Amendment No. 41 is in the names of Senators Bacik and Moynihan, who are not present.
Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill 2021: Committee Stage (Resumed)
I had mentioned in the previous debate that I would move amendment No. 41 on behalf of Senators Bacik and Moynihan.
Amendments Nos. 55 and 56 are physical alternatives to amendment No. 41. Amendments Nos. 41 to 53, inclusive, and amendments Nos. 55 and 56 are related and may be discussed together, by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.
I move amendment No. 41:
In page 10, to delete lines 31 to 40, and in page 11, to delete lines 1 to 39 and substitute the following:
“(8) In performing their respective functions under this section, the Minister and the Government—
(a) shall ensure that the national long-term climate action strategy is consistent with—
(i) climate justice, and
(ii) a just transition to a climate neutral economy which, in so far as is practicable—
(I) maximises opportunities for decent, fair and high-value work that is environmentally and socially sustainable, in a way which does not negatively affect the current workforce or the overall economy,
(II) supports low-carbon investment and infrastructure,
(III) develops and maintains social consensus through engagement with the social partners, local communities, non-governmental organisations, and other appropriate persons,
(IV) contributes to resource-efficient and sustainable economic approaches which help to address inequality and poverty, and
(V) supports persons and communities that may be negatively affected by the transition,
(b) shall have regard to the following matters:
(i) the need to deliver the best possible value for money consistent with the sustainable management of the public finances and to maximise, as far as practicable, the net benefits to society taking into account the impact of greenhouse gas emissions;
(ii) the need to promote sustainable development and restore, and protect, biodiversity;
(iii) relevant scientific or technical advice;
(iv) any recommendations or advice of the Advisory Council;
(v) the social and economic imperative for early and cost-effective action in relation to climate change;
(vi) in so far as practicable, the need to maximise employment, the attractiveness of the State for investment and the long-term competitiveness of the economy;
(vii) the fact that the means of achieving a climate neutral economy and other measures to enable the State to pursue the national climate objective may not yet be fully identified and may evolve over time through innovation, evolving scientific consensus and emerging technologies;
(viii) the role of behavioural change on the part of individuals and different sectors of society in supporting the Government to pursue the national climate objective and the policies and measures required to effect such change;
(ix) the risk of substantial and unreasonable carbon leakage as a consequence of measures implemented by the State to pursue the national climate objective;
(x) the protection of public health;
(xi) the National Planning Framework (or, where appropriate, the National Spatial Strategy);
(xii) the special economic and social role of agriculture, including with regard to the distinct characteristics of biogenic methane;
(xiii) where a national long-term climate action strategy has been approved under this section, the most recent approved national long-term climate action strategy;
(xiv) the 2019 Climate Action Plan or, where a climate action plan has been approved under this section, the most recent approved climate action plan;
(xv) where a national adaptation framework has been approved under section 5, the most recent approved national adaptation framework;
(xvi) where sectoral adaptation plans have been approved under section 6, the most recent approved sectoral adaptation plans.”.
I will speak to the whole set. My own amendment No. 42 covers a similar area. In the original version of the Bill, these were the various factors as to what the Minister and the Government shall or may have regard to in performing their respective functions. Senators Moynihan and Bacik may come in with more detail in terms of their amendment but speaking to my own approach to this, amendment No. 42 is what was proposed by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Environment and Climate Action. These were the factors, after long and extensive deliberation, we proposed under three categories, namely, those matters which the Minister and the Government should act in a manner consistent with; those matters which the Minister and the Government must have regard to and those matters which the Minister and the Government may have regard to.
Many of the aspects we proposed are not reflected in the final Bill. I acknowledge that some of the factors we had proposed where the language, "consistent with" should be taken in, have been taken in by the Government in another section. The Government has taken in the national climate objective and Articles 2 and 4 of the Paris Agreement. However, the Government has only taken in Articles 2 and 4.1 of the Paris Agreement. I will be pressing on Report Stage that all of Article 4 be included in terms of being "consistent with".
I can speak to these amendments as a group because I take out some of the individual points and try to address them in these subsequent amendments. A key concern for me is that the UN sustainable development goals are not mentioned anywhere in the Bill. Ireland played the key role in negotiating the sustainable development goals, SDGs. Globally, they are part of legislation and initiatives, such as at EU level. We even see them in its response to Covid-19 in which the sustainable development goals are constantly referenced and there are references to our SDG targets.
I am concerned Ireland makes no reference to the sustainable development goals anywhere in its legislation or in this crucial legislation. The 2030 agenda is widely considered to be a combination of the Paris Agreement and the sustainable development goals. Ireland basically chaired the negotiations to achieve the sustainable development goals. We see many Ministers wearing the badges. I am worried we do not seem to see a genuine engagement with the SDGs, in terms of being part of how we do things.
The sustainable development goals are not aspirational. They are not a charitable initiative. They are a blueprint for development which takes in issues of climate change and which issues of climate change should take in. I am concerned they are not referenced in the Bill.
I have two amendments which try to address that, in that where sustainable development is referenced - which could mean anything - I specify the definition of sustainable development should include the UN sustainable development goals. I also have a stand-alone amendment to directly insert the sustainable development goals as a matter for consideration.
I urge the Minister to reflect on the fact of Ireland's relationship with the SDGs and how we worked hard in Ireland to get the world to come up with a blueprint on sustainable development. Saying the word sustainable development means nothing unless we are clear about what it means. The period of time will be longer until 2030 but that does not mean one cannot incorporate the SDGs until 2030 into this.
I have two suggestions of how it could be addressed. There are other ways it could be addressed. It could be addressed through a definition of sustainable development in the definitions section at the beginning of the Bill and I may introduce that on Report Stage. I urge the Minister to reflect on how we can ensure the sustainable development goals are appropriately referenced in the Bill.
Amendment No. 44 references scientific advice. I specify that should be advice which is consistent with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, in terms of relevant scientific advice. There is considerable scientific advice out there, of varying quality. It is important any advice Ireland relies on in these decision-making processes should be consistent with the IPCC's scientific advice.
I will remove the amendment in respect of "behavioural change" and will replace it. I have two separate amendments - one to replace the amendment I will remove and another with an addition included.
Some of the behavioural change focus rings hollow to people throughout Ireland. There is a significant focus on what a person should do and what his or her "little piece" should be, yet there is a remarkable reluctance to change business as usual in terms of manufacturing, businesses, corporations, and in terms of being willing to say "No" to established corporate lobby groups. This is a crucial point which we will come back to at a later section of the Bill. Being willing to say "No" to the renewal of licences for prospecting or oil and gas extraction and exploration is crucial. There should be behavioural change from the top, from Government, and it should show that it is willing to let go of some of the trickle-down economics and the idea that there are investors which are too big to argue with. It should be willing to challenge that. I will bring specific amendments forward that will tease out the area of oil and gas exploration, and licences.
Behavioural change begins from the top. We know that the political signal sends the message downwards. Rather than focusing on behavioural change, it would be more useful to use that space to focus on a joined-up analysis of consumption emissions within the State. We should make sure that we are tracking emissions. The idea of life cycle costing is within the Minister of State's area. It is a matter of tracking emissions from their point of origin to their point of consumption and making sure that they do not disappear from either end of the balance sheet. I suggest behavioural change is replaced with "the emissions of greenhouse gases into the Earth’s atmosphere attributable to the consumption of products or utilisation of services in the State", which ensures that the end of the process is captured, reflected upon and thought about. This amendment could be added without deleting the other one. I offer it in a number of different forms.
I refer to the group of amendments Nos. 50, 51 and 53, including a few others. In amendment No. 50, I seek to delete "in so far as is practicable" as a caveat to the Minister's performance of his functions with regard to just transition. The reference to just transition in the Bill simply refers to employment but, in amendment No. 52, I seek to insert the phrase "environmentally and socially sustainable". In amendment No. 51, I seek to insert "environmentally and socially sustainable, quality" employment because the nature and kind of employment that will be available will be key to whether this will be a just transition.
Amendment No. 53 seeks to add "engage with". This comes back to the question of support. The Bill at the moment refers to supporting persons and communities that may be negatively impacted by climate action. I refer to supporting and engaging with people. This comes back to a contribution I made during the earlier debate which we discussed at great length, so I will not rehash it. Social dialogue and community engagement in how we approach a just transition is important so that it is not a charitable after effect whereby one looks to provide some support. It is about listening to communities and helping them shape and reimagine their futures.
Amendment No. 55 takes that to a more explicit level. I use language, as we discussed, that is from the Scottish climate law. In this amendment, I recognise the need to "develop and maintain social consensus through engagement with workers, trade unions, communities, non-governmental organisations" and business and industry representatives. This directly mirrors the language in the Scottish climate law. Scotland has been recognised as one of the places that - while it is not easy - has grappled most successfully with just transition. It constantly tightens and improves its response in this area, including through extensive engagement with unions.
Lastly in this section, amendment No. 56 inserts "environmental" in terms of the special role of agriculture. This is contained in section 4(8)(n) of the Bill which refers to "the special economic and social role of agriculture". I am suggesting that it should state "the special economic, environment, and social role of agriculture". This builds on some of the points made by others. However, I am cautious in relation to how we approach removals and will come back to that on Report Stage. While we must reward, support and recognise the environmental role of agriculture, we must also ensure that we meet the hard targets of genuine emissions reduction which makes sure we are not feeding the furnace of climate change.
I will be brief because I am conscious of time. Am I correct that we are speaking to amendments No. 41 to 53, inclusive, and 55 and 56?
I wish to echo what Senator Higgins has said and I support her. She has made a good case, particularly in relation to the social and environment role of agriculture in its broadest terms. I will refer to that when I comment on the section later because there are a few things I wish to say.
The development goals are very important. Many Senators are seen wearing the sustainable development goal badge around the place with great pride. We talk and argue about sustainable development and they say "but" and "because it is not possible". That is disappointing because it is not authentic in that they are sending out a message that they fully embrace the sustainable development goals. If I could have found my badge, I would have put it on. Unfortunately, I have to put my hands up and say that Deputy Eamon Ryan gave me one, but someone liked it so much that I gave it to them. Perhaps I will get another one in the future. Senator Higgins made valid points about the sustainable development goals and the just transition. I do not want to take up any more time. I fully support what she is endeavouring to do. I speak in favour of these amendments.
If no one else wishes to contribute, I call on the Minister of State. You are welcome.
I thank all the Senators for being here and for having me in their Chamber.
The point was made that many people are seen wearing the badge of sustainable development goals - they are talking the talk but are they walking the walk? Senator Higgins proposes two amendments in this regard. The sustainable development goals are not directly referenced, that is true, within the climate Bill. However, they are addressed through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC, and the Paris Agreement, which place legally binding obligations on the State and are separately identified within the Bill. They are referenced in that way, indirectly.
