UN Climate Action Summit: Statements

I am glad to have the opportunity to discuss what transacted at the UN assembly on climate action. It was a useful meeting. A significant innovation by the UN was to have a whole day devoted to young people presenting both their concerns about and solutions to the climate challenge. It provided a useful environment. As one can imagine, there were significant demands for a big step-up in ambitions from governments which was understandable. There was significant commitment to practical action at both community level and various innovation initiatives.

The lesson for us is that we need to develop a more systematic engagement with young people in the decision-making surrounding the climate action plan. I intend to act on that by bringing in better procedures where young people can be directly involved and give feedback. The action plan we put together is designed to be refreshed each year. It is important we engage communities widely, particularly young people who, rightly, are pointing out our generation as the first one which will pass on the environment in a worse condition than we found it. We have a significant responsibility to respond to this.

The second element was a full day of a climate summit organised by the UN Secretary General. The Taoiseach, on behalf of Ireland, presented our climate action plan. It was the first time to present our approach to deliver a stepped-up ambition from Ireland. There was considerable interest among other countries at the model which we have such as the Citizens Assembly, the all-party Oireachtas committee and foundation these provided for the plan. There was also interest in our efforts to change with carbon budgets, stronger accountability and driving reform from the Taoiseach’s Department. These elements of the plan won considerable interest.

The Taoiseach also announced two new policy elements. The all-party Oireachtas committee proposed and the Government accepted that carbon prices should move systematically to €80 per tonne by the end of the decade. The Taoiseach committed that those funds would be used exclusively for climate actions. He specifically referenced the need to make sure we do not leave some sections of our society behind in the context of fuel poverty, the so-called just transition. He also stated the need to empower families, farms, enterprises and the wider community to take on the changes that need to be made. These are significant commitments.

In other countries, there have been challenges to the idea of carbon pricing. John FitzGerald, the chairman of the climate action advisory committee, has been an economic adviser for many years. It is striking that the evidence he has adduced is that it is impossible to envisage a path to deliver the climate action we need without including carbon pricing as part of that.

It is in that context that there was broad-based support for that within the Oireachtas committee. Reflecting on the views that were expressed at the Oireachtas committee, there will be widespread support for, as the tax specialists would say, hypothecating the revenue from carbon pricing for that purpose.

The second significant announcement the Taoiseach made was on foot of the advice that he and I sought from the Climate Change Advisory Council on the correct policy regarding exploration for oil and gas in the context of a transition to a low-carbon economy. The Climate Change Advisory Council advised that the approach we should take is to cease future exploration for oil but continue to explore for gas. That approach has been endorsed by Government and I am now working on the detailed memorandum to give effect to it. There has been considerable debate in this House about this. I have always taken the view that we need to examine the evidence rather than make a decision without assessing it. The reasons we are continuing to explore for gas, as the council advised, are twofold. First, the use of gas reserves would, unlike the use of coal or oil reserves, not put us out beyond the climate ambition of net zero emissions by 2050. The council also made the strong point that if one wants to have a successful transition to introduce renewable energy onto one's electricity grid, one needs stand-by power and that at the current state of technological development, the only available stand-by power that could allow us advance from the present 30% renewables to 70% by 2030 is to have gas providing much of that stand-by power for when the wind does not blow or the sun does not shine. It is important that as we move away from coal and peat, we recognise that to do so successfully in a way that allows us to be safe and secure in the delivery of power to consumers requires us to continue to have access to gas. When Corrib is complete - its resources could be exhausted by the middle of the 2020s - we would be entirely dependent on imported gas and an additional find of gas would be significant and helpful in allowing us to make the transition.

The conference also provided a number of areas in respect of which commitments could be made. There were nine different areas identified by the UN Secretary General. These included, for example, youth and public involvement. That was one area where we, along with the Marshall Islands, developed a specific mandate we asked people to sign up for. Well over 40 people signed up to a mandate that would involve much more open participation by communities, and particularly engagement with younger people, in implementing the climate action plan.

There also were valuable reflections on what can be done within the industrial sector and the renewables sector, and what can be done with climate funds to address the needs of particular countries, many of which, such as the island nations with which Ireland has a particular affinity, were represented. In many ways, those nations are facing not the future implications but rather the immediate and current implications of global warming. Some governments are having to decide which islands they will abandon and how they will move their people in order to keep them safe in the coming decade. It is a real live issue for them.

Many nations, including Ireland, are signing up to much higher ambitions in the context of the UN Paris Agreement. These will be brought forward next year at the next major session run by the UN on climate. There was a general feeling that we need to dramatically step up funding. Many countries, particularly those in Europe, committed to a doubling of the funding to assist other countries in adapting to the challenges that they are facing. There was considerable interest also in those nations developing themselves renewable power because many of them are dependent on fossil fuels and feel that they are at the end of the supply line and particularly exposed.

The UN conference endorsed my belief that the window of opportunity is closing rapidly. Ireland needs to respond by implementing the plan we have put in place, and, hopefully, by going even further. The elements in that plan are already challenging. We want five times the amount of renewable power. By 2030, we will want 25 times the proportion of drivers buying electric vehicles. We will want ten times the amount of retrofitting going on by 2030. These are ambitious targets and I am determined that we will deliver them.

Deputy Dooley has ten minutes.

I want to share two minutes of that with Deputy Lisa Chambers.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

The Minister's plan is ambitious. It is good on detail relating to why we should implement it and what we should do, but it is glaringly light on how we should do it. Unfortunately, no big statements in the hallowed halls of the UN will move that position. It is important that we have the opportunity to concentrate on some of the commitments that the Government made at the UN summit. Even though they are both intertwined, we can deal with the plan at a later stage. In particular, it is right that we would scrutinise the Taoiseach's statements here since he seems to be much more ambitious when he spends a number of hours travelling to the United States. Whether it is jet lag or whatever, when it comes to discussing climate change, the Taoiseach seems to be more giving of his time and consideration when he is abroad than is the case when he is in this House.

This is particularly important from a climate justice perspective. In a joint article published just before the UN event, Trócaire, Concern, Oxfam and Goal noted that extreme weather due to climate change is affecting millions of people. This is something that Ireland will witness, with Hurricane Lorenzo due to hit tomorrow. For those of us who are talking to people on the ground, as the Minister is, they are starting to understand the implications of climate change. The organisations to which I refer highlighted that "The cruellest injustice of climate change is that it impacts first and hardest on the world's poorest and most vulnerable". They also stated that the summit would be an opportunity to showcase our tangible commitments in light of Ireland's campaign for a seat on the Security Council.

In his UN speech, the Taoiseach listed climate measures and stated that the Government is "responding ... with creativity, with imagination and with courage." I want to address his list and strongly reject any claim of creativity, imagination or, indeed, courage. First, we have not had sight of the necessary climate legislation that the Taoiseach referred to. The Taoiseach also highlighted fossil fuel divestment but we know that his party did not produce the relevant legislation. The Taoiseach noted the commitment to increase renewable electricity to 70% but did not mention anything about the planning obstacles for solar panels on roofs or ensuring community energy and community ownership of renewables, all of which are significant gaps that must be overcome to support climate action at local level. Unlike the leaders of other EU member states, the Taoiseach made no commitment to increase funding to the UN Green Climate Fund or to support a higher EU 2030 target. The Minister hinted at that earlier and indicated that while we are ambitious, we probably need to be more ambitious. That is the kind of stuff that we would have liked to have heard from the Taoiseach at the UN convention. I do not believe the Government has showed creativity, imagination or courage. We have yet to see the "tangible commitments" that were called for. I do not believe the Government has responded to the recent children's protest.

The real problem has been that the Government knowingly neglected Ireland's climate responsibilities for the best part of the past decade. It is far from clear that Ministers are leading a co-ordinated response that will ensure that Ireland meets its commitments and avoids significant EU fines.

