Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Joint Committee on Environment and Climate Action díospóireacht -
Tuesday, 7 Dec 2021

Carbon Budgets: Engagement with the Climate Change Advisory Council

Apologies have been received from Deputy Leddin, the Chair of the committee. I am not aware of any other apologies having been received. This session is the start of our engagement with the Climate Change Advisory Council regarding carbon budgets and the first of our sessions to discuss carbon budgets.

I welcome Ms Marie Donnelly, chair of the Climate Change Advisory Council, and thank her for agreeing to attend today's meeting to discuss carbon budgets.

Before we commence, I will read a few notes on privilege. I remind witnesses of the long-standing parliamentary practice that they should not criticise or make charges against any person or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable, or otherwise engage in speech that might be regarded as damaging to the good name of the person or entity. Therefore, if the witnesses' statements are potentially defamatory in relation to an identifiable person or entity, they will be directed to discontinue their remarks. It is imperative that they comply with any such direction. For witnesses attending remotely outside the Leinster House campus there are some limitations to parliamentary privilege. As such, they may not benefit from the same level of immunity from legal proceedings as witnesses physically present on the Leinster House campus.

Members of this committee are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside of the Houses, or an official, by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable. I remind members that they are only allowed to participate in this meeting if they are physically located in the Leinster House complex. In this regard, I ask all members prior to making a contribution to confirm that they are indeed on the Leinster House campus.

I now invite Ms Donnelly to make her opening statement.

Ms Marie Donnelly

I thank the committee for the opportunity to discuss the Climate Change Advisory Council’s proposals for carbon budgets for this decade and a provisional proposal for the first five years of the next decade.

I submitted a document to the committee before this meeting. I do not propose to read it because I hope that it has been possible to circulate it to members. I will briefly outline what the council did regarding its preparation of this proposal. We were strongly guided by the legislation and in that context, our key objective was to achieve a pathway to the national climate objective of net zero emissions by 2050. We complied with the relevant regulations in this regard. The main Act commenced in July and the regulations were adopted in October. That led us to look at how we could make proposals that would achieve the first legal milestone, namely, a 51% reduction in emissions by 2030. To do that, the council based its considerations on the science in this regard. We examined the UN and Paris climate agreements, considered the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, report that came out in August and used the most recent scientific data from the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA.

All that material fed into our consideration of several other criteria. Those included, for example, biodiversity, land use, land-use change and forestry, LULUCF, and biogenic methane considerations. In addition, we looked at what kind of impact a carbon budget would have on issues such as, for example, employment, the attractiveness of the State for inward investment, the competitiveness of the State and, ultimately, climate justice in the context of Ireland and its place in the world. Underpinning all those considerations was an ongoing thread of awareness and sensitivity regarding the importance of a just transition in the context of the journey on which we are now embarking. It will be seen that this aspect is referred to repeatedly in our text. There is an ongoing concern in this regard, which means that it is important to ensure that people who are more vulnerable are not left behind and that they are not left to carry an unfair burden during this transition.

All these considerations took place over several months and led us to making a proposal for three carbon budgets. The first one is for 2021 to 2025. It is a carbon budget ceiling for the maximum amount of emissions that Ireland can make during that five-year period, and the amount proposed is 295 Mt CO2eq. For the second carbon budget from 2026 to 2030, the figure proposed is 200 Mt CO2eq, and then for the third, provisional, budget running from 2031-2035, the proposed amount is 151 Mt CO2eq. We put those figures into perspective regarding what it means for reductions over those five-year periods. In the first five-year period, it means that in the context of the overall figure of 295 Mt CO2eq our emissions would reduce, on average, by 4.8% annually. The trajectory of reductions would then become steeper for the second part of this decade, with the target increasing to 8.3% annually. The level of reductions would then move back down to 3.5% annually for the first part of the next decade.

As we underlined when we made this proposal, however, these numbers and the balance of effort were not devised to give a soft ride or to delay action. On the contrary, these proposals were developed to allow for immediate and urgent action, primarily in the area of investment, in order that such investment in the first five-year period would deliver reductions in emissions in the second five-year period. If we do not get the prerequisite investments and activities done now, then we will not be able to achieve the level of reductions in emissions required in the second five years.

Rather than going through everything in this context, I will highlight two specific areas in this respect where urgency is paramount. The first area is, of course, electricity. Electricity is a key part of our decarbonisation journey in Ireland for several reasons. We are fortunate that we have natural resources which allow us to move away from fossil fuel-based electricity generation. We can use wind and solar energy resources and, in time, we will be able to use our marine resources as well, to produce our own electricity using our own natural resources. That will allow us to substitute the approximately €5 billion to €8 billion that we currently spend annually importing fossil fuels, including for electricity generation.

We cannot reap those benefits, though, unless we make the required investments now. In several areas, those investments are time-sensitive, not only because it would mean that we could reduce the amount of emissions in the electricity sector itself, but equally because the electricity sector will also, over time, become the energy vector for heating and transport. Achieving the objectives and targets in those two sectors will mean that we will need to decarbonise the electricity sector.

The rate at which we are able to generate renewable electricity, be it onshore or offshore, is in a large measure a rate-limiting step on our capacity to achieve these carbon budgets. I know the Oireachtas is busy looking at the marine planning Bill and other provisions that will apply in that context.

I draw attention to the area of land use, land-use change and forestry, LULUCF. We spent quite a bit of time looking at that, primarily because for many member states in the European Union, their forests act as a sink and counterbalance emissions coming from land or other sectors. Unfortunately, the situation in Ireland is not so positive. We have CO2 emissions from our land of about 9.6 million tonnes. That is plus-emissions. On the minus side, we have a sink of about 4.8 million tonnes in our forests. Projecting forward to 2030, our forests are degrading and that sink will disappear between now and then. That places us in a difficult position for 2030. Above and beyond that, if we do not have a well-developed forest sink in place by 2050, it will be impossible to achieve net zero. As it takes time for trees to grow, the planting rate in this decade will determine our capacity to achieve net zero by 2050. It is an area of particular concern which we highlighted as part of the technical report. Urgent and immediate action and investment is required in that space now if we are to get the benefit for 2030 and 2050.

I wanted to highlight those issues but am happy to cover the other areas we looked at as part of the analysis we undertook in preparing the proposals for the carbon budget. I thank the committee.

I thank Ms Donnelly. I really appreciate that contribution and the elaboration on her written statement. As the meeting is confined to a maximum of three hours, I propose that each member be given two minutes to address their questions to the witnesses, in order to ensure all members get an opportunity to pose questions. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I will go first and get the ball rolling. I am confident we will have time for a second round. I look forward to this discussion.

I thank the chair and members of the council for the Trojan work they put into proposing these carbon budgets. I know it must have been difficult and a lot of consideration would have had to be given. On behalf of the Joint Committee on Environment and Climate Action, I extend deep gratitude to Ms Donnelly and the rest of the council members for that. They have proposed a budget. This is the start of the process of us discussing that and we have a certain period in which to report back to the Oireachtas.

On the profile of the budgets the council has come up with and that 4.8% figure over the first period, many argued at the time it was proposed that it was not ambitious enough or the curve was not steep enough. At the same time, I feel it is an accurate reflection of where we are, the point we are starting from and the years of lack of investment in reaching these targets. At last, we are taking that seriously but we still are where we are. Having a less steep profile in that first period makes sense.

Ms Donnelly mentioned the energy transition and wind being an important part of that. Last week we passed the marine area planning legislation, which is a key tool in ensuring we can go to offshore and floating offshore wind and make those subsequent periods easier.

I move to my specific questions. Ms Donnelly mentioned the importance of microgeneration and microgeneration schemes in the early part. All members of the committee will be aware and supportive of the need to urgently introduce legislation that will facilitate the installing of, for example, solar panels on public buildings such as school buildings. Will Ms Donnelly comment on the importance of microgeneration schemes and of facilitating the installation of solar panels and other microgeneration equipment in reaching the targets and in getting buy-in from the public and communities?

My second question is on land use and forestry. Ms Donnelly's comments there were incredibly concerning. She mentioned that forestry is set to switch from a net sink to a net source. That goes against what we would have imagined would happen. Is that inevitable? With some radical policy change, it is possible we can increase the rate of afforestation such as to see a real impact and keep forestry as a net sink as opposed to switching to a net source? Land use is a net sink in almost every other European nation. Why is that the case and why is Ireland bucking the trend?

On agriculture, the council mentioned the pathway Teagasc talk about in reaching emissions reductions. Will she comment on those pathways, genetics, mixed-species swards and the agri-environment scheme we expect to commence in 2023? Does she feel there is enough there to achieve emissions reductions in agriculture?

Anaerobic digestion is something I bring up regularly and I see it as a key tool in decarbonising agriculture. I appreciate concerns around it. Does Ms Donnelly believe it is important to introduce a policy around anaerobic digestion that will allow a co-op-based approach to decarbonising agriculture where chicken or piggery waste can be brought to an anaerobic digester to produce energy to give renewable energy to communities and leave lower slurry emissions at the end of it? Will she comment on the importance of that?

Ms Marie Donnelly

I thank the Vice Chairman for those questions. Starting with microgeneration, the Vice Chairman put his finger on the most important part of it, which is that it allows everybody to participate in this exercise. It might be only a few panels on the roof of a shed, house or local school, but it allows people to become involved and feel they are taking part in this exercise. It also introduces people to the concept of electricity. Having spent many years in energy, I still find myself being confused between kW, kWh, GW, TW and whatever. It is a new language and methodology of speaking. It is helpful for people to start to understand that because ultimately it will be the energy vector and we need to be able to manage it.