The sustainable development goals are not legally binding. However, Ireland is a signatory fully committed to their implementation. The sustainable development goals are much broader than what is contained in the Bill which focuses on a cut of 51% in our emissions over a decade. They go far beyond that and they need to be covered in other legislation. There are other legal acts that address these matters in an appropriate and stronger way. For example, our national equality legislation, and related policies for these matters, are primary vehicles and should deliver on these objectives. That addresses the sustainable development goals section. I believe they are indirectly referenced through the Paris Agreement and the UNFCCC.
I move on to the other amendments of which there are many in this section. I refer to amendments Nos. 41 and 42 which enumerate items where there is a desire to move them up the hierarchy of how necessary they are to be considered, included or taken into account, or must have or may have regard to, and so on. Amendment No. 41 proposes that "in performing their respective functions under this section, the Minister and the Government shall ensure that the national long-term climate action strategy is consistent with" and lists items it should be consistent with rather than having regard to.
The first thing I would say is that there have been changes in this and the centre acknowledged that there have been changes since the 2015 Act. Some of these were looked at during pre-legislative scrutiny and progress was made in that regard. If one looks in sections 3(3) and in other sections of the Act, there are a list of items that are "consistent with" rather than "have regard to". From a broad point of view, when one is looking at a to-do list of any kind it is important to prioritise. There is the saying that when everything is a priority then nothing is a priority. If we are not singling out which items are more important than others or which items we want to do first before others, then there is always a risk that something will be undone or not reached and a goal that is not reached is more important than other goals. That is why prioritisation is important. It is important that this Bill lists the things that must happen, should happen and may happen. For that reason, the Bill as is should continue as is.
Amendment No. 46 proposes that we delete "climate neutral economy" and substitute "completely decarbonised economy". In other words, this is a move towards absolute zero rather than net zero. This would provide that we would reach a point of absolute zero CO2 emissions by 2050. The ambition of this Bill as it stands is to reach climate neutrality no later than 2050. This is in line with the EU approach and also consistent with the Paris Agreement. It is not physically possible to reach absolute zero by 2050. If we put that into legislation we would be attempting to reach an impossible goal which would be simply unconvincing. When one gives people a goal which they all believe is not possible to achieve, it puts them off making an effort. The 2030 goal of a 51% reduction is huge. Although it is likely to be consistent with the EU goal of 55% by 2030, the EU has made huge progress in the last decade compared with Ireland. We are starting at the back of the pack and for us to reach that 51% reduction will be so hard. It will require real effort and it will be incredibly difficult. We have a challenging and ambitious target to reach 51% as it is. Reaching net zero is simply impossible so I will not accept that amendment.
Amendment No. 45 proposes: "after “maximise” to insert “quality”." If one looks at section 4(8)(g) it provides: "in so far as practicable, the need to maximise employment, the attractiveness of the State for investment and the long term competitiveness of the economy;". If we include "quality" here, we would need to define what we mean by that. Quality employment is subjective and not a matter to be determined at an individual level. That is a vague or uncertain amendment to put in.
Amendment No. 44 suggests: "after "advice" to insert "including advice from the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change". The Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change, IPCC, informs science at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC, which the Bill refers to and provides for under section 4(8)(c). That section refers to: "relevant scientific...advice". We have not specifically named the IPCC. If we are naming a particular body and saying we have to be consistent with its advice, that raises the question of whether we have to follow all of its advice and if that means we have to be consistent with anything it publishes. There are different levels of scientific paper that are published and sometimes they can be in conflict. I would have preferred something that was along the lines of "best international advice" or "international best practice" but that is not before me. The fact that the UNFCCC is referred to in the Bill should be enough because the IPCC informs the UNFCCC.
Amendment No. 49 also wants to substitute "completely decarbonised economy" into the Bill. The same points are to be made as before about moving towards net zero.
I will deal with amendments Nos. 53 and 55 together. They are about engaging: "with workers, trade unions, communities, non-governmental organisations". These amendments are about being more explicit in our definition of "consultation". The wording in the Bill refers to engaging with "persons". A person can be a legal person and an organisation and in any public consultation, organisations are allowed to make their submissions. It is normal that when making a submission in a public consultation one says whether the submission is individual or on behalf of an organisation. The Minister will have to and would want to take all submissions from all organisations and from social partners because to do so strengthens the buy-in of society into any proposals that are being made and makes it more likely that the proposals will be acceptable and viable to the public as a whole. On that basis, this engagement is already provided for in the Bill and the amendment is not needed.
Amendment No. 56 seeks: "In page 11, line 28, after "economic" to insert ", environmental,"." This is in reference to agriculture. Agriculture is central to the environment and the environment is central to agriculture. This language is provided for as part of the programme for Government commitment which refers to the financial and long-standing cultural framing that agriculture provides in Ireland. The overall objective of this Bill is to deliver on our climate targets and improve and restore our environment. The role of the agricultural sector in this process and of our farmers as custodians of the land is clear and of critical importance. This aspect will be operationalised in actions taken forward in future iterations of the climate action plan. The amendment is not necessary and I will not accept it.
We have quite a way to go so I will not spend too long in my response. I am surprised at the Minister of State's response to amendment No. 56, given how much focus we have had on agriculture. A good quarter of the debate the last time was on agriculture and on the somewhat rushed decision in respect of how removals have been included. A lot more clarity and nuance were needed before that was inserted. When we talk about clarity and nuance, that is something that should have been done much more clearly and we should have had a lot more debate on it. We should have debated whether we are taking, for example, the UK approach or the EU approach. The UK and the EU have quite different approaches to how removals are addressed within climate accounting.
The amendments were not on public consultation but just transition. We have had lengthy debate on just transition so I will not go over that but those amendments contain explicit legal language that was taken from the Scottish climate law, which holds that part of justice is dialogue. That is a key principle in that law.
The wording "as far as is practicable" was not addressed but we have had debates on that before. It is important that we examine what kind of employment matters and that is an important factor. If there is no sense of what "quality employment" might be in the Government, that would need to be clarified. Hopefully we will get a chance to engage with the Government on that in the committee but as Ireland prepares to send its just transition application to Europe, we would want to be clear about what we mean by "quality employment" at that point, which is not far away.
I will move to the other amendments. On the IPCC science, it was not saying the Government must be consistent, it was saying that when it is "[having] regard to [...] scientific or technical advice" that such advice should include advice from the IPCC. If the Minister of State has a different or better wording for that I urge him to bring it back on Report Stage. The Bill will be returning to the Dáil anyway as amendment No. 1 was accepted, so why not fix it if the Minister of State has a good idea? He should bring it forward.
On the UN sustainable development goals, SDGs, I must again strongly and clearly disagree. It is not enough to reference the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement. The Minister of State has just told us it is not legally binding. That tells us it may or may not happen. It is precisely because it is not legally binding that we must show we have a commitment to it and that we mean anything by it. With due respect to the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, his is the Department responsible for leading on the sustainable development goals and unfortunately he has given very little leadership in this area. I acknowledge colleagues in the Minister of State's own party who are part of the cross-party group, which has representatives from all parties in the Oireachtas, on the sustainable development goals. It is something that matters to us and we need to show it.
It is not a matter of saying one cannot put in everything. Let us be clear about what the Government has put in. It has included having regard to "the attractiveness of the State for investment", "in so far as practicable". We will come to this in section 20 but is all investment equally welcome? Do we want to attract every kind of investment or do we have discretion over what kinds of investment we want to invite? In section 20 we may actually need to place limitations on the liability we have to investors. Sustainable development is referenced in section 4(8)(b). If the Government is going to reference sustainable development and a little bit later it is going to talk about the attractiveness of the State to investors and competitiveness, I ask what sustainable development does it mean if we cannot reference the SDGs? Is there another parallel version of sustainable development that means sustaining business as usual? That could be the case, that could be what is meant. The Minister of State talked about not being clear, that there is no definition of some of the other phrases I have suggested. There is no definition of "sustainable development" in this Bill and it could mean absolutely anything. It could mean something quite different to Shell or Exxon than it does to a small business in Ireland or to the communities mentioned, for example, under Sustainable Development Goal 11: "sustainable cities and communities".
I urge the Minister of State to reflect on that matter. I will be pressing amendments on the sustainable development goals on Report Stage. I will be putting forward a number of approaches to it. I urge the Government to bring its own approach to ensuring the sustainable development goals are referenced and are acknowledged in this legislation. We must show we care about them. I mentioned the definitions but one place the goals are particularly important is with respect to the development of the sectoral strategies. The Government should want to have sectoral strategies in each of the areas that are addressing their climate goals such that they are addressing them in a way that is also fulfilling the SDGs because those are so closely aligned. The section I was inserting this into had the wording "shall have regard to", as opposed to must be consistent with. It is in one version of my amendment but I have amendments where I use the wording "may have regard to" and "shall have regard to". It would be a very poor signal were this Government to say that as it develops these strategies over the next ten years, it should not have regard to the sustainable development goals. I urge the Minister of State to rethink that between now and Report Stage.
I thank the Senator for making her points so well. The SDGs are, as she said, not legally binding but the Paris Agreement is and it refers to them. The Paris Agreement is directly referred to in this legislation. We should also bear in mind the SDGs are time-bound to 2030 whereas this is legislation focused on 2050 and as such it goes beyond that date. The SDGs will be referred to in the climate action plan and there will be an SDG implementation plan later this year. The SDGs should be referred to throughout all our legislation, not just the climate Bill. We must ensure we are consistent in those ways. I do listen to the Senator's points.
Ireland came last out of 15 countries on the SDGs on environment, specifically, so that is an example of why we must link them.
I thank the Minister of State and the Senator. I know Senator Higgins has permission to move amendment No. 41 on behalf of the Labour Party Members so between Senator Moynihan and herself, how stands the amendment? Will they press it?
We are not. We will withdraw it to resubmit on Report Stage.
I move amendment No. 42:
In page 10, to delete lines 31 to 40, and in page 11, to delete lines 1 to 39 and substitute the following:
“(8) For the purposes of performing their respective functions under this section, the Minister and the Government shall act in a manner consistent with the following matters—
(a) Articles 2 and 4 of the Paris Agreement,
(b) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change advice,
(c) the Aarhus Convention,
(d) the UN Convention on Biodiversity,
(e) the National Climate Objective,
(f) Climate Justice, and
(g) Just Transition.
