Climate Change Response Bill 2010: Second Stage (Resumed)

The following motion was moved on Thursday, 13 January 2011:
That the Bill be now read a Second Time.
Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:
To delete all words after "That" and substitute the following:
"Seanad Éireann declines to give a Second Reading to the Climate Change Response Bill 2010 because an all Party consensus has not been agreed on a green house gas emission reduction strategy."
—(Senator Paudie Coffey).

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Cuffe, who was present for the start of my contribution last Thursday. He will have heard me say the Labour Party welcomes the Bill. For obvious reasons, my party believes climate change presents the biggest international challenge facing humanity in the 21st century. It is easy to lose sight of this when we are going through our own economic crisis. As we know, man-made emissions are the main cause of climate change and we believe climate change legislation is essential to tackle this urgent problem. There is all-party consensus on the need for such legislation, although there may be differences of view on this Bill.

The Labour Party has a strong policy on climate change and introduced the first Bill in this regard in the Dáil. As a university Senator, I introduced in October 2007 the first climate change Bill in the Oireachtas. The Labour Party is the true green party and has a true record on environmental issues.

Oh no, the Senator is red.

To be red, one must be green andvice versa.

On a point of order, the Green Party introduced the first climate legislation in these Houses in 2005.

Senator Bacik to continue, without interruption.

The Senators should not be bickering over it.

I am just putting the record straight.

The Green Party need have no fear because the Labour Party is in favour of introducing a climate change Bill when in government. Therefore, there is no need to extend the dying days of this failed regime any further.

What about the Senator's likely partner in government?

We will do our own thing.

There is no need to delay in order to introduce a watered-down climate change Bill of this nature. The Minister of State and Green Party Senators should note there is no need to delay the essential general election any further.

I said on the last occasion that we would support the Bill, albeit with criticisms. One of our key criticisms concerns the unconscionable delay of the Government in introducing it. We support the Bill, despite our criticism that it is weaker than the Bill introduced by Deputy McManus and weaker than the recommendations made by the the Joint Committee on Climate Change.

On the issue of delay, had the Bill been introduced sooner, there would have been more time to engage in transparent consultation and achieve a buy-in by key stakeholders. Fine Gael has also raised this point. I agree with it to the extent that it is a real shame that the Government did not take the opportunity to engage more meaningfully with groups such as the IFA. I met representatives of the IFA, as have many Senators. The IFA has informed me that it is very concerned about the lack of consultation. I understand its representatives met the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Gormley, on 21 December, just two days before the Bill was published. We all know the consultation period is not due to end until after the debates on the Bill have taken place, that is, the end of January. It is most unfortunate, therefore, that there was not more time at an earlier stage to engage in open consultation. At the same time, the delay in introducing the legislation has meant there have been backroom negotiations to dilute the provisions of the Bill and make it weaker than the commitment given in the programme for Government. I would like to hear the Minister of State's response on the effect of the delay.

The IFA has genuine concerns about the lack of support for those farmers who are seeking to diversify into renewables and the production of bio-fuels. If the Government is serious about tackling emissions in the agriculture sector, it needs to offer support. Such support is sorely lacking.

It is not happy with the Labour Party position either.

Having criticised the delay, I make it clear we do not want to delay the Bill any further. It would have been better not to introduce it in the dying days of the Government, but it is better than nothing. It is a little like the civil partnership legislation which we supported having introduced our own model. We did, however, point to the flaws in that what was proposed did not amount to equality, in the way marriage would have done.

I want to focus on the weaknesses and flaws we have identified in the Bill and make comparisons with previous legislation such as the Labour Party Bill and the recommendations of the joint committee. A key issue concerns the targets set in the Bill which have been the subject of controversy. Both the IFA and IBEC have suggested the targets are more ambitious than those set by the European Union. I am grateful to Friends of the Earth for providing an analysis. It is both coherent and detailed and ultimately shows that the targets set are no greater than those set by the European Union, but that comparing the two is like comparing apples and oranges because different measures are used.

The real controversy has been about the targets set for 2020. The Minister of State needs to nail this. I listened carefully to what he had to say about the targets set and there is still a lack of clarity. Ireland's EU and Climate Change Response Bill targets for 2020 are difficult to compare for four reasons. First, the baselines are different. The Bill's reduction target for 2020 relates to the 2008 baseline whereas our EU reduction target relates to a 2005 baseline. Second, the scope of the emissions covered differs in that the Bill's targets cover 100% of emissions whereas Ireland's EU reduction targets only cover the non-emissions trading system, ETS, sector. Third, there is confusion about the 2.5% per year reduction. The way this measure is framed in the Bill is unfortunate, but everyone agrees on it being a compounded reduction. Therefore, each 2.5% decrease will be a reduction on the previous year's. Emissions in 2020 need to be 26.2%, not 28% or 30%, lower than they were in 2008. Fourth, the Bill and the EU treat carbon sinks differently. The Bill's target is for net emissions, those being, gross emissions less emissions removed by the growth of carbon sinks. Ireland's EU 2020 target is for gross emissions, although we understand this may change. It has been stated that even the EU target may increase to 30%. We believe it is reasonable for the Government to set targets in this legislation that are the same as the current EU target without trying to predict what the latter will become.

The Bill's targets for 2030 and 2050 are at the lower end of the scale, for example, 80% from the 1990 baseline by 2050. Developed countries have an obligation to reduce by 80% as a minimum. The range is 80% to 95% relative to 1990. The longer term figures are less ambitious than the maximum reductions required.

A part of the controversy about what the targets mean is that the first target has been set for 2020. The Bill needs more interim targets. The Labour Bill used a five-year target mechanism, which places more pressure on a Government. Whatever Government takes office later this spring or this year will not be bound by any particular target under this Bill other than the 2.5% annual reduction, given that no other targets prior to the 2020 target have been set. This makes abiding by targets less pressing on an incoming Government. We will table an amendment on the need for five-year targets.

That the Bill does not refer to carbon budgets is a weakness. The Government stated it would be committed to five-year carbon budgets as the best way to manage the transition of which the Minister of State spoke. The Government recognises this idea in an economic context, given the four year plan. According to the Minister of State, carbon budgets are too narrow a mechanism and he favours a compliance-based approach. We know where principles-based and light touch regulation got us in the financial services sector. The Bill should contain a better method of regulation. It is strange that carbon budgets have not been included in this legislation, given their inclusion in the programme for Government. Does this signify a change in the Green Party's view on carbon budgets?