The opportunity of microgeneration on rooftops is so attractive now because of the reduced cost of the technology. Over the past ten years, the cost of solar panels has reduced by more than 100%. The advantage is you have them installed and they are like a light bulb. They do their thing and you do not have to do anything. In that context, buy-in is hugely important.

On targets, an interesting issue that came out of the recent EirGrid consultation on shaping our future electricity system was that EirGrid started from a premise of zero power from microgeneration and at the end of the consultation, it has now factored in 500 MW from microgeneration, such was the level of interest expressed during the consultation. That is about 400,000 homes in Ireland wanting to put panels on their roofs. It is the equivalent of the two gas-fired power stations that were out of action during this year that caused all of the amber alerts. It is a significant quantity, in addition to the attraction of allowing people to become involved.

Microgeneration is a very important aspect of delivering on our journey in respect of participation and delivering on renewable electricity.

If I do not answer everything, the Vice Chairman might let me know and I will come back to it. On LULUCF, the surprise he expressed was shared by the council when we started to conduct the analysis on this. It came as something of a shock that our forest system was in such a bad condition. It is due to the decline in planting rates. We have had national targets of about 8,000 ha of new planting for forests every year for the past ten years, and we have not achieved that target in any year. We are currently at a level of about 2,000 ha or 2,500 ha. What has happened is we have not replenished our forestry and allowed it to build up. Over a period, as a tree gets older, it can absorb more CO2 but at a certain point it will be ready to be felled and replanted. The absence of doing that, consistently over recent years, leads us to having somewhere between 8% and 11% of our land covered by forests. In other parts of Europe, the figure is at least 20%, and higher in some countries.

In our technical report, we have examined and included the kinds of numbers and rates of replanting our forests that would need to be achieved to put us on a pathway to net zero by 2050. We are looking at increasing very substantially the replanting rate. By doing so, we would get to perhaps 18% to 20% coverage of our land by 2030 or 2035. As members will see in the papers that have gone to the Minister, this is a biophysical process. It cannot be sped up, given it is nature and it will take its own time. Planting a tree today is essential but it will not remove emissions in its early years. That will happen only as we get into the 2030s. Nevertheless, it is important there be an incentive for people to move. We have suggested to the Minister to consider forward-counting some of those emissions. Of course, they would have to be deducted later, given we cannot double-count, but it is important there be incentives for sectors to move forward. If all the effort in this decade leads to nothing, it will be difficult to have that as an incentive. We have set out a possibility, should the Government and the Department wish to choose it.

On agriculture, the pathways Teagasc has identified will deliver significant results and that is for sure. Not only will they deliver results in a climate sense but many of the methods and proposals it has come forward with and researched improve the quality of farming, the productivity of our farms and the returns to farmers. There is a challenge and it is not just in the agricultural sector; indeed, it is in all parts of society. It relates to how quickly new technologies and methodologies can be disseminated and taken up by people. How fast can we roll out a system of low-emission slurry-spreading, LESS? How quickly can that happen on all farms in the country? How quickly can we move forward with a change in fertiliser to, say, protected urea? Frankly, with the cost of fertiliser today, that might actually happen much faster than we had expected. Part of these new approaches are about dissemination and adoption by farmers, and that will be the very important first steps agriculture will have to take, as other sectors will also have to do.

Anaerobic digestion is an important technology we have not yet really used in Ireland. It is a technology used in other parts of Europe and it is very successful. It is not a new technology; it has been well demonstrated and it operates in a commercial sense. It presents opportunities in Ireland. It is potentially a new income stream for farmers, who may choose to diversify into that space, and it presents an opportunity to have the circular economy notion, whereby we use our land to produce bioenergy in a sustainable way and then use that for the hard-to-decarbonise sectors, whether for transport or high temperature heat in our industrial processing sectors. It presents a real opportunity for us but, as with any new technology being adopted in a country, it will require Government supports to set it up and to put it on its way in its early years. It is an important area and it should be examined in more detail.

I thank Ms Donnelly. She was concerned she would not cover all my points but she did so perfectly in great detail, so I thank her for that.

I thank Ms Donnelly. Turning to carbon budgets, I am one of those who have a concern about the timing of the two budgets. I am a strong believer of the bird in the hand. In an area such as climate change, where there is that cumulative impact and we hit tipping points, there is no negotiation backwards. Given we cannot control what is happening elsewhere, we should front-load what we can. In the context of the comparatively quite low reductions in emissions in the short term leading to higher reductions later, I wonder about that for some areas. One sector that was mentioned was that of agriculture. Ireland has signed up to commit to a 30% reduction in methane emissions within an earlier period. The council’s technical paper acknowledges the fact methane has an earlier and harder impact on warming, even though the long-term impact is very much front-loaded into this period in which, as Ms Donnelly described, many parts of the system will still only be moving towards emission reduction. The front-loaded emissions, therefore, count more. Does she expect there to be some revision to the climate action plan and the climate budgets to reflect that ambition on methane to which Ireland has signed up?

Ms Donnelly mentioned the issue of investment in the context of front-loading. Two issues strike me in the context of our seeking to be prudent, one of which relates to the sectoral ranges in the climate action plan. It will be only if all the upper reaches of the sectoral targets are reached that we will hit 51%, and that strikes me as very risky. Even within the past month, two sectors have started pleading special cases, and many others will too. Perhaps it would have been more prudent to model scenarios the halfway point in each range would get us to, whereby the midpoint would be the scenario that would bring us closer to 51%, which would give space for certain sectors to overperform. At the moment, it seems the 51% is a harder ceiling. There is much space for the floor to fail, whereas the ceiling is hard. Will Ms Donnelly comment on that? Should it be revised to give more scope and flexibility? I ask this bearing in mind our ultimate objective of a 1.5°C increase and the fact that, at the moment, the scenarios being considered globally will bring us only to a 50% probability of 1.5°C. Those are really bad odds. It is a 50:50 chance of staying within what experts say would be slightly less than catastrophic increases.

There is also the issue of forward-counting. We should not start to have inaccuracies, maths tricks or incentives built in to our carbon budgets. If we want to give incentives, there are other ways to do that.

In terms of forward-counting for a forest that we do not know if it will burn down-----

I thank Senator Higgins. We will have a second round.

I have a question on investment because I will not be able to get in on the second round as I must leave.

I ask the Senator to be very brief.

Ms Donnelly mentioned the front-loading of investment. In areas like transport, for example, the plans do not seem to be a decade down the way. She might comment if this was something the council looked at. Given that low-interest capital financing is available with 0% loans from the European Union, should we be front-loading infrastructural investment in areas like transport to deliver those second budget reductions? I believe the financing needs to be accessed now.

Ms Marie Donnelly

We spent a considerable time looking at the timing and the balance of the budgets that we have come out with. I should highlight how supportive was the analysis and research done by MaREI in University College Cork, UCC, the University of Limerick and Teagasc. University College Dublin, UCD, Trinity College Dublin, TCD, and Maynooth University also assisted us on the analysis side and the modelling of scenarios that we looked at as part of this process without which we would not have been able to come up with the numbers. I underline how important that was.

A model is a machine with information in and information out. The model was constrained on the energy side to limit the expenditure to no more than €2,000 per tonne for the removal of CO2 after which the model basically crashed. Our graph shows that by front-loading expenditure on the energy side at an early stage, we would exceed €2,000 per tonne because it would mean we would need to spend very large amounts of funding now to try to achieve that, some of which would not be feasible.

I mentioned one at the beginning. Offshore wind will deliver a very substantial reduction in emissions in our electricity system. We are still in the process of adopting the legislation that will allow the construction of offshore wind farms. It is not even a question of money or will; we cannot advance that faster than the legislation, the processes coming from the legislation, the actual purchase of the materials, the ships, the people, the skills and the actual construction of the wind turbines in the offshore sites. When all of that is added up there is a certain period of time below which it is not possible to compress all those steps. When we looked at that, we determined that it would not be feasible to get emission reductions from offshore wind in the first budget. They come with quite a big bang. We missed that in the first period and as a consequence we needed to take account of the fact that we would not be able to get it.

The same applies to some of the other numbers and policies. For example, electrification of vehicles in the passenger fleet is a gradual process, which is accelerating. We are now finding that the purchase of electric vehicles is doubling every year, albeit from a very low base. Short of actually taking fossil fuel cars off the road and funding at a very expensive rate the purchase of electric vehicles across the board, it would be hard to accelerate that.

We went through each of the areas to see what was achievable in not necessarily a cost-effective way but a realistic way in the period. Having done that we found that we would be setting an impossible and unachievable target if we had gone for a higher rate of reduction in the first five-year period. It becomes a disincentive if people cannot meet the targets and they end up throwing their hands up in the air saying that it is not achievable. The council debated this matter at great length. We looked at many models and scenarios, permutations and combinations of what could be done to bring forward some of the emission reductions. That led us to the proposal we have made, including the timing and balance of the two budget periods.

In agriculture we looked at all the research initiatives that Teagasc has prepared. It has done the calculations as we have shown in our technical report. If we want to go further faster, we need to directly relate the emission reductions to reductions in activity levels. That is a nice way of saying reducing the amount of methane emitted, which means reducing the number of bovine animals in the country. That is an area that potentially might need to be dealt with. It may well need to be a Government policy in due course. Certainly, as a first step we need to prevent increasing our emissions of methane; that is for sure. The rate at which we ultimately address the management of methane emissions will be a key issue for Government policy, agricultural policy, food policy and ultimately just transition. We are talking about people's livelihoods and their incomes. Decisions of that nature cannot be made at the stroke of a pen.

