Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Climate Change Reporting) Bill 2018: First Stage

I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to amend the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015 to expand the responsibilities of the Government's climate change advisory council to publish guidance to companies on measuring and reporting their exposure to the risks of climate change and their impacts on the climate.

This Bill will expand the responsibilities and duties of the Climate Change Advisory Council to provide guidance to companies that would like to include climate-related information in their annual reports. This would initially be on a voluntary basis. This type of reporting is a key recommendation of the climate task force of the financial stability board. Other European nations have begun climate change reporting. UK regulations make it mandatory for companies listed on the UK stock exchange to include full details of their carbon emissions. Companies must also disclose their environmental and social governance. In 2015, the French Government passed a law requiring greater disclosure by companies of climate-related risks and, indeed, opportunities. This includes reporting on financial risks related to the effects of climate change, the consequences of climate change and how the company does business, etc.

There are significant benefits to beginning this process as markets function best with complete or near-complete information. As the risks of climate change grow, governmental and legal responses to climate change become a more pertinent factor for companies. Additional guidelines for companies on how to assess their exposure to climate change risks provide them with a more complete picture of their market risks and opportunities. From a mitigation point of view, it is important that actors at all levels of society seek to integrate the cost of carbon emissions and climate-related risks into the decision-making process. I look forward to having a first reading of a Bill to do that in the House in due course.

A new study identifies Ireland as the worst-performing country in Europe when it comes to taking action to combat climate change. The State has fallen 28 places to 49th out of 56 countries ranked in the 2018 climate change performance index, which is a holistic evaluation of how countries are responding to challenges of decarbonisation. In 2016, the latest year for which we have numbers, our greenhouse gas emissions increased by 3.6% and we recorded increases across all the main sectors of the economy. Work done by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, SEAI, estimates that Ireland will be liable for fines of between €130 million and €390 million for missing its renewable energy targets. All this is happening at a time there is a stronger appetite than ever on the part of the public and key stakeholders to take carbon out of our economy. The recent Citizens' Assembly voted overwhelmingly in favour of strong action on the climate and a growing number of companies want to power their offices and data centres on renewable energy alone.

On the day he was appointed or soon after, the Taoiseach indicated that climate action was an issue he would take seriously as he appointed Ministers to his Government but we have seen little or no action from him in this area over the past 12 months. The forthcoming budget will provide an appropriate opportunity to show whether the Government is serious about this issue. It is clear that we will significantly miss the targets in the Paris agreement for 2020 and much of the Government talk is now about 2030 and 2050, in the full knowledge that it will go well beyond the electoral cycle in which large numbers of current Members will be able to participate. That is not good enough and it is about time the Government stepped up to the plate to ensure we play our part in protecting and preserving our climate. I hope this Bill can be on the Statute Book in the not-to-distant future and certainly in the next session.

Is the Bill opposed?

Question put and agreed to.

Since this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

Question put and agreed to.