The Comptroller and Auditor General stated in recent days that Ireland's poor performance is already projected to cost up to €125 million in fines and that costs will escalate if the Government does not radically improve its approach. The Government must commit, before the election, to enacting the necessary legislation to introduce a net zero target and improve accountability across Government. I know of the Minister's personal commitment but I certainly would question the commitment of other Ministers and, indeed, of the Cabinet in its entirety.

The Taoiseach's announcement that there will be a phasing out of oil exploration initially appeared to be a step in the right direction. Although the announcement made for a good headline and got plenty of traction for a day or so, it looks less impressive when the details are examined. Unlike gas, Ireland does not have an indigenous oil industry and there have been no viable oil finds whatsoever. Making an announcement to ban something that is not there is like a child at Lent promising to give up the sweets he or she never had in the first place. The Taoiseach's comments to the media implied a complete ban on oil exploration but he later referred to a moratorium applying to 80% of Irish waters. The Department also produced a guide on exploration just weeks before. The Government must urgently clarify what steps will be taken to implement this moratorium. The Government should also have clarified an appropriate sunset period for the phase-out of oil and gas exploration, much like it did for the selling of petrol and diesel cars.

The Taoiseach also stated that he made his announcement following advice from the Climate Change Advisory Council. He failed to refer to the briefing from the council which accompanied that letter. The council provided further explanation in this briefing and noted that there are risks to achieving Ireland's 2030 and 2050 targets if large reserves of oil and gas are brought ashore and, in addition, that there are risks to the economy of stranded assets and lock-in to fossil fuel based energy systems. There is significant background information that very much qualifies the letter provided from the Climate Change Advisory Council. I have not seen that referred to by the Minister or the Taoiseach. The council also stated that a switch to renewables may be more cost-effective and that better interconnection may improve security of supply at less cost than offshore fossil fuels. I note the announcement today on the Celtic interconnector. Can the Minister confirm that this briefing was examined prior to the Taoiseach's comments and could he also outline the process around how the council came to write the letter in the first instance?

The Taoiseach also stated that he listened to the Citizens' Assembly and sought consensus through the Joint Committee on Climate Action, yet the Government is not respecting this consensus. It is failing to live up to deadlines in the committee's report. Indeed, they were not even included in the Government's new climate plan, despite Fine Gael committing to them in March at the committee.

On carbon tax, I welcome that the Taoiseach committed to support Fianna Fáil's position on ring-fencing carbon tax revenues both to pay for climate measures and to ensure that vulnerable households are protected. Fianna Fáil has been clear that it would be unacceptable to bring in a carbon tax increase without ensuring that the vulnerable are better protected from fuel poverty. Revenues should also be used to support behavioural change and directed towards helping citizens. I refer here to grants and incentives for retrofits, rooftop solar on farm buildings and initiatives to ensure a just transition.

In respect of a just transition, Fianna Fáil is also extremely concerned by developments at the peat stations in the midlands and at the Moneypoint coal plant, where the Government seems to be willing to let jobs be lost rather than engage with workers before the losses occur. These businesses have been central to rural communities for generations. Fianna Fáil has repeatedly stated that we need a just transition for all workers and communities. There is an urgent need to put in place supports that would lead to workers being retrained, communities assisted and peatlands restored to assist in carbon sequestration. This issue was a key focus of the Oireachtas committee which noted the need for a social dialogue through the creation of an independent just transition task force. Fine Gael committed to establishing this task force at the committee but unfortunately it did not form part of the Government's climate plan. Representatives were not even part of the regional forums set up to deal with the issue.

On air quality, it is important that we prioritise actions that will reduce emissions and enhance quality of life, particularly for our children. I am extremely concerned about levels of air pollution which are resulting in over 1,000 deaths in Ireland each year. The Government has failed to introduce a nationwide ban on smoky coal. We still have no sight of the national clean air strategy. Will the Minister clarify the steps he is taking to ban smoky coal so that we can see air quality improvements this year?

There is a knowing mismatch between the Taoiseach's UN statements and the action being taken domestically. There are real environmental, health and economic costs as a result of the Government's lack of leadership and ambition. We must treat the climate challenge as a cross-societal opportunity where action will improve the quality of our lives. All levels of society must be assisted both to shift their behaviour away from fossil fuels and to protect biodiversity in our communities.

Climate change is a global crisis and it is the challenge of our time. It is young people who are leading the way in forcing the changes that are necessary. They have shown immense leadership in respect of this issue. The past two decades have been the hottest in the past 400 years. Sea levels are rising and the Earth's temperature is increasing at an alarming rate. The Arctic ice is melting and it is predicted that by 2040 the region will expect to have its first completely ice-free summer. Coral reefs are dying. There are extreme weather events, storms, heatwaves and forest fires. In the context of our own country, Storm Lorenzo is on the way. This storm is a previously unprecedented event and it is the second of its kind in the past couple of years. Species are becoming extinct at an alarming rate and entire ecosystems are dying. We know that we need to act now, while there is still time left to do something about this. Difficult decisions will have to be made. They will be unpalatable. They will be a challenge and they will require all of us to make those changes together. They will require the State to pay and each and every one of us to put our hands in our pockets to pay also. That does pose a difficulty for Government in making those changes but that is the responsibility that comes with being in a leadership role. We must look at issues like the carbon tax and the challenges of increasing it, always bearing in mind those who are vulnerable to fuel poverty and protecting the most vulnerable in our society.

There is great pressure on farming as well, which must also be handled in a just and fair way. I dispute the policy at EU level whereby we seek to import food from other countries and reduce food production within the Union. That policy needs to be looked at. The EU must be prepared to pay to have good quality, sustainable food produced within member states. We also have to help people to transition to alternatives. I do not need to tell the Minister that the electric vehicles he mentioned are unaffordable to most people, as are solar panels. If the State is going to meet its 2030 obligations, having failed miserably to meet its 2020 targets, it will have to assist people financially in changing to alternatives. The challenge is now for the Oireachtas to act as a whole but also for Government to lead on this, help us meet our targets and help people address the climate challenge.

I am sharing time with Deputy Martin Kenny. I welcome the opportunity to participate in this debate. It is telling that approximately 30 seconds into his contribution, the Minister mentioned carbon taxes and carbon pricing. It is regrettable that, from the Government's perspective and from that of others in political circles, the whole debate on climate action is framed around carbon tax increases as if they constitute a panacea. There is not agreement in this House on increasing carbon taxes but there is agreement from all of the experts - the Minister mentioned one - that carbon taxes are regressive. That was restated by the Department of Finance, the ESRI and even the Minister for Finance. If carbon taxation is regressive that is the first problem, but the bigger problem is that it does not work in the sense that it does not change people's behaviour unless alternatives are in place. Before the Minister comes back and states that Sinn Féin and others are against levies or taxes that are progressive and change people's behaviour, we supported the sugar tax and in fact called for it over many years, and we supported the plastic bag levy. We did so because such measures work. People have obvious alternatives that they can use. Carbon tax increases will raise revenue but the vast majority of people cannot buy one of the 1 million electric cars that the Government says will be on the roads over the next ten years - this target will be impossible to achieve - or pay for deep retrofits of their homes in the way those with deep pockets can. It is not going to be something that they can mitigate, which means all we are doing is increasing their cost of living and not dealing with the problems at all.

There are solutions of course. If we are really serious about climate action, it would be much more effective to begin with the alternatives. The starting point should be public transport. There are a lot of parts of the country that do not have proper public transport. There needs to be joined-up thinking in terms of the national planning framework. I support many elements of Project Ireland 2040, the national planning strategy which looks at regional cities, namely, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford. I do not see any evidence of joined-up thinking in the context of having integrated transport hubs or strategies for those cities and looking ahead to 20 years from now when the population targets that are set have been achieved and then having the proper transport systems in place.

I do not see the investment in public transport that is necessary and that needs to happen in order to facilitate this.