Timing is an issue. Section 5 refers to the national climate change strategy as having a seven-year cycle. According to the Minister of State, this is to allow it to fit within the cycle of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This is not sufficient reason. It would be better to set a climate change strategy within five-year periods for interim targets. The Labour Party Bill contained this proposal as a more sensible and effective way of meeting interim targets.

Last week, I raised the question of the expert advisory body under section 9. It is key that the independence of any such body be guaranteed. That the advisory body was originally to have been a commission is interesting. The language has changed subtly and amounts to a downgrading of status. I would be grateful if the Minister of State could explain why it is no longer being referred to as a commission, given that "commission" was the word used in previous documents.

The expert advisory body will publish reports. Section 9(3) states: "The Expert Advisory Body shall, subject to the consent of the Government, publish an annual report in such manner as the Government determines." This provision poses a difficulty in that it suggests that reports will be open to ministerial veto. This problematic measure will undermine the body's independence and should be amended. The Minister of State skipped quickly over these words. In Britain, the equivalent provision calls for the reports to be given to a Minister, but the commission itself can decide when to publish. This is an important point. How could one get hold of an unpublished report? Would it be subject to freedom of information requests?

Regarding flaws, I will refer to the non-justiciable clause in section 3(2). I welcome the Minister of State's comment to the effect he will consider an amendment. Such a clause is unusual, given that the matter is one for the courts.

We welcome the Bill in principle, but we have reservations about its timing and content. Given the cross-party support for tackling climate change legislatively and the fact that stakeholders could have bought into a particular Bill, it is a shame that this Bill was not introduced sooner. I have criticised the Green Party throughout, but Fianna Fáil needs to tell us its policy on climate change. I am disappointed it will not bite the bullet and make a strong statement of support for the Bill in this or the Lower House. If Fianna Fáil is serious about tackling climate change, it must sign up to this Bill.

What about Fine Gael?

Do not worry about us.

With respect, the Green Party is in government with Fianna Fáil.

Green Party Members should worry about their majority partners.

Fianna Fáil is supposed to support the Bill, but we are not seeing a clear statement of support for the Bill or its principles.

I ask Senator Bacik to conclude without interruption.

Let us hear a clear statement of support from Fianna Fáil.

Senators

Hear, hear.

Why should the Labour Party be relied upon by the Green Party to back this Bill?

This is about everyone, not just political parties.

Now Senator Bacik knows how we feel.

It is a Green Party Bill.

It is about everyone.

It is about the planet.

In particular, it is about the Senator's majority partners in coalition who are supposed to be the driving force behind legislation in the Government.

The Minister of State failed to mention Fianna Fáil in his introduction.

Let us see Fianna Fáil bite the bullet. As far as the date of the election and its internal party machinations are concerned, it has treated the electorate with contempt. Let us see Fianna Fáil take the time to give us a clear statement of policy and to support this Bill.

We all understand the need to protect our environment under various headings, but climate change is only one heading and we must consider the other initiatives. We must also consider the consequences of drastic changes to the way in which we deal with the situation. I have expressed to the Minister of State in private my views on and some of my problems with the Bill.

Would the Senator like to share them with us?

A great many people are engaging in those private conversations.

Senator Ellis to continue, without interruption.

As I was saying before I was interrupted——

You have the protection of the Chair.

I have reservations about the Bill, given the number of problems it will cause for agriculture and industry. Let us be fair. Will a Bill introduced by current Members in the dying days of this Government tie the hands of future Governments, irrespective of their shade? I am not saying this with any disrespect, as the Bill is part of the programme for Government and the issue in question has everyone's agreement. Some of the targets being set are higher than those set by our European colleagues.

The consequences will be more serious than many imagine. We discuss world hunger. What we are doing through this Bill will tie future production levels.

Does Senator Ellis support the Bill, then?

I did not say whether I support the Bill. However, I will comment on it on Second Stage. That is my right as much as it is Senator Bacik's, yet I did not interrupt her.

He will give the Senator an honest view. The vote is a separate matter.

Senator Ellis to continue, without interruption, please.

If we are going to go further than our European colleagues we will have serious problems with regard to our future competitiveness. As I said before Senator Bacik's intervention, there is world hunger and we are entitled to make a contribution towards its alleviation. Should we tie people's hands and prevent them from producing more food in this country? The most productive part of our economy consists of the agricultural and pharmaceutical industries when it comes to providing national income and dealing with the problems of the economy. Neither of those sectors should be hindered from expanding if they can compete in world markets but this is exactly what will happen.

In tandem with the Climate Change Response Bill I want to see initiatives to allow people reduce their carbon emissions. These measures cannot be brought into play without financial assistance. I refer to assistance with energy-related projects which would reduce the carbon emissions generated by the agricultural sector but farmers are not in a financial position to take them on. Despite the fact that the payback would be quite fast the financial institutions will not back them. This means a loss on the double in that it will mean a loss of future income from farmers, other than from direct production and it will result in more unnecessary emissions. Technology is available which could change the face of agriculture but people do not have the money to invest in it and neither can they get the money. I refer to biodigesters and other systems which can create electricity for the national grid and help to replace fossil fuels and this is only the tip of the technology which could transform agriculture. I am informed that if one had the resources to avail of all the agricultural sector technology, one could nearly become carbon neutral. However, the money is not there and I question, therefore, the need to introduce a Climate Change Response Bill without making available to the sector the necessary investment to allow it become self-financing. This is our problem. We are going down the wrong road if a proper investment programme is not provided in tandem with this Bill.

I refer to the horrific results of climate change seen around the globe in recent times, the recent flooding in Australia and in other parts of the world. However, even though we all acknowledge the effects of climate change, we should not attempt to penalise people in this country who are reasonably compliant. I think we are more compliant than some of our competitors in world markets. We cannot have a climate change Bill to the level as proposed without having some form of support alongside in order to reduce our carbon footprint, in particular, in the agriculture sector.

