The establishment of a stronger and more progressive national policy position on climate change is one of the highest priorities for the Government. The reason is very simple. Global climate change does not just threaten our national competitiveness or prosperity, it threatens our very existence. Our temperate climate is seldom acknowledged as a national asset but the recent cold spell acted as a timely reminder of its importance to us as a society and an economy. One only has to reflect on the vulnerability of our rich biodiversity and our world-renowned agriculture sector to global climate change in order to recognise the need for decisive national action.
Just yesterday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, which is based in the United States, confirmed the findings of its scientists that 2010 tied with 2005 as the warmest year of the global surface temperature record, beginning in 1880. The findings also point out that 2010 was the 34th consecutive year with global temperatures above the 20th century average. Those figures put the overall scale of the climate change challenge in perspective and we cannot meet this challenge on our own. It is a global problem that requires a global solution.
Our future well-being is dependant on international efforts to mobilise an effective global response. That is why Ireland strongly supports a proactive EU policy position in its ongoing international negotiations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. While our greenhouse gas emissions are small in global terms, we must underpin our demand for effective global action with a progressive domestic policy position on greenhouse gas mitigation. We must demand and demonstrate foresight, leadership and determination in order to be credible in our efforts and our expectations of others. In our own interest and that of future generations we must be bold and resolute in the pursuit of a comprehensive global response to this unprecedented environmental threat to our future.
It is against this background that the Climate Change Response Bill 2010 has been developed. My colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy John Gormley, and I have invested substantial time in the preparation of the provisions and I am pleased and honoured to present the Bill to the House. As well as being novel, the Bill is timely as we enter a period of renewal in Ireland. Living within our means is not an objective that is limited to economic and affordability considerations. Our future as a responsible society must be sustainable on economic and environmental grounds.
Economic prosperity and environmental protection are not mutually exclusive. With the right policy framework and a determination to succeed, I foresee Ireland as being among the successful countries in an inevitable transition to a low-carbon global economy. At the same time, Ireland faces a major challenge due to our high dependence on imported fossil fuels. I looked at the BBC before I came into the House and noted that global oil prices are at $98 per barrel, the highest they have been for over two years.
I wish to conclude these short introductory remarks by stressing the need for a stronger and more progressive national policy position on climate change. The provisions of the Climate Change Response Bill will underpin an ambitious but realistic national policy position with two fundamental objectives: to reduce national greenhouse gas emissions consistent with our commitments under EU and international law and to anticipate and ensure that we are well placed as a society to embrace the enormous opportunities of the low-carbon global economy of tomorrow. I will come back to both of these issues in detail as I discuss the sections of the Bill.
Section 1 is the standard Short Title provision. However, at face value, it does not capture the novel approach or strategic importance of the policy now proposed. Turning to the Long Title, I wish to draw Members' attention to the Bill's objective of making provision: "FOR THE SETTING, AND ACHIEVEMENT, OF NATIONAL EMISSIONS REDUCTION TARGETS TO FURTHER TRANSITION TO A LOW CARBON, CLIMATE RESILIENT AND ENVIRONMENTALLY SUSTAINABLE ECONOMY." This reflects the nucleus of the Bill and the primary objective of setting a long-term vision to guide an effective and successful transition to a low-carbon future. This transition approach is key to achieving the two fundamental objectives to which I have already referred.
I want to emphasise that transition is not a political option or a politically motivated philosophy, rather it is a pragmatic and positive policy approach to climate change. It reflects the outlook of a responsible and smart society and will prove consistent with the policy approach that is likely to be adopted by the EU on foot of the anticipated 2050 policy position which the European Commission is expected to bring forward shortly.
In identifying transition as the primary objective, I wish to emphasise that the Bill does not overlook the importance of setting specific greenhouse gas mitigation targets and I will refer to the issue of specific targets in addressing section 4. However, it is important to note and reflect on the fact that while mitigation targets are essential indicators for monitoring and reviewing progress, a simple focus on targets represents a reactive or basic compliance response to climate change. Transition, on the other hand, represents a more proactive response with a balanced national focus on challenge and opportunity.