I also do not see the type of retrofitting programmes, such as those which are needed for older people and which would be the best way to start, that are required. Deputy Dooley referred to community-led renewable energy farms such as, for example, wind farms. We had representatives from one wind farm before the Joint Committee on Climate Action earlier. It is the only one of its kind in the country. That is the case because the Government has not learned the lesson of how difficult it is for community-led wind farms to get up and running in the first instance, to operate and to add the value that they should. All the barriers that community-led wind farms faced almost 20 years ago are still there for those who are considering this option today. While we have made advances in wind energy, we certainly have not done so in terms of making it easier for community-led projects to work.

There are lots of alternatives that can and should be put in place. That is where the focus of the debate should be. We can have our differences on carbon tax increases. If I believed that they would change people's behaviour and reduce carbon emissions, I would support them, as I supported the sugar tax and the plastic bag levy. However, I do not think they will do that. They constitute window-dressing and pretence, and that does not do justice to the climate action debate we should be having.

It is incredible that the Government is pushing ahead with the importation of fracked gas, even though fracking is banned here. We will be debating this issue tomorrow. What is happening is extraordinary, particularly in view of the fact that fracking is banned here as a result of the obvious enormous environmental and social damage it inflicts. Sinn Féin has consistently opposed fracking at every level. However, we now have a situation where the Government is pushing ahead with the liquefied natural gas, LNG, terminal at Shannon. This project is going ahead despite much concern and opposition. Even before there has been a proper debate in the Dáil, we have a high-level committee in Brussels meeting on Friday that could make decisions on this. Again, this is hypocrisy. That is the problem with this Government's approach to climate action. We saw it with the Mercosur trade deal and we see it again here. We see it across the board. Deputy Dooley touched on the problem. The Government's plan is high on rhetoric but when one actually starts looking at the detail, much of it consists of targets that cannot be met. The Minister will be aware that the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport wrote to his Department and stated that the objective of putting 1 million electric cars on our roads cannot be met. The Minister's deep retrofit plan, which was rolled out for people with deep pockets, fell apart and he had to patch it back together again. Even the limited things the Minister is trying to do have not worked. I want to work with the Government, as does my party, to ensure that we put solutions in place. However, those solutions must be real, practical and tangible, and they have to work. If they do not work, and if they are just window-dressing, we will not support them.

Two weeks ago, Courthouse Square in Dundalk was filled with the loud chants of young people as they spoke out against climate change and for climate justice. They, and the millions more who took part in a global day of action, have demonstrated an energy and commitment that is inspirational. A few days later, speaking in New York at the UN climate change summit, Greta Thunberg berated the political leaders of the world for not honouring past agreements on climate change. She accused governments of failing humanity and warned of "the beginning of a mass extinction". The Swedish climate activist said: "We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line". That is what the Minister has to do as well.

The science advisory group to the summit produced a report, United in Science, that brings together the most recent data from the world's six leading environmental organisations. The report found that current plans to meet the 2015 Paris Agreement are insufficient. Last October, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that we have only 12 years to limit climate change. If we fail, the people of the world, particularly hundreds of millions in underdeveloped countries, will face extreme droughts, heat, floods, increased food and water supply insecurity, and poverty. It also means that Belfast, Dublin, Dundalk and other coastal towns and cities will face significant and serious flood dangers.

Without resolute action, millions are at risk. The future of our children and grandchildren depends on the decisions we take now. Moreover, any strategies to tackle climate change must be rooted in the principles of social justice and equality. Governments, including the Irish Government, and the EU need to significantly step up their climate change commitments and challenge the big polluters.

In his speech to the UN, the Taoiseach announced that oil exploration will end. He also announced that gas exploration will continue. Five months ago, the Government granted consent to a subsidiary of the Chinese National Offshore Oil Company for an exploratory oil and gas well in the Porcupine Basin. This new licence allows for drilling in an area where that company and ExxonMobil already hold licences to explore for oil and gas until 2033. Will the Government introduce a moratorium on any further, new exploration for fossils fuels in Ireland? Will it remove its opposition to the Petroleum and Other Minerals Development (Amendment) (Climate Emergency Measures) Bill 2018?

An Taoiseach's plamás at the UN to the effect that he wants Ireland to be known as a green country is worthless rhetoric when set against the Government's policies on environmental issues. His own climate action plan lacks ambition and it does not address the substantive issues of pollution, over-consumption, corporate responsibility and opposition to fracking. The reality is that this State will spectacularly fail to meet its 20% reduction target by 2020.

Sinn Féin's approach is clear. We want to see 80% of our energy produced by renewables by 2030. This has to be done in a way that protects lower income families and ensures that ordinary people do not carry an unjust share of the burden. In the past two weeks, young people in cities across the world have shown the way forward. Their example should guide us in the time ahead.

I call Deputy Sean Sherlock, who is sharing time with the Deputy Alan Kelly.

I want to deal with the issue of financing. If we are to have climate action, there is the climate action fund. The Minister has stated previously that it is the intention of the Government to use the reserves from the National Oil Reserves Agency, NORA, and that if there is any surplus within that reserve, it would be used for the purposes of the actions contained within the climate action plan. Is it the case that the reserves can be used now or does it require a change of legislation? I understand the Minister may have made a statement in this regard previously but I do not have access to that. It would be useful to understand from the Minister what his intention is regarding the use of NORA. If we are to talk about creating a fund and utilising NORA, it would be useful to know the legal position. My understanding, and I stand open to correction, is that if it is intended to repurpose the NORA surplus reserves in any way at this point, that could be deemed to be unlawful. It would be useful to have a clarification from the Minister on that.

The second issue is one in respect of which we have received many emails in the past 24 hours, namely, the LNG terminal. The Minister will be aware that among the concerns raised in regard to the proposal to designate the construction of a liquefied natural gas terminal as an EU project of common interest is the prospect of fracked gas being imported from the United States. No doubt the scheduled hearings before the joint committee will provide an opportunity to consider the controversial aspects of the fracking process and whether gas extracted in this way should be introduced into the Irish and European energy mix.

I would like the Minister to outline the position in law as regards such a facility. As I understand it, the Petroleum and Other Minerals Development (Prohibition of Onshore Hydraulic Fracking) Act 2017 introduced the fracking ban by inserting into the principle Act - that is, the 1960 Act - a new Chapter IIA dealing with hydraulic fracturing. The core provision of the new section 5B, under Chapter IIA, provided, "It shall not be lawful for a person to search for, get, raise, take, carry away or work petroleum by means of hydraulic fracturing." We find the relevant definitions in section 2(1) of the 1960 Act. That section includes the following definition: "Working" when used in relation to petroleum, includes digging, searching for, boring for, getting, raising, taking, carrying away, storing ["storing" being the key word] and treating petroleum, and cognate words shall be construed accordingly." It seems, therefore, that to "work" petroleum encompasses its storage and that, according to at least one interpretation of section 5B, it is unlawful not only to search for or extract natural gas by fracking but also to store fracked gas in the State. I would be grateful if the Minister could confirm to me whether it is his view that, without a change in the law, an LPG terminal could be used for the storage of imported gas that has been extracted by way of hydraulic fracturing elsewhere in the world.

I thank my colleague, Deputy Sherlock, for sharing time. As someone who previously held the Minister's portfolio as well as a number of others - it was three ministries in one according to this Government - and who brought in the legislation on climate change and participated in the adoption of the COP21 agreement in December 2015 and signed it in the UN a few months later, I wish to raise a few issues that are of importance to me. They are, even though some of them relate to my county, of national interest.