(8A) For the purposes of performing their respective functions under this section, the Minister and the Government must have regard to the following matters:
(a) the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals;
(b) the National Biodiversity action plan and the National Biodiversity Strategy and subsequent plans and strategies;
(c) nature based solutions for climate action; and
(d) cost-effectiveness, including lifecycle cost and net public benefit, consistent with the sustainable management of the public finances and with due regard for imperatives around early action, innovation and long term impact.
(8B) For the purposes of performing their respective functions under this section, the Minister and the Government may have regard to the following matters:
(a) relevant scientific, technical or technological advice, including IPCC advice;
(b) Government policy;
(c) the National Planning Framework (or, where appropriate, the National Spatial Strategy);
(d) the role of behavioural change on the part of individuals,businesses, organisations and society in supporting the Government to pursue the national 2050 climate objective and the policies and measures required to effect such change;
(e) the full life-cycle of emissions including consumption emissions and the implications for non-territorial emissions; and
(f) the special, economic, social and environmental role of agriculture.”.
I move amendment No. 43:
In page 10, line 38, after “development” to insert “, including the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals,”.
I am going to withdraw this and reintroduce it on Report Stage. Hopefully the Government will have its own version by then but I will certainly be reintroducing mine then.
I move amendment No. 44:
In page 10, line 40, after “advice” to insert “including advice from the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change”.
I move amendment No. 45:
In page 11, line 5, after “maximise” to insert “quality”.
I move amendment No. 46:
In page 11, line 8, to delete “climate neutral economy” and substitute “completely decarbonised economy”.
I move amendment No. 47:
In page 11, to delete lines 13 to 16 and substitute the following:
“(i) the emissions of greenhouse gases into the Earth’s atmosphere attributable to the consumption of products or utilisation of services in the State;”.
I move amendment No. 48:
In page 11, to delete lines 20 to 24 and substitute the following:
“(k) the requirements for a just transition which is the importance of taking action to reduce net emissions of greenhouse gases in a way which—
(i) supports environmentally and socially sustainable jobs,
(ii) supports low-carbon investment and infrastructure,
(iii) develops and maintains social consensus through engagement with workers, trade unions, communities, non-governmental organisations, representatives of the interests of business and industry and such other persons as the Minister considers appropriate,
(iv) creates decent, fair and high-value work in a way which does not negatively affect the current workforce and overall economy,
(v) contributes to resource efficient and sustainable economic approaches which help to address inequality and poverty;”.
I move amendment No. 49:
In page 11, line 20, to delete “climate neutral economy” and substitute “completely decarbonised economy”.
I move amendment No. 50:
In page 11, line 21, to delete “, in so far as is practicable,”.
I am going to withdraw this to bring it back on Report Stage because I am hoping it will pass then.
I move amendment No. 51:
In page 11, line 22, after “maximise” to insert “environmentally and socially sustainable, quality”.
I move amendment No. 52:
In page 11, line 22, after “maximise” to insert “environmentally and socially sustainable”.
I am going to withdraw this to bring it back on Report Stage.
I move amendment No. 53:
In page 11, line 23, after “support” to insert “and engage with”.
I am going to withdraw this and seek engagement on it between now and Report Stage.
Amendment No. 54 is out of order.
I move amendment No. 55:
In page 11, between lines 24 and 25, to insert the following:
“(iii) develop and maintain social consensus through engagement with workers, trade unions, communities, non-governmental organisations, representative of the interests of business and industry and such other persons as the Minister considers appropriate;”.
I move amendment No. 56:
In page 11, line 28, after “economic” to insert “, environmental,”.
Amendments Nos. 57 to 60, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 57:
In page 11, between lines 39 and 40, to insert the following:
“(s) the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.”.
This amendment concerns the United Nations sustainable development goals, SDGs. It is yet another reminder of the importance of reflecting and incorporating those goals in this Bill. We must show that we are serious when we talk about a different model of development and that we are not simply trying to tag a climate target in alongside a model of development that directly conflicts with the achievement of our climate goals. This amendment would demonstrate that, instead, we want to put our faith in the United Nations SDGs, which have detailed targets and indicators. They provide a meaningful blueprint for a joined-up approach to environmental and equality issues, and one which charts a path towards a form of development in the next ten years which has the potential to save our floundering and burning planet. This may give us the chance for sustainability in the sense of existential survival. Therefore, I am all for the UN SDGs going into the Bill. The Government should be as well. If this amendment is not accepted today, I will reintroduce it on Report Stage.
Amendment No. 28 refers to the Aarhus Convention. This convention is law already, but we must have a reminder of it when we are having regard to policies on climate. Let us be very clear that an erosion is under way regarding access to environmental decision-making and participation. Ireland is going to face judgment by the Aarhus committee in the autumn. I do not think we are on track to do well. I have seen a number of points of erosion in this regard in the year since this Government came into office, from forestry appeals right through to the removal of the checks and balances between housing, planning and heritage which used to exist for Natura 2000 sites. This is vitally important because of the constant sword-waving about judicial reviews. An Bord Pleanála is losing 98% of cases because it is making terrible decisions that have not been thought out.
It is in that context that I mention the Aarhus Convention. I am conscious that it is already legislated for and we should not have to put it into this Bill. It should not need to be mentioned in the Bill. It is absolutely vital that the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications and the entire Government are cognisant of the Aarhus Convention in the approach they take to the various functions, measures, plans, strategies and sectoral approaches set out in this Bill. This again comes back to the SDGs and a joined-up approach being very important. We cannot, for example, decide not to consider environmental factors on the basis that we are rushing a policy on energy.
Amendment No. 29 relates to the point I made on the life-cycle effect and ensuring we at least consider consumption as well as production emissions. Consumption emissions may not be factored in as part of our 51% target, but we must be thinking about them because, ultimately, we are sharing one planet. Emissions from what is produced in one place and consumed in another enter the same atmosphere. For that reason, I urge that in our approach we try to find a way to at least think about a fuller picture of emissions.
I thank the Minister of State for attending. I will speak on amendment No. 60 concerning emissions and companies. I have spoken about this topic several times in this Chamber and I have also had some engagement with Departments on it. I would love to see it progressing as part of this legislation.
Last Friday, I referred to an article in The Guardian which highlighted that 100 companies produce more than 70% of global emissions. It is worth bearing that statistic in mind when considering this amendment. When we talk about common but differentiated responsibilities to combat climate change, it is clear that we must invite these companies into the conversation if we want to have a real, long-term just transition. We do not want to vilify these companies that employ our citizens and give them jobs and livelihoods, but to work with them. We want to set up frameworks whereby these companies can work with the communities in which they and their employees are based, and empower them to contribute to Ireland’s move to a cleaner and more environmentally-conscious future. The amendment calls for companies to make their emissions public. It is hoped that making those figures public, as well as the plans of such companies to reduce their emissions year on year, will give a clear indication that everyone in Ireland is driving towards the same goal.
Taking such an approach is an opportunity for multinational companies, which can sometimes feel faceless, to integrate into their local communities and become more transparent. In doing so, they can also pay heed to the ideals of a just transition, whereby we drive towards a common goal of reducing our emissions by at least 51% while taking a differentiated approach based on the respective capabilities of individuals and companies. This opportunity to become more transparent and, as a result, to be truly integrated into an Ireland that drives towards reducing our admissions, will require these companies to commit to working with us and to adopting reporting mechanisms that are public and accessible. When I say accessible, I mean standardised reporting frameworks, written in plain English, that can be easily read by any member of the public. Taking such an approach encourages transparency and acts as a starting point for a grassroots and community-led just transition.
Inviting these companies in will mean we can work as one to agree an accountability framework that will allow us to hold each other to account in the same manner as we do individuals. However, if we fail to do this, then we will surely risk the failure of any good work done through this legislation. Such failure may not occur today or this year, but in the future. That is certainly not a risk that I believe any of us are in a position to take. In all the conversations I have had in recent months regarding companies being transparent concerning their emissions and having a public register in that regard, there has always been a great deal of fear mentioned first regarding the burdens which may be placed on companies. It is now to weigh the burden of such administration against the burden being placed on the climate. We must decide which is the greater risk and the heaviest burden.
Many positive conversations can be had regarding what that framework may look like. We cannot have a conversation which entails small SMEs leading out on this type of policy or people who do not have the required access to build what such a framework would look like. However, some of the world’s biggest companies are in Ireland. If they led the way in creating this framework, other companies could follow and feed into it. I ask the Minister of State to accept this amendment, which goes back to our conversations last week about how we share the burden equally. We can only truly show that big companies are sharing this burden if they are willing to participate publicly in our endeavours by being transparent about their emissions and how they plan to reduce them. Most companies like competition.
It may be slightly different, perhaps, but I remember facilitating conversations in Trinity College Dublin, TCD, on fossil fuels. The big institutions enjoyed leading by example and being the first institution to do something. If we include in the Bill a requirement for companies to be transparent on emissions and big companies then take the lead in this regard, it will be much easier for the rest to follow. This is an important part of the wider conversation on this legislation. I look forward to the Minister of State's response.
I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Ossian Smyth, as I should have done earlier. He is my local Green Party Deputy and I also served with him as a councillor for some years on Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council. I wish him well in his work in government.
Amendment No. 58 relates to the Aarhus Convention, which I have heard the Minister of State comment on many times. I took the time to look at the Green Party's website the other night and I compliment him on his party's excellent website. A lot of historical material has been left on it, which is clever and good. I cannot say that about some parties. References to the Aarhus Convention are peppered throughout the website, which mentions engagement and the importance of the convention. I have had dealings with the Aarhus Convention, albeit more with the built environment and built heritage than with this aspect of the environment. It is a very important convention.
I hope the Minister of State will accept this amendment. I do not know what briefing notes he has and I cannot anticipate what he might say but I would make a strong case that he should accept it. He stands for this, the Green Party stands for it and its members stand for it. The Green Party has been a strong advocate, to be fair to it, for the principles and substantial issues around the Aarhus Convention and the right of engagement. Only today in The Irish Times there was a piece, to which Senator Higgins alluded, about engagement, strategic development and all the issues around that. One thing we have to stand up for and protect is the right of our citizens to engage. It is not about closing people down. It is about including people. When people talk about objectors to developments or activities, it is not about closing them down. They must be listened to. They are citizens and we live in a democracy. The Minister of State was given a strong mandate on green and environmental issues and he has a strong record on that, in fairness to him. The people who voted green did so because they were committed to the party's ideals and principles. The Green Party's commitment to the Aarhus Convention is strong. Now it is about walking the walk. It is about being here in the centre of power, in which the party sought to be, and making those decisions. I ask the Government to seriously consider including this very simple and excellent amendment in the names of Senators Higgins, Ruane, Black and Flynn. It makes sense. Amendment No. 58 should be included in the Bill.