In pursuing the twin objectives of meeting our greenhouse gas mitigation commitments under EU and international law and preparing to compete successfully in a low-carbon global economy, transition seeks to motivate constructive, whole-of-society buy-in and action. The people of Ireland and the key economic sectors will respond positively to that. They will welcome the opportunity to present themselves as informed and progressive. As a society, we are keen to show we are pursuing a smart economy in the truest sense of the term. Such an economy is highly productive, competitive, resource-efficient, environmentally sustainable and recognised for its quality goods and services.
In concluding my remarks on the Long Title, I would like to make an important point. I would welcome the views of Members on it. I suggest that the focus on the economy is too narrow. The Long Title should be broadened to encompass society in a wider sense. In other words, the primary objective of the Bill should become the transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient and environmentally sustainable society. The need for mitigation and adaptation is not confined to economic activity. As I have said, the transition approach reflects the outlook of a responsible and smart society.
Section 2 deals with matters of interpretation. I do not intend to go through the various interpretations at this stage. I will be happy to respond to any questions that Members may have on Committee Stage.
Section 3 provides clarification regarding the effect of the Bill, including the effect of any national or sectoral plan made on foot of its provisions. This is particularly important to ensure the Bill does not cut across the State's obligations or entitlements under European Union law or any international agreement. Section 3(2) clarifies that the targets in section 4 are not justiciable, and that proceedings for non-compliance with a national plan may only be brought in certain circumstances. These important provisions reinforce the strongly positive and progressive spirit of this novel legislation and maintain a sharp proactive political focus on developing and implementing national climate change policy. It will be a matter for the Oireachtas, rather than the courts, to monitor and manage progress. I will be happy to consider any amendments to strengthen this priority aspect of the Bill.
Section 4 sets out national greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. When I spoke on the Long Title of the Bill, I mentioned the importance of targets as essential milestones for measuring progress on transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient and environmentally sustainable economy. Three specific targets are proposed. The first is a short-term target, based on an annual average reduction in net emissions of 2.5% per annum in the period from 2008 to 2020. I have read some commentary on this particular target in the media. I would like to bring clarity to the points raised. The Bill target for 2020 is a compounded target. In other words, it works out as the equivalent of a 2.5% year-on-year reduction, equating to a 26% reduction in net greenhouse gas emissions over the period between 2008 and 2020.
I have read some commentary on how this short-term target compares with the 2020 greenhouse gas emission reduction requirements that Ireland is required to meet under EU law. This is a point on which we should be clear. Two separate legal instruments in the EU climate and energy package, which was adopted in December 2008, address the greenhouse gas emission reduction requirements of all member states in the period to 2020. One instrument covers emissions from installations across the community that fall within the scope of the EU emissions trading scheme. The other instrument applies to the balance of relevant emissions in all member states.
One of the most significant EU policy developments under the December 2008 package was the decision that the European Commission would administer the emissions trading scheme from the beginning of 2013. As a consequence, greenhouse gas emission reduction requirements for the more than 100 Irish installations that are participating in the scheme will become a matter for the Commission. Therefore, Ireland does not have an individual target in respect of the Irish installations participating in the emissions trading scheme. This harmonised EU position applies to all member states. For 2020, therefore, the only mitigation target that applies to individual member states arises under the instrument known as the 2008 effort-sharing decision. It applies to sectors of the economy not covered by the scheme. This target covers emissions from transport, waste, agriculture, non-emissions trading industry, commercial and residential activities. Under the 2008 package, Ireland has a 2020 target to reduce emissions in these areas by 20% compared with 2005 levels.
The 2020 target proposed in the Bill is ambitious but realistic. It is constructed on the basis of certain assumptions. The first assumption is that Ireland will meet a 20% reduction in emissions under the 2008 effort-sharing decision. The second assumption is that the group of Irish installations participating in the EU emissions trading scheme, which will operate within an EU-wide pool and will not be subject to national allocations as under the current scheme, will achieve the reductions projected by the EPA in the most recent scenario it published, with additional measures, which includes planned policies as well as those currently in place. The third assumption is that post-1990 forest sinks will perform as projected, by sequestering a projected 4.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2020. The aggregation of these three assumptions provides the basis for the 2020 target.
I appreciate that the complexity of this issue has given rise to an element of confusion but the essential point is that Ireland's effort-sharing target under the 2008 EU package is contained within the target in the Bill. A like-for-like comparison between it and the short-term target in the Bill is not valid as they have different bases and different starting points. The 2030 target in section 4 sets the second incremental step towards transition. It involves a 40% reduction in net national greenhouse gas emissions, by comparison with 1990 levels. This target simply reflects a sensible transition milestone, having regard to the 2020 and 2050 targets. The inevitable final milestone will be a target for 2040, but that is a matter for another day.
