I love to hear Senator Boyle, his enthusiasm, belief and confidence that he knows what he is talking about. When he says the country will benefit from this legislation, I know he does so from the heart.
My first experience of this area was in 1990 when visiting Chile. I went to the Atacama Desert and learned about Easter Island. If anyone doubts what we can do to ourselves, Easter Island represents a microcosm. It had a civilisation that was considerably ahead of many other parts of the world, but its people did not understand and ruined it themselves to such an extent that the population from 1500 or 1600 had reduced to approximately 100 people when it was visited again in 1900. It was not climate change from outside that did it, but the way its own civilisation behaved because the people just did not understand. The person who cut down the last tree did not realise he had finished its civilisation when he did so. We are in danger of doing something similar if we do not take steps. I understand, therefore, the enthusiasm of Senator Boyle and others, including the Minister of State, in saying that we cannot stand back and do nothing.
The Bill is being debated in the Seanad before all stakeholders have had an opportunity to comment on it. Given that the closing date for comments is at the end of this month and even though the Minister has taken more than a year to prepare the legislation, he has not engaged properly with stakeholders and has not adequately taken into account the relevant research that has been conducted by State agencies, including the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, the Environmental Protection Agency and Teagasc. We need to ensure we take into account everything that should be done. Senator Boyle has said it is enabling legislation, but if it is not revisited, it could have an extremely detrimental economic effect on the country at the very time we need to grow and get on the road to recovery. It will have an enormous impact on energy, industry, agriculture and transport among others.
On the Order of Business I mentioned figures I had seen last week. I was impressed on meeting an investor in wind energy approximately a year ago. He had decided not to invest in Ireland after all and had gone to Texas. He described how he had not been able to get anything moving in Ireland. His application had not been processed and he had not been able to get anything off the ground. He took the concept to Texas and applied to develop a wind farm. He asked the authorities there how long it would take for him to get permission and was told to return in a week's time. When he returned the following Wednesday, he was granted permission. That needs to be taken into account. I do not know how it works and what problems might exist there when compared with us. I was jolted by the figures released last week indicating that €17 billion in investment is ready to go into wind energy in this country. There have been 300 applications since 2007, but there has not been a single confirmation of when, or even if, these applications will be processed. The Green Party has been in power during the three intervening years. How can this happen? I do not understand it, although I know the detail. Mr. Tom Twohig of Element Energy was quoted in the newspapers last week as saying a large part of the problem was lack of communication between the numerous Departments involved in the process. As for the need for legislation and to do something about climate change, as a start we should ensure what is already in line will be processed.
I am greatly concerned about the greenhouse gas targets set from 2020 onwards. They are so stringent they will most probably result in far higher compliance costs for Ireland than for any other EU member state. We must not forget this country already has an obligation to meet a carbon emissions reduction target for 2020 that is double the EU average. As the EU targets were set before the financial crisis occurred and Ireland was one of its wealthiest nations, we ended up with some of the highest targets in the European Union. Some eastern European countries which will be competing with us for valuable manufacturing jobs will have to do little or nothing about reducing their emissions and may even be allowed to increase them. As a result many jobs might go to such competitor countries. This is even before the larger targets set in the Climate Change Response Bill are implemented. Surely the fact that our situation has changed beyond all recognition in recent months means that our carbon emissions reduction targets should be radically re-evaluated. As Senator Boyle noted, perhaps this legislation will enable that to happen.
It is believed also that the Bill could impose an additional spend of at least €400 million per annum on abatement measures which would undoubtedly seriously damage the competitiveness of the economy. IBEC has pointed out that the Bill may also introduce double regulation for Irish installations which are already subject to the European Union's emissions trading scheme. It states:
This could well deter future investment in the manufacturing industries that are key to creating jobs and leading our economic recovery The Government is signalling much higher environmental penalties than anywhere else in western Europe.
In the longer term the target set for 2050 is even greater than our total abatement figure. IBEC states an emissions reduction of 80% across the economy would require us to make significant cuts in the size of our beef and dairy herds. Teagasc research shows that a 30% reduction in carbon output would reduce the cattle population by almost 40%. It is estimated that each 1% cut in emissions from the beef herd will cost €30 million. Going further, one could argue the cuts in Ireland will not actually deliver any carbon savings in global terms. That is an interesting point because the demand would simply be met by farmers in other exporting countries. Are we simply going to damage our own indigenous industries and allow other countries to fill the supply gap? Can the Minister of State, Deputy Cuffe, say which he considers to be the priority — tackling climate change or protecting the strengths of the economy? He has heard me speak on this issue before. I realise we must do something about climate change and ensure we take steps in this regard, but there are other priorities that must be taken into account. Might the Climate Change Response Bill actually increase international greenhouse gas emissions? Sustainable milk and beef production in Ireland would be replaced by less carbon efficient food production in deforested Amazonian lands in South America.
I would like to know how the Bill fits in with the Government's targeted €4 billion increase in exports in the next ten years as identified in the Food Harvest strategy for the agrifood sector. Why is the Bill not taking on board the expected massive increase in food demand described by the United Nations which expects demand to rise by 70% in the next 40 years? Is the Government taking this figure into account? In addition, it could be argued the Bill is based on flawed and incomplete science because the accounting method used takes no account of carbon sinks in grasslands, forestry and the production of renewable crops.
The Bill will have a big impact on the already hard-pressed taxpayer. In 2008 the ESRI estimated that meeting the previous less stringent targets would prove very expensive. These new and much greater targets will foist even more costs on the ordinary citizen. The ESRI has yet to figure out how to estimate the cost involved.
There is much more to say. The Minister of State will have heard me make points about the change in thinking in other countries. When the French established that the carbon tax to be introduced would make them uncompetitive, they decided they would drop it until other countries had also introduced such a tax. They juggled the issue, taking both factors into account, and did not declare one should have a preference. The Green Party in Britain took an anti-nuclear power stance, but it has now swung round and states it is in favour of nuclear power, believing it to be a safe source of energy that does not involve the use of fossil fuels and to be one that is capable of solving a great number of problems.
The Bill is moving in the right direction, but at this stage it is the wrong one to introduce, unless many amendments are made to it.