I welcome the Minister of State. I will also speak in support of amendment No. 58, from Senators Higgins, Ruane, Black and Flynn, on the importance of the Aarhus Convention. It is well known that in Ireland we are very poor at engaging with the public in consultation and having access to information. I hope we can get to my amendment No. 112 on banning the importation of fracked gas. An example of the application of the Aarhus Convention is the fact that the Attorney General says we cannot ban the importation of fracked gas because of EU rules, whereas I have received legal opinion from the European Parliament research services and NUIG stating that is not the case. I believe the energy charter treaty is the reason we do not have a ban on the importation of fracked gas because it has an investor-state dispute settlement, ISDS, mechanism attached to it. We could ban the importation of fracked gas but we would face paying compensation of millions of euro. We can talk in more detail about that when we get to amendment No. 112 but I have been trying to get to the bottom of this issue. We cannot get the Attorney General's advice but, equally, when I put in a freedom of information request asking if there was any correspondence between Fortress Energy and the Department, I got a report back saying there was correspondence but that I would not get it because it had been redacted. I now have to appeal that decision. That is just an example of how poor we are at allowing people access to information on the environment.
When we talk about these amendments and the things we can add in, we forget about all the things that are already in the Bill. As the Minister of State noted, and the Minister referred to this on Friday as well, the actions of the Government and the Minister must be consistent with the UNFCCC and Articles 2 and 4.1 of the Paris Agreement. Let us not forget the number of commitments in those agreements, which include a number of the matters mentioned in some of these amendments.
The Bill is peppered with references to public participation, although it may not mention the Aarhus Convention. The Joint Committee on Climate Action discussed at length whether it was legally appropriate to include a specific reference to the Aarhus Convention in the Bill. We must not forget that Ireland has signed up to that convention and it has been ratified so we have that obligation in any event. I pushed for recommendation 57 of the committee's pre-legislative scrutiny report, which provided that the Minister would determine whether the entire Bill had been checked for compliance with the Aarhus Convention. It is not enough to put that in one place; the entire Bill has to be consistent with and comply with the convention. The Minister of State may let us know if that is the case. Including references to various measures that we have already signed up to is not always the best legal practice. We went into government to have the strongest possible legislation, not legislation that mentions so many things that are all put into the pot as if they were equal.
Fundamentally, people came before the committee to talk about just transition and I noted in my questioning that not one of those people mentioned intergenerational justice. We could be putting more and more things into this Bill that do not actually mention that. Yes, we have to care about the jobs of the people currently living in our country and move them into other jobs that will also pay them but let us not put that ahead of future generations. We are in a desperate condition globally as regards climate. The Bill refers to a just transition. Section 6 refers to:
the requirement for a just transition to a climate neutral economy which endeavours, in so far as is practicable, to—
(i) maximise employment opportunities, and
(ii) support persons and communities that may be negatively affected by the transition;
All of this is in the Bill. These provisions may not be exactly as everyone wants them to be but let us not forget that they are there. Senator Boylan was not here all day on Friday when a number of her amendments were taken but there were many amendments with different definitions of just transition. While we cannot put everything into the Bill, that does not mean we are not taking these actions.
I take the point about the sustainable development goals, which we discussed at length at the committee. I would love to see sustainable development goals in all legislation, not just climate legislation, because they impact on everything. In some ways it is more important to have sustainable development goals in legislation that is not directly related to climate, in order that it be taken into consideration. The SDGs are referenced in the UNFCCC. I get a little frustrated with people who want to put more and more into the Bill when we have been at this for a year. We had months of pre-legislative scrutiny and we all did our best to get as much in as possible but, legally speaking, throwing everything into the pot does not bring us the ultimate outcome we want, which is to move to a 51% reduction by 2030 and to enhance the council giving the scientific advice on all these matters to the Government. Every party, including Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Sinn Féin, the Green Party and the Labour Party, said it wanted just transition, because nobody wants his or her constituents to go without when it comes to a transition. I have no fear that this Bill will not do what we need it to do but we need to move on and get it done.
I would like to point out to all Members that any Member might have a genuine reason for not being in the House. I know the Senator did not mean it that way-----
Absolutely, but we are moving on to other issues that are not in the amendments.
I understand. That was just a clarification for the House.
I was not going to contribute on these amendments but I wish to speak on the amendment related to the Aarhus Convention.
It could be argued that even though we have signed up to the Aarhus Convention, it does not need to be included in this Bill. Colm Keena wrote an interesting article in The Irish Times about access to judicial reviews and how the Government is looking at limiting access to judicial review through the courts, particularly in the area of environmental planning and legislation. This is an important amendment. I have questions about how the Government has moved to the strategic housing development, SHD, process and whether it fulfils Ireland's obligations under the Aarhus Convention. There is certainly a strong case under the convention if the Government moves to limit both the right of people to have participation in environmental and planning decisions under the process and access to the courts. That is a significant move the Government has been floating in recent months. This is an important amendment because it will put specific reference to the Aarhus Convention into the legislation. The Government is already slicing and dicing its obligations under the convention, which is a dangerous road to be going down. While people might say we have signed up to convention, there is a strong case to be made for making this amendment.
I do not like anyone implying that because someone is not in this House, he or she is less committed to legislation. That should not be allowed and should be corrected.
On a point of order-----
Senator Boyhan did that last Friday, with reference to Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil Senators.
That was last Friday.
The Senator did that last week.
Does that justify Senator McGahon doing it?
The Senator cannot speak out of both sides of his mouth. He did exactly the same thing last week.
This is in reference to somebody talking about amendments that were not included in the group being discussed. We are talking specifically about these amendments.
On a point of order------
Is it a point of order? I will allow the Senator to speak before I conclude whether it is or is not a point of order.
I presume it is my absence from the House last Friday that is being discussed and that it somehow shows I am not committed to the climate Bill.
I have clarified that point. It has nothing to do with that. The issue is that we cannot go forward while talking about other amendments. We are talking about specific amendments.
I will speak to the amendment.
We are dealing with amendments Nos. 57 to 60, inclusive, and that is all we are dealing with now.
On amendment No. 59, the example I gave is a perfect example of why we need to include reference to the Aarhus Convention in the Bill. We are not compliant with the convention because we are not allowing people access to information on the environment. It was an example to outline that need and what I said in my contribution was completely relevant.
Would anybody else like to speak to amendments Nos. 57 to 60 before I bring the Minister of State back in?
I would like to speak on amendment No. 58, which refers to the Aarhus Convention. Senator Moynihan touched on the article written by Colm Keena in The Irish Times. Its reference to engagement over access to environmental information was an awakening for all of us. This is a simple amendment but it is perhaps one of the most important. I do not like the idea that anyone should attempt to trivialise the Aarhus Convention. It is a comprehensive convention and covers many areas. It refers to access for environmental information and the importance of many aspects of what we are dealing with in this Bill. This is an important amendment and I thank Senators Higgins, Ruane, Black and Flynn for tabling it. While it is a short amendment, people might ask why we should put it in but why should we exclude it? Why not include it? It is important that the convention is included in the legislation. It is important for the Minister of State's party, for his and its credentials and for its stated support for the Aarhus Convention. I see no reason it cannot be included.
I remind Senators that we are discussing amendments Nos. 57 to 60, inclusive. There are 142 amendments in total, we will be having discussions on various sections and the debate is due to conclude at 7.30 p.m. We should move as speedily as we can in order that we can debate as many amendments as possible.
I thank Senators for their contributions. These amendments are grouped because they all seek to add to the list of concepts to which the Minister and the Government must have regard when they are making national, long-term climate action strategy, sector emissions ceilings, preparing climate plans and so on. There are 18 concepts listed. That list was the result of recommendations from the pre-legislative scrutiny report and a hierarchy was formed with the other concepts listed in section 4(8). These four amendments seek to add more items to that list.
The first amendment proposes to include the SDGs. I will not speak at length on this issue because I covered it in a previous contribution. The issue will be brought up again on Report Stage. In short, although the SDGs are not binding, the Paris Agreement is binding and it is referenced in the Bill.
As Senator Boyhan said, I have taken an interest in the Aarhus Convention and have used it successfully in the past. It can do things that are not possible under, for example, freedom of information legislation. It is not just about obtaining information, it is also about including people in public consultation and in public decision-making. This Bill goes further than just relying on the Aarhus Convention for that public consultation because it provides a statutory basis for various forms of public consultation so that people have more of a sense that they have contributed and that the formation of carbon plans and strategies is done in a more democratic fashion. Ireland is a full signatory to the Aarhus Convention. I take Senator Higgins's points that there will be a report later this year about its implementation. That report may show some deficiencies, although I do not know what they are going to be. I do not think this Bill is the place to correct those deficiencies. The Aarhus Convention is in operation in Ireland and I have used it in the past. I am not sure how including reference to the convention in this section and adding it as a 19th concept for the Minister and the Government to have regard to will help.
Amendment No. 59 is interesting because the idea is to look at the consumption of emissions rather than just their production. One can imagine a country that produces no emissions at all but imports them from a country on the other side of the world which is burning things. It is a form of outsourcing emissions and that is the area at which this amendment looks. When one is trying to control emissions or attempts are being made internationally to control them, going back to the Kyoto Agreement, the first thing to do is to say that if one wants to manage emissions, they must first be measured through a common method and agreed metrics on what emissions are. To do that, everybody sits down and asks how they should be measured. Nobody wants to double count emissions, so the question arises as to whether emissions should be measured in the place where the emissions are consumed or produced. A decision was made to measure emissions on the basis of production rather than consumption. That metric was used not just in the Kyoto Protocol but also in the Paris Agreement. Under the production-based approach, emissions are attributed to the country in which they are produced rather than consumed. That must be examined at some point. There are different ways to consider the issue. Would it be better to measure emissions by consumption rather than production? If you do both, you end up double counting.
I have done a great deal of project management over the years. One of the best ways to kill a project is to keep adding things to do it, pushing its scope and thinking of more things to include until the project is no longer viable and never happens. I would put this amendment into that frame. If we are going to measure production and consumption, we are probably going to do nothing.
The Economic and Social Research Institute, ESRI, has produced research on consumption-based emissions. The Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, funded that. The results of the research will be coming out and I am looking forward to them. The project will estimate consumption-based emissions for Ireland, focusing on where the emissions are being emitted across the globe and in which products they are concentrated. An additional project will use those estimates to examine the impacts of reducing emissions through reduced consumption of high-emission goods by applying a green VAT.
The outcome of the research and the recommendations based on it are expected later this year and will be examined by the Department, when available, separately. We come back to concepts like carbon leakage or a carbon border tax. Those are issues that will have to be looked at in the future.
