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Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions (Continued)

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 980 No. 4

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Paul Murphy: Information on Paul Murphy Zoom on Paul Murphy] I have two questions for the Taoiseach. First, will he listen to school students when they strike on 15 March? Second, given that transport is the second largest emitting sector of the economy, will he agree that radical action is needed to get people out of cars, that the State should invest in properly funded public transport services and, furthermore, should make public transport free, as has happened in Estonia, Luxembourg and 100 cities around the world?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl The Deputy's time is up.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I thank the Deputy for raising the important issue of climate change. To reply to his first question, yes, of course, I will listen and I do. Second, we need to invest in public transport. One of the actions we are taking, for example, is that from the middle of this year Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann in the other cities-----

Deputy Michael Healy-Rae: Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae Dublin again. Do not forget Dublin.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar -----will no longer purchase high emission vehicles. They will all be no or low emission vehicles. As the Deputy is aware, we are implementing proposals for major investments in public transport through projects such as BusConnects, MetroLink and so forth, of which I hope he will be supportive.

I heard Greta's speech. The fact that young people are taking action, protesting and going to strike and take a break from school on 15 March is good. It is welcome. Unlike the Deputy, I do not see it as a party political matter. It is quite different and I have heard what they have said. These are young people who are standing up to adults. They are children, pupils and students telling all of the adults in all parties to get their act together and do more about climate change because it is their future that is in jeopardy. That is why I support what they are doing and we all must listen to what they are saying.

Among the people who must listen are those in socialist parties such as the Deputy's who are climate tax deniers and deny the fact that a carbon tax or climate charge must be part of the solution to climate change. We know that a carbon charge alone will not solve the problem of climate change, but we equally know and science tells us that without it we cannot achieve our objectives. It must be part of the solution.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger Cut emissions.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar That is why I ask the Deputy to listen to what the students are saying and why they say his policy on carbon charging is wrong. He should ask them what they think of it.

Deputy Paul Murphy: Information on Paul Murphy Zoom on Paul Murphy First, it is great that the Taoiseach supports the school students' strike on 15 March.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger Brilliant.

Deputy Paul Murphy: Information on Paul Murphy Zoom on Paul Murphy School students across the country should take it as the green light to walk out next Friday week in protest against climate inaction. That is what the school students' strike is about.

(Interruptions).

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Order, please.

Deputy Paul Murphy: Information on Paul Murphy Zoom on Paul Murphy The Government has stated it supports them. If it is not to be a patronising pat on the back, it will support and defend the rights of the students who are protesting for their future and the future of humanity. I agree that it is not a narrow party political issue. However, the system and policies the Taoiseach defends are incompatible with dealing with the issue of climate change. An economy that continues to be based on the drive for profit of individual companies that treat nature and damage to it as an externality cannot deliver the rapid change needed. What is required is a democratically planned economy. That is why we need eco-socialist policies.

Second, using climate change as a green washing exercise to try to introduce more regressive taxation measures will not wash with people. They know that the polluters are the top companies which are responsible for 63% of emissions.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl The Deputy's time is up.

Deputy Paul Murphy: Information on Paul Murphy Zoom on Paul Murphy I return to the question I asked and ask the Taoiseach to answer it, as opposed to posing questions to me. Free public transport would have a major impact on emissions from the second biggest sector in the economy.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl The Deputy has made his point.

Deputy Paul Murphy: Information on Paul Murphy Zoom on Paul Murphy It would only cost €600 million, the same amount as the fines Ireland could be facing annually from next year. If the Government is serious about listening to students, will it give a commitment to invest in properly funded - properly paid and proper conditions for the workers - and free public transport?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar No, we are not going to introduce free public transport. Many public transport services, particularly at peak times, are already operating at capacity; therefore, making public transport free would not enable any more people to use it.

Deputy Paul Murphy: Information on Paul Murphy Zoom on Paul Murphy Invest more in it.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger They can stay in their cars.


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