The 30% methane reduction that Ireland signed up to as part of COP is a global target. I looked at the US paper supporting its signing of that. The word "cow" does not appear in that paper. It is perhaps in a slightly different position from Ireland in that, of course, it has considerable fossil fuel extraction. It is looking at mitigating methane release from the exploration and extraction of fossil fuels as a primary targeted area for action. It also has a much poorer performance on waste, for example, than we would have here or in many parts of Europe. The United States has not actually considered animal numbers as its contribution to that. It is something we will need to look at but it is part of an overarching policy that will need to be developed.

The sectoral ranges the Senator mentioned are decisions that the Government will make. We, the council, do not determine the sectoral targets or the sectoral ceilings. Those are for the Government to determine. Of course, once the Government has determined what they are, we have a role in monitoring the achievement of those sectoral targets on an annual basis. We will do that as part of our annual review starting from next year and we hope these ceilings are in place by then.

We looked at forward-counting, which is a suggestion and not something that must be followed. It is a way of trying to encourage people to get the kind of planting in place that is essential. Our policy in this space needs to be revisited. It has not worked in recent years and we need to revisit the policy to ensure that it will work and be effective.

The Senator is right about investment. Perhaps the most important message coming from the budgets is that we must front-load investment. It is expensive but we need to do it. She is right in saying that we need to use the European Green Deal funds coming from Europe. We need to use the possibilities that are available today using our own resources and potentially even borrowing if we can get it at a very attractive rate. We need infrastructure investment in electricity generation. We need infrastructure investment in transport both for demand reduction and to support the charging points for electric vehicles. We need considerable investment in our buildings. We will need investment in agriculture. On heating, the infrastructure investment in district heating is urgent and needed now to get the benefit in the second period. The real message we are trying to get across alongside the balance of the budget is the investment needs to take place now. The balance of investment should be high in the first part and a bit lower in the second part. The emission reductions will be lower in the first part but will be higher in the second part if we get the investment made in the first period.

I thank Ms Donnelly for her opening statement.

She spoke about just transition and the essential role of public policy to ensure a just transition. She also spoke about the change that will come in people's lives and the social acceptance and engagement that is going to be needed. As a policy, it sounds very good but I fear that in practice, the vulnerable and those on the margins will be treated in the face of climate change in the same way they are already treated in respect of housing, caring and disability. There will continue to be a lack of special education places for children and so forth. What is so special about the climate change issue that the approach by the State in its policy should be so faithfully carried through in practice when it is clearly not in any other area? Does Ms Donnelly see the Climate Change Advisory Council having any role or oversight in this regard?

Ms Donnelly also mentioned our greater reliance on electricity. The council referred to transport, heating, population growth and data centres. Data centres appear to be accepted as a given, as if they are a fact of life, but the more of them we have, the more energy of any kind we will need to run them. Is there a desire on the part of the Climate Change Advisory Council to make recommendations on that issue? A few months ago, we were talking about the fear of blackouts and with the amount of data centres we have, does the Climate Change Advisory Council have a role or advice to give in that regard?

Ms Marie Donnelly

I thank the Deputy. It is not for the council to propose policies but to review policies to see are they effective and achieving the objectives on the climate side. It is quite evident that some of the policies that need to be pursued are good for all citizens. I will take one example that is quite evident, that is, improving our housing stock. When one looks at our housing stock, consider the number of houses that have a building energy rating, BER, of less than C3. People are living in houses that are cold, draughty and damp with mildew on the walls. We still have houses in Ireland where people are using one open fire as their only source of heat in the house. In this day and age, it is almost incredible but a few of them exist. Retrofitting our housing to make our houses comfortable, warm, healthy and safe places to live and work, which is now the direction of travel, is a policy area that will benefit all in society. From the point of view of the council, we see it as the Government's role and responsibility to target the most vulnerable in that context first and to ensure they will get the benefit of a secure property and a warm house, and the removal of damp and the consequential removal of illnesses, respiratory and others, that come from it. Such a policy will not only deliver comfort but will reduce expenditure for people because they will not have to spend as much on heating their houses, going forward, if the house is energy efficient. That is an area where climate policy and just transition policy come very closely together and work hand in hand.

I will move to consider other areas of policy. Take, for example, transport. We are looking at transport from the perspective of reducing demand in the first instance because as they say in energy efficiency, the cheapest energy is the energy that is never used and that is, therefore, the optimum way to do it. That means providing the options to people to have alternative forms of transport. It can be public transport, buses or trains, as the case may be. It can be walking or cycling paths that allow everybody to use them. It is not dependent on people having a lot of money to use them. It opens the possibility to everybody in society to benefit from that. Of course, assistance will be required for some of the new technologies in the transport space, including electric vehicles and whatever else. That is, of course, part and parcel of the policy, going forward. A key issue is that we must allow everybody, regardless of income, to benefit from the demand response opportunities of readily available public transport at an affordable cost outside their doors in order that they can avail of it.

In that context, we looked at climate policies and how they will have an impact on people. Indeed, we looked at the agricultural sector, as I have mentioned already. Agriculture is not only a business. Of course, farming is a business but it is also a way of life that is intrinsic to our rural communities. When we look at the measures we can introduce in the agricultural sector and what can be done in that space, it is important that income sources in rural communities are protected and maintained. That might happen through different kinds of activities, and that is all well and good. The key message in our report, what we are emphasising, is that the income stream to farmers should be maintained and protected as we go forward. That is an illustration of how we are looking at the just transition concerns.

That is before we get to the whole area of employment and jobs. Some people will be negatively impacted by this transition. It is essential that we are honest and make it clear to people that there is a change coming down the track. It is also essential that we make available supports through training systems and entrepreneurial activity, if that is what people want. We must support alternative areas where people can work and train them for the new kinds of jobs that will be coming down the track, as part and parcel of the just transition. The 2021 climate action plan includes a plan to establish a just transition commission. It is specifically foreseen in the text of the plan that the council and the commission will interact on each other's recommendations on this issue. That is important.

I will go back to the first question about microgeneration and the buy-in, and understanding electricity. Looking at electricity as an energy vector, it is different to oil or gas in that it is time sensitive. Oil and gas flow in pipes. The demand profile for electricity is different during the day. Demand is very low at night and peaks at breakfast time, lunchtime and dinner time. There is an opportunity, going forward, not only to produce our own electricity from our own natural resources but to use smart technology to allow us to use that electricity at smart times. That is why allowing people to understand electricity and microgeneration is an important facilitator. The roll-out of smart meters, which perhaps we could accelerate, will combine with tariffs that allow people to use electricity, for example, at night. Some EU member states, for example, have free electricity at weekends or between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m., at which times people can charge their cars or run their heating, or whatever, for free. We need to avail of those smart technologies that will allow us, as consumers, to get the benefit.

The role that data centres need to play in this context is as a part of the energy flow. Denmark uses the surplus heat coming from data centres as a source of heat for the district heating systems to heat houses. It sounds like space age stuff but it is happening.

That sounds very good. I wonder what is the possibility of us getting that sorted.

Ms Marie Donnelly

I think we can do it. I believe we can, and need to, do it. It makes sense. There are possibilities for, for example, Dublin city. It is not just the cities because there are also possibilities for some of the big towns. There is the possibility of capturing surplus heat. It is crazy. The incinerator in Ringsend uses the River Liffey to cool. The surplus heat is just going into the Liffey and out to the sea. Why are we not using that to heat the houses in the locality? Joined-up technology is available to us but, as Senator Higgins mentioned, we need to make the investments now to allow that to happen.

My camera is not working so I will have to sharpen up my performance.

We have heard that one before.

I welcome Ms Donnelly.

I worked with her when I was Minister and she is absolutely a correct selection for the role she is playing. I wish her very well in what is a critical task.

I have several questions. Ireland has been remarkably successful in its ICT transformation and becoming a smart economy, and that increasingly seems to be the direction of travel. We have also been remarkably successful in having our food sector catch up to be a significant international player and that has helped us through the recession. There is a sense out there that people are now saying we need to curb very crudely both the growth of ICT and the associated data centres and the food sector. It strikes me that this is a dangerous path to go. We have invested a lot of time and effort in trying to establish a foothold in these sectors and, in my view, with the help of the Climate Change Advisory Council, we have to find a way of protecting those leads while we address climate. I would be interested to hear Ms Donnelly shed light on that.

My second question is in regard to the measures being proposed. I know the Climate Change Advisory Council proposes measures and the Government is independent in selecting what it does. It is said that about 60% of the measures pay for themselves and the other 40% do not. I heard Ms Donnelly say that the Climate Change Advisory Council sets an outer limit of €2,000 per tonne but how does it select or how does it advise the Government or the Oireachtas to select? Is it that we look for the least expensive? Is it that we look for the areas where it is easiest to mobilise investment? Is it that we look for areas where there are tried and tested policy tools that will work? It seems to me that what we have to do is to take a punt on policy tools. While the Climate Change Advisory Council does not want to enter into the political battle lines that are raging around data centres or carbon pricing, it needs to give us some guidance as to how we choose policy tools for the good of everyone.