I do not approve of targets being set for a period of 30 or 40 years thence. Nobody knows what changes in requirements will happen in Ireland, Europe and throughout the world. In an era of food shortages, it is not right to tie the hands of food producers.

We must ensure this Bill takes into consideration all its knock-on effects. The carbon credits for land being set into afforestation must go directly to agriculture and nowhere else. Every saving made in a sector should be left in that sector. If sufficient finance is made available in tandem with this Bill to pay for the technology that will prevent emissions, this will make for a good result in lowering carbon emissions. However, without such financial support the Bill will not work in the long term. It will disadvantage future generations, whether in rural Ireland or working in the pharmaceutical sector.

If green technology was implemented, the country would significantly lower its carbon emissions. There are new methods for waste disposal which obviate the need for big incinerators. I believe some of the smaller systems are equally environmentally friendly. We must consider all the various alternative methods for dealing with waste and pollutants, otherwise considerable damage will be incurred. I refer to alternatives to fossil fuels for use in the road haulage industry. I wonder if we are creating a tsunami of legislation without putting in place the necessary mechanisms to prevent this tsunami consuming the nation. The Bill will have a detrimental effect on the entire agricultural industry and the pharmaceutical and all other industries. Every industry creates emissions and is a pollutant, whether it is caused by product being transported from factories or other factors.

I appeal to the Minister to look again at the Bill before Second Stage is finalised. The review body will report at the end of this month and the Bill should be put on the shelf until that report is published and there is time to——

Does that mean the Senator will support our amendment?

Senator Ellis to continue, without interruption.

No. I have a little rule which I observe unless there is some serious reason to break it and after 33 years I have not broken it.

The House should have a full debate on all the areas covered by the Bill, not alone the consequences of climate change but the need to consider the new technologies. Such a discussion would result in a very constructive Bill which would have the approval of all. If agreement across the board is achieved, the Bill will be a success. Members need to know the future effects of the Bill. Anyone who suggests that Second Stage should be concluded prior to us being provided with all the information is not being realistic. I make no secret of the fact that I will reserve my position on the Bill until I know what can be done to turn it into better legislation which will deliver a better gain.

I welcome the Minister of State. While accepting the need to address climate change and reduce emissions, my party has reservations about this Bill. We are concerned it will tie our hands in ways that exceed the all-party recommendations of the Joint Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security. We should be hesitant in this regard. We have tabled an amendment which would not give the Bill a second reading because all-party consensus has not been reached on a greenhouse gas emission reduction strategy. We need to consult stakeholders properly.

I understand the reservations that Senator Ellis expressed about business and agriculture. We must be careful not to interfere with food production in this country, which is a growing sector. I remind Senators of the success of Kerry Group, Glanbia and Donegal Foods. If enacted, the Bill could curtail the activities of these important job sustaining companies. We must not shoot ourselves in the foot. I respect the well meaning people who are behind the Bill. I do not think they necessarily want to do damage.

I am sure they do not.

It is our intention.

Senator Ellis spoke about technology and he may be more conversant with this area than I am but we must not rush ahead of EU targets or limit our negotiating position down the line. Agriculture, business and competitiveness should be at the forefront of our minds as we proceed in this matter. The targets set out in the Bill are higher than those of our EU partners.

The tonnages are the same.

We will discuss the details of that issue on Committee Stage. As a businessman, Senator Dearey will appreciate that this is a small and open economy. The last thing we want is to unnecessarily tie our hands in advance of negotiations.

The Bill does not do that.

That is an opinion.

I respect the Senator's views and look forward to hearing further from him. We want all-party agreement on this subject. That was the reason for the establishment of the Joint Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security. The Government has published the Bill without consultation and appears to be rushing it through the Oireachtas. I hope there will be time to consider it adequately on an all-party basis. Such an approach should be thesine qua non if the national interest is to be served. We want to delay the passage of this legislation until such time as an all-party approach is agreed because it will impose lasting obligations on future Governments of every hue.

We are concerned that the short-term targets, which exceed EU and other national agreements, will have significant cost implications for our economy. Without a binding international agreement, competitor economies will scale up their industries to take advantage of our stringent targets for reducing emissions. I am not an expert on this matter but I understand that proceeding along the lines laid down in the Bill could have the effect of reducing the national herd by 40%. Ireland has clean grasslands and we are good producers. If change can be introduced at the margins by way of technology, let us do so but we should not hinder the growth of the herd or tie the hands of our great producers. If we ended up importing meat, we would increase our carbon footprint because of transport considerations.

I do not want us to weaken or limit our negotiating position in any way. The Bill does not propose any policy or initiative to reduce carbon emissions. We would seek changes in order that it reflects our policies as set out in the NewERA document. The Bill requires full and careful consideration. It would set out in law three non-binding targets. Greenhouse emissions would have to be reduced by an average of 2.5% per annum until 2020, 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050 compared with 1990 emissions. I respectively suggest we are running ahead of ourselves with these targets. They will have no impact on other legally binding targets such as the Kyoto Protocol and the EU 2020 targets.

The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government would be required to produce a national climate change plan which would set out detailed measures on reducing emissions. An expert body would be established to advise the Government on functions under the Bill, including national mitigation and adaptation plans, sectoral plans and annual transition statements. The Bill would place an obligation on public bodies to act in accordance with national climate change plans and off-shoot mitigation and adaptation strategies.

Three inescapable facts must be faced when considering the issue of targets. First, we rely on expensive IMF and EU emergency funds to run our State. Little progress appears to have been made in this regard but I hope there will be mitigation at some point. Second, we have to reduce the deficit to agreed levels by 2014. The only way to achieve this goal is by growing the economy because tax increases and public spending cuts alone will not make the full adjustment. Third, if we are to increase growth we will need to become more cost competitive and make Ireland a better place to do business and create jobs. Weakening our cost competitiveness in the period to 2014 would set back economic recovery.

Without an action plan to match these targets, we do not know what effect they will have on an economy which is struggling to grow. While exports continue to increase, we must be careful to nurture further growth. The fact that section 3 states there will be no consequences for not meeting these targets means even the Government does not take the Bill seriously.

When it comes to the key issues and key reservations, which relate to agriculture and business, we are deeply concerned about the negative affect this will have on the economy. We cannot increase costs when trying to grow and encourage more job creation. This could raise energy prices and threaten agriculture, and I have spoken about the national herd. We want to make progress and do the right thing but in trying to do so, we cannot lose sight of what is at stake. It comes down to business and agriculture.