Amendment No. 60, on which Senator Ruane spoke, proposes that "the amount of emissions produced by registered companies within the State and accountability mechanisms in respect of such emissions" should be taken into account. My fundamental problem with this is that it imposes a requirement on the Government or the Minister to take into account the emissions of these companies, rather than imposing a requirement on the companies to report their emissions, which would be a better way of managing the matter. Most emissions are from the private sector and the whole purpose of the Bill is to cut emissions wherever they are from, be it the public sector or the private sector, over a decade. We have to cut private sector emissions. All of these companies have to cut their emissions or we will not reach our goal. They have to be a part of it but this is not the way to do it. What is required is that emissions, whether they are produced privately or publicly, are cut, and that they are done through the climate action plan, regulation, taxation and public policy. That is the way they will be cut.
Those are my answers in respect of the four amendments, none of which I am proposing to accept.
I move amendment No. 58:
In page 11, between lines 39 and 40, to insert the following:
“(s) the Aarhus Convention.”.
I move amendment No. 59:
In page 11, between lines 39 and 40, to insert the following:
“(s) emissions of greenhouse gases into the Earth’s atmosphere attributable to the consumption of products or utilisation of services in the State.”.
I move amendment No. 60:
In page 11, between lines 39 and 40, to insert the following:
“(s) the amount of emissions produced by registered companies within the State and accountability mechanisms in respect of such emissions.”.
Amendments Nos. 61, 64, 85, 90 and 108 are related and may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.
I move amendment No. 61:
In page 12, line 10, after “Government” to insert “and the Government of Ireland”.
In a recent High Court case, the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications successfully argued that the Government is not bound by section 15 of the 2015 Act we are amending with this legislation. The argument the Department successfully made was that because section 15 only referred to a Minister of the Government but did not refer directly to the Government as a whole, according to Mr. Justice Garrett Simons, there was "no statutory obligation on the Government" to take account of the national climate plan or national carbon reduction objectives. We have had this Government and this Department arguing that certain language in the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015 functions as a loophole, meaning that the Government cannot be held to account. That language is still in the Bill. One of the key points of disagreement I had with the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, in terms of numerous recommendations from the Joint Committee on Environment and Climate Action related to accountability and the importance of same. The Government and the Department have successfully used a loophole recently. Why on earth would that not be addressed or fixed in this Bill?
I will not talk about each of my amendments in each of their locations. I want to signal that I probably will not press them for reasons of time. Instead, I will support the amendment tabled by Senators Bacik and Moynihan, which does something similar and which seeks to ensure that at every point that this issue of the non-inclusion of a reference to the Government featured, it would be perceived that where a Minister of the Government is referenced, then the Government would be assumed to be referenced. That amendment does this in quite a clean way. It would be a single amendment vote and therefore, a bit easier.
One exception I will make is to amendment No. 108. The ruling I mentioned earlier was delivered in the process of a series of legal challenges to the Shannon liquefied natural gas, LNG, project, which Friends of the Irish Environment had taken. That points to the importance of clarity and transparency. We cannot argue that the issue of LNG is not relevant to this Bill when we look to the fact that the previous legislation was central in a case on the LNG project. In a reversal, in the court the Department argued that because the Government is not listed as a relevant body under section 15, it is not bound by the provisions of the relevant body. However, in the Chamber the argument has been that the Government cannot be listed as a body and therefore it cannot be listed as a relevant body and that is why the Government cannot get it inserted into the list of relevant bodies in section 15. It is a circular argument whereby, on one hand, we are being told we cannot go into that section and, on the other, the Government is stating that it cannot be held accountable because it is not in that section.
I am seeking to add direct reference to the Government throughout the Bill. In amendment No. 108, I explicitly do not seek to include the Government in the list of relevant bodies but I say that a relevant body or "the Government of Ireland" must abide by the various different provisions. That addresses the concern that it cannot be said that the Government is a relevant body because the Government is not being put into that subcategory. However, the amendment would insert reference to the Government of Ireland into section 15 and would thereby appropriately ensure that the kind of loophole which was used in the High Court case to which I refer would not be used again.
Amendment No. 108 satisfies both versions of the concern and the argument and addresses them both in a clear way. Why would we not address a loophole if a legally sound way to address it is presented? The amendment represents a legally sound way to address that loophole.
We tabled amendment No. 65, which seeks to address this specific-----
We are not discussing amendment No. 65. We are discussing Nos. 61, 64, 85, 90 and 108.
I will wait until we get to No. 65.
We will deal with No. 65 later.
I thank Senator Higgins for tabling these amendments. What the amendments are trying to achieve is to avoid the pitfall or difficulty to which the 2015 Act gave rise in the context of how it was interpreted court. The Senator believes that the same language is used in this Bill and that it will be affected by the same problems as a result.
I was listening to the Senator's argument but I am not sure how changing "Government" to "Government of Ireland" will fix anything or make anything materially different. It is obvious which Government we are talking about in Irish legislation.
For clarification, it comes after "Minister of Government" or "Government of Ireland". It is not changing "Government" to "Government of Ireland". Rather, it is adding "Government of Ireland" after "a Minister of the Government".
I thought we were changing "Government". It is "Minister of Government" and "Government of Ireland".
To address the fear that the Bill will have the same wording problem that arose in court with the 2015 legislation, it is worth saying that the new 2021 legislation is very different and has substantially different requirements and obligations that are much more onerous on the Minister and Government.
Section 3(3), as substituted in the Bill, states that the Minister and Government are now bound to carry out their respective functions under a list of matters which have to be consistent with the climate objectives specified in the 1992 convention and the Paris Agreement. These are very specific obligations which were not in the 2015 Act. I do not believe this amendment is necessary to correct a perceived loophole in the 2015 legislation.
On the Senator's point on the body and Government of Ireland, section 16 amends section 15 of the principal Act with the substitution of "A relevant body shall, in so far as practicable, perform its functions in a manner consistent with". The Senator wants to change this to "A relevant body and the Government of Ireland". Her feeling is that the Government is not a body. It can not go into a schedule of bodies and, therefore, it needs to be included in the Bill. She referred to the 2015 Act where the view of the judge was that the Government is not responsible because it is not included in that clause.
However, I return to the fact that the Bill provides specific obligations on the Government which were not enumerated in the 2015 Act. The 2021 Bill specifically lists things that the Government and Minister must do. These are enumerated in section 3(3) and are very clear and unambiguous, and have been designed in that way. The wording and amendments were discussed with the Office of the Attorney General to determine the best way to make sure the Bill is watertight. To my satisfaction, this is the best way to word it and for that reason, I will not accept the amendments.
Section 3(3) states that the Minister and Government shall carry out their respective functions in a manner that is consistent with the UNFCCC, mitigation or adaptation commitments entered into under the European Union and Articles 2 and 4.1 of the Paris Agreement. It does not state that the Government is required to do what was at issue in the High Court case.
Section 15 states that a relevant body shall have regard to the most recently approved adaptation mitigation plan and so on. It does not speak to those specific plans. It simply states that the Government has to be consistent in its functions. It is not clear which functions are involved. The Government may well be consistent in terms of its functions, but it may not be regarded in its functions as having to be relevant and consistent with other factors, specifically the sectoral adaptation plans, the national adaptation framework, the national mitigation plan and so forth.
This is not completely new legislation. It is, ultimately, amending the 2015 legislation. It is still in place. This is not a tabula rasa. There may be a concern about section 15. The judge did not spontaneously come up with these issues. They came up because those arguments were put forward.
In order to give confidence to everybody, including the public, that there is no intention to have some future argument it would be advisable to consider these points. If there is no legal reason not to refer to the Government of Ireland in section 15, as I propose in amendment No. 108, why not do so? The great legal concept is "for the avoidance of doubt". It would be very useful for the avoidance of doubt and it should be considered.
This is not just about section 3(3). It also involves section 4(8) and the 18 matters listed therein. It would be duplication and it is not necessary to include it because it is already covered.
I will withdraw the amendment because I would like to support the amendment moved by Senator Bacik. I may bring it back on Report Stage.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I move amendment No. 62:
In page 12, line 10, to delete “, in so far as practicable,”.
I will bring the amendment back on Report Stage.
Amendment Nos. 63 and 87 are related and may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.
I move amendment No. 63:
In page 12, line 11, to delete “his or her” and substitute “their”.
These are consequential amendments related to the other amendments. It would simply correct the grammar if the change was to be made.
What does Senator Higgins want to do?
I may reintroduce amendments Nos. 63 and 87. I will do so in combination with the other amendments.
We are dealing with amendment No. 63.
I want to speak briefly on section 6. Amendment No. 54 was ruled out of order. It related to milled peat and the sustainability of the Irish mushroom food sector which now faces a total wipeout unless something is done. I do not want to mix up the two issues in regard to this Bill, but we have talked about social, environmental, cultural and economic roles. It fits in with this. This issue was selected to be in section 6 and that is why I want to raise it. I accept the ruling from the Cathaoirleach that the basis of the amendment was ruled out of order because there was a potential charge on the Exchequer. That is grand with me.
I am not particularly happy that we are not having a detailed debate, but it would be remiss of me not to mention this issue, on behalf of the mushroom growers of Monaghan, Louth, Kildare and Wexford, who have raised it with me and believe there is a case for some peat to be used. When we talk about sustainability and carbon leakage, we cannot have a situation where shipments of peat imports are now arriving into this country via means that use heavy crude oil.
We know some sectors and quarters are being encouraged to go beyond the Baltic states where a lot of peat is available and there are different regulations and regimes by which peat can be brought into Ireland. That is not acceptable. It also involves carbon leakage. That is not the way to go. The alternatives being considered are Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Scotland, which are not viable.
I want to raise an issue. I consider it to be hypocrisy, in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, if we cannot, through this discussion, come up with some arrangement.
It is a balancing act. The Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, has said it is always a balancing act. We have to consider the environment, culture and economics. We have to consider the sustainability of our rural people, communities and livelihoods.
I am always amazed with one thing. I took the time to go into several supermarkets at the weekend to see the Bord Bia-approved label stamped on mushrooms. Bord Bia is an amazing organisation, which has amazing Government budgets given to it. No budget has been ring-fenced for Bord Bia but that is another day's work and perhaps the Government might wish to look at that at some point. Bord Bia has a mandate to promote the Irish horticultural food sector. It is a successful sector and it sustains households, families, agriculture and communities, and it is vital. These are the issues of concern I wish to raise and I am keen to flag them. We are going to see this sector wiped out within months unless we do address this point. It is important that this is raised here yet again for the third time today.
Does the Minister of State wish to comment?
