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 Header Item Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions (Continued)
 Header Item Gnó na Dála - Business of Dáil
 Header Item Ceisteanna ar Reachtaíocht a Gealladh - Questions on Promised Legislation

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 973 No. 4

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Catherine Martin: Information on Catherine Martin Zoom on Catherine Martin] The Government has opposed our Bill and the Labour Party Bill to ban microbeads, has opposed Deputy Bríd Smith's climate emergency Bill, and has continually declared that Ireland is open for business when it comes to fossil fuel extraction. At the end of the day, on the international stage, Ireland is the second worst performer in the EU on climate change. We are bottom of the class.

The Ministers assure us we will have massive reductions in our emissions by 2030 but no one can see that. The Committee on Climate Action says we are completely off course, and the Environmental Protection Agency predicts our emissions in 2035 will be higher than they are today, yet we are presented with a national development plan with no idea of climate impact. Does the Government accept that the national development plan is not fit for purpose? It is not climate-proofed, it is not real climate action and it needs to change.

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The Deputy asked many questions. I agree with her that the report published at the start of the week needs to be a wake-up call for us all on climate action and its prioritisation in everything we do, from education and transport to waste and planning for the future in how we live, move around and so on. As a Minister who has been part of the story of the Ireland 2040 plan, which the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government is now delivering on, I know that a big part of that discussion was about climate and changing how Ireland functions in the context of the responsibilities we have to reduce emissions.

  The decisions made this week on carbon were the correct ones. We already know both petrol and diesel have increased significantly in price in recent months and will continue to increase because world oil prices are increasing. We need to learn lessons from the water debates that if one is to change how people perceive increased charges, and if one hopes to change their behaviour by doing so, one needs to bring people along. This Government will commit to steady increases over time in carbon taxes but we will try to bring people with us rather than tell them how it needs to be without preparing the ground for doing that.

  On the national development plan and the €116 billion we are committing, approximately 20% of that expenditure is linked to climate action, more efficient energy and more efficient transport movements. In regard to planning for my city, which I hope the Deputy might look at in a bit more detail, we are planning €200 million of expenditure in new BusConnects projects. We are planning for a light rail system for the first time in the city. We are planning for much higher density and much higher quality buildings in order that people can live closer to each other and benefit from real economies of scale that do not require people to drive their own car to work any longer because we are planning for a more climate-efficient society in the future.

  Much of what we are doing and have done in this budget through vehicle registration tax changes, supporting electric transport and public transport, and providing more funding for greenways next year, is to ensure the green agenda is real in government.

Deputy Catherine Martin: Information on Catherine Martin Zoom on Catherine Martin Monday's report was obviously not a wake-up call for Government. In Cork, all that the Government has agreed is to expand the road network.

To return to my main question, the national development plan is not a plan to achieve a low-carbon economy and it is not fit for purpose. This is my main question today to the Minister. Will he admit it is not fit for purpose? No strategic environmental assessment was carried out for the national development plan. There was only one for the national planning framework but, most importantly, it did not provide a quantitative level of emissions reductions at all - no numbers and no target.

The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment spends so much time talking about the one in five euro that will be spent on climate action under the national development plan, as the Tánaiste has just mentioned also, but they fail to note that €13 billion of that €21 billion was already committed by the ESB to standard energy expenditure anyway. The budget provided for €25 million for retrofitting the State's stock of 150,000. We need €5 billion. At this rate, it will take 40 years. The Government is not serious about climate change, or at least that is what all the evidence suggests. If I am wrong and the Government cares, will it lead and take action?

Limiting climate change to 1.5° Celsius is a matter of survival for us all. It is not about the distant future. We have 12 years for this Government to show leadership and take brave and bold political decisions. Does it have that courage? If it does, it should take the brave and bold step here in the Dáil today and admit that the national development plan is not fit for purpose and it needs to change.

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney As someone who spent many hours trying to be part of designing a much more sustainable way forward for this country through 20-year planning for the first time, and as the person who ensured independent review of the sustainability of that plan happened, I will not say that our national development plan is not fit for purpose on climate change.

Deputy Catherine Martin: Information on Catherine Martin Zoom on Catherine Martin Where are the figures? We cannot see them if they are not there.

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Sometimes I think the Green Party does not want this Government to be seen to be achieving on climate change.

Deputy Catherine Martin: Information on Catherine Martin Zoom on Catherine Martin I do not want this Government.

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The Green Party could have been part of this Government but it chose not to be.

Deputy Andrew Doyle: Information on Andrew Doyle Zoom on Andrew Doyle The Green Party could have joined us.

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney It chose not to be because it did not want to take on the responsibility of Government. It is unfortunate because I would have liked the Green Party to be part of it. I ask it not to start painting a picture which is not accurate. Let us talk seriously about what is and is not happening. More needs to be done on climate change, which I accept, and more needs to be done on emissions. Certain sectors in Ireland are not performing on reducing emissions as well as they need to. We want to work with the Green Party on that.

Deputy Eamon Ryan: Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan The Government needs to act first.

Deputy Catherine Martin: Information on Catherine Martin Zoom on Catherine Martin The Government must lead.

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney What I will not accept is the painting of an inaccurate picture of the prioritisation of climate in the context of the policy and funding decisions we are making and have made this week.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl That concludes our extended Leaders' Questions. Before proceeding to questions on promised legislation, I understand the Government Chief Whip, Deputy Joe McHugh, has a business proposal to put to the House.

Gnó na Dála - Business of Dáil

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh It is proposed that notwithstanding the motion re sittings and business of the Dáíl in budget week, agreed on Wednesday, 3 October 2018, that proceedings on Financial Resolution No. 4, if not previously adjourned, shall be interrupted at 3 p.m. today to take item No. 33a, a statement by the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment. The statement of the Minister shall not exceed ten minutes, following which each party or group in opposition shall have eight minutes consisting of alternating questions and answers. The Minister shall have five minutes for his statement and conclusion. The opening statement, the questions and answers and the concluding statement shall not exceed one hour and 11 minutes in total. Topical Issues shall take place on the conclusion of the Minister's concluding statement for one hour, and the Dáíl shall adjourn on conclusion of topical issues.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Is that agreed? Agreed.

Ceisteanna ar Reachtaíocht a Gealladh - Questions on Promised Legislation

Deputy Dara Calleary: Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary We are on the cusp of being hit by Storm Callum. Will the Minister confirm whether the national emergency co-ordination group, NECG, will meet this afternoon? In the context of what are expected to be 130 km/h winds with spring tides, there is considerable disruption forecast for the morning. As the impact of this will be felt at commuting time, when will the Government be in a position to alert people about travel plans for the morning? Is it satisfied that adequate preparations are in place for what may be ahead?

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I thank the Deputy for raising this because it gives me the opportunity to inform the House that the Department has convened a meeting of the NECG for 3 p.m. this afternoon to review preparations and public safety messaging for the arrival of Storm Callum, as well as to highlight to Departments and agencies the need to be prepared and to make any necessary decisions concerning their sectors on Thursday or Friday morning. Depending on the impact of the storm, the Department will make further decisions on Thursday night or Friday morning about whether to convene the NECG again on Friday. Storm Callum is due to arrive on the south-west coast this evening and will track north west, simultaneously affecting the west, the south and then the east coast with very high winds.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin Will the Tánaiste circulate a note to the Members?

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Yes. The preparations are under way.

Deputy Dara Calleary: Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary There are travel plans. People need to know.

The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Absolutely.


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