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Snippet Contents:

Okay. The three-year energy statement is very welcome and will be very interesting and helpful for Deputies and citizens. It documents objectives, outputs and resources. These statements must also include reviews of the effectiveness of the previous strategy. This will provide an opportunity to engage in reflection and seek improvement, if implemented correctly.
It is heartening, as I mentioned, to learn of developments in renewable energy provision, especially in northern Europe, and the manner in which several states and major cities have become independent of fossil fuel imports. Clearly, the invigilation and regulation of wider energy markets across Ireland, Britain and the European Union are critical to energy independence and security. I hope the Minister will be able to address this challenge closely in his period in government. He said earlier this month at the launch of Engineers Ireland's report, The State of Ireland 2016, that "the over-dependence on fossil fuels challenges all of us to work together to find a balanced and sustainable energy mix." Climate change and sourcing alternative, sustainable energy supplies is a huge challenge facing the country and the planet. Not only do we have targets to meet under the European Union's renewable energy directive and the United Nations COP 21 agreement, but we also have the reality of dealing with more extreme weather events that climate change is bringing to our daily lives. Citizens around the country suffered horrendous flooding a few months ago.
Engineers Ireland's report helpfully had a focus on energy and made some useful recommendations, including implementation of the recently published energy White Paper, the retrofit programmes for homes and public buildings and conversion of the national bus fleet and Ministers' cars to hybrid, electric or compressed natural gas, CNG, energy vehicles. Significant investment is required to tackle the impact of our energy usage on climate change, but it is now a matter of proactive investment to lessen the possibility of reactive costs such as fines and clean-up costs after increased severe weather events. I hope the Minister will have in his period of office and with the redirection and renaming of the Department a tremendous focus on the challenge posed by climate change.
Sustainable Energy Ireland has stated €35 billion is required in the coming 35 years to reduce the levels of carbon consumption in dwellings. Targets set for Irish hospitals to halve their carbon emissions by 2020 simply will not be met without significant investment. I ask the Minister to take this example on board. I believe he will soon be publishing the energy research strategy. Does he agree that the time has come for action and implementation of best practice in reducing carbon emissions and energy consumption? The Government can have any number of White Papers and research strategies it wants, but without key political leadership and action, there will be no change. We will continue to miss our targets. Climate change does not wait for any one of us or the nation. We clearly need to link this action with the budgetary process and restore the practice of carbon-proofing annual budgets. The Minister knows that a number of us are involved in the Committee on Arrangements for Budgetary Scrutiny. I think other Deputies agree that one practice to which we should go back is the carbon-proofing of budgets. I know that I have been highly critical of the Green Party's involvement in Fianna Fáil-led Governments in the past, but it was interesting to see the former Minister, Mr. John Gormley, and Deputy Eamon Ryan coming in with a statement on carbon-proofing. Perhaps that is something the Minister might try to do in the case of budget 2017. As I said, one of the few benefits in 2007 was the addition of a carbon-proofed budget.
I am strongly opposed to the inclusion of water services in the Bill, which suggests the Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael agenda remains to privatise the domestic water supply. The administrative sanctions and fines included in Parts 3 to 5, inclusive, while welcome, do not go far enough to combat and stamp out market manipulation and malpractice. I sincerely hope this Energy Bill marks a significant improvement in energy regulation and will inform our conversations on renewable energy and the changes we need to make urgently.