On a last point, when compared to the plan I was involved in putting together, the big areas where new ambition is set out are in regard to the rewetting of bogs, district heating, taking carbon out of construction materials, diversifying land use, biomethane and afforestation, where the ambition has been there but the reality has not materialised. Can Ms Donnelly guide us on what policy tools we need to be adopting in some of these new and ambitious areas? They seem to be relatively untested and it would be good to see what work the Climate Change Advisory Council is doing in those new areas.

Ms Marie Donnelly

I agree with the Deputy that Ireland has placed itself to the fore in terms of the quality of its food and the export value of food, which is certainly true, and in the area of ICT. We are seen as a major hub for data centres in Europe. It is perhaps an issue that, like electricity, is another language and is another form of metrics that we do not use on a daily basis. Data centres are, in a way, the lifeblood of our new digitalised world. We tend to think of data centres as Microsoft, Facebook and all of these very large companies, but our local health authority operates a data centre and our local wholesale distributor of food operates a data centre. Data centres are part and parcel of everything we do because we have moved into the digitalised space. The challenge we have is how we ensure they become part of the system rather than working outside it. As I was expressing to Deputy Cronin, data centres take in very large quantities of power and they reserve very large quantities of power because they cannot afford to go down. The challenge we have is how we ensure a data centre, which has a surplus at any one point in time of up 25% of its power, can use that surplus to benefit the grid and benefit the system, rather than locking it up and never using it.

The second part in regard to data centres is how we take the surplus heat and use that to the benefit of society in heating our homes and our offices. It is the joined-up approach. There, we need to look at what they have done in other countries, and I have already mentioned Denmark, which is one illustration of where they are specifically doing that.

In the area of food, the key issue that we need to keep on top of is what is the market demand. For food, in particular the food we export, we respond to consumer demands. At a point in time when consumer demand wants low fat or high energy, or whatever it might be, as producers of food, that is the market giving us signals and we need to respond to those signals. In our very successful food industry, our challenge, which was addressed in the food paper which came out from Bord Bia not long ago, is to increase the value of our food, to move our food exports up the value chain and not remain at the bottom of the low value side of the chain. We need to be able to go up the chain in terms of high-value proteins, specialist foods and nutraceuticals, for example, in order to be able to protect that industry but also to respond to consumer demand. That is the challenge but I believe it is also the opportunity for these very successful sectors.

Looking at some of the core measures that have been identified, and some of them were already in Deputy Bruton’s own climate action plan in 2019, depending on who one talks to, people will prioritise one or other of the criteria first. From the council's perspective, our first criterion for investment is emissions reduction. We are looking for emissions reduction coming from the investments that we make. We accept that, sometimes, that reduction might not come immediately and it might be a delayed reaction but, ultimately, what we are looking for is emissions reduction. The second criteria we would apply is energy efficiency, that is, managing demand, be it in transport, in heating, in construction or whatever the area might be. These would be the overarching criteria or metrics that we would use in terms of identifying preferential expenditure going forward.

That is why, if we look at some of the activities that are taking place now, they are not cheap. Offshore wind is not cheap but it will deliver very substantial emissions reduction and allow us to manage the flow of electricity, which will be our electricity from our natural resource into the future. We can ask what is the easiest, and we should do what is easiest anyway. We should ask what is least cost, and we should probably do it in any event. We should ask what is tried and tested, and we should benefit from that. We earlier discussed anaerobic digestion, which is already established in many parts of Europe, and we can benefit from that experience and do it in Ireland. District heating is the norm in Scandinavia and in all of the eastern European countries. Again, it is not a new technology and we can benefit from that and take on board something that is tried and tested elsewhere to our own benefit here in Ireland.

In terms of the actions that are taking place and coming through, rewetting bogs is a big issue and a big activity, and I know Bord na Móna is already well advanced in its efforts in that respect. That will deliver results for us. We tend to think of the very large bogs when we talk about rewetting bogs but, of course, we need to analyse and look at our land map because there are many parts of the country where we have peatlands that have been desiccated and that need to be rewetted. That is going to be an ongoing role for agricultural policy with Teagasc in order to be able to support farmers in the management of the land to get the right balance for their piece of land.

In construction, I believe the opportunities for green building in construction are huge. We really can do so much more. It is an area where I believe that the industry itself, which is now developing the plans to do it, can deliver for us. It is a question that we can fairly ask. Although I am not talking about high rises, when we look at construction today and look at construction 100 years ago, it has not actually changed that much. There are very few industries that operate today in the same way they operated 100 years ago. Therefore, the opportunity for innovation and for new ways of doing things is very substantial in the construction space. Ireland can be a leader in that space because we have a real demand for construction going forward.

There are opportunities from biomethane - we have both biogas and biomethane - and longer term, if there is an industry in that space, using that in conjunction with the potential of hydrogen, for example, coming from floating offshore wind will give us an opportunity to move from electrons, that is, our renewable electricity side, to molecules, which can be used on the island, can become a significant export product and can be used in the generation of new industries. The potential is very useful and we need to look positively at it into the future.

I thank Ms Donnelly for her presentation and her ongoing work. She has a very practical approach and that is welcome. This has been a broad discussion but I will focus on the potential of offshore wind. Ms Donnelly rightly identified that comprehensive legislation is going through the Houses and was debated in the Seanad today, namely, the Maritime Area Planning Bill, which will, I hope, set out the important credentials that will be necessary to provide some clarity on planning for those offshore developments. Because I come from County Clare and have represented that constituency, I have met a number of investors, for want of a better word, and operators, who are concerned at the pace the Government has in mind for offshore wind development, particularly on the west coast and in the form of floating technology.

Ms Donnelly identified the great potential for the decarbonisation of our energy mix and the cost, of which there is no doubt, but there is an opportunity we are missing. Because it is relatively nascent technology, it would be ahead of the curve. There is an opportunity for us to develop a long-term base for the construction and development of the technologies that might ultimately be transported and exported throughout the world. By developing the know-how in that regard, there is potential, which I do not see costed in to any of the other discussions. Will Ms Donnelly comment on that? She might indicate her knowledge on or information about the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications in regard to whether it is possible for it to include in the various bid processes the opportunity to bring to the market more quickly offshore floating wind. We know what is happening on the east coast, but my question relates to the more expensive west coast. EirGrid has indicated it is looking at 2030 and beyond, yet investors are champing at the bit and believe they can make this happen more quickly.

Ms Marie Donnelly

That moves into my area of activity because, as the Senator will be aware, I was in renewable energy for years. Among the natural resource maps of Europe, Ireland and the north of Scotland stand out as having enormous resource possibilities. We are very fortunate in that respect. The advantage of the east coast is that it is a shallower sea, so foundation offshore wind farms are possible there. Legacy locations have been established and we can move there fairly quickly. We have opportunities moving down the south coast and certainly on the west coast. Floating is probably the appropriate technology for the west coast because the sea there is quite deep. Building foundation turbines there is probably not an option, so floating turbines would be a more suitable area.

The technology is moving very fast. About eight years ago, I took a small boat out to an offshore floating wind platform off the coast of Porto, Portugal, which was being funded by the European Union. I got very seasick in the process, I have to say. These are enormous projects. What is in question are the shape, the size and the combination. When we put one of these rigs in the ocean, although it is anchored to the ground, there is the question of whether it is one wind turbine or more. Should there be anchor issues out of it to allow you to get some wave movement as well, whereby there would be not just wind but also wave and, potentially, even solar? What is the best mix of shape and size of these structures? It is still a little bit away from commercial but not far.

Ireland is perfectly located in this regard and the opportunity exists for us because we have the wind that is required and some of the deepest ports in Europe. We have the capacity, therefore, to take the ships we will need for this. We need, however, a very clear plan in order that individual investors can come along and say they can provide one aspect and somebody else can say they can provide another. It needs an holistic plan. For example, we have deep ports but they are not large enough for the size of the turbines. I apologise for again raising Denmark, but I had the opportunity to visit the ports there, where the harbours were lengthened to enable them to take the long turbine stems. We have to think about that as one of the aspects.

Do we have the ships and the skills? We have a fishing fleet in Ireland but we have not traditionally had a great seafaring skill in the country. We possibly need to enhance that and to link it with the engineering side in order that we can get the benefit from it. We need also to think about whether we are going to go with mesh or radial connections. Radial is one to one, while mesh is a more connected processing. If we are going to do that, we have to design it in advance and doing that is at the forefront of technology. It is being considered for the North Sea and we should be part of that discussion because we will have the same issues in our offshore construction as we go forward.

Another question, for example, relates to where we will land the power and what we will use it for when it lands. Will we have multiple electrolysers or perhaps just a few very large ones, given we will need storage capacity if we are to produce hydrogen, for example? Where will we locate the storage capacity? In fact, it will require a national strategic plan for the development of that resource.

The Senator is correct; bringing together all the expertise is the kind of step we need to take now. There is much expertise on the policy and academic side, who have conducted the modelling as to what is involved there. EirGrid and ESB Networks also have experience in that space. We need to bring together that expertise to decide what the picture will look like, to make it public and, ultimately, to be able to commit to that. It will take a few years but, as the Senator said, we need to start working on it now. I understand that in Clare and Mayo, he is taking the lead in that context.

Is it the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications that needs to develop this strategy?

Ms Marie Donnelly

Yes, ultimately, the Government will have to develop it, but we can use and get much benefit from the modellers and the expertise in our academic institutions. The University of Limerick has super analysts in that regard, as does MaREI.

