I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for the opportunity to raise this issue of major historical importance, namely, the agreement that was reached last Saturday in Montreal under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. At the outset I warmly welcome that historic agreement, which will be seen in time to be enormously significant in the development of this issue.
I hope the Government's understanding of the agreement will be outlined in the Minister of State's reply. My understanding is that, in a sense, it sets the signatories to the Kyoto Agreement, particularly the developed countries, including Ireland, on a path towards reviewing what deep cuts may be made in emissions in advance of the ending of the Kyoto provisions in 2012, to allow for a seamless transition, so this country can provide a lead internationally for the effective change.
Perhaps the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Roche, will dust down our Climate Change Targets Bill as it provides an outline framework for a gradual, measured and targeted response to that task that must now be undertaken.
It was remarkable to see the Minister go on what can only be described as a rant during a public debate where he lost his own composure and stated that our proposals were madness. However, we proposed the very thing that he had agreed to as Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government at the European Council. This included cuts of 60% to 80% by 2050 and cuts of 15% to 30% by 2020. The European Environment Ministers, of whom he is one, had recommended these measures and that is all we sought. He became agitated and ill-tempered about that proposal.
A 15% to 30% reduction by 2020 is recommended. Under this Government, Ireland is likely to be 30% above our 1990 levels by 2012. This calls for huge requirements for change and for preparation to begin now. Is this the direction the Government will take as part of the international agreement?
I will cite the reasons the Minister, Deputy Roche's reaction was so off the mark, to put it charitably. The Minister of State, Deputy Noel Ahern, has responsibility for housing and he will recognise that some of the major changes in reduction of emissions will take place in the housing sector. The heating of houses accounts for 40% of the total CO2 emissions.
I will cite two examples to demonstrate to the House the positive opportunities and the huge economic advantages to be gained from moving towards this new low carbon future. Our colleagues in Fingal County Council, Councillors David Healy, Robert Kelly and Joe Corr, have succeeded in getting Fingal County Council to stitch into local development plans a requirement that any new buildings built under such plans should have a 50 KW heat requirement per square metre and that 30% of the heat should be provided by renewable sources. The Minister of State has a knowledge of heating and maths so he will know that the average suburban house size of 150 sq.m. with such a high energy standard efficiency would have a gas fired heating bill of €225. This is a dramatic reduction in the cost paid under the current regulations. There would also be a dramatic cut in emissions. This is a positive, good news story which will provide jobs and save money for people.
It is remarkable the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government does not regard a cut in emissions as a positive news story. The Danish Government has agreed an energy savings initiative with dramatic reductions in emissions. The Danes are setting up what should be done in Ireland, a one-stop shop for the insulation of houses. A standard package for a house built in the 1920s costs €21,000. This investment in insulation and energy efficiency will lead to a 47% reduction in emissions from the house, which is almost half the emissions. The other good news story is that the householders are repaid over a period of 30 years. They will have paid off the loan for the investment of €21,000 and will receive a payback of €53,000. This is an example of positive measures that can be undertaken to halve our carbon emissions without any difficulty and without the need to resort to new technology. This is the action to be adopted in the spirit of the Montreal agreement which will be seen as an historic step in the right direction.