I thanks Senator Boyhan for his contribution. I know that he is on the Agricultural Panel and takes a keen interest in the role of agriculture in all of this. As he pointed out, I represent him as a Deputy in the Dáil and he represents me, so we have that strange relationship.
It is a positive relationship.
It is like Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown on tour between the three of us. I am sorry for the rest for having to get involved.
I move amendment No. 64:
In page 12, line 28, after “Government” to insert “of Ireland”.
I move amendment No. 65:
In page 12, between lines 31 and 32, to insert the following:
“(c) in subsection (8), to delete “A Minister of the Government shall, in the performance of his or her” and substitute “The Government and a Minister of the Government shall, in the performance of his or her or its”.”.
I echo what Senator Higgins outlined and will set out our concerns and our rationale for putting in this amendment. It is on the back of the High Court finding that the Government was not a relevant body. There was a bizarre situation whereby a Minister was responsible and then magically ceased to be responsible when he or she crossed the threshold of the Cabinet room. I mean no disrespect to the Minister of State but he referred to the difficulty that arose in this regard in the High Court. It was not a difficulty. This was the argument used by the Department to defend itself in court. The Department pointed out to the judge that the Government was not a relevant body because it was not listed as a relevant body in the legislation. Reference was made to assurances that this will not be used again in future cases. I do not understand the resistance to amendment No. 65, which is to ensure that the Government and the Minister are both responsible.
We have discussed this already but I will go back into it again. I thank Senator Boylan for making her points. The role of Government throughout the climate Bill is central to the operation of the Bill. There are great changes between this Bill and the previous Bill. The overall target is set in the legislation and this is something of which the Government will need to have clear consideration. A statutory obligation is being created, one that is almost certainly justiciable. That is by design.
Even without any broad sweeping obligations, the Government remains the Executive power of the State and is therefore answerable to the courts. If the legislation is not fulfilling the targets set in the Bill, the Government is likely to be in court.
However, a scenario involving the Government ending up in court is not an efficient way to do business. I understand that we want to have justiciable legislation and to have the measure as a final resort. However, I wish to remind everyone that over the past decade, we had legally binding targets for emissions reductions that were simply ignored. They were not met. They were in theory legally binding. There were fines and in theory a person could force a country to meet those obligations. Ireland simply did not do it. My fear is that in the coming decade or in the period between 2020 and 2030, this would happen again. Simply having a mechanism that produces an option to bring the Government or a Minister to court and impose a fine on either party or force them by court order to do something will be ineffective, even though it is put forward as a solution. It did not work before. It does not work because the Governments in place during the past decade are gone now. They have been dissolved and the Ministers who were in office are no longer in those Ministries. Everyone has moved on. Who will a complainant take to court? Will it be the new person who has moved in or the new Government? It is not an effective way to achieve climate change. One way that is effective is when people have a change of mindset, when everyone commits and when there is a genuine public desire to change the economic, social, cultural and environmental norms that we have had for something new. That is what we need to do rather than bring the Government to court. Throughout the process there has been a great focus on bringing the Government or a Minister to court and having a judge order the Minister or Government to change their ways after the fact.
One of the big changes in the 2021 Bill is that it now imposes specific obligations on the Government in a way that was not the case before. This is distinct from the 2015 Act, which imposed obligations on a relevant body or Minister. Now, the Government has those obligations.
Section 5 of the 2021 Bill substitutes a new section 3 in the 2015 Act that imposes specific obligations on the State to reduce the extent of further global warming and to pursue and achieve, no later than the year 2050, the transition to a climate-resilient, biodiversity-rich and environmentally-suitable climate-neutral economy. It imposes a specific obligation on the State to pursue and achieve the national climate objective and, in that context, obliges the Minister to make and submit to the Government for approval a carbon budget, a sectoral emissions ceiling, a climate action plan, a national long-term plan of action and a national adaptation framework. It is by doing all these things, by involving the public, Deputies and Senators in both Houses, by involving every part of society in a process that is constantly monitored and updated, that has legal backing and that has buy-in from the public, that we achieve change. It is not by appearing in the High Court and getting a judge to get a sanction against a Minister who has retired.
Under section 3(3), as substituted, the Minister and the Government are now bound by an overarching obligation to carry out their respective functions under sections 4, 5, 6, 6B, 6C and 6D of the 2015 Act, as amended, in a manner consistent with the ultimate objective specified in the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and Paris Agreement.
I will not accept the amendment as it would create a potential inconsistency with the specific and unambiguous obligations imposed on the Government in the context of section 3 of the 2015 Act, as substituted. It would impose a level of micromanagement on the Government that would be unprecedented in its scope and would lead to the possibility of endless legal challenge to Government actions on climate change. The time should instead be spent carrying out climate actions rather than engaging in court battles. This would potentially endanger the achievement of the fundamental objective of the Bill.
I am moved to strongly disagree with the Minister of State. In fact, I believe the Minister of State has made the case for these changes to be necessary. We are talking about Ministers retiring as if we are chasing. I am reminded of when people are talking about mother and baby homes. They say the nuns are all gone and ask who we are chasing after. The point is not whether Ministers have come and gone and have retired or were in government. Many of the colleagues of the Minister of State were in government during the past decade and are in government again now. It is not a completely new slate. We have the same Ministers in many cases.
The fact is that these judicial cases have had an impact. They have had an impact on inadequate strategies in Ireland. Climate Case Ireland had a major impact. These cases have had a strong impact in the Netherlands. There is a reason why companies there are suddenly trying to move cheese manufacturing to Ireland. It is because they have been pulled up and are required to meet higher targets in the courts. Again, it comes back to the constant idea of needing to get the public with us and on board.
The public are ahead of the Government in many areas of this issue. It is citizens who have demanded more from their governments in many cases around the world. They have done it by saying they take seriously the words governments put down in law, they want governments to take those words seriously and they are demanding governments follow through on them. That is why we are talking about this. I want good legislation that delivers, Governments to deliver on that legislation and for us as parliamentarians to hold them to account. This amendment is a safety net. The Government will not want to be taken to court but this Bill has a limited liability clause. It reduces some of the areas of accountability that already exist and at the same time, the Government proposes to introduce investor courts. In respect of many of the companies listed in sections 20 and 21 that have prospecting, extraction or exploration licences, we are saying if they have an existing arrangement, they might get a new arrangement. Many of them have a track record of taking cases against governments to slow down climate action. There are clear records of obstructing climate action. When we seek to strengthen litigation and the power of litigation, and nobody loves courts in that context, we do so to ensure citizens have a chance of some form of an equality of arms against the very well resourced legal pressures applied by corporations, which want to milk and squeeze a last five or ten years of profits out of the world. That is what is happening and can be seen, for example, in the Gulf of Mexico. In terms of accountability, the 2050 target is justiciable but, unfortunately, the 2030 target is not. We will shortly come to discuss the way it has been worded. It is there for the advisory council to propose but it is not there in the same robust way . I hope we can make it robust and the Minister of State manages to deliver out to the 51% reduction target but we are moving that power out of the Bill where it belongs in proper law into an amorphous political negotiations base. Again, that is why we are talking about the courts. It is not a romanticised vision; it is because there is a reality whereby very strong actors are using legal and financial pressure to slow the actions we need. We want to make sure there is a counter-pressure coming on Government that will then empower the Government to do what it needs to do to get us towards our targets.
I will brief, as Senator Higgins has covered many of the points I was going to make. The Minister of State has made the case as to why this amendment is essential. Nobody would want to take the Government to court. We would rather the Government do what it signed up to do in legislation but, unfortunately, the reality is that citizens have had to hold Governments to account. The Minister of State would have supported the climate case and it had a very successful result. It proves that taking the Government to court is necessary in some cases and is an effective mechanism. It is becoming increasingly popular internationally to force governments' hands. The Minister of State has said we just need to bring people along with us, people are already there, they were marching on the streets for climate action. We cannot leave it simply with the Government saying "trust us, we will do this". We need to have it legally binding in the Bill to hold the Government to account and that will future-proof it for future Governments. I urge the Minister of State to reconsider the amendment. He has made the case as to why it is very important.
Does the Minister of State wish to add anything further?
Briefly, making sure the legislation is justiciable is an important tool. Taking legal action against a Government to try to force it to do things is a reasonable thing to do but it is insufficient. My fear is that in the past decade, having legal obligations and even fines was not enough to make change happen. We also need a focus on the actions, the monitoring and the yearly continuation and constant management of our climate budgets and targets. I am reminded of how John Gormley brought in climate budgets a decade ago and after the financial budget he would read out his carbon budget. When a new Government came into office, the Fine Gael and Labour Party Government, it simply dropped that right away because nobody really cared. It matters when the establishment's view or the general mindset is that there is no value to climate action. What is important is those actions are carried out and managed and monitored.
Amendment No. 66 has been ruled out of order as it poses a potential charge on the Exchequer. Amendment No. 67 has also been ruled out of order as it poses a potential charge on the Exchequer.
Amendment No. 68 has been ruled out of order as it poses a potential charge on the Exchequer.
I move amendment No. 69:
In page 14, line 5, after “Council” to insert “and approved by the Government”.
This amendment builds on the previous point I made. I will not rehash the points I made on foot of amendment No. 60. I will deal with them when we reach amendment No. 70, which addresses the question of who should be properly doing things and what the targets should be. Amendment No. 69 deals simply with the question of who is accountable. Fundamentally, the programme for Government commitment to ensure we have a 7% reduction in emissions year on year is not delivered because we do not know that we will have that; we only know what will happen in 2030. Leaving aside the 51% reduction in emissions target by that year, it is only a requirement the advisory council would propose budgets that might aim for a 51% reduction by that year. There are multiple routes it might propose. It could propose increasing emissions and diving emissions at the end. Ultimately, it is only the council which is required to propose it but there is not a requirement on the Minister to accept it or the Government to approve it. That is a foolish move. The political battle has been won in getting this target into the programme for Government. The right thing to do with the political point that has been won is to put it into law. Instead we have it going out of it. I urge the Minister of State to consider accepting this amendment, which provides the 51% reduction is proposed by the advisory council and approved by the Government. Let us make sure there is no slip between cup and lip in what is proposed by the advisory council in that regard.
Amendment No. 70 deals with the question of the 51% target. If a 51% reduction target is proposed by the advisory council, surely it should also be approved by Government. That should not be matter that is up for negotiation, bargaining or persuasion. It should be set in stone
We are nearly half way through dealing with the amendments. As no other Members are offering, I call the Minister of State to reply to Senator Higgins.