Yes, I have been involved in a number of discussions between a few investors, the University of Limerick and Shannon Foynes Port. Strong engagement is taking place, to some extent without that central co-ordination. I am certainly heartened by what Ms Donnelly is saying. I hope that, through her good offices, she can steer the Government in a way towards developing that strategy sooner rather than later.

I thank Ms Donnelly. It has been a really interesting conversation and there is so much to go through. Senator Higgins spoke about the range of the targets and how the ceiling is the top of the range we are considering. I understand Ms Donnelly's point that sectoral targets are within the remit of the Government to set and that the council has set the overall target and given a pathway towards that. As we start to review that work, examine the sectoral targets and make recommendations to the Government, how important will it be to have sectoral targets that go beyond the top of the range to provide a buffer? We are considering a number of targets spread across a number of portfolios, each with its own potential, risks and challenges. Should we go beyond the top of that range in order that if one sector fails, another can meet that shortfall?

I do not know whether the climate change committee undertook a risk analysis of the different measures and how likely they are to facilitate meeting a target, but it is an area we might need to look into. It seems we are relying significantly on the transition to renewable energy. What is the risk in that? What is the likelihood of that renewable energy being in place in time? Did the Climate Change Advisory Council do a risk analysis of all the key policies the Government could put into play? Which ones are feasible and which are more risky, or is that something which should be done as part of the committee's work in making recommendations on the climate targets?

Ms Marie Donnelly

The rationale for the way we did the budget was driven by the extensive analysis, modelling and scenarios that we looked at and by the real need to mobilise investment now in order to get the benefit in the second period. When we did our analysis, we did not have sectoral ceilings. We did not even have sectoral ranges. It was not for us to do the sectoral ranges. That will ultimately be a decision for the Government. Whether it decides that sectors overlap and achieve 110% at the high end and 90% at the low end is obviously a Government decision.

We looked at the kinds of policies that could be adopted, including, for example, some of the core measures that are in the climate action plan 2021. The Department shared some of that information with us. We looked at it. We discussed the issues around it. It was not for the council to say if something was a good idea or a bad idea, or if this would work and that would not. The key single message from the analysis we did is that there is a sense of urgency and that we pretty much know what needs to be done but that we need to do it now.

We will publish our annual review tomorrow, which will look at Deputy Bruton's climate action plan 2019. There are actions in that which still have not been achieved or have been delayed. The Deputy asked what the risk is. There is always a risk. The advantage of the legislation adopted in July is that it states we need a budget, sectoral targets, a climate action plan that states what we will do, and that the Climate Change Advisory Council needs to monitor whether we are delivering on the policy. That is the key issue. When the Deputy refers to risk, that is where the risk issue is dealt with. What we see as being our job going forward is to say, in the context of sectoral targets, what the measures are and to ask if the measures are happening on time. If they are happening on time, the second question to ask is if the measures are delivering enough, and maybe they need to be strengthened. The first requirement is to deliver the measure on time. That is the serious challenge we must look at in terms of the initiatives and delivering on these numbers. We can do it if we deliver on time. Unfortunately, we have seen again and again that deadlines have been missed or have slipped and it has delayed things. That is the risk management we see ourselves having to play an important role in going forward.

That is also my key worry. We have had so many plans and so many policies, but implementing them quickly or at all is the issue. At what stage does the big alarm bell start ringing? Hopefully, we are at that point now. I thank Ms Donnelly for her answer.

I wish to touch on a couple of points that were raised. I welcome Ms Donnelly to the committee. She highlighted how essential public participation was in the transition. From my point of view, that is why the design of the schemes we have is critical. She referred to the importance of microgeneration and of allowing people to be part of the process of transition and understanding the energy system. However, the Government's own analysis of the model it proposed scored zero in terms of equity when it came to microgeneration and, likewise, with the retrofitting scheme. Retrofitting should not only reduce emissions but it should also reduce energy poverty. However, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform's analysis of 2020 of the current Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, SEAI, scheme stated that it did not have sufficient data to determine if the scheme is making an impact on energy poverty. I would like to hear Ms Donnelly's comments on how climate justice has factored into the Climate Change Advisory Council's analysis and deliberations, and the importance of getting those schemes fit for purpose.

Second, I wish to pick up on the issue of data centres. Ms Donnelly said that data centres were the lifeblood of our future modern society. That is correct; we need data centres but, surely, we need an analysis of what type of data centres we have. Ireland is an outlier when it comes to the number of data centres it has. The biggest user currently in Ireland is not the HSE or people working from home; it is Amazon Web Services. Some would argue that Amazon Web Services is not exactly critical infrastructure. Its current model helps fossil fuel companies extract fossil fuels faster and more efficiently. We need to look at exactly the type of data centres we have. It is now accepted by the CEO of EirGrid that we are inviting the seven power plants to establish in Ireland to feed the demand from the data centres. He said that to a data centre lobby group. How does that square with the Climate Change Advisory Council's analysis? Ms Donnelly said that the greatest reduction of overall costs of transition is reduction in demand. We have to get that. That is the hierarchy here. We have to reduce that demand. Do we need a more nuanced approach to data centres? We know we need certain data centres but it is the type of data centres and what they are doing. Moreover, although we signed up to the Beyond Oil & Gas Alliance at COP26, we are inviting in these seven new gas power plants. Surely, that poses a risk to our targets. Has the council looked at that?

Ms Marie Donnelly

To start with the issue of public participation, I cannot agree more with Senator Boylan about the importance of that and it is something which the council has discussed. At the end of the day, when we are talking about the targets, trajectories and policies involved, they will come to nothing if we do not successfully engage the hearts and minds of everybody in the country because this will impact on all of us. It will mean a change in our behaviour and our working and living patterns going forward. In that context, the extent of public participation is fundamental.

There are two issues that I would like to address. I already spoke about retrofitting and how essential it is to target, as a priority, the worst-performing houses, particularly those that have either fuel poverty or are socially owned. They are priority target areas for retrofitting; that is absolutely clear. The second area I wish to refer to in terms of public participation is the extent to which people can feel the benefits of this will be spread equally and that we know that in advance. In a way, that goes to the extent to which we have citizen dialogue around this, with citizens who are in a position to participate when they want to have their views knows and their voices heard, to see the consequences of what they say being taken into account. That is part and parcel of the process we need to have going forward. Some people will go with it while not really having a view. When people have a view, they must have an opportunity to express it. That is where the national dialogue is hugely important in outreaching to people, listening to what they say and ultimately responding to them. I listened to Mark Foley on his consultation results on the microgeneration. EirGrid went out with microgeneration not even on the page. At the end of the consultation, as a consequence of listening, it came back and said that it was looking at 500 MW of microgeneration. That is what real consultation is about, that is, where you go out with something that is not even there and you come back with a whole new section because you listened to what people said.

That is the delivery of the just transition. It is when you listen to everybody and allow them to have their voices heard and see their voices are having an impact.

On climate justice, we had a full section on the just transition. It is not to carve it up and put things into boxes but on the one hand there is the just transition, which is to ensure nobody is left behind. The social justice then goes beyond Ireland into our role in the world and how we see our participation in the global effort in this space. We are a small country. Our emissions of themselves are not causing climate change. However, just because we are a small country does not give us the opportunity to opt out. Our emissions per capita, are 12 tonnes per year; the EU average is 8 tonnes. Even in comparison to other EU states, we emit more per capita. Moreover, for some poor and developing countries, we are seen as a rich, developed nation and therefore need to take our share of the effort and burden of reducing emissions. Out of that, perhaps we will develop new techniques of doing it and sharing them with others. We were looking at social justice in the country, leaving nobody behind, and in a global sense with regard to where Ireland fits on the global stage.

It is a point of discussion about data centres. As for my understanding of the consultation that took place, one of the questions was whether we should generate renewable energy where it is best and most cost-effective to do it, which makes sense. It was then whether we should have the high-use demand side located close to where the power is generated or do we allow it to separate. An important issue that came out of the consultation is an awareness that maybe we do not have to bring every electron from Donegal to Dublin for a data centre. Maybe we can think about proximate location of data centres beside power sources to reduce grid construction, for example, and interventions in that space. It is part and parcel of the fabric of what we are doing. When we look at data centres, it is not just power, which is important, but also the fibre-optic cables they use. It is a question of planning the infrastructure to combine the benefits of the natural resources we have with the opportunities we can get from data centres, as well as from manufacturing facilities, some of which might need large quantities of power.

Energy efficiency is clearly the way forward. The concept that the council is thinking about and pushing a little bit is our need to tie energy efficiency to emissions reduction. It is a double metric to apply to the initiatives and policies we put in place. It would be unfortunate, for example, to retrofit a house, taking it from a D to a B1 or B2, and then find it is still using a fossil fuels heating system. That sounds like a contradiction in terms but it can happen if policy is not constructed in the right way.

I thank Ms Donnelly for her presentation and for being with us. Starting off with the Climate Change Advisory Council, CCAC, itself, in earlier stages it was insightful to get the perspective of former chairs on the working of the group. After Ms Donnelly's initial experience, are there ways she would improve the CCAC? Is she happy it is sufficiently resourced, has access to the necessary information, data and expertise or is that a gap that Government and others should look at?

This is a new process for everybody. The council has a particular role. It feeds into the development of the climate action plan. There is the scientific and technical aspect and the political aspect, with a big "P" or small "p". Ms Donnelly touched on it earlier. How does she feel that is working, particularly from the perspective of stakeholders or the public? Does she think local government plans or the national dialogue is the way to enhance public engagement? This committee is about to embark on a job of work to consider the carbon budgets and is likely to hear from a very small group of people, again experts or departmental officials.