Why not have proper consultation with the stakeholders, which has not happened? I do not believe that is how the Minister means to proceed. That is not his normal way. I hesitate to say it but I do not know what has possessed some people. Can we get back to basics and get all-party agreement? There was all-party agreement at the committee. Is that not right? Recommendations were agreed.

There were higher targets.

There were recommendations which could have been worked on.

It was a completely different framework.

The targets were higher. Fine Gael agreed to that.

Not necessarily. Let us get back to that framework and get agreement. This is not the right way to proceed. I urge the Minister to go back to basics in order that we can get all-party agreement which would better serve the country.

The all-party committee said 30% by 2022, which is considerably higher.

It was a totally different framework. There was a huge consultative process, a different framework and strategy involvement. There is nothing like that in the Bill.

I am glad that at last this debate is taking place. The process to bring key legislation in the 2007 programme for Government has been too long. That is an important point to raise when people talk about lack of consultation. This legislation was mentioned then and has been part of that consultation process. I refer to the history of climate change since the Kyoto summit of 1990 and the deal struck by the then Government. Ireland got an increase in its carbon emissions over that period but failed even to meet that target. That is part of the reason we are at this point, the reason there is a particular need for this legislation and why I am so disappointed Fine Gael has put forward this blocking mechanism in terms of where it wants to see this legislation proceed.

While I welcome the support of the Labour Party, I am particularly struck by how it thinks it can bring about stronger legislation in government given that it has a diametrically opposed view to Fine Gael. I also acknowledge that it is very curious that there are more speakers on the Government side on Government legislation. I suspect more of a negative tone than we have seen towards any other legislation in the history of the Government. That saddens me and I hope the Second Stage and the Committee Stage debates will put aside much of the ignorance on this issue. I use the word "ignorance" very advisedly.

Senator Boyle should have a little respect for other people's opinion. He can be fairly ignorant at times.

Senator Boyle to continue, without interruption.

Part of our difficulty has been a failure to acknowledge the seriousness of the issue. The word "irresponsible" has been used today by a stakeholder about my party's position and the introduction of this legislation. It would be irresponsible not to introduce this legislation and it would be reckless not to proceed in a targeted way not only in terms of what we need to do in the short term but in the medium term and the long term. That is the whole point of climate change legislation.

I wish to address some of the concerns among stakeholders. This is enabling legislation. It lays down targets and what it makes judicable are the plans which lead towards meeting those targets on a regular basis. It is different from legislation in other jurisdictions. It refers to an average approach to meeting those targets but at the end of the day, the targets must bemet.

Even in the limited debate we have had so far on this issue, there is huge divergence of opinion about whether the targets are sufficient, whether they are excessive or whether somehow they are deficient in terms of where we need to be. Some of my colleagues on the Government side are saying they go too far, as does Fine Gael. The Labour Party is saying they do not go far enough. The reality is that in tonnage terms, they are no greater than what we have already committed to internationally.

Why then do we need the legislation if we have already committed to it?

We need the legislation to enshrine in law the principle of a targeted approach to this issue given our experience of how we dealt with our international commitments in the past, how we made an utter failure of our Kyoto Protocol commitments, how we must meet the process now in place and how we anticipate moving in the future.

What I find particularly disappointing is the economic argument being raised. There is nothing in this legislation that achieves anything the Irish Farmers' Association, in particular, is saying about agriculture. Some of the commentators who talk about a reduction of 40% of the national herd are using absurd arguments about what the target is and how one can translate that into a particular sector.

Teagasc is not absurd.

It is an absurd argument to say——

It is a State agency.

——that the one way to meet this target, and largely through the agriculture sector, is a 40% reduction. That is absurd.

Teagasc is a State agency.

Senator Boyle to continue, without interruption.

The idea that somehow the economic basis of deferring or putting off the commitment in regard to climate change legislation is the Food Harvest 2020 report is something with which I fundamentally disagree. The Green Party has had a huge input into that report. It enshrines in agriculture policies much of what we believe in. Where we need to go in developing Irish agriculture is not in terms of quantity. We will not be the food basket for the world. Where we need to go is in terms of food quality. As a result of the environment we have, we can enhance and improve through legislation of this type.

When people talk about stakeholders entering into discussions and agreements about how we progress these policy areas, I hope people have that particular vision rather than take the type of knee-jerk response we have had to date.

The response of IBEC is equally disappointing. It seems to be a million miles away from its counterpart in the United Kingdom, the Confederation of British Industry, which looks on the existence of climate change legislation and the creation of a low carbon economy as an economic opportunity.

They have nuclear energy and, therefore, fewer emissions.

I will tell Senator Coffey——

How does Senator Boyle stack up that argument?

Senator Boyle to continue, without interruption.

I will tell Senator Coffey the extent of that opportunity. The Confederation of British Industry——

Are we introducing nuclear energy here?

Senator Boyle to continue, without interruption.

Senator Boyle cannot have it every way.

The Confederation of British Industry——

If Senator Coffey proposes it, he should say it.

——outlines the economic benefit and the potential market for a low carbon economy globally. In a number of years' time, it will be worth £4 trillion.

The same model has nuclear energy. Senator Boyle is not addressing that fact.

Some £4 trillion is £4,000 billion. If one adds another 20% to that, one gets the euro equivalent of €5 trillion. That is the opportunity a country like Ireland could dip into.

I heard previous speakers talk about the pharmaceutical industry and the effect that a Bill such as this will have but it ignores the fact that this legislation is about the non-traded sector. We already have a mechanism in place where the largest industries creating most of the carbon are being dealt with. This is a targeted and planned approach to deal with the rest of industry.

I hope that at the end of this Second Stage debate people inform themselves, do not take a knee-jerk reaction, find out what the benefit of this is, not talk about point scoring and talk about how this is an advantage to this country and is necessary for it not only in terms of environmental obligations but in terms of Ireland as a country, economy and a society benefiting from this legislation.

I emphasise this because most of the convincing I have to do on behalf of my party is not so much of those opposite but those behind me. This is very unfortunate because this is Government legislation that has been approved by the Cabinet and, at the end of the day, these arguments must hold sway. I am not convinced a new Government, if one comes about in a number of months, would fare any better with either the vested interests or the contradictions between political parties.