The first relates to the Silvermines hydroelectric plant, of which the Minister is well aware. It is a very important project and has huge significance for our future energy requirements. We have pushed for the project for a number of years and the Government is supportive of it. The project just needs to fit within the Government's policies. We already have European Union designation for it and the support of the Tánaiste and so many other people across the Government. It was disappointing, however, not to see it up in lights as regards Government strategy. I hope it will be repositioned because it must be there as part of the mix of future energy requirements. Given the extent to which we will be dependent on wind energy in the future, such a project, which will recycle wind energy through the use of a pumped storage system on the site of a disused mine, is incredibly important. Given the amount of power it will provide to us, the Minister will really have to refocus his efforts on it, and I implore him to do so. This €650 million project can be funded predominantly from outside the State as long as the State is willing to support it. The Minister needs to prioritise this.

The second matter to which I wish to refer relates to what has been described as "the IFSC of the bioeconomy", namely, Lisheen mine. I am on the board of this project and have been on the project team for six years or so. It was a great day when the bioeconomy status of Lisheen was confirmed, and a significant level of investment is going into the project. We need the Minister's help with one or two issues. The big one is to get a gas pipeline connection to the site. This would dramatically change the capacity to bring even more industries onto the site. We already have Glanbia and a number of others. I ask the Minister to consider this.

I also implore the Minister to look at the issue of community wind farms. He has committed to putting the community pot in the renewable electricity support scheme, RESS, auction. Templederry wind farm, which is located close to where I live, is probably the only community-led wind farm in the country. We can understand why there are not more of them, given the length of time it has taken the community to be able to sell the wind farm's electricity onto the grid. I therefore ask the Minister to allow for a provision within the pot, the matrix, to enable such wind farms to contribute. The amount of revenue they will contribute to their local economies is way above what mass-scale wind farms would contribute, and I believe the community-led model is a far better way of doing things.

I was delighted to see the provision of plastics recycling technologies developing in consumer areas in recent days. The Minister was with me when I helped bring Sabrina Manufacturing Group to Tipperary to start a plastics recycling plant there. He came down after I facilitated the group's entry into Ireland and the plant's location. The plant replaced the jobs that had been lost in Bord na Móna. These technologies are incredibly important. Sometimes I wonder whether we embrace them quickly enough and whether we work with partners outside the State to bring in these technologies quickly enough to get to the level of recycling we need. There are a huge number of other very exciting technologies which, dare I say, I did not have enough time to get through when I was sitting in the Minister's seat, but they are out there and we can and should embrace them.

The scale of retrofitting we are carrying out, as proposed in the Minister's policies, must be multiplied by hundreds. It will save the State in the long term in respect of both public and private housing, and we really need to redouble our efforts there. What is put out there is not ambitious enough.

My final point concerns education. As the father of two children who are always re-educating me and my parents - their grandparents - on environmental issues, such as recycling and so on, I am of the view that we really need to look at the school curriculum when it comes to such issues. We need to lead by example and ensure that we can get our educational institutions, particularly primary and secondary schools, carbon-neutral as quickly as possible and then move on to other educational facilities.

We will move on to the Solidarity-People Before Profit slot. Deputies Barry, Boyd Barrett and Bríd Smith are sharing ten minutes.

It is just Deputy Paul Murphy and me.

I will start by acknowledging what was more or less an online fight, but a big fight nonetheless, put up today by the climate movement to hold the Government accountable on the question of fracked gas from North America before it signs off on the projects of common interest on Friday. It took a row, a press conference and tens of thousands of emails from many people across Ireland, some of whom are here tonight - they are very welcome, I thank them for attending, and we will see them again tomorrow - to make the Business Committee and the Government see sense. We will discuss this issue tomorrow, so I will hold fire on most of this until then. However, I take the opportunity to thank the movement for holding the Government to account.

Going back to the statements made at the UN climate summit, one would have to be struck by Greta Thunberg's words, especially when she talked about the fantasy of eternal economic growth. It was a very anti-capitalist "we need system change" statement. Then one thinks of the fantasy of the words of our Taoiseach when he stated that we in Ireland are great because we will ban oil exploration off 80% of our shores sometime after 2035 - maybe even later, maybe 2040 or 2050 - but while we do that we will keep looking for gas because Corrib will run out and we will need it. If starting tomorrow we burned all the gas reserves and none of the oil or coal, then according to the Climate Change Advisory Council which advised the Taoiseach we would have a 66% chance of limiting warming to under 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

This is a very skewed interpretation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. It assumes that one is talking about the unknown reserves of fossil fuels and that we can keep digging for them because they are unknown. However, all the science tells us that it is 66% of the known fossil fuel reserves that was referred to. Would the Minister get on an aeroplane if he was told that he had a 66% chance of landing safely? Does he think, therefore, it is okay for the Government to continue to support fossil fuels with the same chance of crashing the entire planet? The Minister and the Taoiseach know that we will not stop burning coal and gas overnight globally and that we must stop burning any more reserves. We also know that if we leave 80% of proven reserves in the ground we have a chance of limiting global temperature increases.

The Taoiseach went to the UN, made flowery speeches and listened to Greta Thunberg and millions of schoolchildren. The other element of his solution was that we would increase carbon taxes and ring-fence them for climate initiatives. Interestingly, it is only a week from the budget and all the talk is about a €6 per tonne increase this year, which will be ring-fenced. Do the mathematics. I asked the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform about this. With €6 per tonne one will probably end up with €108 million to spend on climate initiatives. Does the Minister think that will be enough to sort out a just transition for the Bord na Móna workers and the people in Moneypoint? Does he think he will have enough to provide supports for those who need renewable energy in their homes and retrofitting? Indeed, will he have enough to start investing in renewable energy? The carbon tax will act as a double tax, a punitive measure on those who can least afford it.

At the same time, and this is very interesting, the Government continues to block the Petroleum and Other Minerals Development (Amendment) (Climate Emergency Measures) Bill 2018 and to support exploration for gas and oil. Through freedom of information requests and the good research carried out by journalists, we know that the lobbying that took place in this House was extraordinary. It was not just by the native fossil fuel industry but also by ExxonMobil and companies based in China. Some of the biggest fossil fuel giants in the world have been leaning on the Minister and his Department not to support this Bill. As somebody said, the Bill has spooked the fossil fuel industry. I hope the movement on the streets will also spook it.

The Minister continues to rely on profits to invest in renewable energy but he should create a State-run renewable energy company that will leave the environment and the planet secure and ensure a proper future for our children. If he relies on profit, he is taking the wrong road. That is exactly what has happened. The scientist Professor Kevin Anderson once said that nature cannot be fooled. The Government might wish to pretend that fracked gas will emit less greenhouse gas than oil and that 1 million EVs on the road, a growth in the beef and dairy herd and hundreds of data centres are somehow a climate friendly policy, but the atmosphere and nature will not pretend. The climate will not join the Government in that pretence, but will continue to hurtle out of control.

I will conclude to give Deputy Paul Murphy the time he deserves. Next week will be the second Extinction Rebellion week. School students and others will be on the streets. Their first demand is that people tell the truth about science and what needs to be done, which the Department finds impossible. Had the Taoiseach, Deputy Varadkar, considered that demand in the UN, we would not have heard the flowery language but the truth about what the Department is not doing.

People across the country better hope that politicians' hot air will not be covered by the carbon tax. If it is, we will be paying massive amounts of tax for the performances of the Taoiseach, who loves to go abroad, present himself as a champion for the climate and other progressive issues and pretend he is leading the way. At home, however, the policies remain the same. He remains bound to the interests of big agribusiness in this country and increasingly to the interests of fossil capitalism and big oil internationally.

He went to the UN and said that we will introduce a moratorium or ban on future exploration for oil. Good, let us see it happen. Let us pay tribute to those who are responsible for putting the pressure on Varadkar to go so far, such as Deputy Bríd Smith and people outside in Extinction Rebellion, the climate strikers and those involved in the movements putting pressure on the Taoiseach. However, he went on very deliberately to draw a distinction between oil and gas, based on a sketchy note from the Climate Change Advisory Council, and to persist with the Government mantra about gas being a transition fuel. It is anything but, and sticking with it involves sticking with fossil fuels and carbon emissions and not making the rapid transition we need to a zero-carbon economy by 2030 and to renewable energy.

