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Climate Action Plan

Dáil Éireann Debate, Thursday - 4 November 2021

Thursday, 4 November 2021

Ceisteanna (2)

Ivana Bacik


2. Deputy Ivana Bacik asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications if he will provide an urgent timeline, broken down by sectors, for the implementation of the commitments in the national carbon budgets and climate action plan. [53837/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (11 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Environment)

I find it very disappointing the Minister, Deputy Ryan, is not here to take the questions. That is not in any way to question the Minister of State, but we would expect that when environment questions are tabled, and they do not come around too often, and it is a momentous day today as we await the publication, finally, of the climate action plan, which will be published this afternoon, that the Minister would be here. It is disappointing and frustrating for Opposition spokespersons on climate, like me, not to have the Minister, Deputy Ryan, here to answer the questions. I just want to put that on the record.

It is indeed a momentous day and I very much welcome the opportunity the Minister, Deputy Ryan's office has given us to engage with him, but I do want to ask the Minister of State to provide an urgent timeline, broken down by sectors, for the implementation of the commitments in the national carbon budgets and climate action plan. As I say, I welcome the opportunity to engage constructively in a briefing with Minister and his officials today.

I thank the Deputy. We are way over time and she will get a chance to come back in.

Deputy Bacik will know better than anybody, because she would have studied the legislation going through, that there is a statutory process whereby the sectoral emissions ceilings are set. The Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021, which was passed in July 2021, requires the Government to adopt a series of economy-wide five-year carbon budgets, including sectoral targets for each relevant sector, on a rolling 15-year basis, starting with this year.

The Climate Change Advisory Council, CCAC, last week presented the first three successive five-year carbon budgets. These carbon budgets will be presented to the Oireachtas and then they will be considered and approved by the Government. Once approved, the carbon budget will then have effect from the date on which a motion approving the carbon budget has been passed by the Oireachtas. The Government will then set sectoral emission ceilings, determining how each sector of the economy will contribute to the achievement of the budgets.

The climate action plan 2021 is currently being finalised and will be published imminently. The plan establishes indicative sectoral emissions arrangements for 2030 across the different sectors of the economy. It also includes a suite of policies and measures to achieve our climate ambition. As with the previous climate action plan, it will have a strong focus on implementation, including actions with specific timelines and steps needed to achieve them, together with the assignment of clear lines of responsibility for delivery.

The carbon budgets, therefore, have been advised by the CCAC. They have to be brought before the Dáil. There are four months provided for in the Act to do that. After that, the final sectoral emission ceilings are set. The climate action plan will be coming out very soon and it will set a range of sectoral emissions ceilings, but not the final emissions ceilings. They will have to be done after the carbon budgets have been laid down and approved by the Dáil.

I am well aware of the provisions of the legislation. The problem is the Government keeps missing deadlines on climate action. We have seen long delays in the publication of the climate action plan, although it is welcome we are going to see it today. However, it was promised last month. It was promised initially that it would be aligned with the fiscal budget. It is unfortunate it was not. There have been long delays. We are already well into the key decade in which we are to reduce our emissions by 51% by 2030. We are now nearly at the end of 2021. I know the Minister of State is more aware of this than any of us.

I welcome, as does the Labour Party, the ambition of the targets that we are setting, but we are concerned about inconsistencies and apparent problems with meeting those targets. We see today problems with how we will reach the targets on offshore wind. That is a serious concern, given how much we will be depending on offshore wind to generate a sufficient quantity of renewable energy. We are seeing inconsistency with methane target reductions. We are seeing the Taoiseach committing to 30%, which is welcome, yet only 10% being signed up to in the action plan. We are seeing concerns about a just transition, as houses are struggling to meet energy costs.

Deputy Bacik says we are late doing this, and we are. We are a decade late. We had ten years of twiddling our thumbs. We finally have an ambitious programme. It will be much harder to achieve because of a lost ten years. We are setting carbon budgets that go for 15 years: ten years and then five years in draft, so we have to get it right. We have been doing nothing for ten years, so it is essential we do not finalise or set something in stone for 2030 that will not work. Deputy Bacik says she is worried about us missing targets, and it is my concern too. Now that we have set the laws and put the plans in place and so on, delivery is the next stage.

The news that Equinor is pulling out is disappointing, and yet it is one of dozens of companies involved in offshore wind. I will certainly see what its concerns were. However, one of the most important pieces of legislation coming to the Dáil is Maritime Area Planning Bill. We have done the other two major pieces of legislation: the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act and the Land Development Agency Act-----

I thank the Minister of State. He will get a chance to come back in.

I am glad the Minister of State accepts that there have been delays. There have been unconscionable delays. I agree, of course, that the world is coming to this too late. However, in our own recent past, we have missed so many deadlines. To coin a phrase, climate action delayed is climate action denied. We now know, with the increasingly urgent warnings about the scale and the speed at which biodiversity is being destroyed and at which the earth is heating up, that there is no time to waste. We will work constructively with the Minister of State, from the Opposition, to ensure we meet the targets. However, it is valid to raise concerns about inconsistencies, missed deadlines and how we will achieve that just transition that is so crucial to bring people with us, who will be adversely affected in many cases in terms of jobs and their sectors. We need to ensure people see the opportunities presented by the roll-out of renewables, with the increased biodiversity, and with things like re-forestation, which very much provide such opportunities. It is important to emphasise the positive and the hope here as well as the seriousness and the challenges.

Huge progress has been made in the year this Government has been in place, compared with previous years. I really need all Opposition Deputies to go beyond encouraging the Government to set great strategies and targets and to support direct climate actions that are happening in their constituencies and areas. Therefore, if in your area you are opposing a local wind farm or a local cycle lane, then you are not helping. If you are organising people, stoking their fears and anxieties and saying, "This is something we do not want to do; I want to go back to business as usual; why do I have to change?", if you are encouraging people to take that mindset, it is really not helping at all, and neither is coming into the Dáil afterwards and saying you want greater ambition and greater cuts in theory, but in practice you do not feel those things should apply to the people you directly represent. I appeal to everybody in the Dáil to work and to live the values they are espousing in the Dáil when they go back to their constituency on a Monday and Friday and to put their money where their mouth is.

I hope the Minister of State is not casting any aspersions on me personally with that.

No, definitely not.

There are timelines here. I ask all Deputies to comply with them, because otherwise it eats into the time of the other Deputies.