Spain is exporting wind energy to France. It is unusual that Spain has managed to outstrip Ireland given our natural advantage in wind technologies. We have considerable catching up to do and find ourselves in a less than ideal position even though we have done remarkable work in renewable energy in the past three years alone. However, because of the obstructionist attitude of many in the political establishment since the Kyoto conference and the failure of successive governments to build upon the Kyoto initiative, we find ourselves in a disadvantaged economic as well as environmental position. Everyone in this House should think about that. It is not so much about the obligations the Bill will impose for the next ten, 20 or 40 years, but that we must think in that timeframe. We also need to think about the implications of not having had this legislation for the past ten to 20 years, which represented a major missed opportunity. Ireland could have been in Denmark's position not only in the production of energy but also in the production for export of the associated hardware and technology. We still have opportunities in wave and tidal power, but we have had to play considerable catch up in wind energy.

In terms of how the targets are met, and this is where many of the stakeholders have unnecessary fears, it is an either-or approach. While there is the 2.5% figure and the figures for 2020 and beyond, it is not a straight-line approach for each sector or in each year and there is flexibility in carbon reduction. It would have to be accepted as a success of the Government that the first carbon reductions have been achieved under the Government. We will achieve those mainly in the energy area. Our continued reliance on fossil fuels and the inefficient way we produce and use energy are the most obvious starting points in bringing us in line with where we need to be with a targeted approach. The agriculture sector has a role to play in this. There may have been some sectors where the success has been lower than we would have hoped, including in the area of bio-fuel energy. In the micro-generation area, however, I can see the agriculture sector being a net contributor and a net beneficiary in how the climate change strategy is developed in coming years.

I would hope the stakeholders would think in this way. The country should grasp the issue of climate change not only in terms of obligations but also in terms of the benefit for the country and for individual sectors in the economy. It is so disappointing and dispiriting to hear some of the arguments being made today. There has been an attempt to mislead and to regard the Bill as something to be opposed for opposition's sake. I have heard some stakeholders use the word "ideology". There is no ideology on climate change. There is climate change. It is a scientific fact and something to which we as a species have contributed. It is something that we, if it is not too late, have the only opportunity to try to remedy, and because of that responsibility we should take it more seriously than to engage in the petty squabbling and ignorant debate which has destroyed this theme, not just since our participation in government but for the past 20 years.

I entered politics in 1991 as a councillor on Cork City Council, as did the Minister of State in Dublin. Then we were enthused by what was happening in the Rio de Janeiro summit of 1992 and the final taking of responsibility by the human race, world governments and individual citizens. It is now 18 years since that conference and I am still hearing the same arguments by people who have not taken the trouble to inform themselves and know there are no alternatives in this regard. During the Committee and Report Stages in this House I ask Members to inform themselves better because to remain ignorant will ensure that as a planet the biggest threat to us as a species and all who inhabit the Earth will become worse as a result.

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.

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Cuffe.

I oppose the passage of the Climate Change Response Bill at this stage because I am convinced the targets set for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are excessive and will damage the competitiveness of Irish agriculture and the entire agrifood sector. Sufficient thought has not been applied to how the provisions of the Bill will affect farming and rural communities. This is a highly technical and complex Bill which has been published in a hurry and is being rushed through the Seanad before we have time to understand exactly what it is committing the country to undertake by 2020. Before the Bill can be progressed, there must be a period of consultation in order to get feedback from all stakeholders, with the information gathered being made available.

It is now widely accepted that the world's population is increasing and the demand for food is growing. Any proposed reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from farming must be considered in a worldwide context. Emissions from Irish agriculture fell by 8% between 1990 and 2008, almost twice the target agreed in the Kyoto Protocol that directed that emissions were to be reduced by 5% between 1990 and 2012. Any policy that reduces agricultural activities in countries such as Ireland which has a high production rate and a low carbon footprint at a time of increased demand for food and renewable energy sources is likely to be counterproductive in reducing greenhouse gas emissions on a worldwide basis. Any proposed reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from farming must be considered in a worldwide context. In this country 26% of overall greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture compared with an EU average of 9%. As agriculture is crucial for the future well-being of the economy, it is important we do not introduce excessive targets that will reduce our competitiveness and hinder ability to grow the sector.

The Teagasc director, Professor Gerry Boyle, at a conference on climate change presented results from a recent Food and Agriculture Organisation report indicating that Ireland's grass-based dairy system has one of the lowest carbon footprints in the world. In a further study carried out by Trinity College and Teagasc, the current proposed reduction in greenhouse gas emissions was predicted to result in losses to beef farmers to a total of €180 million per annum. The processing sector would see a further loss of €570 million per annum.

These cuts will impact not only on the farming community but on all those living in country towns who are employed in beef factories. Agricultural production in the form of Irish food and drink has been a significant contributor to the excellent performance of Irish exports in the past year. The recently published Food Harvest 2020 report indicated that Irish agrifood, fisheries and forestry would play a crucial role in Ireland's economic recovery by increasing exports to €12 billion by 2020. It is vital the right environment is created to allow agriculture to grow and develop to achieve the targets set out in the report.

Food Harvest 2020 targets will be achieved by setting realistic goals for the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to meet Ireland's international obligations. The targets set in the Climate Change Response Bill exceed our existing EU obligations and national commitments. There must be international agreement allowing for the inclusion of carbon sinks in EU and international carbon accounting before we bring in the Bill before the House today. This would give farmers credit for their contribution to the environment and reduce the overall carbon loading on the sector. This process should be negotiated and agreed before the provisions of the Bill are accepted. I recommend that the Bill be rejected today and deferred for a period to allow for further consultation with the stakeholders in the agrifood sector.

I welcome the Minister of State. The subject of climate change ten or 15 years ago was easily framed as a kind of radicalist and environmentalist issue, which is no longer the case. I give credit where it is due to the Green Party for bringing climate change right to the heart of political debate in this country. While the importance of the subject may have dawned on us at some point, the existence of the Green Party in politics has made us think long and hard about the impact climate change may have on future generations.

