 and beyond.

The principle of sustainable development must be at the centre of environmental and development policies here. Building on that principle, the traditional adversarial approach of industrial development on one side and environmental protection on the other should be abandoned. They should not be promoted as opposites but as partners with a new approach, simultaneously maintaining high environmental standards and promoting a competitive enterprise sector. Environmental quality should be maintained in a way that encourages companies to raise productivity and respond to the new markets created by them.

Ireland enjoys a strong and positive perception and "green" image internationally as a country with a clean environment. It is essential that high environmental standards be maintained not only to protect that international perception and image but also because the quality of the natural environment is a key factor in the quality of life of the people.

Increasingly, environmental issues are coming to the fore and people want to contribute towards an improvement in their surroundings. The outcome of the conference in Kyota needs to be explained and people need to be made aware of how to reduce emissions. How can the average citizen contribute towards a reduction in greenhouse gases? How do the Government and the relevant Departments plan to assist people to improve the world for our children and our grandchildren? We need to know what the implications are.

We need to be involved in the decision-making and not just have some meaningless figures foisted upon us. People are willing to contribute if they are involved at the beginning and consulted and the benefits explained in a reasonable manner. I hope there will be open and informative discussion on the subject in the near future. If Ireland were to do nothing about reducing its emissions of greenhouse gases and carry on regardless of the implications for future generations, we would increase the levels by 28 per cent over our 1990 levels by the year 2010. This was noted by a recent ESRI report.

At the Kyoto conference the Minister stated we would restrict the percentage increase to 15 per cent over our 1990 levels by the year 2010. We now have a commitment from the Government that we will reduce the projected emissions by almost 100 per cent — that is we will halve the levels of emissions by the year 2010. This is highly commendable and I applaud it, but how are we to do it. The policies to implement such a commitment should be in place now to achieve those reductions. In an era of increased consumerism the figures show that all the emission levels are increasing at unprecedented levels.

The major man-made emissions of greenhouse gases in Ireland include carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, although I note that the basket of gases agreed in Kyoto include HFC's, PFC's as well as sulphur hexaflouride. Of these three gases, carbon dioxide is the single biggest contributor to global warming, accounting for 80 per cent of emissions from the EU.

Carbon dioxide is produced from the burning of fossil fuels and apart from the adverse effect on the world's climate, it is desirable that we consider the reduction in the use of fossil fuels which are non-renewable because the day will come when these fuels will be depleted and we will need to concentrate our efforts on providing alternatives to non-renewables.

Livestock, landfill sites and agricultural activity contribute to methane emissions. Cattle and sheep rearing is the main contributor. Ireland has a greater output of methane emissions than the EU with methane accounting for 29 per cent of our greenhouse gas emissions compared to 12 per cent in the EU. There is little one can do to reduce the methane output from agriculture as we are very much dependent on this industry. If we were to serious about this, the Minister might consult his counterpart in India where there are hundreds of thousands of methane collectors. Solar stoves were distributed and many families in India now prepare their meals using methane derived from animal wastes. The methane produced from landfill sites has been successfully used to power local communities on the Continent, particularly in the Netherlands, and in Cork city. The methane gas from the landfill site is collected and converted to energy. This is a welcome advance from the time when we would just burn off these gases.

Nitrous oxide, another contributor to greenhouse gases, accounts for 14 per cent of emissions. These gases mainly result from the use of agricultural fertilisers. A recent initiative by the Government to provide funds to Teagasc to alleviate the problem of overuse of fertilisers should contribute to a reduction in the emissions of nitrous oxide.

The three gases mentioned in the basket of gases, while their output is small, should not go unnoticed. The European Council recently "noted with concern" proposals by a US company to commercialise self-chilling drink cans in which one possible cooling agent, HFC — 134A, has a global warming potential 1,300 greater than carbon dioxide. Rather than introduce new problems into the equation, action should be taken to ensure that products which are major contributors to global warming are not launched on our markets.