I would like to speak about the proposed 2050 target. The overall transition objective involves an 80% reduction in net national greenhouse gas emissions, compared with 1990 levels. The target, which has been set in the context of a comprehensive global response to climate change, reflects the minimum level of greenhouse gas mitigation the EU expects developed countries in aggregate to achieve by the middle of the century. The 2050 reduction target for developed countries is normally expressed as a range of between 80% and 95% of 1990 levels. A higher target is a plausible ultimate outcome. For now, an 80% reduction sets a sensible and credible national objective for the proposed transition objective.
There is no doubt that the national, EU and international climate change agenda will evolve significantly in the period to 2050. One has to consider the pace at which new and cleaner technologies are expected to come to the market and the dynamics of the emerging low-carbon global economy. At the same time, we cannot be certain of the pace and scale of economic change. For these reasons, section 4 of the Bill provides for the proposed targets to be revised by order made by the Government and confirmed by positive resolution of both Houses of the Oireachtas. This flexibility is very important if we are to safeguard the overall success of our transition policy, ensure the confidence of all stakeholders and give the Oireachtas the role I foresee at the centre of policy oversight and development.
Section 5 requires the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to prepare and submit to the Government a national climate change plan to address mitigation and adaptation. The adoption of national plans will replace the current practice of producing a periodic national climate change strategy. The objective is to have the first national plan in place within 12 months of the passing of the Bill and to update it at least once every seven years thereafter. The proposed seven-year period is consistent with the reporting schedule followed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This will ensure each plan is made on the basis of the most up-to-date international peer-reviewed science available. Section 5 also requires the Government to request sectoral plans to be produced by such Ministers as it considers appropriate.
I wish to elaborate on two important points that are embedded in the proposed policy on a national climate change plan. The first embedded point is the requirement for the national plan to cover both mitigation and adaptation. Government policy has inevitably focused on mitigation to ensure Ireland complies with its binding requirements under EU and international law. We cannot defer indefinitely the adoption of an appropriate and effective national policy position on adaptation. The incorporation of both mitigation and adaptation in the process will rectify the current policy imbalance. I see this as a very important and positive step.
The second embedded point is that the national plan process provided for in the Bill takes policy development and implementation to a new level. While the two national climate change strategies adopted to date served an important purpose in meeting our EU and Kyoto Protocol requirements, the absence of a transparent underlying structure and the limited focus on compliance in the short term rendered that whole approach inadequate in terms of the longer term challenges and opportunities facing the country. I also see this as a very important and positive step forward in terms of our credentials as a responsible and progressive society.
I referred to the fact that economic prosperity and environmental protection are not mutually exclusive. This point is further reflected in the provisions of subsections (9) and (16). Subsection (9) sets out the criteria for making national plans. They include the need for long-term vision, for careful consideration of the economic impacts of the plans and require a basis of sound science and the drive towards sustainable development for each plan. These criteria are critically important as subsection (16) requires all Ministers of the Government to have regard to national plans in the performance of their functions. These steps represent a major policy advancement in that they make provision to integrate and firmly establish transition as a national priority. As can be seen from these individual but complementary provisions, integration must work both ways. I believe these two key provisions will make the fundamental social and economic adjustments which transition demands both achievable and rewarding.
Section 6 makes provision for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, following approval by Government, to present an annual transition statement to Dáil Éireann. The annual statement will replace the carbon budget process introduced in 2007 and will better reflect the national policy on transition capturing the importance of the challenges and opportunities and addressing both mitigation and adaptation. I am aware of some deeply held views that Ireland should adopt a strict carbon budgeting process. However, as with the compliance based approach which we have adopted to date, I believe that carbon budgeting is too narrow. If introduced at a sectoral level, carbon budgeting could be divisive and damaging and a setback rather than a step forward in terms of policy development. It is worth bearing in mind that we have legally binding greenhouse gas emission budgets under EU law and I believe we should seek to build a progressive national position around those requirements rather than down-scale them to sectoral level. Transition may be novel and, in certain respects, more complex but in providing a positive long-term vision to which people and business can aspire, I believe it provides the greatest prospect for a successful outcome on environmental and economic grounds. The annual transition statement will set out the policy measures adopted for the purposes of supporting transition to a low-carbon economy and of adapting to the inevitable impacts of climate change. It will include an assessment of the effectiveness of measures in place and, where appropriate, set out any additional measures required to maintain progress.