My party and I understand the responsibility we share to hand on the Earth intact and unspoiled to our children and grandchildren. That ambition can run alongside another ambition of mine that when my child and his peers leave college in ten years, they will enter an Ireland that will offer the opportunity to make a life for themselves in the communities, towns and villages in which they were born. Those two ambitions are not mutually exclusive and I welcome the general thrust of what the Green Party is trying to achieve. I am almost in a position to side with it but there are elements which concern me deeply.

Senator Mark Dearey, who was here a few minutes ago, has left the Chamber. In his other life he is a creator of jobs in his home in Dundalk. Is there another way of getting to where we all want to go without having to rush through this Bill, which is what we are doing today and will do over the coming weeks, and without first examining the impact it will have on job creation and agriculture in this country?

Many groups, including the Irish Farmers Association and the Irish Business and Employers Confederation, have expressed serious reservations about the impact of this legislation. It is important for legislators to take on board such reservations now, engage with the groups and address their genuine fears. This is not the way to go about it. The consultative process that has been put in place has not even concluded and before it has, we seem to think it proper to begin introducing this legislation. We are certainly putting the cart before the horse.

When independent and scientific bodies like Teagasc express serious reservations about the likely impact of this legislation on farming, one must question it. The point was made by Senators O'Brien, Quinn, Coffey and others that placing these kinds of restrictions on agricultural production may lead to an increase in global carbon output. Ireland and New Zealand have been shown in the past ten years to be the two most environmentally friendly food production models in the world. If we restrict the ability of Irish farming to grow and increase the production of what is a high quality and low carbon product, international demand will continue to grow for food and production may move to other locations that simply have no intention of restricting carbon output and are not even in a position at this time to begin putting forward the kind of legislation we are suggesting.

The Irish Farmers Association has proposed four reasonable amendments to the Bill. It argues first that the provisions of the legislation must not exceed Ireland's international obligations. It requests that agriculture be given direct credit for current and future carbon offsets generated by forestry, bio-energy, permanent grassland and other land uses up to 2020. Further, the IFA argues the Bill must not restrict the growth targets set out in Food Harvest 2020, the most visionary and far-reaching document produced in the lifetime of the Government.

I thank the Senator for that remark.

We do not have a problem giving credit where it is due.

The proposals in the Bill run counter to the ambitions set out in Food Harvest 2020. The legislation must recognise Ireland's role in meeting increasing global food demand in an environmentally sustainable manner and guard against the negative global consequences of carbon leakage in other regions.

The economist, Dr. Colm McCarthy, recently wrote an interesting article about the legislation in theIrish Farmers’ Journal in which he stated the policy proposed needs to be assessed critically from two perspectives. First, we must assess the extent to which Ireland can usefully contribute to emissions containment. We have a responsibility in this regard and, as a nation, we are more than willing to live up to this responsibility. The second perspective, which is equally important, is how this can be achieved at a minimum cost to the farming sector and the potential for job creation.

If we are to approach this issue in a balanced and measured manner, we must acknowledge that if one small country such as Ireland outperforms other countries in emissions reduction, the global impact is tiny and could be offset by serious indiscipline elsewhere. Dr. McCarthy concluded that in recent years the monthly increase in emissions from China has been approximately equal to Ireland's total annual emissions. If Ireland were simply to shut down the economy, including agriculture and job creation efforts, tomorrow, China would make up for our annual emissions saving within one month. This demonstrates how irrelevant our input into global carbon reduction could be, although I accept the importance of setting an example and being seen to play our part in carbon reduction efforts. Nevertheless, a degree of perspective is necessary in order that we accept that our willingness to reduce carbon emissions will have a tiny global impact. The Government appears to be about to commit to achieve emissions reduction over and above our international obligations. This would be fairly pointless in a global context.

Ireland has a part to play in reducing global carbon emissions. We have led the way in introducing many other ground-breaking laws, including the smoking ban. The ban was brave and excellent legislation introduced by a Fianna Fáil Party Minister in the face of massive pressure not to proceed with it. Many other countries in the European Union and elsewhere have followed the example Ireland set on smoking.

Although we have a responsibility to lead the way, in doing so we should not impose avoidable costs on an already weak economy. The Government will be out of office in ten weeks. This is a strange statement to make as it is unprecedented in this State to be certain that a Government will change. Given that this is the case, why is the legislation being rushed? Green Party Deputies, both in Opposition and government, have made statements on rushed legislation. In 2006, for instance, Deputy Cuffe, speaking on the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill while on the Opposition benches, stated that rushed legislation is bound to be flawed. In July 2009, while Minister of State, the Deputy stated that passing legislation as profound as the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill in a mere seven sitting days did not do the House any service. He added that scrutiny is a key role of Parliament and argued that the full implications of the legislation needed to be teased out and ventilated. The Minister, Deputy Gormley, spoke on the Garda Síochána Bill from the Opposition benches in June 2005 when he stated that rushed legislation was always bad legislation. I ask Senators from the Green Party to take on board their own advice because this is rushed legislation which needs to be teased out.

The Bill before us should form part of a new programme for Government. All relevant stakeholders should be engaged in drawing up new legislation which makes the aspiration of playing our part in reducing global carbon emissions compatible with the aspiration of setting Ireland back on the road to economic recovery.

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Mary Alexandra White. Members of the Opposition are to be congratulated on the fantastic contortions they are doing on the Bill. We have heard, for instance, that the legislation has been rushed. Extensive work and consultation has taken place on the Bill for the past year and a half and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food was consistently consulted on it. Considerable effort has been made in producing this legislation. It is, for example, extraordinary and unprecedented for the House to have three sessions for a Second Stage debate, as is the case with this Bill.

There is a magnificent level of interest in the Bill on this side, although it is a pity that some on the Government side have spoken against it and some on the Opposition side have spoken in favour of it. That, however, is the nature of politics.

Some of the Senators opposite managed another wonderful contortion when they suggested a consensus is required on this legislation similar to that achieved among members of the Joint Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security when they produced a climate change Bill. They should note that the targets set by the joint committee were higher than those set in the Bill before us.

The joint committee had strategies to achieve its targets.

Having said that, the final target of 80% by 2050 is consistent in both Bills and will be achieved.