Carbon dioxide is the principal greenhouse gas and it is emitted almost exclusively in the generation of energy. Energy demand driven by economic growth and energy consumption has risen steadily since the 1960s, apart from the oil price rises in 1973 and in 1979. The pattern is one of rapid growth and is likely to continue. If past trends are followed there will be a further increase in energy demand.

A cost efficient and reliable source of energy is essential to underpin the competitiveness of our industries. Ireland should develop an energy policy which will bring us forward to the year 2010, the main objectives of which should be to ensure a security of supply while ensuring that the cost of supplies to firms and consumers can compete with those of our main trading partners. In general, Irish energy prices have improved relative to those in the United Kingdom and the rest of the European Union since the 1980s, although natural gas prices are considerably higher than the EU average, particularly for business. Energy policy should aim to achieve greater efficiency in the domestic, commercial and industrial sectors. There is much room for improvement and the relevant authorities must bear more responsibility.

What effect does Energy Awareness Week have on energy consumption? I suspect very little. As we all know, we should use low energy light bulbs and lagging jackets as well as draught proof our homes and insulate our attics. An ESRI study of energy conservation in the home shows that if there was a reasonable uptake of these measures in the existing housing stock, carbon dioxide emissions could be reduced by 680,000 tonnes. Because of the boom in the housing industry we are well placed to reduce our energy requirements and the demands on our purses.

Energy audits of commercial buildings should be undertaken. An energy audit of several large modern office buildings was undertaken in 1990 and 1991 as part of a pilot project initiated by the Department of Transport, Energy and Communications. The results indicate that if there was a similar audit of the entire stock of office space, carbon dioxide emissions could be reduced by almost 80,000 tonnes.

Within a short period there will be transnational competition in the supply of electricity here. With new technologies, this will open the door to the greater use of renewable sources of energy. Just as the economic miracles of the 20th century were powered by fossil fuels, the 21st century may be marked by an equally dramatic move from those fuels resulting in an energy revolution.

The wind power industry is the fastest growing energy industry in the world. Its annual output is valued at £1.5 billion. This is growing by 25 per cent annually. Two decades of research have yielded a thoroughly modern wind turbine. Thousands of wind turbines have been installed in a dozen European countries. In Denmark, for example, wind power accounts for 5 per cent of total energy output. There is no reason we should not consider this alternative.

Finance is crucial for the development of wind technologies. The banks and financial institutions, however, have been slow to recognise the value of this investment. Given more favourable conditions and advancements in technology, renewable sources of energy should become a viable alternative. The Minister and the Minister of State mentioned this prospect.

Transport and its consumption of fossil fuels is the largest contributor to carbon dioxide emissions which, it is predicted, will rise from almost 800,000 tonnes in 1990 to 1.6 million tonnes by 2010, a 100 per cent increase. The increase in the number of motor cars has an effect not alone on air quality but on the visual environment and our general well-being as well as the efficiency of our cities. This is evident in Dublin but it is also a major problem in our other cities, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford. While we cannot discourage people from buying cars, we can encourage them to reduce the number of journeys they make and to buy more energy efficient cars.

Miles per gallon and the implications for precious non-renewable fossil fuels were on everybody's agenda during the oil crisis in the 1970s but, as the price of petrol has dropped in relative terms, fuel efficiency is no longer at the top of the list of priorities. It should be. America, with its large gas guzzling cars and cheap petrol, contributes enormously to world carbon dioxide emissions. With 5 per cent of the world's population, it accounts for 25 per cent of greenhouse gases.

There is a clear need for more investment in public transport to reduce the number of car journeys. We need to provide an efficient and reliable system that will be more attractive than a car journey. Greater emphasis should be placed on green commuting and people encouraged to share car journeys. Park and ride systems should also be introduced.

This issue has been raised on a number of occasions in the Chamber. As traffic is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, it should be examined urgently and steps taken to reduce its polluting effects. On my way to the House this morning I noticed that people were wearing masks.