I welcome Senator Higgins’s concern that the 51% reduction target could somehow be missed. The relevant subsection is (5). The Senator thinks there is a loophole in it and it is possible for a 51% reduction not to be made in the first two carbon budgets, which will cover the period up to December 2030. The subsection states "The first two carbon budgets proposed by the Advisory Council shall provide for a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions such that the total amount of annual greenhouse gas emissions in the year ending on 31 December 2030 is 51 per cent less than the annual greenhouse gas emissions reported for the year" and so on. That is crystal clear. There is not wording such as "consider" or "have regard to". The subsections states "the Advisory Council shall".
If it did not do it, it would be illegal. It is followed by sections 6A(6), which indicates:
Not less than 12 months prior to the expiry of the first carbon budget in a carbon budget programme, the Advisory Council shall prepare and submit to the Minister—
(a) a proposed carbon budget in respect of the budget period following the third budget period in the carbon budget programme, and
(b) proposed amendments, if any, to the provisional carbon budget.
I cannot see a way that the 51% target can be avoided. There are two carbon budgets leading to 2030 and they shall be proposed by the advisory council in such a way that they meet a 51% target before being approved by the Government, subject to any amendments. I cannot see any logical way to avoid meeting that level. Could the Senator describe a scenario where we would not meet the 51% figure, or the carbon budget would see the figure of 41% or 31% that could be approved and somehow be consistent with the law? I cannot see it.
The piece that is crystal clear is the proposing by the advisory council but the approval is subject to amendment by the Minister or the Government, which is the problem. It is why I have proposed and there should be clear interim targets in the Bill that stand alone. The political commitment should be there and as an agreed point it should be in the law. Instead, as part of the muddying of the waters, there is the process involving the advisory council. It is meant to be an independent body and I hope the advisory council is free to propose more ambitious targets, as referred to in my amendment No. 70. The 51% target might be politically achievable and negotiated but the advisory council is meant to be driven by science and other factors that could be considered.
There should be an independent advisory council and a very specific target. My amendment No. 70 deals with this specific target of 51% rather than "at least" 51%. We are not even leaving it the scope to propose a more ambitious target. That goes to the Minister, who may amend it, and then it goes to the Government, which might amend it. I hope they do not amend it and it would be politically toxic for Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to try to amend, reduce or dilute the target. I want to be clear on that. Nevertheless, we would be bouncing something back to the Cabinet when we should be nailing it in law. That is the problem.
To clarify, is it section 6D, dealing with the revision of carbon budgets, that the Senator is concerned with, or is it more about the amendment of the budgets?
It is around the fact that there is a provision for what the proposed carbon budget would be but after that proposal there is a long process that must be gone through. I would prefer if the 51% target were attached to the output point, which is the approval by the Government, as well as the initiation point, which is the proposal by the advisory council.
Amendment No. 70 was previously grouped but it has been taken out of that group.
I move amendment No. 70:
In page 14, line 8, after "is" to insert "at least".
This again points to the fact that the specific target shall be 51% in the specific year. As it stands, the Bill does not set any trajectory or guarantee a reduction of emissions all along. It could be argued that this is required but it may allow emissions to rise as we go along. What was so clear from all the witnesses before the climate committee was the need for a flight path. I had an amendment ruled out of order that would ensure an average of 7%. It takes in what is a principle akin to compound interest, with a 7% reduction and then another 7% on that reduced amount. The idea of a 7% reduction was in the programme for Government. It is slightly less than what is required, which is approximately 7.6%, according to international figures. It was going in the right direction.
The concern now is the Bill just sets out what is happening in 2030. It does not set out a trajectory or guarantee with regard to what happens in the meantime. That concern was raised by Professor John Sweeney, Dr. Andrew Jackson and others. They all raised the point clearly and I know they wrote to the Government about it. This part of the Bill is poorly worded and a mistake.
There is a small element that is really important to me. In the climate committee we asked that there would be a minimum interim target for 2030. There should be a 51% target but this should be set as the floor because we must reach it, rather than setting it as a ceiling, which means we cannot do better than 51%. Perhaps we could do better but the advisory council might not be able to aim higher than 51%. That is why I want to include the words "at least". It would give the advisory council the scope to propose something more ambitious. It may well be that the Government agrees with the 51% figure because it is what is politically achievable for it, but the advisory council is free in an independent way to propose something more ambitious in respect of that second budget, for example.
I am sure Senator Higgins knows it is possible to go beyond 51% and the Bill provides two reasons for that.
I am speaking about the advisory council having greater ambition.
The Senator is arguing that the advisory council should be allowed to go to 60% or 55% if it wants to choose an ambition that is higher than 51%.
Yes. The Government would decide whether to accept that.
There are two grounds for revising the target. One is where there is new scientific advice demonstrating more is needed and the other is where a new international agreement is entered into with a higher level of ambition. It is not foreseen that the climate change advisory council would take a policy role where it would set a higher level of ambition than is set by the 51% figure.
The 51% figure is incredibly ambitious and it will be extremely hard to meet it. We saw reductions in emissions, even during a year of lockdown, did not meet our expectations. That was even when nobody was driving anywhere, commuting to work or flying. We did not have the reduction in emissions we hoped for. Lockdown is hard but we are now looking at ten years of consistently huge reductions in emissions in Ireland for us to make up for the fact we did not do anything in previous decades. It will be so much harder to reach that target.
Sometimes people might look at the figure and see it as similar to the European target but it will be incredibly difficult to get there. If we can cut our emissions in half in a decade, it would be an incredible achievement. There are two mechanisms for increasing the target but I am not proposing to empower the Climate Change Advisory Council to order society to go beyond what is already a very challenging and ambitious target.
Amendments Nos. 70 and 71 are different approaches. I will withdraw amendment No. 70 but press amendment No. 71.
I move amendment No. 71:
In page 14, line 8, after "is" to insert "a minimum of".
I move amendment No. 72:
In page 14, line 34, after “1992” to insert the following:
", including the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities in respect of that objective,".
I move amendment No. 73:
In page 14, to delete lines 40 and 41 and substitute the following:
“(II) relevant scientific advice, including advice from the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change,”.
It is the same point about relevant scientific advice and the IPCC. I do not need to go over it again.
I move amendment No. 74:
In page 15, line 7, to delete “have regard to” and substitute “be consistent with”.
It relates to being consistent with the functions of climate justice which we discussed. We have had lengthy debate on that and I will bringing back new amendments on Report Stage.
I move amendment No. 75:
In page 15, line 7, after “justice” to insert “, including the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities,”.
I move amendment No. 76:
In page 15, between lines 8 and 9, to insert the following:
“Modification of the 2030 target
6AA.(1) The Minister may by regulations modify the percentage figures applying for the purposes of the 2030 target, so as to substitute a higher figure for the one for the time being mentioned in section 9(5).”.
This amendment is intended to introduce something of a ratchet mechanism. I believe it is imperfectly worded so I am going to withdraw it and bring back a different version of a ratchet mechanism. This is really around the principle of a progressive ambition. In that context I will withdraw it and bring back another one to address the issue on Report Stage.
The next amendment is in the name of Senator Boyhan. Before he begins I must point out I that I will have to suspend the House in two and a half minutes' time because there was agreement earlier we would suspend after two and a half hours for a sanitisation break. He may speak to his amendment now because I cannot suspend until two and a half minutes have elapsed. I just wanted the Senator to know in order to be fair to him.
I move amendment No. 77:
In page 15, line 20, to delete “may” and substitute “shall”.
I thank the Acting Chairperson. I will make a start and keep the show on the road. This amends section 9 on page 15, line 20. It would delete "may" and substitute "shall". The amendment would be made to section 9 on carbon budgets and compels Dáil Éireann to refer a carbon budget proposed by the Climate Change Advisory Council, finalised by the Minister and approved by the Government to a joint committee which shall consider the carbon budget and provide a report in writing containing its recommendations to both Houses of the Oireachtas within two months from the date on which it is presented to Dáil Éireann. Without this amendment, I argue this referral is at the discretion of the Lower House only. We have discussed this in great detail in both Houses and there has been very valid engagement with the Minister of State, the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, and the Department on these matters. I therefore think it appropriate and right that the matter should come back to both Houses of the Oireachtas, in other words, Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann. I hope the Minister of State will support the amendment. It makes reasonable sense and is fair. It recognises the significance and importance of both Houses and also the significance of the Members of both Houses who served on the climate action committee. I have commended the committee already but do so again. Much work was done and committee members had a lot of input into this. Many of these issues have been gone through and teased out by those who were present. It would be right and appropriate to acknowledge that and to deal with those issues in relation to both Houses.
We have 20 seconds until 7.05 p.m. I am not sure how much the Minister of State can do in that time.
Do I get more time afterward?
He can have as much as he likes then, subject to the 15 minutes which are all we have left at the other end.
I will summarise my basic point on this. It is unusual for primary legislation to direct-----
I am sorry, I must suspend the House.
I take it everyone was listening and I will not have to repeat myself for another 15 minutes, not that I did the first time. The Minister of State was beginning to set out his very considered and detailed response and rationale regarding the proposal and I look forward to hearing from him.
Senator Boyhan has proposed an amendment that suggests that it be a requirement for Dáil Éireann to refer a carbon budget to a joint committee to consider. My problem with that is that I do not feel it is appropriate for our legislation to legislate requirements on to one of the Houses of the Oireachtas. It is also a highly unusual thing to do. How the Oireachtas conducts its business is a matter for Standing Orders. For that reason, we drafted it as a suggestion. Even then, that is unusual. The Bill states that the Dáil "may" refer to a committee rather than "shall". For that reason, I do not think it would be appropriate to accept this amendment.
Without going into too much detail, one is either committed to something or one is not. I am not talking specifically about the Minister of State. Putting in "may" is a bit vague. It involves ticking a few boxes. I hear the Minister of State's response. He is not prepared to accept it. What is to be expected?
Is the Senator pressing the amendment?
I move amendment No. 78:
In page 15, line 31, to delete “and”.
This amendment is consequential on other amendments.
I move amendment No. 79:
In page 15, to delete line 33 and substitute the following:
(c) trade unions, community groups and non-governmental organisations as he or she considers appropriate.”.
This amendment relates to the same issue of trade unions. I will come back to that under just transition on Report Stage.
I move amendment No. 80:
In page 16, line 14, to delete “, if appropriate,”.
I will withdraw this amendment and reserve the right to submit it on Report Stage.
I move amendment No. 81:
In page 16, to delete lines 18 to 21.
I will withdraw this amendment and reserve the right to submit it on Report Stage.
Amendments Nos. 82 and 83 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.