I have a background in business and systems analysis, an area in which targets are always set. It is extraordinary to hear targets discussed in what appears to be an uneducated manner. One cannot achieve a target without first setting it. If one is trying to achieve something, it is vital first to have a target. This does not mean one is bound by the target and it is clear targets may be changed if it is necessary to do so. Future Governments will change the targets in the Bill. One need only consider the various finance Bills that have come before the House. How many of our financial projections and targets have been achieved recently? While I do not know if the targets laid down in the legislation will be achieved, I hope they will be exceeded.

If we trash the Bill, we will miss a major economic opportunity. Various international figures, including the United Nations Secretary General and President Obama, speak about a green new deal. The green new deal is an opportunity to address both of the world's major problems, namely, its current economic difficulties and the problem of climate change. On the latter issue, I have asked people many times which part of the American Continent is on the same line of latitude as Ireland. Most people believe that if one were to follow a line of latitude from Ireland to North America one would arrive in New York. In fact, one would arrive in Labrador, an area of permafrost with little agriculture. I would not like Ireland to end up having a similar climate. The climate change models put forward in the 1990s, which are now coming to pass, showed there would be an extreme reduction in the temperatures of the northern hemisphere as a result of the pressure of the melting polar ice caps and the pressure on the North Atlantic current. I was sitting in temperatures of -10°C in Galway while others sat in temperatures of -18°C. This is unprecedented. Climate change is happening before our eyes. Either we take it seriously or we do not. If we are to take it seriously, the way forward is to become a world leader.

I refer to the agriculture sector. Various enzymes are being developed to allow cows to emit less methane. We have a fantastic pharmaceutical industry and a fantastic agriculture industry. Why not combine the two to ensure we can become world leaders in enzymes that will ensure less pollution from cows? We can produce and export those enzymes.

What about anaerobic digestion? I spoke about red tape. The number of Departments involved in anaerobic digestion is extraordinary. In Germany, 30% of renewable energy is produced through biogas. While it is not quite possible to do that in Ireland, we produce zero biogas. We can make a lot of money out of this if we examine it properly and we can reduce pollution. People quite often miss the point when they talk about climate change and the Kyoto Protocol. Some people are talking about the right to pollute. People do not have the right to pollute in a way that leaves the world in a worse state. We should not allow our children to inherit a world less habitable than the world we have. In the past it has been destroyed for the sake of a few quid in the short term.

A Senator referred to Easter Island. I do not want Ireland to lose its agricultural potential. I do not want Ireland to lose its potential as an inhabitable, decent and green country. I want to see Ireland as a better place that is leading the way in the world, not a country prepared to allow a few vested interests to pollute more than others and make a few quid out of it. That mentality is regrettable.

I have talked to the IFA, as have many members of the Green Party. The IFA does not want to pollute and has no interest in it. It wants to work with us to achieve the targets. Targets have been outlined by the Minister of State, Deputy Ciarán Cuffe, to the IFA but they can be changed if necessary. It is not all about the IFA targets. We have a great opportunity to reduce our emissions through bringing in renewable energy quickly. The number of wind farms in Ireland is not high enough. We need to think big in the area of renewable energy and non-polluting energy. All of these matters can be put together in order that we have a better and world-leading economy that will drive out of the recession with the green new deal. I give credit to Fine Gael's NewERA document. I wonder whether it contradicts what some are saying in this Chamber.

It provides a mechanism and a realistic way of doing it.

It is time to stop the contortions. The reality is we need the Climate Change Response Bill. We need to play our part in the world. This is not just about little Ireland; this is about the world. We do not exist independently of the rest of the world. People can say China pollutes but that country is working very hard to reduce its carbon emissions. I do not want Ireland to lag behind China. We should be a first world economy and country that is proud to step up as a nation of the first world. I do not like to see what is going on economically and would not like to see what would happen were we not to take on board the green new deal, the opportunities presented by it, and the opportunities presented for a food island in the Food Harvest 2020 document in tandem with the climate change targets, which are possible if we put our brains to it. We have plenty brains in this country, as Senators will agree. We can achieve the targets. They are there to be achieved and if they are not achieved, we are failures, but we are not tied by the targets. The targets for various sectors of our economy do exactly what it says on the tin. These are targets we must aim for and this is the correct way to do business. The targets have been diluted by the Cabinet from the consensus position of the committee. I would prefer to see the committee's targets in the Bill and if Fine Gael wants to return the targets to the consensus of the committee, I will support it. Similarly, if Fianna Fáil sees sense and decides to increase the targets, that would be great. We can achieve the targets in a way other Senators referred to, by using our brains and introducing electric cars, wind power and ensuring agriculture is sustainable and maximises profits. We must ensure we do not rely on pollution by oil, which is running out. There is not an endless supply of oil in the world and price is increasing enormously. I do not want to see farmers having to rely solely on oil-based agriculture, which is what is happening. It will be highly detrimental to the future of farming.

I worked in the agriculture sector for many years. I worked with companies such as Virginia Milk Products in Cavan. That company makes enormous environmental efforts and has managed to reduce emissions. It produces the cream for Bailey's Irish Cream and does a fantastic job. That is the sort of agriculture I want to see in this country. The Minister of State, Deputy Mary White, has examined ethanol production in the Irish sugar beet sector and would like to see bio-fuels introduced. We must be inventive. The key challenge facing us is to ensure we have a better economy by meeting the targets. The two are possible together. Perhaps Barack Obama, Ban Ki-moon and hundreds of other world leaders are wrong but I do not believe they are. This country should step up to the first world plate and pass the Climate Change Response Bill. If a number of small tweaks have to be made, so be it. We can do that and it needs to be done gently and slowly but before the end of this Government. If not, it will represent a major missed opportunity.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this legislation. I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Mary White, to the House. She is a great person for coming to the House and I am sure she will take on board the comments of Senators and bring them back to the Minister. Everyone is in agreement that there must be a climate change Bill. However, many important issues could be dealt with and discussed before such dramatic legislation is introduced. Senator Coffey pointed out that there is no plan. There should be a plan and the climate to bring about change regardless of legislation. There should be a realistic plan to achieve targets with buy-in from stakeholders such as the agri-sector and the business sector. What has the Government done? It is negligent in setting targets and bringing forward plans. Smart metering is not being rolled out. Our waste management plan is a shambles. There is no such plan in this country and if there is, I would like to hear about it. Where are we in respect of connection to the national grid? What is the position in regard to foreshore licences? I refer in particular to offshore wind and wave energy generation. These are the most important issues that should be dealt with before we introduce legislation such as this. They should be addressed before rushing this legislation through the Houses without having spoken to the stakeholders involved who have a major input to make in the framing of this legislation. As a speaker said, in terms of food harvest targets, it is estimated there will be €4 billion earned from extra exports by 2020. This will result in a 12% rise in emissions in the agriculture sector and at best only a 4% reduction in emissions that can be achieved in that sector. If this country is to survive, it will be heavily dependent on the agricultural sector and the agribusiness sector for growth, on the processing sector and on added value in agricultural products.