When it comes to excise duties diesel is treated favourably. Yet, it is a major pollutant. Other more environmentally-friendly fuels should be considered, such as liquid petroleum, gas or biofuels which were mentioned by the Minister and Minister of State.

There should be greater consultation between the environmental partners and all those concerned about our future. If we are to protect and preserve the global environment, we must all play our part, as nations, families and individuals, and take part in meaningful discussions.

I thank my colleague for sharing her time and congratulate her on her contribution for which she conducted much research. For those of us who are new to this subject, it was much more informative than those of the Minister and Minister of State. Her suggestions are worthy of consideration.

The Minister said the Kyoto Agreement is not as strong as we or the European Union would like. As he will be aware, commentators have pointed to possible loopholes in some of the commitments entered into. This is a source of concern. Initially and laterally, even after the arrival of the Vice-President, the contribution of the United States to the conference, considering the role its citizens play in relation to the greenhouse effect, was the source of considerable disappointment. While the target set for the United States is lower than that set for the European Union, we have been told there is a possibility the agreement will not be acceptable to the United States Senate. That would be even more disastrous than its failure to ratify the agreement on the League of Nations in an earlier generation. It is potentially that important.

This is a global problem. Tip O'Neill was right when he said that all politics are local. As far as this subject is concerned, the problem is global but it is also local. I shall concentrate on how this relates to us, the policies we shall need to develop and its effect on people generally. I shall not go over the ground covered so admirably by my party colleague, Deputy Clune, but will concentrate on two or three matters not already referred to.

Deputy Clune made a passing reference to security of supply. Speaking to people with some experience of this issue, the lack of confidence in security of supply arises continuously, as does the fact that we rely on a single source of supply.

In a recent ESRI report I noticed the following quotation:

We may leave ourselves open to buying gas from a relatively small number of suppliers who effectively have monopoly powers and may be in a position to exploit them.

That appears to refer to a type of OPEC arrangement for gas similar to that pertaining to oil.

There is also the problem of other areas potentially volatile political regions from which we get our natural gas supplies. For example in the case of the former Soviet Union, most of the Russian supplies to the European Union come via the Ukraine. We also rely on supplies from North African countries such as Algeria where recent events remind us of how volatile is the position there with its attendant lack of security in relation to our supplies.

The European Union and Irish energy market is vulnerable to political instability in Eastern Europe which could disrupt our domestic markets. As we know, our gas reserves at the Kinsale and Ballycotton fields are expected to expire within five or six years. If we do not find more gas we shall be totally dependent on imported gas from Scotland via the undersea connection.

There is also the importance of a natural gas interconnector between North and South which a recent report indicated was technically all right and made economic sense. I draw the attention of the House to how much all of us rely on the continuation of peace. We know what happened to the electricity interconnector and, in certain circumstances, a gas interconnector would be even more vulnerable. All of our efforts are towards continued peace, emphasising that such represents not merely the absence of bullets and bombs but, to a very large extent, our economic future prospects. That too could be the subject of fairly intense discussion in the present peace talks with regard to the establishment of a board or boards operating between North and South.

Because of the security and monopoly implications, more emphasis must be placed on renewable sources of energy, a point made by the Minister of State.

A recent very valuable White Paper from the European Union entitled Energy for the Future: Renewable Sources of Energy, subtitled White Paper for a Community Strategy and Action Plan which places enormous emphasis on the necessity for renewable sources of energy, Chapter 1, under the heading "Introduction" reads:

Renewable sources of energy are currently unevenly and insufficiently exploited in the European Union. Although many of them are abundantly available, and the real economic potential considerable, renewable sources of energy make a disappointingly small contribution of less than 6 per cent to the Union's overall gross inland energy consumption, which is predicted to grow steadily in the future.

I had not realised it was as small as that. The same paragraph continues:

A joint effort both at the Community and Member States' level is needed to meet this challenge. Unless the Community succeeds in supplying a significantly higher share of its energy demand from renewables over the next decade, an important development opportunity will be missed and at the same time, it will become increasingly difficult to comply with its commitments both at European and international level as regards environmental protection.