I wish to refer to some points made by Professor Barry McMullin of Dublin City University, DCU, who wrote a scathing article in Green News about the advisory note the Government is relying on so heavily with regard to gas. He concluded, "In effect, it appears that the CCAC has strayed into embedding a tacit, and ultimately repugnant, political premise (namely, a globally unjust transition) as a basis for its supposedly purely scientific advice". The reality is that we must transition not from oil to gas but from oil, gas and fossil fuels to green energy. Ireland is better placed to do it than almost any other country in the world. It could be leading the way in that and in the creation of green jobs as well.

It is not accidental that such a distinction is being made at a time when the Government wants to push ahead, without any democratic oversight and with public money, with a massive LNG terminal. What is involved in that is not just any gas, but fracked gas, which is significantly extra-dirty gas, with significantly more carbon. It also represents significant health problems such as cancer and the like for people where gas is fracked. It is incredibly cynical of the Government to agree to a ban on fracking here yet to think it is okay to import massive amounts of fracked gas from the US, store it and distribute it across the rest of Europe. It is incoherent and inconsistent with any idea that it understands the climate catastrophe we are facing and the urgent action that is required. Signing up for such a LNG terminal and spending such money on it will mean investing in fossil fuel infrastructure that will continue to operate for decades, up to 2050 at least. It shows the Government simply does not get it. Only a movement of people taking mass, non-violent, direct action next week as part of the second Extinction Rebellion week and mass strike action will force it to take the action we need to implement the rapid green and just transition that is required.

The Deputy should speak respectfully of individuals when calling their names.

I am sharing time with Deputy Connolly.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on the UN climate summit. It was yet another summit on climate change with more talk, good intentions and very little action. Both China and the EU gave no new promises beyond the Paris Accord. The US reneged on its commitments. Russia gave no new promises beyond the Paris Accord. If we are expecting any of these so-called world leaders to save the planet, we are in serious trouble.

A key issue in climate change is war and the enormous amount of carbon and greenhouse gas emissions from military forces. The Pentagon is the world's single largest consumer of fossil fuels, yet at the Kyoto climate change talks, the US succeeded through intense lobbying in keeping military domestic fuel use out of UN inventories of national greenhouse gas emissions. At a UN summit in Copenhagen the rich income nations gave a commitment to raise $100 billion for developing countries to finance adaptation. That amount is not to be sneezed at, but it represents just 1% of worldwide military spending.

Between 2001 and 2011, military spending increased by 92%. This is money that should be committed to tackling climate change. Instead, we have a huge waste of expenditure on tanks, military vehicles, aircraft and warships all of which are huge emitters of highly toxic carbon-intensive gases and this does not even take into account the gases released in explosions. Deadly combinations are involved. Military forces are huge contributors to climate change and climate change is a key factor in wars, in the struggle over water, land and scarce resources. In the Middle East and North Africa in particular, what is needed are not more UN summits but a clearout of imperialists and warmongers who dominate our planet.

I add my voice to concerns that, this Friday, the Government will include the liquefied natural gas terminal at Shannon in the list of projects of common interest, PCI, at a meeting of the European Commission. This meeting will agree cross-border infrastructure projects to link the EU's energy systems. There is a serious question as to whether this will mean the Shannon project gets to proceed without a strategic environmental assessment, SEA, required under existing environmental legislation. There are serious concerns that the Shannon terminal will be used to import fracked gas from the US. It beggars belief that we ban fracked gas being taken out of our soil in Ireland but include the Shannon LNG project in a PCI which comes from the US, a climate change denier.

It is important that the Minister comes back to the House with answers to our questions. Will he request a postponement of the regional PCI meeting until an SEA is carried out on all the Irish projects listed? Will he commit to a full evaluation of the climate impacts of imported fracked gas from the US? Will he expedite his Department's planned review of Ireland's energy security and ensure that our energy demand is made compatible with climate commitments under EU and international law?

The ordinary worker and the person on the street is not the polluter - it is the big fossil fuel companies which have polluted our planet. They should be the ones to pay the carbon tax and put money into just transition, instead of forcing ordinary people to pay up again. I will be part of any movement that will oppose carbon tax being imposed on ordinary workers while the big companies are not being tackled. At the EU summit, Greta Thunberg said:

We are at the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth. How dare you?

I could not agree with her more and I hope the Minister takes that on board.

I agree with my colleague about the military-industrial complex, which is the elephant in the room in these discussions. I will take the Minister to task for the absence of a written speech. It is a serious situation and we are beyond emergency so I would have expected him to have come here tonight after the UN summit to tell us what progress has been made since his plan was published. When we are in an emergency, we need monthly updates. The Department of the Taoiseach was to establish a climate action delivery board. Has that been established? The Government was to establish an independent climate action council. Was that established? As an Independent Deputy, my time is limited but I have to go through the documents when they should all be in a written speech from the Minister telling me what has been achieved since the plan was published.

The Minister said he wanted a more systematic engagement with young people and citizens. The time for engagement is over and young people and citizens want action. We had a Citizens' Assembly with 13 recommendations but as far as I can see, the Minister has either ignored them or watered them down, which has certainly been the case in terms of timeframe. The summit was very unusual, given the emergency we are in. It was a special climate action summit, where the UN Secretary General went out on a limb to call on world leaders to attend and bring concrete realistic plans to enhance their nationally determined contributions by 2020. We are on target to miss our targets for 2020 and to miss our targets for 2030. We are looking at 2050 and talking about electric cars as the solution, along with small pieces of action as opposed to a transformative overall plan. If we do not have a transformative plan we are going no place.

We were put on notice of this in Paris in 2013 and at the convention in Rio of 1992. This has not happened overnight. In 2015, Trócaire told us that significant and persistent increases in national-level ambition in all countries were necessary if the temperature limits adopted were not to be breached. The UN is telling us we need to up our targets because the ones we have set are not sufficient. Some of the targets are good and the framework is good but it is like pieces of a jigsaw without the overall picture, which is that we are facing extinction. We need to take transformative action in everything we do and we need to lead.

We need to know what has happened since the Minister published his plan. What have the local authorities done today? I am going home tomorrow because Storm Lorenzo is coming and the people of Galway are bracing themselves. At the consultation process relating to the water framework directive, we were told that these were one-in-100-years events but they are now much more frequent than that and are the pattern for the foreseeable future. The Taoiseach spoke about our wonderful green country. He said the advisory council said gas needed to be there as a transition. I understand that the secretariat to the advisory council gave much more nuanced advice, to the effect that the use of new gas reserves should be contingent on us meeting our targets and climate justice. If we persist in taking gas out, we must evaluate how that will affect our targets and climate justice.

My biggest difficulty with this Government is a lack of faith, because its policies are inconsistent. Social Justice Ireland has pointed this out and I pointed it out last night on the subject of forestry. It is wonderful to think about planting so many million trees but we need a policy that is consistent with climate mitigation measures and climate justice and I do not see that. I am from Galway and we want public transport and to deal with the terrible problems on our roads but what is the Government proposing in the national planning framework? It is proposing more and more roads, more and more cars. The words in many of these documents are fantastic, such as "sustainable development", but the roll-out has nothing to do with sustainability. The message is "business as usual" but wrapped up in nice green words.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this important matter. I also welcome those measures we can and must take to arrive at a fair, just and proportionate response to the issue of climate change. I do not believe the Government has the slightest clue of what those words mean. It does not do "fair" or "proportionate" and I do not know if we can trust it with climate change.

Do I believe that the proposals put forward by the United Nations or the European Union on this issue are credible or enforceable? I have grave doubts.