Section 7 provides for the establishment of a national climate change expert advisory body, which will comprise a chairperson and between five and seven ordinary members, three of whom will be, ex officio, the director general of the Environmental Protection Agency, the chief executive of the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland and the director of Teagasc. I appreciate the Bill does not include the director of Teagasc but I agree with the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food that the director should be included and I will bring forward an amendment to this effect.
Appointments to the expert advisory body are to be made by the Government on the nomination of the Minister for terms of up to three years, with eligibility for reappointment. In appointing ordinary members, regard must be had to the range of qualifications, expertise and experience necessary for the proper and effective performance by the expert advisory body of its functions. This is important if the body is to be effective and recognised as a sound source of impartial advice. Administrative support for the body is to be provided by the EPA.
Section 8 sets out the functions of the expert advisory body, which are to advise and make recommendations to the Minister, any Minister of the Government, and the Government on their functions in regard, respectively, to the preparation of a national plan, the making of sectoral plans and the approval of a national plan. Provision is also made for the body to advise and make recommendations on Government policies on greenhouse gas emission reductions and climate change adaptation.
Section 9 provides for the preparation of an annual report by the expert advisory body and its submission to Government by no later than 30 June each year, setting out progress made in achieving greenhouse gas emission reductions and in making the transition to a low carbon economy. This report will provide a significant element of the underpinning for the annual transition statement which the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government will be required to present to the Dáil. It also represents a further step in putting the Oireachtas at the centre of national policy on transition.
Section 10 provides for the expert advisory body to conduct periodic reviews of national policy and report to Government on its findings and recommendations. The expert body will be required to undertake its first periodic review within 12 months of publication of the fifth assessment report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The assessment report from the intergovernmental panel is expected in 2014 and, by extension, the first major review from the expert advisory body should be submitted to Government in 2015. In addition to the requirement to produce a periodic review at least every seven years the expert advisory body will have statutory authority to carry out a review at any time, either on its own initiative or on foot of a request from the Minister. In considering whether to carry out a review section 10 requires the body to have regard to significant developments in scientific knowledge, EU or international law or the need to maintain progress in achieving the purposes of the Bill. Annual reports and reports on foot of periodic reviews will be published by the expert advisory body, subject to the consent of the Government.
Section 11 makes provision for public bodies, in performing their functions, to have regard to the national plan and relevant sectoral plans as well as the more general objectives of transition to a low carbon climate resilient and environmentally sustainable economy, mitigating emissions and adapting to climate change. Power is provided for Ministers to give a direction to public bodies in their areas requiring the preparation and submission of reports setting out the measures adopted for the purposes of compliance with the duties imposed by this section. Provision is also made for relevant Ministers to direct public bodies to adopt specific measures.
That concludes my comments on the principal provisions of the Bill. I look forward to hearing the views of Members across the House.
I want to take a moment to address the ongoing public consultation. I am aware of concerns raised in regard to the duration of the consultation and the fact the legislative process in the Oireachtas was scheduled to commence in advance of the consultation concluding. I accept the timeframe is not ideal and I very much appreciate the accommodation of the House in commencing Second Stage today. The Government's intentions have been well signalled since the framework for the Bill was issued in December 2009. As I said, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and I have invested substantial time in the preparation of the provisions. I will be happy, as we move to deal with later Stages, to update the House on the progress of the consultation process. I assure Members that the Government is open to considering amendments which Senators may wish to table on Committee Stage, including amendments arising from the response to the public consultation.
I believe now is the right time to recognise climate change policy as a national priority and to refocus on a more progressive and forward looking Ireland. We must present ourselves as we wish to be seen, namely, a country that takes the long-term economic, social and environmental well-being of its people seriously, that has respect for the national environment on which we depend so much for our well-being and prosperity, and that is capable of embracing change and innovation not because it was forced to do so but because it has the foresight and capacity to do so. The provisions of the Climate Change Response Bill 2010 provide the foundation block for an effective and successful transition to that low carbon climate resilient and environmentally sustainable future for this country. I am honoured to commend the Bill to the House.