I share the concern of others on the emissions ranges and the potential for a combined effort not meeting 51% by 2030. I am sure Ms Donnelly is aware 4 million tonnes are unallocated in the climate action plan. The Government points towards the Danish approach. Does she see that as a risk in itself? Does it add to the other risks already there which she has mentioned? I am interested in Ms Donnelly's perspective on that.

What role does Ms Donnelly see for hydrogen in supporting the transition, particularly in terms of storing offshore wind and transport?

Ms Marie Donnelly

I thank the Deputy. I will start on the issue of membership of the council. We have 14 members, comprising seven women and seven men with a diverse and extensive range of experience across many aspects relating to climate. That has been a positive development that brings a lot of experience to the debate and discussion in the council.

The Deputy asked about resources and whether we have access to data. I have mentioned that we benefited enormously from the support of MaREI in Cork, University of Limerick, Maynooth University, UCD and TCD. That was hugely useful. If I may make a digressive remark, many of the models we used were built as a consequence of successful competitive bidding where they would get funding for, say, three or four years. It is probably something we need to think about. If you are in competitive bidding you cannot retain staff, PhD students and others. You need a constant source of funding to do it. That is an aside I bring in because it is important to mention it.

On data generally, in the early part of this year there was a memorandum of understanding set up by the Taoiseach's Department and signed by seven other Departments and us to share data. That is a useful initiative because we are a small island. It does not make sense to have people going in different directions and not sharing information. Being able to do that is a big factor and an important step forward.

On resources generally, I do not suppose anyone has ever come to the committee and said they have more than enough resources. Likewise, I will not say that. The resources of the Climate Change Advisory Council are small. We have recently had some supplements coming through but we need additional resources. We have five or six sectors that we will monitor on an ongoing basis and to do that we need sectoral expertise within the secretariat. Then there is the general overarching type of construct and legal and communication issues to look at. Resourcing is an issue and the secretariat of the council delivered the budget on a shoestring this year. They worked days, nights and weekends.

There were no holidays for anybody in the council secretariat until we got the budget out. I would like to mark the contribution its members made because they worked above and beyond the call of duty. I know they were all personally committed to delivering the budget and they did so.

In terms of other stakeholders, this is a challenge going forward. In some councils or their equivalent in other member states there is a role for outreach to stakeholders. It is not clear whether that is part and parcel of our role, although it is clear we should not be closed. However, it is a small group and the resources for constructive outreach do not exist within the secretariat. We are debating this issue. One of the items on the agenda of our next meeting is how we will ensure, given that the annual review will comment on sectoral targets, we are able to monitor and understand what happens within each sector and how we will interact with the sectors, the relevant Department and its agencies as well as the industry and consumer groups. What is the mechanism for doing that? One of our current challenges is identifying the most efficient mechanism. Do we use an existing structure and build on it or should we have our own structure? That is one of the questions we face and the Deputy is quite right in that context.

That is before we get to discussions with local authorities. We have had good discussions with the local authorities on their adaptation plans but as members will know, they will now do mitigation and adaptation plans. I presume the climate action regional offices will support them in that context as well. The local authorities are on the ground. They can see this happening and can support people in making the change. Their role is hugely important in this context. The extent to which they are integrated into the policy and the dialogue will probably be one of the most important elements going forward. That is certainly an issue that we are considering.

The Government, rather than the council, proposed the sectoral ranges. Like the Deputy, we would ask the question as to whether the overlaps are sufficient to ensure that in the event of failure on one side, we would get compensation on the other side. It is an ongoing question.

The Danish black box is a question. We know there are technologies in development and we hope they will deliver. If we consider wind-generated electricity in 2010 versus today, it is simply not the same thing. There is some justification for thinking we will have innovation that will help us and make things easier. We will look carefully at the black box of 4 million tonnes because it is not an opt-out.

We need to think about hydrogen. It is the new natural gas, if you wish. It is currently expensive to produce and more difficult to store and ship. However, it is flexible as a back-up for electricity and a back-up source for heat. There is also potential for hydrogen to be the route forward for transport, particularly heavy duty transport. The challenge is to get some sort of pan-European view because we have manufacturing facilities in Ireland where the goods are delivered to consumers on the Continent. They are placed on a truck in Ireland and then delivered by truck. Irrespective of which low or zero emission fuel we ultimately use in heavy-duty transport, we need to ensure it ties in with whatever happens at a European level n order that we are on board. We also need to identify what we will use for ourselves. Hydrogen presents a real opportunity. There is a lot of talk about it at the moment but perhaps not enough strategic planning around it. As I said to Senator Dooley, we need a plan. We need to get the picture on the page so that we can see what it looks like.

I thank Ms Donnelly for appearing and answering our numerous questions.

On just transition and the role the Climate Change Advisory Council plays in Government policy, Ms Donnelly indicated the council does not make Government policy but reviews it to see if it is in line with the climate action plan. Ms Donnelly stated that all voices needed to be heard, we must listen to everyone and a just transition and the move away from the fossil fuel industry should not involve loss of income and should involve retraining people properly and the provision of jobs. How does the experience in Bord na Móna tie in with the climate action plan and what the CCAC would like to see happen? Does the council intend to review that whole experience? I ask because I view it as the first real litmus test for the Government in just transition. I ask Ms Donnelly to comment on how this matter has been dealt with.

On meat production, I am also concerned about how Government policy fits in with the views of the Climate Change Advisory Council. We know the beef sector is effectively controlled by a handful of very profitable companies. Over the years, we have heard so much about beef barons while at the same time many small farmers struggle to get by with the low prices they are paid at the farm gate. Subsidies favour larger producers to build a model the Government has promoted to export beef and dairy to new markets. Has the council seen a change in Government policy towards a just transition for smaller farmers and reducing emissions?

Ms Donnelly spoke of the need to be energy efficient while having a target to reduce emissions. Having listened to many questions and answers about the data centres and the commitment given by the Government to develop a further 2 GW of gas, I am still struggling. As Senator Boylan mentioned, at a recent industry conference EirGrid confirmed to the data centre industry that this 2 GW of gas-fired power is to allow them to develop and prevent them from shutting down. Does this not contradict the ambitions of the plan and the role of the Climate Change Advisory Council? If we adopt this policy, Ireland will lock itself into another 20 or 25 years of gas infrastructure, which flies in the face of the idea that we need to move away from this energy.

I am very glad to hear that Ms Donnelly described as a policy failure the shocking fact that our forestry sector has become a net emitter of CO2. Given the repeated failures to meet the afforestation targets along with other climate-related issues such as biodiversity loss, is it now time to review the role of Coillte and revisit its mandate? Under its current commercial model, Coillte does not favour or prioritise the environment or manage and maintain what will be valuable for us in future in terms of climate emissions?

Ms Marie Donnelly

On just transition, specifically the case of Bord na Móna, a member of the Climate Change Advisory Council was very closely involved in that process, so we were briefed on some of what happened. It is the first really big experience in Ireland and the first lesson that the council took from that is honesty. The situation with Bord na Móna should not have come as a surprise to anybody. The timing was faster than some of the rhetoric had been. However, honesty is the key issue here. It has been known for many years that continuing to produce electricity from peat was contradictory to our climate policies. That was known. The extent to which honesty came into play, in terms of telling both the workers and management of the company about the reality of that and providing them with alternatives early enough, is perhaps the single lesson that must be taken from that. We need to be honest.

We cannot hide these things or shy away from them. In being honest, we need to put the measures in place that will support people.

The Bord na Móna case is an illustration of why we need to do it that way and how we can best do so and get it right, because similar situations, which may not be as large, will come up again in which fossil-fuel based activities will be negatively impacted by this transition. We need to be honest with workers, their families and their communities about the long-term trend in order that they can prepare themselves and find alternative sources of income, activities and jobs.

On meat production, one of the interesting aspects, which is shown on some of the slides linked to our technical report, is we looked at where the beef industry is located in Ireland. The Deputy is right that the dairy industry is very much to the south and west, and the beef industry is west and east but in the top half of the country. It is not exclusively located there, of course, but a large portion of it is.

The Deputy is also right to say that we have many small farmers who are in beef production. Many of them do not make any money from that activity. This again comes from the Teagasc figures from the farm surveys it does every year. The issue we need to deal with in this context is income streams for farmers. Farmers need to be able to run their farms in a way that is profitable for them, their families and, ultimately, their communities, that is consistent with our climate action and that allows them to be innovative in the environment in which they find themselves.

For some of the small beef farmers who currently do not make money from beef and are surviving from Pillar 1 payments coming out of CAP, we should be looking at how we support them into income streams that are more beneficial for them. That is part of some of the initiatives Teagasc has mentioned in its listing of things going forward. I will not make comments on the structure of the industry, because the council has not discussed that in any detail.

When we look at the question of the double metrics of energy efficiency and emissions reductions, we can see that there is a challenge. There has been much discussion about data centres and many fingers have been pointed at data centres in terms of why we had amber alerts. We had those alerts this year because two gas-fired power stations were out of action. This meant that we did not have the back up we would normally have had from those two stations.

We are moving forward to a very high level of renewable energy, which is a variable power source with stability and frequency challenges for the grid. When I look at other countries that have an 80% target for 2030, such as Portugal, Austria and Denmark, all of those are interconnected with large energy markets which provide balancing services to the grid. We do not have that.

