Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Proposed Legislation

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 18 September 2012

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Ceisteanna (42, 44)

Michael Colreavy


42. Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for the Environment; Community and Local Government the progress that has been made on the road map to develop a Climate Change Bill; and the contact he has had with his counterparts in the Northern Assembly. [39073/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Catherine Murphy


44. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment; Community and Local Government if he will give a commitment on the introduction of climate change legislation before the end of December 2012; if he will outline the intended role he envisages for the sub Committee on the Environment, Community and Local Government in helping to draft the heads of the proposed legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39039/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (24 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 42 and 44 together.

The programme for the development of a national climate policy and legislation, which I announced last January, is progressing on schedule.

In terms of key milestones, the public consultation has been completed. It attracted a very strong response, with in excess of 600 submissions being received. Details of the consultation response are available on the Department’s website, together with summary information on the overall outcome.

On the policy analysis element of the programme, the secretariat to the National Economic and Social Council has submitted its interim report to me. As indicated in the programme, I will release the report shortly and will then invite views from the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht.

Looking ahead to the next stage of the programme, I will make the heads of a climate Bill available before the end of the year for consideration by both the Oireachtas committee and stakeholders.

As I stated previously, and clearly signalled, in the policy development programme, I foresee a central role for the joint committee in regard to the policy development process. I attach particular importance to input from the committee on the critical issue of coming to a clear national understanding on how to meet our binding EU and wider international emission reduction commitments as well as pursuing national objectives in a low carbon global economy. I look forward to receiving the committee's report on national climate policy development and appropriate legislation in June 2013.

As the climate policy development programme matures, I also look forward to sharing our experience and achievements with my counterparts in Northern Ireland in the context of ongoing bilateral engagement and exchanges on environment policy matters.

The response from the Minister was confusing because earlier this year he said the heads of the Bill would be published this year. The Taoiseach informed me in July that it would be 2013, which was the first time that date was mentioned. Perhaps the Minister will clarify the difference between himself and the Taoiseach on this matter.

As the Minister said, the consultation process is over. At what stage is progress given the fact the Taoiseach gave a different date from him? If the date is different, it deviates from the roadmap and the commitments the Minister gave to the committee and the Dáil. We will hold the EU Presidency from January and the Minister, like myself, is a good European.

I am delighted to hear it.

We do not want to be seen to be the odd man out here. The Minister will be president of the Environment Council and it will be embarrassing if we do not make substantial progress on this matter.

I welcome what the Minister said that he will liaise with Minister Attwood in the Northern Ireland Assembly on this matter. I would encourage him to do that and that, as far as possible, we have a joined up all-Ireland policy on climate change because climate change will not stop at the Border. We need good environmental policy North and South. Perhaps the Minister will clarify the issue of the difference between himself and the Taoiseach on this matter.

As usual, there is no difference between the Taoiseach and myself on this matter. He indicated, as have I, that the heads of the climate change Bill will be available for publication at the end of the year.

He said 2013. It is on the record.

The Deputy probably misunderstood him. The legislation will be enacted in 2013.

No, I heard him.

If the Deputy needs any clarification-----

A Cheann Comhairle-----

Speak through the Chair. Thank you.

If the Deputy needs any clarification, that is the clarification he needs. Last January, I set out what the roadmap would be and it is on schedule.

I took note of it.

Deputy, listen to the reply. We will let you in again if we have time.

All Ireland policy stop with various policies. It is a good one to have on climate change but not so good on household charges. The heads of the Bill are on track for publication through the committee at the end of the year. The legislation will be enacted in 2013. I do not think there is any reason to be embarrassed.

Will there be a linkage between the approach to climate change in the Bill and energy security because there is a distinct linkage between them? It is not about whether it will be enacted next year apart from the embarrassment of holding the EU Presidency and not having the legislation in place.

Does the Minister agree that it is critical we have energy security and that it is linked to climate change? If, for example, we are to encourage people from the private sector to invest in renewable energy, there must be some certainty but we are pushing this further down the road.

Is it intended to link the two? What dialogue is taking place between the Minister and the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources in regard to that linkage? In the absence of a secure energy supply, we are not going to be at the races in terms of guaranteeing growth in our economy.

Renewables will play a key part in that growth.

I agree with Deputy Catherine Murphy that it is important that all Departments, and particularly the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, act in a co-ordinated and integrated way with my Department on the issue of climate change. The Cabinet sub-committee on climate change holds regular meetings in which we seek to co-ordinate our response and ensure Departments are exploring and, indeed, implementing policies that will reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and deal with the issue of energy security.

I know the Ceann Comhairle has a personal interest in this matter because he was the Chairman of the Joint Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security in the last Dáil, which brought forward draft legislation and a number of meaningful policy documents in this area. We are looking at these in terms of implementing a package of measures to respond to our obligations under the EU.

On 10 July 2013, the Taoiseach stated-----

The legislation has already been promised.

He stated that the heads of the Bill would be published in 2013. On the question of economic development, environmental protection and sustainability, does the Minister accept that we have to send out positive signals? There have been significant developments in the energy sector, particularly in the midlands, but there are concerns about where we are going as a country in terms of the further development of that sector. Does he recognise the importance of this area?

Deputy Stanley will be aware that the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources recently published an energy policy setting out the milestones through which he is seeking to implement a more robust regime for renewables. Targets have been set for energy policy for 2020 and 2050. The Minister is conscious not only of his EU obligations, but also of the importance of reducing our dependence on imports of oil and less reliable fuels in driving our economic recovery and future development. His new energy policy clearly sets out the priority he attaches to the areas to which the Deputy referred.

I expect to put the heads of the climate change Bill before the Oireachtas committee before the end of this year.

One of the measures that has been at the centre of what the Minister describes as the recovery of this country was the proposal in his party's manifesto to invest €7 billion in green infrastructure. The absence of the legislation required to give coherence to this area makes it difficult for people. Much of this money will come from the private sector. We are sending a poor message and it appears that the private sector is making decisions for itself in the absence of a policy framework. We are probably missing significant opportunities for securing investment at an early stage by virtue of the fact that the legislation is being delayed until the middle of next year. Is there any prospect of it being brought forward in a speedier timeframe? Can our committee, for example, play a stronger role in doing that? Even the trimming of several months from the timeframe would be valuable rather than accepting that it will not be ready until the middle of next year.

When I set out a roadmap in January the Deputy opposite did not believe it would happen and now it is going to happen, she wants to bring forward the timeframe for the sake of bringing it forward. We are going to try to get it right on this occasion. My predecessor tried to bring forward climate change legislation but encountered enormous difficulties not only within his own Government, but also with outside stakeholders.

We will get one opportunity to do this properly and I am determined to work with the committee to get the balance right with regard to everyone's obligation to deal with this important issue.

The Deputy referred to NewERA in relation to investment in key infrastructural developments. During this term, we will bring forward legislation on water and proposals on broadband and energy. We are considering the sale of non-strategic State assets in order to provide investment in this area of activity. We said there is no reason why, over a five year period, we could not spend €7 billion from those resources and from private sector investment. That is still on track.