I welcome the opportunity to speak in this debate. From 7 December, for two weeks, environment Ministers and officials from around the world will meet in Copenhagen for the 15th UN climate change conference to thrash out a successor to the Kyoto Protocol. The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Gormley, will represent Ireland at this critical summit where agreement on a new legal framework to tackling global warming from 2013 must be reached.
I pay tribute to the Minister, Deputy Gormley. It is fair to that we have no one better or more committed than he to represent us. He has spent all his political life, if not all his adult life, committed to the environment and we are very lucky to have a Minister like him representing us there.
Today we heard the positive news that India, in common with the other major greenhouse gas emitters, China and the US, is likely to announce its emissions target in advance of next week's conference. This shows real commitment that larger countries are now prepared to tackle the very real challenges of climate change. Over the past decade and beyond, the larger countries did not make any great commitment to reaching their targets.
Last week Ireland witnessed at first hand the devastating effects of climate change. I listened to Mr. Gerald Fleming telling Cathal Mac Coille that in his opinion the unprecedented rainfall we have witnessed is more than just a freak event, rather it is the very real effects of global warming. The awful scenes we have witnessed of families struggling to pick up the pieces of the lives, homes and businesses in which they have invested so much time and commitment drive home the reality that immediate action must be taken to combat the issue of climate change at an international level.
The Government clearly recognises that we must also lead the way at home in Ireland on this issue. A few weeks ago the Joint Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security discussed the committee's report which included outline proposals for a climate change Bill. The report is a valuable input to development of a climate change Bill, the heads of which are now being developed. There is clear all-party support for this legislation and in early December a framework document on the proposed legislation will be published.
The recently reviewed programme for Government also reiterated the Government's commitment to climate change. It stated that a new climate change Bill will give a statutory basis to the annual carbon budget incorporating a target of 3% annual average reductions on greenhouse gas emissions.
There was also a commitment within the programme to introduce a carbon tax in the budget on 9 December along with an adjustment in the ratio of expenditure on new Transport 21 projects. Between public transport and national roads programme, there will be a ratio of 2:1 in favour of public transport. Certainly, that is an achievable objective if we are committed to it.
Likewise, the Government's action plan, Smarter Travel — A Sustainable Transport Future, is a very positive development in the Government's response to the significant challenges presented by Ireland's transport system. The plan recognises the need for a fundamental shift from private transport to more sustainable modes of transport. I am pleased to mention one project, the new DART underground, currently at consultation stage, which on completion will treble the greater Dublin area's rail service capacity from 33 million passenger journeys annually to 100 million passenger journeys annually. Its construction will be of enormous benefit to people and will be critical in assisting the shift from private to public transport.
The action plan also highlights the pivotal role spatial and transport planning will play in tackling Ireland's urban sprawl and, by default, our carbon emissions. The report recommends that the instance of urban generated one-off housing in peri-urban areas must cease and recommends general minimum housing density of between 35 and 50 dwellings per hectare in urban areas of suitable size and population, and requiring substantially higher densities where local circumstances warrant it.