I welcome our guests, who have spoken passionately. These are issues that we considered in significant depth in writing our report. Action is needed. The requirement that we live more sustainably, which we have not been doing for years, is at the heart of this. It is the fallout of industrialisation and so on. If people were surveyed, everyone would agree with the targets under the Paris Agreement. It is only when one starts to drill down into who will take the pain and cost that a problem arises. That is what we must address if we want to see action. As Deputy Neville stated, though, there must be a consensus.
Recently, I attended a climate action forum of secondary schools in my county of Mayo that was facilitated by the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, GMIT, the county council and the latter's climate action officer. We were sitting around a table and one of the issues debated was that of cost. In terms of transport, for example, we talked about how, if the pupils' parents had to get electric vehicles, it would cost them money regardless of how large a grant the State provided. The same would be the case with heating systems. When I asked them if they believed that would be acceptable, they could not say that it would be.
There is another political reality. No matter what people say in the abstract about targets and the need to take action, the experience in Canada, Australia, Finland, France and Germany has been that, when politicians take political action, a large number of people do not agree with doing so. It does not mean that we should balk at trying to do the right thing, as we cannot continue taking from the Earth something that will not be replenished and will cause greenhouse gas emissions. We are smarter now and have more technology. We must be smarter and live more smartly. However, the idea that everyone is in agreement is incorrect. It is not even that they do not believe that there is climate change. Rather, they are more concerned with living in the here and now than with taking on additional pressures. If someone is in receipt of social welfare payments, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, SEAI, can fund 100% of certain energy efficiency works on his or her house. If someone is earning a low income and, accordingly, will only receive partial supports, he or she will be under pressure. These are the people who will be financing their children going to college. From where will that money come? The bill will be significant. That is even evident from our social housing programme, given the additional cost of building houses. People are revolting against costs. That does not take from the witnesses' message, but we must refine our discussion to listening to people's concerns.
I have raised an issue previously and, while I do not want to labour the point, it must be borne in mind that when the witnesses refer to the measures that are necessary to tackle climate change, they are asking for more to be done by people living in rural areas. They are asking rural areas to take wind farms and grid infrastructure. They are asking for peat-burning power stations to be shut down. Where I am from, such a station closed a number of years ago. The area is only a shadow of its former itself economically.
The issue of community gain is very relevant there.
There is also the issue of farming and the speaker from Teagasc earlier made a sensible proposition. We are very well suited to producing protein from dairy and beef. It does not mean that we continue exactly in the same vein but this is not discussed. There is now a situation where farmers are saying they have been doing all of this. The national herd has increased and that is why our greenhouse gases and emissions of methane have increased but farmers are farming more efficiently than ever before. They are put to the pin of their collars by payments on environmental measures, water quality and biodiversity. They have an appetite to do more but feel persecuted. People are disengaging.
I will say one final thing. The generation coming after us ask us to look at what we are doing. The reality is that the parents of the children I was talking to would give their left arms for their children. Their grandparents would do the same. The generations that have come before are trying to cope and do their best. They care and want to be given credit for that. We have to get realistic solutions which balance idealism with the reality to achieve them and not crush people in the process.
We will have a revolution. It will not be like those revolting in London who are from more middle class backgrounds and have time on their hands. The ordinary person will revolt which will create another set of problems that will set us back economically. We cannot take from the advances and lifestyles we enjoy. We must find technology to match that.
The last speaker on the environment was positive and hopeful, as I am. Human beings have great capacity to innovate and, although there will always be issues and problems, there can be business opportunities here. We see a lot of signals sent out by China and India, major emerging economies, that they have to go to green technology and transport, etc. Ireland has to take these signals if it wants to participate in the global economy. We must also be clever. It is not only about misery, it is about opportunities and living in a different way.