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Climate Action Plan

Dáil Éireann Debate, Thursday - 4 November 2021

Thursday, 4 November 2021

Ceisteanna (3)

Darren O'Rourke


3. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications his views on the climate action plan and sectoral emissions ceilings needed to achieve a 51% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53881/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (6 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Environment)

The Minister of State would do well to look at his own Government colleagues in relation to what he just said. I know local authorities throughout the country, such as the planning regulator in Kildare, Westmeath, and other places – places where my party do not have any representatives, are saying one thing but doing another.

I have a question again about the climate action plan and the sectoral emissions ceilings needed. I would like the Minister of State's views on those needed to achieve a 51% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

The Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021 was signed into law in July of this year. It commits Ireland to reach a legally binding target of net zero emissions, not later than 2050, and a cut of 51% by 2030 compared with 2018 levels. Further to the enactment of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021, the Climate Change Advisory Council has recently advised proposed economy-wide carbon budgets for the periods 2021 to 2025 and 2026 to 2030, and a provisional budget for 2031 to 2035. This is the first step in developing carbon budgets which will in the coming months be allocated across sectors by way of sectoral emissions ceilings. Sectoral emissions ceilings are the maximum amount of greenhouse gas emissions permitted in a sector of the economy during each five-year carbon budget. The Oireachtas will be tasked with considering the budgets in accordance with section 9 of the Act. Once the economy-wide carbon budgets have been approved, the Government will agree specific sectoral emissions ceilings.

In parallel, my Department is currently finalising the climate action plan 2021, which will be published shortly. This plan will set out indicative ranges of emissions reductions for all sectors. It will also set out the practical measures we need to take to meet our climate targets for 2030 and to set us on a pathway to climate neutrality by 2050 at the latest. My Department has engaged proactively with public stakeholders and other Departments to deliver an ambitious, fair and achievable climate action plan.

There will be different ambition levels for every sector, based on their respective starting points and the relative difficulty, cost, speed and benefits of reducing emissions.

Today is a significant day but we have been here before. A couple of years ago, the Government set out a climate action plan. Much in today's climate action plan is similar. We are a couple of years on and limited progress has been made on the targets. We had 183 actions and we will have 200 today. How does the Government bring the public with it on this journey and how is it funded? My first supplementary question is about the funding. It will cost €125 billion. The Government plans to raise €9.5 billion in a carbon tax over the next decade. I have a question about the Government's calculations of income from the carbon tax. Has it factored in Fit for 55 and the loss of 70% or 80% to Europe with regard to roads, transport and buildings? If it has, how will this be funded?

The €9.5 billion was decided in summer 2020 as part of the programme for Government negotiations. The Fit for 55 target was not in place until after that point. These are valid questions about how we will get there, how we will pay for that, how we will bring people with us and the fact that climate action plans in the past did not amount to much. The difference now is political will. I have spent most of my life trying to achieve these things. I am now in a position to help. It is the same for many of my colleagues. The Deputy will have noticed that everybody is up to speed on climate at this stage, including politicians of all parties, including the Opposition, and that there is a genuine sense that we want to achieve these things. The money can be provided. We saw during the pandemic that we can achieve what we want when that is our priority. Things will change in the environment. We set a target in 2020. By 2025, the environment and the world will have changed and we will need to revise that. We will get through through force of will.

To continue on the issue of finance, it is more than disappointing that we missed targets. Some of it is because the focus is not there and some is because the finance is not there. A different approach was applied during the pandemic. There was substantial state borrowing at a national and international level and states led on it. An entirely different approach seems to be proposed here. It is taxes and nudges and signals to the market. It is fundamentally a dud. Does the Minister of State think that we will soon move to national and international borrowing to fund this? The second point is on participation and community engagement. Will there be a commitment to establish a just transition commission in the climate action plan?

I will have to come back to the Deputy about the commitment to establish a just transition commission. I do not know when that will be. It is not all about money. Having a lot of money to spend does not solve all your problems. Sometimes the staff cannot be found or there are not the skills within the economy, or else you have the money to spend but people do not want the money to be spent or people with vested interests in an area do not want that change. Not everything is about cash. Money is essential and things cannot be done without it. Green bonds will be issued at European level. There is a debate over what is green and what the bonds can be issued for. There has been a change of mindset at European level about economic realities, how much money should be borrowed, how the economy should run and how careful we should be with our expenditure. There is a renewed perspective on the fiscal compact. That will affect how money is spent and raised to deal with the green transition.