If those words are true of the European Union as a whole — and I believe them to be — they are certainly true of this country and our contribution to the problem.

I found the speech of both Ministers seriously deficient in terms of the absence of any proposals to attain our guaranteed position. The emphasis placed on the consultancy study by both would appear to indicate the answers Members of the House should have liked will not be forthcoming in advance of the outcome of that consultancy study expected early next year; from the point of view of continuing debate, the earlier the better. As these renewable energy sources are indigenous and have other positive consequences — apart from contributing to the Kyoto proposals — in particular in terms of job creation and regional development, I ask the Minister to bear them in mind.

I am glad to note that the White Paper is optimistic in relation to the outcome and says:

Current trends show that considerable technological progress related to renewable energy technologies has been achieved over recent years .

Some technologies, in particular biomass, small hydro and wind, are currently competitive and economically viable in particular compared to other decentralised applications.

I would like to hear more from the Minister on these matters. While this is a global problem our contribution to the European Union is of considerable importance. I would like the Minister to state as soon as possible what our contribution must be to new policies that must be devised and implemented in order to contribute to the overall European Union target.

I welcome this opportunity to comment on the very serious implications of the Kyoto Summit, the whole issue of climate change and its implications for Ireland, all our people and the world community.

Like other Members I would have liked to have had an opportunity to have had even an informal discussion in advance of the Kyoto Summit. One thing I learned while participating in the European Council of Ministers was the degree of engagement in other EU parliaments with policy formation and discussion. In virtually any other European Union member state it would be unthinkable for a Minister to present a national case, at an international summit, without having gone through the requisite procedures within his or her own parliament, where a continuous brief obtains. I certainly do not ascribe responsibility for that deficiency to the present Minister but to the system we operate in this House. I hope the committee system we have now established will be used as a vehicle for much greater interaction between Members of both Houses and the Executive, the Government, in the formulation and discussion of policy so that we can avoid a repetition of many past mistakes. For example, there springs to mind immediately the Maastricht Treaty and referendum where internal dialogue within Government or within the European institutions was not matched by dialogue nationally. People are left out of the equation and many of the issues that will have an impact on them are often not understood. We cannot tell people in a matter of weeks about an issue that has been discussed for years. I hope the committee system now in place will be used as a vehicle for an ongoing discussion on the range of important issues we face in the environment area.

We are discussing climate change which is no longer a hypothesis or abstract proposal but an established fact that requires immediate attention. Sometimes the words "global warming" are inaccurately used to describe this phenomenon. Global warming creates an inaccurate picture of the changes that are undoubtedly now taking place in the world climates. For those of us who live in the cold north, the notion of global warming sometimes can be seen in a positive light. The reality of climate change will more accurately underscore for our populations the changes that need to be addressed.

Although it is estimated that since the end of the last century real temperatures have risen by approximately half a degree Celsius, world sea levels have risen by ten centimetres over the past 100 years. The basis for our view on climate change rests now with the findings of the authoritative climate panel, the IPCC, the International Panel on Climate Change, established by the United Nations. Although recently there seems to have been a growing and concerted effort to undermine the climate change argument, it appears that a counter position is being put repeatedly now in the media and among some members of the scientific community. That is a worrying development because it can lull us into a sense of complacency or a view that we do not need to take decisive action, which would be disastrous for our future. We must not only heed the clear scientific warnings so clearly expressed in recent times, we must be prepared also to take the necessary constructive action to change the damage being done by human activity.

Members will be aware of the view expressed recently by the European Union Environment Commissioner, Ritt Bjerregaard, in her newsletter. She stated:

Experts on the UN's climate panel, the IPCC, forecast that over the next 50-100 years temperatures will rise by a further 1.0-3.5ºC, which again will cause sea levels to rise a further 15-95 cm. In itself this does not sound very much, but for those people who live in areas below sea level it is a disastrous development. This would, for example, affect large stretches of the Netherlands, certain marshlands in England, the length of the German North Sea coast, coastal areas on the Black Sea, around the Po flood plain in Italy and the tidal flats . on the west coast of Jutland in Denmark.