Milk quotas will be lost by 2015. The agricultural sector is a big culprit in terms of emissions purely as a result of the size of our national herd. Teagasc has estimated that a decrease of 84% in our suckler cow herd would be required to fulfil the requirements proposed and to comply with the targets that have been set. Senator Ó Brolcháin said he was surprised by the number of speakers whose seats are located behind his who want to speak on this Bill. Is that any wonder? Those speakers are not present now but they want to contribute to this debate because of the alarming statistics involved.

They are not accurate but they are alarming.

As to what this could mean for us, beef production could move to Third World countries. I do not have anything against such countries but they have little or no carbon policies in place. That would only result in shifting the problem elsewhere.

They might be better than us. The Deputy should get his facts right.

They may well be but, as the Senator said, we are where we are and we know where we are now.

We want to be ahead and not behind in this area.

Please allow Senator Burke to continue without interruption.

I heard a debate on the energy sector on the radio yesterday. The Government can assist the agricultural sector and the agribusiness sector to put in place alternative energy projects. One such alternative is solar energy. I am not referring to solar panels but to a solar energy installation that can be put on the roofs of large buildings from which electricity can be generated. It could be put on the roof of a co-operative, for example. Another alternative is the capturing of methane gas from slurry pits and processing plants. Such projects would assist the agricultural sector and agribusiness sector. The Government needs to be proactive in terms of giving applicants who develop such electricity generation projects a proper tariff. It may be expensive to do that, on the one hand, but it would deal with a certain problem, on the other.

The Government seems to be railroading the Bill through the Houses because it has not yet met the stakeholders involved.

They have had no real input into the framing of this legislation. Senator Coffey proposed, by way of a reasoned amendment, that we should endeavour to get all-party agreement on this important legislation by bringing all the stakeholders on board and formulating a plan we could all support and with which we could move forward.

I agree with what Senator Ellis said about dealing with targets estimated by Teagasc for the year 2050. That is a ridiculous notion. It could be compared with thinking back to 1970 and trying to set targets then for 2011. I do not believe there were even diesel cars in 1970. If the number of changes that occurred in the past 40 years were to occur in the next 40, it would be pointless to try to set targets that far in advance. I agree with Senator Ellis on that point. We are way above the targets the EU has set for us for 2020.

I attended one or two meetings of the scrutiny committee in Brussels some years ago where we met many of the Commissioners. They outlined the 2020 targets to us and they were fairly severe. The targets that have been set are severe. Our economy was booming at the time those targets were set, something to which Senator Quinn alluded at the time. The Minister should note that we were also a growing population but are growing populations taken into account in those targets? We have been told our population has increased by a fairly large percentage. Our population has grown enormously in recent years but that has not been taken into account. Extra people mean there will be extra electricity demand, extra demand for food and so forth. I firmly believe we must go back to the drawing board. We need to set some targets but we must consult all the stakeholders. The agricultural and business sectors have a huge role to play in that regard.

I wish to read from the Annual Competitiveness Report 2008, which was commissioned by the Government. Under the heading "Balancing Affordable Renewables Targets with International Competitiveness", the report states:

Ireland is working towards its EU target of producing 15 percent of its electricity needs from renewable sources by 2010, which will improve the diversity of the fuel mix and our carbon performance. While the marginal cost of wind and other renewables is low or negligible, meeting the 2020 target of 40 percent will require substantial investment in the electricity grid and back-up power generation. From a competitiveness perspective, the NCC sees no first-mover advantage to Ireland in going beyond our already ambitious EU climate change targets. While the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) is currently assessing the costs of implementing this target, the NCC cautions that the implementation of more burdensome targets should not proceed in the absence of a finalised cost assessment. In conjunction with the three percent per annum reduction in CO2 levels also set by the Government, this would result in a cumulative reduction in greenhouse gases in excess of those mandated by the EU. The combination of these policies has important cost implications for businesses and all consumers of energy in Ireland.

That is probably in the traded area but this also applies to the non-traded area. I ask the Minister that contact be made with all those sectors. The Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security brought forward proposals but the Government does not appear to have taken them on board.

I have many concerns about the Bill but I also must acknowledge that the concept of the legislation is going in the right direction. I am deeply concerned that there has been insufficient consultation prior to the publication of the Bill before the Seanad. It is similar to the case of the Dog Breeding Establishments Bill over which I lost the Whip. The points I made in the House on that occasion were subsequently addressed in the Dáil and brought back to this House for our agreement. I made the point that I could not, on principle, agree to something that will be amended in the Dáil and not amended in this House. I took issue with that on a point of principle.

Until such time as the broad farming community and the broad vision in rural Ireland come to accept this Bill in some form or another by negotiation or consultation, there will be severe difficulties. Some people are disingenuous in that they say they support the Bill but at our party group meeting yesterday more than six or almost half of the Senators in the Seanad group who turned up expressed grave concern about it. As the Bill stands, I would find it difficult, if not impossible, to support it. Its tenor is correct but we must look at the overall picture of food provision and exporting. I have been outspoken in my support of the fishing industry. Castletownbere is the biggest whitefish port in Ireland and 75% of whitefish landed there is shipped in huge refrigerated juggernauts all the way across Europe to Spain. When I go to a shop in Schull or Bantry and ask for bream, I am told it is imported from Cypress and we import fish from Iceland and Indonesia.

I will continue this argument next week. I have become a grandfather in recent months and am deeply concerned about climate change.

Debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended at 1.30 p.m. and resumed at 2.30 p.m.