Recent history has caused severe doubts. The European Court of Auditors has made it clear that EU action to support carbon capture and storage and innovative renewables has not succeeded. Between 2008 and 2017, ambitious targets were set but EU support for demonstration projects achieved little by way of projects delivered and results achieved. The Government was high on promises and ambitious targets but little was achieved. The EU is preparing to launch the innovation fund for 2021 to help to speed up the transition to a low-carbon economy. Just look at the devastating impact that this Government's response to a just transition has brought about in the midlands and at Bord na Móna. The Government was warned about what was happening there and now we find that it is borrowing money to pay wages because it has tied its hands behind its back and blindfolded the company without any initiatives to help it to transfer. We have lost our Bord na Móna plant in Littleton in Tipperary and many more of them are going to go. Bord na Móna is now saying that the entire workforce is under threat due to Government inaction on implementing just transition measures. Is the Minister listening to anyone? The Taoiseach's speech to the UN was grand and rosy but his speech in the House some weeks ago incensed the farmers in rural Ireland, especially beef farmers, because he told us all that we should eat less beef because it is carcinogenic. Flippant statements such as that have done damage. Is that not a measure of the Government's complete disregard and how its lack of action is impacting on people in jobs? Ordinary people, smallholdings and householders cannot be punished excessively in this area.

I am happy to contribute on this important matter. Every day we are made aware of the climate emergency that we currently face. As individuals, we have a duty to try to reduce our carbon footprint, decrease our use of single-use plastic and be more environmentally conscious about our day-to-day activities. We have moved as a society. However, the Government is not serious enough about what it is trying to achieve, despite Ireland being one of the first countries to declare a climate emergency. I refer to the significant effort the people of west Cork had to go to last year, including the cost of a High Court challenge, to stop a plastics factory in Skibbereen and to stop the harvesting of kelp off Bantry Bay, which would have been an environmental disaster. If the Minister had the interests of the environment at heart, he could have stopped it from going ahead, since there was provision for him to do so.

Only a few months ago on Leaders' Questions, I asked the Taoiseach to help to set up a park-and-ride service from west Cork to the train station daily. If this was run properly, hundreds of cars would be taken off our roads daily in west Cork, but when the proposal met the Minister, Deputy Ross' claws, he threw it out. We are very lucky to have a private operator, Damien Long, who is now opening a new daily service from west Cork to Cork. It took a private operator to take on the work of the State so that cars could be taken off the road. Instead, this Government has made continued attacks on rural and farming communities about the negative effects that their livelihoods are supposedly having on the environment and how we should reduce our red meat intake. I reject this as a total red herring. If all our farmers decided to stop working tomorrow and close shop, it would make little or no impact on our environment and have a much greater negative one on our economy. We need to find a reasonable and a functioning balance. Last year, when our Taoiseach was in Europe, our European counterparts called Ireland environmental laggards. It is no wonder because we are making sensational statements but engaging in little action on the ground. Instead of the High Court intervening regarding the harvesting of kelp in Bantry Bay, the Government could have intervened and made sure there was no environmental disaster. Instead of taking tens of thousands of cars off the roads in rural areas, the Government could have worked on transport but did not. The Minister needs to get his own house in order before he starts to point at everybody else.

I am sorry that I do not agree with anything that has been said here tonight. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA, admits that climate change occurs because of changes in the Earth's solar orbit and not because of human activity. For more than 60 years, NASA has known that changes occurring to the planetary weather patterns are completely natural and normal. The space agency has, for whatever reason, chosen to let the man-made global warming hoax persist and spread to the detriment of human freedom. Farmers who have cattle were supposed to be causing massive methane gas emissions. Now the very professor who told us that 15 years ago is admitting that he exaggerated by two thirds. In yesterday's NASA papers, this was highlighted, and it was referred to in a television programme yesterday. At times, the Earth is 5 million km closer to the sun than at other times and that is what causes the dramatic changes in our temperature and weather. At different tilts, the Earth's seasons become much more extreme while at lower tilts, they become much milder. If we had to sum the whole thing up in one simple phrase, it would be that the biggest factor influencing weather and climate patterns on Earth is the sun. Depending on the position of the Earth and the sun at any given time, climate conditions will vary dramatically and even create drastic abnormalities that defy everything that humans thought they knew about how the Earth worked.

There was a lot of talk about history yesterday evening and we are glad that the Minister for Education and Skills will listen to people who wanted history to remain as a core subject for the junior certificate, but if we go back in history, the weather changed dramatically at different times. The 1730s was the wettest decade in history. In the 1740s, two years of incessant rain resulted in a famine that caused more than a third of Ireland's population to die. There was a heavy snowfall in 1917, when it snowed for two months, with up to 52 mm even in Cork. There was severe flooding in Dublin in 1802 and the big wind in 1839, which blew most of the country asunder. Before the Famine in the 1840s, there was unusually wet weather. In 1903, there was a very severe storm during which 2,000 trees were uprooted in Birr, 4,000 in Kilkenny and 2,000 in the Phoenix Park. In October 1927, nine fishermen were lost off Mayo in a storm and ten more were lost off Galway.

History will tell us that there were severe climatic situations in different centuries. Going back to the 13th and 14th century, the heat in this country was unbearable. In another decade, we had what was known as a mini-ice age.

We are harsh when we suggest that a carbon tax be applied to people in the coming budget.

The Deputy is a long way over time.

People laugh at the thought that it will be ring-fenced or put in a drawer somewhere to be kept safe.

I have been more than lenient.

It is only another stunt to get more money out of hard-pressed people who are paying enough tax as it is.

It is amazing that we are having this debate as Storm Lorenzo approaches the west coast of Ireland. Our thoughts are with my own friends in Lahinch, Galway, Inishbofin, Achill and many other places, north and south. The west coast is going to get a real hammering tomorrow and I pray that everybody there will be safe and that our homes will be secure. While there have been nights of the Big Wind in the past, Oíche na Gaoithe Móire, we are now loading the dice. The basic physics of climate change are not disputed by any scientist of note. The reality is that the energy in the ocean, which is now warming along with the atmosphere, is being transferred into our weather system. Rain is increasing, droughts are spreading and a whole range of different effects are being felt which will present a huge challenge to our country and the wider world.

In debating what went on in New York last week, first and foremost we have to pay tribute to Greta Thunberg. What she has done in articulating the science in a really clear and concise way has been very significant and important. She and the other people involved in the climate strike movement deserve great credit. The simple maths referred to in the scientific advice delivered a year ago by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change shows that, if we are to keep a 66% chance of staying below a rise of 1.5°C, which would still have massive consequences, we can only emit approximately another 420 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The world continues to blaze, putting out approximately 40 gigatonnes a year. One does not need to be a genius to see the urgency and the scale of the challenge we face in stopping those emissions.

I missed the Minister's speech here because I was stuck in a meeting on Brexit, but I heard his speech to the Environment Ireland conference this morning. He said something at the end which I believe is true. I cannot remember the name of the historian from the 1940s he cited but, if I am repeating the Minister correctly, he cited this historian as saying that great countries show their worth, value and greatness at great moments in history by rising to great challenges. This is a challenge like none before. If humankind is to make this leap and to avoid the tipping points and limits which Greta Thunberg sets out, this is the biggest challenge of all time. I believe this country will rise to this challenge and that doing so will make our country a better place to live. Taking it on will give us a sense of purpose, bring us together and unite us as a people.

This change can be for the better. It will require us to eat more healthily, to travel lighter, to waste less and to be energy clever. The Irish people are now up and open to meeting this challenge but they are not being served by the lack of ambition and vision of this Fine Gael and Independent Alliance Government. I will give some examples to back up that point.