For communities across the European Union and throughout the world, the consequences of the rise in sea levels projected by the EU Commissioner would be disastrous.

Some of our own experiences in relation to totally unforeseen climate patterns in the past year have been mentioned. We have seen the effects in the Suir Valley, with Clonmel and Carrick-onSuir being repeatedly flooded where there is no logical explanation for it. What was expected to be a once in a generation phenomenon occurred repeatedly in the space of a few years. Those of us who live in the south east will remember the past August bank holiday when I thought, after three days and three nights of rain, that it was time to start building the ark.

The climate is changing and the question is why? The scientific view is that this change is being caused by the build up of greenhouse gases — CO 2, methane, oxides of nitrogen and others. These are the gases released by motor vehicles, industry, power stations and a range of other activities, including domestic households. If we are serious in our determination to halt this disastrous course of events, we must act in a planned and immediate way. It is not for somebody else to act. Each of us must act individually as citizens and as a nation within the United Nations family.

The recent focus on world environment matters began in the most concerted way in the Rio de Janeiro conference of five years ago, the World Earth Summit. The outcome of that unprecedented world focus on the fragility of our planet was a number of specific and controversial proposals — Agenda 21, the biodiversity convention and the convention on climate change.

Agenda 21, which requires action at every level of society, stresses the importance of integrated policy to link economic, social and civic issues. It stresses the importance of the individual citizen and of global partnerships in bringing about much needed change. That is much more important than the preserve of Governments. If we are to react in the way Rio envisaged, we must motivate everybody to understanding the conventions unfolding and the changes in personal consumption patterns that will be required.

Five years after Rio, in June of this year, a special session of the United Nations General Assembly met in New York to review the implementation of Agenda 21. This review was attended by more than 160 countries including some 70 Heads of State and Government. The position disclosed at that grand gathering in New York was bleak. Progress has been painfully slow since Rio and the UN General Secretary's report to the UNGASS highlighted the paucity of world response over those five years. The Secretary General highlighted the fact that, globally, the number of people living in poverty rose to 1.3 billion in l993, and that 20 per cent of the world's population lacks access to safe water while 50 per cent lacks access to safe sanitation.

One of the agenda items in New York in June was the issue of climate change and the preparations by all countries for the Kyoto Summit from which much was expected. From my own experience in New York and previously at other United Nations environment talks, the divide inevitably rose between most developed countries and the developing countries. The developed countries focus by and large on the environmental agenda and the developing countries focus on finance, on eastern technology transfer and on the need for appropriate development. The poorer developing countries, the G77, have a valid point. The world is very unequally divided now. We cannot focus only on environmental degradation and decide that we must change our patterns and tell developing countries wrecked by poverty to halt their development while we sustain the unsustainable in the developed world. The developing world expects the developed world to take not only the first steps but to make the greater sacrifice because the major damage to the environment has been caused by the developed world.

The United States, Canada, the European Union and the G7, now the G8, disproportionately gobble up the resources of this planet. If we are to bring the world community to address issues such as climate change and other environmental problems that beset all mankind, there must be a clear and complementary policy programme to address the issues of exclusion, technology transfer, appropriate development and the eradication of poverty. The basic question is the pattern of consumption and production and the unsustainability of the current patterns. There is a view held by some that the developed world can maintain its pattern of consumption but yet expect the developing world to halt its natural wish to develop.

The average ODA for the period 1993-95 has been lower than for the period 1990-92. Overseas development aid is falling at a time when there is a new focus on the requirement for global action to solve environmental issues. That is true in absolute terms and as a percentage of GNP. Overseas development aid is the lowest it has been in real terms for 30 years. Within the OECD official development aid as a percentage of GNP declined from .33 per cent in 1992 to .29 per cent in 1995. It is important to acknowledge that the Irish position under the stewardship of the former Minister, Deputy Spring, over the past five years is a happier tale. Irish development aid has been increased by 300 per cent since Rio, something of which we can be justifiably proud.