We have, basically, the east-west interconnector the UK. Greenlink is potentially coming on stream and, ultimately, we will have the Celtic interconnector. We have connections with the North of Ireland, one of which has still not been built. We do not have sufficient balancing support from outside of the island for the volume of renewable power planned in this process.

We need to develop our technology and capacity to mains stability in the grid over the decade in order that we can achieve it. The system non-synchronous penetration, SNSP, needs to move from 75% to 90%. and even higher, in order to make it possible to have that level of renewable power in our grid. That is why the gas-fired powered stations are being proposed. It is stability of the grid. Yes, we have a volume increase. We have that increase because our economy, fortunately, is doing very well. Our population is growing and we have data centres that will consume more energy. However, it is not only data centres. We predict a 20% increase in population between now and 2040. I hope our economy will continue to do well, which is also likely to require electricity. We are moving heating and transport into electricity. Electricity demand will go up over the period, but we are at the forefront in respect of coping with the stability of the grid with renewable energy. When we get it right and we will get it right, we will be the living lab for the rest of the world, as to how to integrate renewable power into the electricity system. This is a short-term fix for the technology gap we have, which needs to be plugged at this time.

The issue with forestry is that private planting rates have fallen off. Part of why I say the policy needs to be addressed is because the incentives for farmers and landowners to invest in forestry are obviously not working and need to be adjusted to make it attractive. It is a source of carbon farming for farmers, but they need to get the income stream and the reward out of it. They also need the incentives and structures in place that will allow them to devote parts of their land to forestry development over the period. This is one of the issues that has been identified in the climate action plan, but the new policy is only foreseen for 2023. Perhaps that could be enhanced in the context of timing.

I am quite surprised by a few of Ms Donnelly's answers. I refer, in particular, to the one on farming, because it implies the small beef farmers are the problem and we need to do something about them. I am also surprised that Ms Donnelly thinks-----

To be fair, I do not think Ms Donnelly implied that.

-----gas reduction is a short-term measure. We will be locked into fossil fuel use for at least 20 years if we increase our gas production. We have been told in replies to parliamentary questions and by meeting industry representatives that private planters of forests cannot get licences. The size of the backlog shows that they are not the problem. There are so many applications for private planting of forests that people are screaming at us to do something about it. I do not think that is the problem and I am surprised by a few of Ms Donnelly's answers on those issues.

I will give Ms Donnelly a chance to reply, because, as I suggested, she did not imply that.

Ms Marie Donnelly

I would be very upset if the Deputy thought I was saying that small farmers are the problem. That was not the intention and it is certainly not the message I would like to portray. What I am saying is we need to ensure an income stream for small farmers who currently are not making money out of beef. That is the message we have. We need to look at the alternatives available to farmers in that context.

On the forestry, when I say the policy is not working, the policy is holistic and if the policy does not allow licences to be issued, we need to revisit it. The implication was not that private people were not doing it. The issue is that if our administrative structures are not able to deliver the volume we need, we have to revisit our administrative structures, including how we issue licences, in what form and how long it takes. Perhaps I was not sufficiently clear on that one. That is the message. It is not a criticism of Coillte or private landowners. Our system is wrong and, as a result, we need to revisit it.

Ms Donnelly is very welcome. It is lovely to see her here. I thank her for taking so much time over our questions. I have a few specific questions. I will start off by asking what Ms Donnelly's thoughts are on the issue to the effect that we have to have a transition. Some of these measures we are talking about are in the context of wind energy but there are also some other transitions required in respect of other areas, such as horticulture. How important is it to give a clear message that we cannot just turn off the lights and that we have to have transitions?

I refer as well to communicating that the rhetoric about this process locking us in is not correct, and that it will, instead, enable us to achieve energy and food security for our island in future. My first point, therefore, concerns the importance of communications and the language we all use in this context and of not scaremongering.

Turning to results-based schemes in agriculture, we had a session on that topic previously. Ms Donnelly spoke earlier about the importance of farming paying. It clearly is not doing so now for many farmers. We must consider a move to a form of agriculture that not only protects the environment but that also gives more to farming families than they receive now. I refer to there being opportunities in this regard for farmers, and young farmers in particular. At another session, we had representatives from Macra na Feirme before the committee. They said that access to ecologists is something that would support them. Therefore, I think people, including farmers, are coming on board with this process. It is good to hear that. They must, however, be supported through this process of change. We are a leader when it comes to results-based schemes, albeit that only a small part of our land is involved.

Moving on to the cost of renewables, and specifically regarding the cost of the energy coming from renewables, is it true to say that, over time, it will be the cheapest possible form of energy we can provide? Investment is required at this stage to bring that about, but we will come out of that process without our previous over-reliance on fossil fuels and international markets. Equally, it is also cheaper to produce renewable energy.

Ms Donnelly spoke about my final point already, which concerns the importance of our ports infrastructure. I come from Galway, and the west coast is where the wind is. We must see investment in infrastructure to enable us to capitalise on our greatest asset for a greener future.

Ms Marie Donnelly

On the subject of communication regarding the transition, the Senator is absolutely right. One thing the council is concerned about, as the Senator rightly said, is to move away from constantly conveying a threat or a frightening story about climate action. We are moving down a trajectory which will deliver a better place. We are not doing this to bring about more negative lives in ten or 20 years. We are doing this so that we will have better lives, with cleaner air, clear water, comfortable homes and quiet cities so that we can sleep at night. From an economic perspective, we will be producing our own energy, be that electricity, liquid fuels or whatever, using our own natural resources. Our land will be being worked in a circular process, where we can use the products of our land for food, bioenergy or nature in a way that will support the land and those managing it in an economic way.

What we are striving for, then, is a better world. There are certain things that we must try to prevent and react to on the way to achieving that goal. Therefore, adaptation will certainly be important. Overall, however, what we are trying to achieve here is a better world. Part of the difficulty in communicating that perspective is that we are moving toward significant societal change by announcing it first. In that regard, let us take the examples of two transitions that societies have gone through in the past. We went through the Industrial Revolution, which fundamentally changed the world as it was known, but nobody announced at the beginning of that transition that we were about to go through it and that the change would involve X, Y and Z and cost however much. The Industrial Revolution happened via evolution and we all moved with it. As a result, we find ourselves in the world we are in today. Equally, we also went through the process of digitalisation. Nobody sat down in 1990 and asked if we could afford to undertake digitalisation, did we really want it and what were the negatives involved in such change. It just happened and that change evolved around us. It cost a lot of money, but it all happened and now we find ourselves in a world where we see the results of digitalisation as being normal. It is part and parcel of our world.

Climate action transition will lead us to a world that we will see as normal. To some extent, however, we are doing this in a planned and upfront way and this is something we are not used to. Therefore, Senator O’Reilly is absolutely right that we need to handle the messaging in this regard. We need to "descarify" it, if I can use that term, and start to explain why we are doing this and what positive developments will emerge from doing it. It is going to be an expensive transition. All these types of transitions were expensive. However, they lead to a better world. I can say that with confidence because we as people will ensure that it will be a better world. Therefore, I have no hesitation in stating that. The Senator is correct that getting that message across in our communications is a challenge.

When I look at results-based schemes, every farmer I have met has been very pro his or her land, as the case may be, the environment and the protection of the land. Virtually every farmer I have ever met has said that he or she is only the caretaker for the next generation. Therefore, farmers are not out to do damage to the land. They want to do things right and to farm in a sustainable way. Again, the Senator is correct, however, that, in just the same way as farming technologies evolved over several years, we are now moving into a space where the technologies of sustainable farming will also advance. That is where we will rely greatly on policies coming from the Department, research coming from Teagasc and on the Teagasc advisers going out and talking to and explaining to farmers what all this is about.

Teagasc's Signpost programme initiative is very good because it involves 100 farms that farmers can visit and see, feel and touch what sustainable farming looks like. They can ask questions about how it works, what it means and what the differences are. That is important, and it will not just be in agriculture but in our daily lives and how we live as well. The role of the public sector, for example, will be important in this regard in respect of buildings. It will be important that we as citizens can see the benefits of retrofitting in buildings that are owned by the public sector. In a way, such buildings are the lighthouses that will allow us to see the benefits in this context. That is also important in respect of communications around this area. Rewarding that kind of initiative is of course the right way to go forward.

Moving on to renewables, we must be careful to say that the resulting energy will be cheaper. It will be cheaper, because, logically, when we look at renewable sources of energy, the investment is all on the capital side. The operational and fuel costs of such operations are very low. Once the capital investment has been allocated, we will then be in a situation where we will see the benefits of having very low operational and maintenance costs. Conversely, operational and maintenance costs in energy generation from fossil fuels are more than 50% of the overall costs.

Therefore, the benefits in this regard are very real and they will manifest in future, but there will need to be expenditure first. We have not done the figures for Ireland, but I have looked at the information that the climate council in the UK has published. It shows levels of investment continuing up to about 2032. It then starts to decline and a surplus is being generated by 2050. We have not done comparative calculations for Ireland, but there is no reason to suppose that we would not have a similar trajectory to what is being forecast in the UK. Therefore, the Senator is right that these technologies are greatly advantageous, not only due to being sustainable but also because they look to be economical and useful to society in the longer term.

Finally, to address the point about ports infrastructure, we must decide what it is we want to have in the ports. We must decide what benefits we are going to derive from the great resource that we have off the west coast. Equally, we must determine how we are going to use it, where we are going to land that power and how we are going to deal with it once we have landed it. This brings us back to what we were talking about earlier with Senator Dooley regarding getting the picture and presenting it page by page so that people can see what it will mean in future.