On energy, the Government does not seem to understand that there has been a fundamental shift within the environmental community in recent years away from putting all the emphasis on market solutions and individuals' responsibility for what they do. Instead of focusing on the consumer end of this fossil fuel pipeline, we need to focus on stopping it at source and on keeping those fossil fuels in the ground. The maths set out by Greta Thunberg show that all fossil fuels have to stay in the ground including coal, peat, oil and particularly gas. The persistent notion that gas is a transition fuel is one of the greatest risks to taking on this challenge successfully and doing what science tells us we must. While I welcome the end of exploration licences for oil in deep waters, the Government must go further and extend this measure to all new licences for any offshore oil or gas exploration. Gas is not a transition fuel. If we burn as is planned, we will pass the tipping point and set the world on a downward spiral.

Similarly, if we are to take climate science seriously, we have to stop building gas infrastructure. We have to start here by not proceeding with the liquefied natural gas terminal in the Shannon Estuary. We should take it off the project of common interest, PCI, list and give a clear signal that this country will develop an alternative renewable power system and run our transport systems, our heating systems and every other system on electricity, which emits zero carbon, which is secure and cost-efficient and in which we have some expertise. If we put our mind to it, we can run and power our whole country in this way. There are no ifs, buts or qualifying that position. We have to stop investing in gas infrastructure. That applies to Europe as well as to Ireland. Europe now has secure arrangements to share gas, so our supply is much more secure than it was five or ten years ago. There is a massive over-investment in gas importation infrastructure across Europe. We should not add to it.

With regard to transport, I keep coming back to one simple truth. For all the talk about us taking climate action, there is not one single major public transport project in the planning system or being built at present whereas 51 major motorways and national roads are either being built or in the planning system. That has to stop. If we are serious about climate change, we have to switch. The crying shame in this is that the switch will actually make for a transport system that works while a roads-based system will not. We have to begin making massive investments in walking, cycling and public transport straight away as an emergency response. We have to admit that the national development plan is totally unfit for purpose. No climate assessment of the plan was carried out. There is no sense that climate emissions will fall or that electric vehicles will solve the problem. We are facing gridlock as well as pollution. We need to change our entire transport system. There is no sign of the Government doing that and that must change.

A third example of an area in which the Government is not changing is in land use. It defies logic that, every time we come back to the core issue of what we need to do to tackle climate change and the need for a land-use plan, the Government says no. It is beyond belief that last night Fine Gael yet again failed to recognise the scale of the biodiversity and climate crises or to recognise that we need to change our forestry model to allow for a much more biodiverse woodland system.

I could go on. At every turn we see this Government refusing to take the actions that any neutral observer would say are appropriate. In the area of waste, the continued blocking of our Waste Reduction Bill 2017 has been a shameful black mark on the record of this Government. The failure to accept the Just Transition (Worker and Community Environmental Rights) Bill 2018, which we brought before the Dáil two weeks ago, again runs contrary to everything we would be doing if we were serious. We have to make this a socially just transition as well as an ecological one. The failure to recognise that and to put resources into the mediation services and development teams we need in the midlands and elsewhere to make this transition demonstrates again that this Government does not take the issue seriously and is not leading the way.

I will give a final example of what needs to change. In his speech to the Environment Ireland conference this morning, the Minister said that Government and everyone else has accepted the need for a greater role for, and oversight from, the Oireachtas in what is happening. This fell at the first hurdle upon our asking for a fuel poverty study and a public consultation on the two options for the carbon tax, which are to use the revenue for climate measures such as retrofitting or to give the money back, which the Taoiseach agreed was the optimal approach. The Department of Finance completely failed to carry out that public consultation properly. Rather than setting out two options, it set out nine and it gave no explanation of the options, nor did it share the ESRI analysis which showed how a cash-back, fee and dividend model would deliver social justice in addition to cutting emissions.

All of this has to change, quickly and at scale. If we make those sorts of changes, we will bring our people with us.

In fact, they are ahead of the political system. They are willing and ready to stand up to the challenge of letting this country shine as we address this incredible task ahead of us. My party, working with every other party, looks forward to making that leap.

The world leaders turning out at the UN climate summit last week, in addition to the increasing scale of climate marches around the world, have underlined yet again that climate change and how we respond to it comprise the defining issue of our time. For the first time in Ireland we have, through the Government's climate action plan, a structured pathway towards meeting our climate change targets out to 2030 and beyond. This plan was heavily influenced by the report of the Joint Committee on Climate Action, which I chair. We now have a comprehensive and credible plan that will be updated annually. I urge everyone in this Chamber to work together, as the joint committee will continue to do, to realise the climate action laws and policies that will help Ireland to reduce its emissions in line with its international commitments.

In particular, I encourage the House to fast-track the climate action Bill, which will introduce the groundbreaking governance changes recommended by the joint committee, such as the establishment of the standing committee that will ensure accountability of the Government to the Oireachtas on climate action and an enhanced, independent climate action council to recommend five-year carbon budgets and identify a pathway for our emissions reduction targets out to 2030 and beyond.

I also encourage colleagues to attach priority to the marine planning and development management Bill, which is due to come before the House shortly. It will streamline the consent regime for offshore generation. We have enormous and thus far largely untapped potential for renewable energy off our coast and we need to move quickly to capitalise on this.

To decarbonise our electricity sector, the climate action plan has a target of having 70% of our electricity come from renewables by 2030. Achieving this would enable us to capitalise on the significant job opportunities for coastal communities and the international investment that a vibrant offshore sector would bring, in addition to improved security of supply. Crucially, it would enable us to decarbonise our economy and reduce emissions. I look forward to engaging positively with my colleagues on the joint committee and with Members of this House.

As the Minister is well aware, Bord na Móna has had a very proud history of generating energy throughout the country for many decades. It also took very seriously, as part of its remit, the generation of jobs across communities in Kildare, Laois, Offaly and across the rest of the midlands. I am very heartened by my engagement with the current senior management in Bord na Móna because it takes this responsibility just as seriously today.

Storm Lorenzo, which is on our doorstep and due to arrive tomorrow, will join the other famous storms we became so familiar with, including storms Ophelia, Emma and Ali. We know the threats and reality of climate change now. There can be no denying it. We know what changes need to be made. In dealing with Bord na Móna, I am heartened by the changes it is making to its business model to try to continue to provide a source of employment and opportunities in a more climate-friendly way. It is using its large landbank to be a positive player in sequestering carbon as we move forward. At the heart of this is the concept of a just transition for Bord na Móna workers, their families and their communities who are so dependent on the income all the way along.

With every crisis and challenge, there are great opportunities. There is a lack of skilled retrofitting staff and staff associated with the technologies of which we will need so much more. As revenue from carbon tax and carbon pricing increases, we will have further opportunities to invest in these key areas. We need to call on all the agencies of the State. I commend the work done to date through the whole-of-government approach. In areas such as social protection, we have the back-to-enterprise allowance. Through education, we can reskill workers. The Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation can assist those who want to start their own business. We must support the workers who avail of the job opportunities across the midlands so we can retain the really important economic activity across rural communities in the midlands. Bord na Móna will serve as the perfect pilot to roll out just transition.

Having watched the UN debates on the television, I believe Greta Thunberg showed clearly how the next generation is facing the future and educating all of us on the changes we have to make. If there is one point I need to make, it is a very simple one. It is about education. If the Greens turn off our oil and gas, that will be fine once we make sure the public does not object to infrastructure that is essential to bringing wind and wave energy to our population. One of our main problems is that sometimes tens of thousands of people object to new renewable energy infrastructure. This drive is led by those who really should know better. The most important message of Ms Thunberg that we must take on board concerns education. We must inform ourselves and accept that changes are coming. We must embrace them and welcome them, and we must stop objecting to infrastructure for energy from renewable sources.

My second point is that the Government is doing a lot about public transport. Some €7.5 billion has been spent on transporting millions of people, by way of BusConnects, Metrolink and the DART expansion. This should be accounted for in making comparisons. I challenge the Green Party to identify the roads it will cut. Will it stop the bypassing of Ardee or Julianstown? People do not have a choice when they have to commute to work if there are no public transport options available.