It is a scandal that the rich world should lecture the developing world on its environmental responsibilities while running away from the United Nations target in support of the developing world, and that must be addressed. Rather than moving closer to the 0.7 per cent target, we are moving away from it. There are a range of reasons for that and I remember the discussions within the European Union family of countries on the requirements to meet the criteria for EMU which has squeezed public expenditure everywhere. Why is it when public expenditure is squeezed one of the first areas to be squeezed is the support mechanism for developing countries?

The backdrop to Kyoto was one that was less than inspiring. Not only has there been a NorthSouth split which was almost inevitable, but within the developed world there was a chasm between the progressive standards put forward by the European Union and, not to put a tooth in it, the disappointingly modest proposals for change put forward by others including the United States. The EU position for the COP 3 of the Framework Convention proposed specific emission reduction targets of 15 per cent below 1990 levels by the year 2010. I note AOSIS proposed a 20 per cent reduction below 1990 levels to be achieved by the year 2005, which was consistent with the Berlin mandate negotiated some two and a half years ago. The AOSIS countries had a good reason for being the most progressive and the most demanding in setting high targets. If the projections of the climate change panel come to pass the vulnerable small island states in the Pacific will no longer exist because they will have been swamped.

The outcome of the summit is a conclusion that has been pulled or cobbled together. I know how such summits work and a conclusion is reached at the last minute. Those involved have to deal with people who want to delay matters and they must make a decision. They will state there is no point in having an inadequate conclusion and they might as well say they have failed. The choice is to do that or to accept much less than they want. Despite the best efforts of the Minister and the EU negotiating teams, the line of the least progressive was what was arrived at. Not only were the identified and urgently required targets not achieved, they were watered down, and new inputs not discussed previously were accepted. The issue of trading in pollution licences has been formalised and legalised. I can envisage specific instances where the notion of trading burdens of pollution might have an advantage. For example, it would be helpful to a country with a disastrous industrial structure, such as the former Soviet Union countries, to get a major technology transfer in kind from a developed country such as the United States to close down bad polluting industry and at the same time reduce their emissions and be able to trade their quota of pollution in lieu of that. There might be an environmental and sustainable argument to do that, but many other arguments put forward claim it is simply a mechanism to allow those who are already major polluters to buy their way out of their international obligations and to continue to pollute. It is an extremely dangerous principle to enshrine into a new protocol. Whatever safeguards are enmeshed in it, and I know the Minister has indicated to us that the European Union worked very hard to circumscribe it, it is a dangerous principle.

I remember a discussion at the Berlin talks in early 1995 when Chancellor Kohl pontificated with great conviction on the achievements of Germany in reducing greenhouse gases, and a ministerial colleague, whom I shall not name said to him that if Chancellor Kohl allowed him take over a Third World country and deindustrialise it, they, too, would reduce their emissions. That colleague was referring to the fact that West Germany had taken over East Germany, and deindustrialised it and naturally the emissions fell dramatically.

These matters are often not as straightforward as they seem. The British are vaunting the fact that they will easily meet not only the target of a reduction of 15 per cent but the 20 per cent target. They can do this because of an over-reliance on the nuclear industry. There are safeguards which one must look at in all of these matters. One can reduce significantly greenhouse gases by changing one's source of electricity generation to nuclear fuel but that would be equally unpalatable and unacceptable to most of us.

Most people who are interested in this issue will be bitterly disappointed at the outcome of the Kyoto conference. The line of least resistance is the one which has been agreed. If the volume of greenhouse gases continues to rise at the rate which is now virtually sanctioned, then global temperatures will continue to rise, the sea level will continue to rise and vulnerable communities will suffer. There is virtually no argument about that.