I move amendment No. 82:
In page 16, lines 29 to 39, to delete all words from and including “Oireachtas” in line 29 down to and including line 39 and substitute the following:
(12) The carbon budget approved by the Oireachtas shall be binding as far as is practicable on the State and all Public Authorities within the State for the budget period to which it relates.”.
I will withdraw this amendment and reserve the right to submit it on Report Stage.
I move amendment No. 83:
In page 16, line 29, after “Oireachtas” to insert “for approval”.
I will withdraw this amendment and reserve the right to submit it on Report Stage.
I move amendment No. 84:
In page 16, line 37, to delete “A Minister of the Government shall” and substitute “The Government and a Minister of the Government shall”.
I will withdraw this amendment and reserve the right to submit it on Report Stage.
I move amendment No. 85:
In page 16, line 37, after “Government” to insert “and the Government of Ireland”.
I will withdraw this amendment and reserve the right to submit it on Report Stage.
I move amendment No. 86:
In page 16, line 37, to delete “, in so far as practicable,”.
I will withdraw this amendment and reserve the right to submit it on Report Stage.
I move amendment No. 87:
In page 16, line 38, to delete “his or her” and substitute “their”.
I will withdraw this amendment and reserve the right to submit it on Report Stage.
I move amendment No. 88:
In page 16, between lines 39 and 40, to insert the following:
“(13A) A Minister of the Government, shall not perform his or her functions in a manner acknowledged by that Minister or by the Minister to be inconsistent with a carbon budget that has effect under subsection (7) or (11) as the case may be.”.
I will withdraw this amendment and reserve the right to submit it on Report Stage.
Amendment No. 89 has been ruled out of order because it is a potential charge on the revenue.
I move amendment No. 90:
In page 17, line 39, after “Government” to insert “and the Government of Ireland”.
I will withdraw this amendment and reserve the right to submit it on Report Stage.
I move amendment No. 91:
In page 17, line 39, to delete “, in so far as practicable,”.
I will withdraw this amendment and reserve the right to submit it on Report Stage.
I move amendment No. 92:
In page 18, between lines 2 and 3, to insert the following:
“(9A) The Minister shall, when preparing a sectoral emissions ceiling, recommend to Government to decide that a Minister of the Government may comply with the carbon budget, and a sectoral emissions ceiling for which that Minister of the Government has responsibility, by the removal of greenhouse gas emissions.”.
This amendment has already been accepted by the Minister of State.
I move amendment No. 93:
In page 18, to delete lines 19 to 23.
This comes back to the point about the greatest possible ambition and progression. I do not believe we have room to carry carbon emissions forward. I propose a deletion of this section but I may come in with an alternative to this section on Report Stage rather than a straightforward deletion. In that context, I will withdraw this amendment and reserve the right to introduce a new version of that section on Report Stage.
Amendment No. 94 has been ruled out of order because it is a potential charge on the revenue.
I move amendment No. 95:
In page 18, between lines 40 and 41, to insert the following:
“(7A) The Advisory Council may issue a formal request to the Minister, asking him or her to exercise his or her powers to revise a carbon budget under this section, where the Council believe that a greater reduction in greenhouse gases has become necessary due to either of the factors specified in subsection (2).”.
This amendment concerns the advisory council. The concern is that the advisory council cannot trigger a revision of the carbon budget. However, I have other concerns about the advisory council, including its sub-committees and how the functions of carbon budgets might be transferred, so I will discuss that and come back to this more nuanced question of their powers on Report Stage.
Amendments Nos. 96 to 98, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.
I move amendment No. 96:
In page 19, between lines 12 and 13, to insert the following:
“(c) by the substitution of the following subsection for subsection (3):
“(3) (a) The chairperson and ordinary members (other than the ordinary members to who subsection (2) applies) of the Advisory Council shall be appointed by the President—
(i) on the advice of the Government, and
(ii) following the passing of a resolution of each House of the Oireachtas recommending the appointment.
(b) Where a vacancy arises, or is anticipated will arise, on the Advisory Council, the Government shall, for the purposes of identifying persons and making recommendations to the Government in respect of those persons for appointment as members of the Advisory Council, invite the Public Appointments Service to undertake a selection competition.
(c) The Public Appointments Service shall, subject to paragraph (d), appoint a selection panel.
(d) Of the members of the selection panel, one of them shall be nominated by the Director of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
(e) The Public Appointments Service shall appoint the members of the selection panel from amongst persons who, in the opinion of the Public Appointments Service, have relevant experience of, and expertise in relation to, matters outlined in section 9(4)(a) of the Principal Act.
(f) The Minister shall agree with the Public Appointments Service the selection criteria and process to be implemented in respect of the filling of any vacancy on the Advisory Council.
(g) A vacancy on the Advisory Council shall be advertised publicly and shall include details of the agreed selection criteria for the filling of the vacancy and the process to be implemented in respect of the filling of that vacancy.
(h) The Public Appointments Service may adopt such procedures as it thinks fit to carry out its functions under this section.
(i) A person shall not be recommended for appointment by the President under this section unless the person is, in the opinion of the Public Appointments Service and the Government agrees, suitably qualified for such appointment by reason of their possessing such relevant experience, training or expertise as is appropriate having regard in particular to the functions conferred on the Advisory Council by or under this Act.
(j) The Public Appointments Service shall provide the Government with particulars of experience, training and expertise of the person whom it recommends under this section.
(k) Where the Public Appointments Service makes a recommendation for the appointment of a person to the Advisory Council, the Government shall accept that recommendation.
(l) In exceptional circumstances, where the Government, for substantial and stated reasons, is unable to accept the recommendation by the Public Appointments Service of a particular person, it shall inform the Public Appointments Service of that fact and the reasons for it and shall request the Public Appointments Service to make another recommendation in respect of the vacancy and, the Public Appointments Service shall—
(i) consider the Government’s reasons, and
(ii) unless the Public Appointments Service disagrees with the reasons and wishes to make representations to the Government in that behalf, make another recommendation for appointment to the Advisory Council.
(m) In making recommendations for appointment of persons to the Advisory Council under this section, the Public Appointments Service, and the Government shall have regard to the need to ensure that the members of the Advisory Council broadly reflect the nature of Irish society and that such persons possess knowledge of, or experience in—
(i) matters outlined in subsection (4)(a) as amended, and
(ii) without prejudice to the generality of paragraph (a), matters connected with persons or classes of persons who are disadvantaged by reference to the following factors:
(II) civil status;
(III) family status;
(IV) sexual orientation;
(V) religious belief;
(VIII) race, including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin;
(IX) membership of the Traveller community;
(X) socio-economic disadvantage.
(n) The factors specified in clauses (II), (III), (IV), (V), (VII) and (IX) of subparagraph (m)(ii) have the same meanings they have in section 2 of the Employment Equality Act 1998.”.
This amendment seeks to improve how appointments are made to the Climate Change Advisory Council. The advisory council plays a very important role. We need a thorough vetting procedure.
The advisory council plays an important role. We need a thorough vetting procedure. The one proposed here is based on how appointments are made via the Human Rights and Equality Commission. One significant difference, though, is the addition of class and socioeconomic disadvantage as one of the factors to consider. I also note Senator Higgins's amendments regarding who is on the subcommittees.
Can the Acting Chairperson clarify which amendments are in this grouping?
Amendments Nos. 96 to 98, inclusive.
I am not sure if this is in my grouping but I want to point to the question in the section with regard to who is on the advisory council. The part I am concerned about is on the subcommittees of the advisory council. The subcommittees do not have to meet the same criteria in that members are not necessarily members of the advisory council. The committee can maintain other members. There may be only one member of the advisory council on a subcommittee. Functions, including the setting of carbon budgets, can be designated to that subcommittee.
The concern with that is that one may have interests, including some of those which have been discussed, such as other bodies. One of the bodies which needs to have a careful relationship, in this regard, is the Electricity Supply Board. I was hoping we would have time to discuss greater transparency in terms of the investment measures of the Electricity Supply Board. I am concerned that there may be major investors in the Electricity Supply Board, under its new enhanced powers, who may end up on a subcommittee, according to the Bill. I am not saying that would be the intent of the Government but the Bill, as drafted, and the 2015 legislation provide for that. That may be slightly more to do with the next amendment.
I am a little confused. I think amendment Nos. 101 to 103, inclusive, to which Senator Higgins was referring, are not grouped with amendments Nos. 96 to 98.
Okay, it is the composition and the functions.
Amendments Nos. 96 to 98 are grouped and amendment No. 101 is separate.
The membership of the Climate Change Advisory Council, CCAC, has changed greatly since the 2015 Act and there have already been appointments in that regard. Section 9 of the Act provides that the CCAC membership will have expertise in at least one of a number of areas of expertise relevant to the work of the CCAC. That list now includes climate science, transport, energy and agriculture policy, behavioural and communication services, biodiversity, ecosystems, climate adaptation, economics, finance, political sociology or ethics with regard to climate and so on. That is just to broaden that out from a committee which was very much focused on economics.
While social justice, policy and inclusion are not specifically referenced, it does not prevent the Minister from nominating individuals who have knowledge in those areas. Acknowledging the broad range of expertise and competences required on the CCAC membership, the Bill has been further amended to increase membership to a maximum of 13 members. That is to increase the capacity of the council to include as broad as possible a range of expertises and backgrounds, which is absolutely necessary to any functioning committee that can take all perspectives into account and come up with conclusions in touch with all of society.
Its key role is proposing carbon budgets. The CCAC must ensure consistency with our international obligations, including the Paris Agreement, which will be implemented to reflect equity in the context of sustainable development and efforts to reduce poverty. The CCAC must also have regard to climate justice and thus, the social opportunities, as well as potential impacts on society, will be ever present.
If you look at sections 11(2) of the 2015 Act, it provides the CCAC is open to establish subcommittees and the composition of such a subcommittee is not limited to just CCAC members. The CCAC may therefore appoint or seek external expertise in relevant matters, should it be required, and the CCAC may also produce expertise to assist it in preparing reports on specific matters. As applies to all committees, it has to be aware of any conflicts of interest when appointing people. That is standard practice.
I have to interrupt the Minister of State. We are guillotined to conclude at 7.35 p.m. Does the Minister of State want to finish his last sentence?
The committees do not have a vote and their work will be taken forward by the council.
The time permitted for this debate having expired, I am required to put the following question in accordance with the order of the Seanad of this day: "That amendment No. 96 is hereby negatived in Committee and amendment No. 142 is hereby agreed to in Committee; in respect of each of the sections undisposed of, or as appropriate, the section, as amended, is hereby agreed to in Committee; and the Title, as amended, is hereby agreed to in Committee."
The Bill, as amended, is accordingly reported to the House. When is it proposed to take the next Stage?
Is that agreed? Agreed.