The Dáil has laid the groundwork for Ireland to become a climate leader. We passed a law to ban onshore fracking, and Ireland's sovereign wealth fund has divested itself of fossil fuel investments. The Joint Committee on Climate Action produced an impressive blueprint for action to cut emissions. In May 2019, we ensured that the Dáil declared a climate and biodiversity emergency. We supported the climate emergency measures Bill and voted in favour of progressing it in March this year. I commend the many advocacy groups that played such a significant part in creating the context and raising the ante to highlight these issues and insisting on progressing to this point. I include every child who marched just a few weeks ago.

I am concerned about plans to build import terminals to bring fracked gas from the United States. Ireland banned onshore fracking because of its significant impact on public health and the damage to water sources. Listening to witnesses from other countries, we learned of the environmental damage done to their areas. Just two years on, it appears the Government is going to improve the Shannon LNG terminal for the project of common interest list, and this is before the joint committee, on 9 October, has any chance to make its case. I am glad the Business Committee has agreed to allow the debate tomorrow and give members an opportunity to express their concerns. The project is contrary to views of the European Union's agency regulators, who have recommended that the cost of the import terminals in Ireland far outweighs the benefits that could accrue.

Less than two weeks ago, many members of the Government and members from every party stood with young people in demanding urgent action on climate change. This is not just hypocritical on the part of the Government but it is also a direct challenge to the norms of democratic scrutiny. The Government's credibility on climate change has been badly damaged. There will be statements tomorrow. The Government needs to clarify whether it is planning to confirm plans with the European Commission on Friday to build gas import terminals in Ireland as a project of common interest. It would allow the importation of fracked gas from the United States. As said tonight regarding the Bill passed here two years ago to ban fracking in Ireland, there is a question over whether it is legal to allow fracked gas to be stored in this country. That is definitely worrying and it needs to be fully investigated.

I accept it is not part of the Minister's brief but the lands of the many thousands of farmers that have been designated as special areas of conservation have been left virtually worthless. They should be recognised in the climate change strategy in that they have the best grounds in the country for sequestering carbon from the atmosphere. These people have been left to the side.

Their land has been left virtually worthless. They are getting little or no support. They should be taken into consideration in this context.

A great deal has been said about the various issues. I want to focus on agriculture, farming and land use policy. My party disagreed with a portion of the report of the Joint Committee on Climate Action, mainly with regard to the carbon tax. We also disagreed with the findings of the report on how to use our land in a way that works for communities, farmers and people in the agriculture sector. We took on a number of issues in that regard, one of which related to how afforestation is done. We believe every farm should have more forestry as a way of contributing to tackling climate change. We need to make that happen as quickly as possible. The structures are there to do it. We need to put incentives in place to encourage every farmer to be part of the climate action story by sequestering carbon on their own land.

There are significant opportunities within the farming sector to build and develop new systems in new sectors of agriculture. I am thinking particularly of biomass and biogas, which offer great opportunities. Our climate and our land resource mean we are able to grow an immense volume of grass, which can be used to produce biogas. Similarly, thousands of farm buildings with large roof space around the country could be used for solar power. This would enhance the renewable energy aspect of farm use.

The issue of gas on the Shannon terminal has been mentioned. Enough oil and gas has been discovered to destroy the planet several times over. It is ridiculous to say now that we are going to look for more of it again. Talking about importing fracked gas from North America flies in the face of everything we have done in this place in the past to make sure fracking is banned.

The reality is that the big business interests that fund and finance all of these industries are at the core of all of this. If we are going to make a difference, we have to tackle that. We have to make sure the flows of money that go into these dirty industries are stopped and blocked. That is one of the big things we need to do.

There has been great talk about carbon taxes on many occasions. This would involve trying to put a tax on small farmers down the country when they go to put a drop of diesel into their tractors. If the Government was serious about taxing the polluter, it would put a carbon tax on the aeroplanes contributing substantial quantities of carbon. However, there is no tax whatsoever on aviation fuel. That is an example of what we need to do. People who can afford to fly all over the world on holidays or for other reasons can afford to pay a levy on air travel, which is not an essential. Most people have to heat their homes and have to travel. They have no options.

The Government does not seem to understand this problem. It has to work for the people and not just for big business and the sectors that are about making more and more profit. As long as we have a profit-driven economy, we will have a huge problem. We need to have an economy that is about people as well. We need to ensure they have a future.

I could not possibly do justice to the many contributions that have been made. It is encouraging that Members are significantly on board for the sort of transformation we need. As Deputy Eamon Ryan said, an existential threat of this scale gives us an opportunity to challenge our civilisation to step up to show its greatest creativity and its greatest capacity for collaboration. This is a real challenge.

I expect to have continuous scrutiny in this Chamber and to hear condemnation from some quarters of everything we have put into our plan. It has struck me during this debate that many people are looking for some magic change. They seem to think that by blocking particular infrastructure, the change we need to make will suddenly be resolved. Deputy Connolly summed it up best when she criticised the plan on the basis that it offers many of the pieces of the jigsaw without presenting an overall picture. I contend that the difficulty with this challenge is that it requires all the pieces of the jigsaw to be slowly pieced together.

The Government has a significant responsibility to lead, be accountable and create the framework within which all of this can happen. Many Members want to pretend that all of this is about big business, as Deputy Martin Kenny suggested. They want us to believe that if we stop big business, we will suddenly have renewables and our homes and vehicles will no longer depend on fossil fuels. The reality is that we have to create many new infrastructures. As Deputy O'Dowd pointed out, many people, including people who say they are climate champions, are prominently opposing the very infrastructure we need for the new environment.

We need to help people to switch from high fuel-emitting activities. Ireland is one of the highest users of fossil fuels in Europe. We have to see how we can change our patterns of transport and home use, our renewables, the way our industries work, the way our waste system works and our agriculture sector. That involves helping individual farms, enterprises and homes to make changes in practical ways. Those are the pieces of the jigsaw that make up the big picture.

It would be great if there was some breakthrough idea that would suddenly lift all of this burden of change from us. It is not realistic to suggest that everything will be resolved if we suddenly close down big oil. The users of fossil fuels have become dependent on them. Companies have been making profits from fossil fuels for many years, but it is a sunset industry that will gradually fall away. We still have to find the transition, create the roadmap and bring people along the road. I think that is the challenge.

Regardless of who is sitting in this seat, he or she will face the same challenges. I have done eight roadshows. I have been going around the country to talk to people. I have met many people who, like the Deputies from the Rural Independent Group, believe we are asking far too much of them and have suggested that they need to be paid first. We have to find ways of persuading such people to make the changes. There is no point in coming into this House without talking about meeting challenges like retrofitting 500,000 homes, or planting an additional 250,000 trees over the next decade. Today, 4% of vehicles are electric vehicles, but we need to increase that to 100%. Similarly, we need to move an additional 500,000 daily commuters onto public transport or active means of commuting like cycling. Those are the nuts and bolts of the change we have to make. If we are to get five times as much renewable energy onto our grid, we will need more wind farms and more solar farms and we will need to develop offshore infrastructure and interconnectors.

All of these elements make up the jigsaw to which Deputy Connolly rightly referred. One can be very critical of any piece of the jigsaw, but it is part of the overall effort. That is the challenge for us in this House. I never expect plaudits. I am around here long enough. The job of Opposition Deputies is to criticise. My job is to learn from their criticism and implement it as best I can in policy changes as they evolve. I try to do that. I try to listen to what people are saying and integrate their suggestions where I can. That is why I took up the concern about exploration. I obtained the scientific advice and I made a decision on the basis of that advice. I have decided to stop exploring for oil but to continue exploring for gas. That is the way decision-making has to be done in this area. Of course, this approach does not have the clarion call of the introduction of a Private Members' Bill. It is more deliberative and it is slower. It involves building the data to make the decision. That is the only way we can do this. We have to make the choices that impose the least burden on people while creating the most opportunity.