It is often easy to point out the responsibilities of others and say it is disgraceful that they were not more supportive. What are we going to do? Let us be frank about this. We aligned ourselves with the most progressive group, the EU, whose position was that it would reduce the volume of greenhouse gases by 15 per cent on the 1990 level. That was our opening position and no other participant, except the AOSIS countries, was more progressive. However, Ireland, within that bubble, was going to increase the volume of greenhouse gases by 15 per cent. The battles to achieve agreement were difficult. I am heartened by the commitment reiterated by the Minister that commitments to the plus 15 per cent threshold will not be exceeded even with a new EU allowable reduction of only 8 per cent rather than the 15 per cent reduction which we had originally envisaged. Within that bubble, Ireland will be as progressive as we had committed ourselves to be.

Let us be in no doubt of the consequences of achieving that. There are major issues which must be addressed and major policies which must be put in place, and we are not doing so.

I listened with interest to Minister of State Jacob's check list of all the mechanisms which are required to reduce CO 2 and greenhouse gas emissions and to achieve reductions in energy consumption, but who is in charge of the campaign to reduce the consumption of electricity in Ireland? The answer is the ESB. That is like putting Guinness in charge of reducing the consumption of stout. For good measure, we introduce competition. Therefore, one tells the ESB to be competitive and at the same time to reduce the demand for the product which it will produce. We must establish an independent agency to reduce the use of energy. It is not fair or reasonable to expect the producer to sell its produce and at the same time reduce the demand for it. That is not logical. It will not happen.

Our attitude to the development of new sources of energy is miserable. There is an attitude within the Department of Energy that we must give that group a sop. The view is not that we must devolve a significant proportion of our energy requirement to those sources. The only way we will do this is if the Government or the Oireachtas sets effective and ambitious targets for the proportion of our total energy requirement which will be generated from renewable sources.

We must have a transport policy which does so. All of us who tried to come to this House this morning by car saw what is happening in the city. There are hard choices to be made.

With regard to the Minister's Department, there is the issue of energy conservation in the design of houses. Better insulation standards must be mandatory. The technologies are not new but they are more expensive. These are the issues which we must grasp if we are sincere about climate change and improving our environment generally.

The Minister lays out an ambitious set of targets, such as those in the national sustainable development strategy. I look forward to the dialogue in committee on the mechanism to monitor that because it will affect all Departments. The Minister cannot be saddled with the responsibility of achieving a pristine environment. That can only be done if every Department and Minister acknowledges the shared responsibility in achieving that important objective. The question is whether we, as a people, have the determination to achieve ambitious targets on the reduction of greenhouse gases and improving our environment. If the answer is yes, there is a high price to be paid and we must start explaining that cost clearly to the people in the weeks, months and years to come.

These statements on the Kyoto conference are met with overwhelming indifference in this House compared to some more recent matters such as health scares and sex scandals. It is important to try to put some of what happened at Kyoto in a context which could be understood more easily by Deputies from various parties who will speak after me.

I see this issue in a similar way to some of those scandals, to which I referred. Effectively Kyoto was the setting for a tribunal which was seeking a road to justice. It was a tribunal in which, for the purposes of illustration, the industrialised world can be compared to a frail man in a wheelchair being cared for by a highly qualified woman made available by the Department of Health at taxpayers' expense. I see the woman as the planet on which we depend and the man is charged with a brutal rape of his carer. If we were to look at it in that context, we would see quickly that the woman could have chosen a different career and probably would regret having had anything to do with the frail man. However, the fact is that the woman could do without that man but he is dependent on her.

That is the context of injustice which we are facing here and which must be addressed. It is more than a nice idea, the need to make an effort, grasp the nettle or have the "bottle"— the clichés which will pepper this debate. It is really a question of whether we are prepared to sustain an injustice, whether we have the ability to see that justice must be done for the future of humanity as well as for the integral rights of other life forms on this planet. Unless we face up to that fact we will merely pad out this debate which was sought by the Green Party and others. The debate will go nowhere unless the Minister gets the message that this is a top priority in every sense.

All Departments must expect to be severely dealt with by the electorate if they do not deliver a sustainable future which involves the changes that were not delivered at Kyoto. According to various scientific bodies, those changes must include a 60 per cent reduction in CO 2 emissions to stabilise the situation.