I thank Senator O'Reilly for those questions. I call Deputy Alan Farrell.

I thank Ms Donnelly for this comprehensive, lengthy and welcome discussion. Of all the issues remaining, wind energy is the one that I am most passionate about and intrigued by. Ms Donnelly has well covered that aspect, though, so I will skip over that topic and ask three questions regarding her views and those of the council.

Does she believe that hydrogen has any role to play in the domestic heating market? How long does she think natural gas will play a role in our energy market in the context of wind energy interconnectors and other energy sources? Is there space in the future for a fact-based debate on nuclear power, given the EU seems now as if it may classify it as a green energy?

Ms Marie Donnelly

We have had hydrogen for years but green hydrogen is an emerging technology. It is currently very expensive. Electrolysers to produce it need to be developed further to become much more efficient than they currently are. Even with that, it is looking at this stage as if hydrogen will still be an expensive gas. Domestic heating is currently between 2 cents and 4 cents per kWh. Hydrogen is likely to cost in excess of 30 cents per kWh. Economically speaking, to put hydrogen into the domestic heating system would be a very expensive proposition, going forward. That could change, of course, if we get very efficient and have a lot of green hydrogen but, at the moment, it would be an difficult economic burden for consumers to have to pay that kind of price for their heating systems. The alternatives of district heating systems using the surplus heat from the data centres that nobody likes, heat pumps and biomass, where relevant, are more economic options for domestic heating systems in our current array of technologies.

The Deputy asked about the longevity of natural gas and it is a difficult question to answer.

I asked the question because of the debate we were having and the direction in which it was heading. We have fantastic targets for renewable energy that I hope we can achieve. However, we must keep the lights on and with all the interconnectors in the world, we are still reliant on the energy grids of others and, ultimately, gas from potentially volatile areas. On that basis, how long will it be before we have to say we cannot necessarily rely on Russian gas or gas fields in our own jurisdiction? What do we do at that point?

Ms Marie Donnelly

That is probably more of an issue for the EU than for Ireland. The Corrib gas field is going to last for another little while. We have the gas pipes coming off it in Scotland that are largely drawing Norwegian gas. It is a big issue for Europe right now with Nord Stream 1 in place and a question as to whether Nord Stream 2 will open, and the trans-Ukrainian pipe. This is likely to become a geopolitical question as much as a climate question. We seem to be heading in this direction more swiftly now than on any previous occasion. As the committee knows, in January 2009, the Russians turned off the trans-Ukrainian pipe for two weeks. It provoked a crisis and then it was resolved. This time it is probably a bigger crisis and a bigger issue. Part of the difficulty is that none of us in the EU is in a position to walk away from gas today. We are working towards that but right now, it is not clear how long that journey will take. That is part of the reason for the geopolitics around gas at the moment.

I also make the point that if we in Ireland continue to use gas, Corrib may end up depleted in a period of time. We have two pipes coming off it in Scotland and that is it. We have no other source of gas in the country. We have no LNG terminal in Ireland. The issue of security of supply if we continue using gas is a real issue that needs to be to the fore of our considerations. While I know the rationale for the gas-fired power stations to maintain the stability of the grid, the Deputy is correct to point to a question mark over the security of the source of the supply of gas over the longer-term for electricity and, ultimately, heating in Europe and Ireland.

Before we move on, I will ask about that security and the roadblock to the provision of other sources of natural gas, such as LNG terminals. Does the council see that as a necessity to mitigate the problems that might arise should something happen, for instance, in the Norwegian gas field to limit supply directly to us via Scotland? Perhaps it may be redirected elsewhere. That is, of course, not something one would imagine the EU would permit, but who is to say what might happen in the future. Should the State, therefore, not be ensuring that we have longevity in that supply, given it is critical for Ireland at present? That may change, but at present it is critical that we have sustainable energy sources to keep the lights on.

Ms Marie Donnelly

It is not a specific issue that the council has discussed so I cannot give a view from the council.

Ms Marie Donnelly

I would say, however, that installing a back-up LNG terminal now is a very expensive option because it would mean a minimum investment of €1 billion. If we were to find ourselves in such a difficulty, I would have thought our European neighbours will assist us with the loan of, for example, a floating LNG terminal.

The Deputy also asked about nuclear power. Permit me to be a little impolitic. It is not a surprise that Europe would accept nuclear power as green. We have a very large member state that is almost exclusively dependent on nuclear power. The likelihood is that it would be persuasive in its arguments to include nuclear power on the list. Nuclear power, of itself, does not emit greenhouse gases but the difficulty is what can be done with the nuclear waste. That is a serious challenge. Small-scale nuclear is being developed and perhaps it will be useful, going forward. We will have to wait and see.

As Ms Donnelly said, the likelihood is that the EU will move in that way. The Celtic interconnector is going to be almost exclusively nuclear power, coming into Ireland anyway. Is there a place for a debate? If it were to arise, when would Ms Donnelly anticipate that debate taking place? Will it be in a decade or will it take longer?

Ms Marie Donnelly

That depends on the technology, the level of innovation around small-scale nuclear power reactors and their development. What will they look like? What will they feel like? What will they operate like? What is the implication around them? We are not there yet. It is new technology. It is hard to say whether it will take ten years to develop.

Ms Donnelly has been facing questions for well over two hours now. It has been intense and, in fairness, the answers have not been brief; they have been full of detail. There are members offering for a second round of questioning if she is up for continuing.

I will not keep her long. I will pick up on the point about LNG. There seems to be a suggestion that LNG terminals actually increase security, which is not the case because those boats are sailing around and can go where they want. Surely the point is to reduce demand and the need for the gas in the first place. We keep having the circular argument that brings us back to the point that we have to reduce demand.

I was going to come in on the nuclear point but I think Ms Donnelly has answered that question. I just wanted to make the point that LNG terminals do not increase security and it is a bit of a non-argument in terms of energy security. It would be different if she had a different view on the infrastructure and so on. Does she support the view that LNG does not necessarily increase energy security?

Ms Marie Donnelly

Absolutely. As I said, it is a very expensive belt-and-braces option. There are other mechanisms that we could and should use. It would be at least €1 billion in spending; we could probably spend that in other ways more effectively.

In addition to a climate crisis, we also have a biodiversity crisis with the mass extinction of species. Nowhere is it more apparent than here in Ireland. There is a continuing debate and some uncertainty about the role of this committee, the Joint Committee on Environment and Climate Action, in addressing the biodiversity crisis. For me and for most people there is a clear link between the biodiversity crisis and the climate crisis as well as the role that biodiversity and nature-based solutions might play in achieving our 2% reduction target and carbon neutrality but also in terms of the budget that the Climate Change Advisory Council has suggested. I ask Ms Donnelly to comment on the biodiversity crisis and nature-based solutions. What is the role, if any, of the Climate Change Advisory Council in addressing the biodiversity crisis and advising on the best ways to increase habitats and biodiversity and stop species loss?

Ms Marie Donnelly

Biodiversity was one of the areas we specifically looked at as part of the process of developing the proposals on the common budget. We got some very good input from experts in different parts of the country on that. We have some experts on the council which also helps.

Inadvertently our biodiversity sites are being damaged through lack of awareness. One of the first things we need to do is increase awareness and sensitivity in not just the commercial sector and development sector, but also in local authorities which are involved at a local level through planning activities. We have seen that it is possible to marry economic development with careful management of biodiversity if it is done properly. That was the key issue that came out of the analysis the council did as part of the process.

Our policy on land use in Ireland is possibly the area where the gap is most evident. Ireland does not yet have a developed land-use policy. In the absence of that, it would be very hard to address the questions of biodiversity and a species loss. We would be very supportive of the development of a land-use policy so that we can establish the baseline, understand where we are starting from, understand where the pressure points are and put in place the correct measures to ensure that we get it right with land use, development, maintenance and sustainability to protect our biodiversity. That will include, for example, what kind of species we should be planting in our forests. We need to plant more but we need to determine which species to plant in our forestry development. It is an area of real concern for the council. We received extensive research input to the discussions before we made proposals for the budget.

I thank Ms Donnelly for that response. I give her the opportunity to sum up or make further comments if she wishes.

Ms Marie Donnelly

I thank the committee for the opportunity to have this conversation which I have found extremely interesting. The members' comments and questions were most helpful. We are entirely at the committee's disposal. That includes me, members of the council and the secretariat. The committee should let us know if it requires answers to any questions, papers or other information and we will provide them. We would like to maintain an ongoing dialogue. We regard the committee as pivotal in this process. We would like to be able to work with the committee to support it insofar as we can with our scientific analysis and advice. We would like to see the dialogue and partnership develop. As I said to others, Ireland is a small island and if we work together, we can really deliver results. Let us not go in different directions. I hope we can build on and develop this relationship in the future.

I thank Ms Donnelly. Her offer of support and to communicate with us when we feel it is necessary is very encouraging. We have had well over two hours of intensive questioning. Usually in these sessions two or three witnesses are present to share the answering responsibilities, but Ms Donnelly has managed to field all these questions alone. The answers and the detail will be very helpful to us in the work we have to do on carbon budgets and in compiling our report. I again thank Ms Donnelly and the committee members for their engagement.

The joint committee adjourned at 5.16 p.m. until 11 a.m. on Thursday, 9 December 2021.