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Establishment of Special Joint Committee on Climate Action: Motion (Continued)

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 971 No. 1

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Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan: Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan The word I would use about Ireland is "disconnect". There is a perception that climate change has nothing to do with us, we did not cause it and really we are not affected by it. However, we have scientific evidence that climate change is real. It is happening, humans are responsible and we are all affected. Some are affected more than others, as the Minister knows - crucially, those who are in what is known as the global south or developing world. Those who have done the least damage to the environment are most affected by the decisions we make in the so-called developed world. Our record has been very poor. Although Ireland did not have massive industries such as the coal industry, we need to accept the reality that we could and should be doing more.

We have a drought warning, the first in many years. The drought we are experiencing today is a reality for millions in the developing world every single day. Their crops and productivity are not for profit but are a matter of life and death, of survival. Our relationship to climate change and way of tackling it seem to involve renegotiating targets, finding loopholes to avoid targets, and avoiding fines. We consider that a win because we are valuing profit over sustainability. Climate change is a massive threat. Our generation cannot understand how previous generations tolerated slavery for so long. Later generations will be at a loss to understand why we did not do more about climate change. Deputy Thomas Pringle's Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill will be before the House on Report Stage next week. It is long overdue. As Iceland harnessed its volcanic geology for energy, surely we can do more, even for purely economic reasons. Our reliance on fossil fuels makes us very susceptible to changes in the market.

Our country has a considerable record when it comes to human rights. Our aid is poverty focused and untied. We played a phenomenal role in developing the sustainable development goals and getting agreement on them. The Minister's Department is taking part in the first voluntary national review of progress. Climate change or some aspect of it is a feature of practically every one of those sustainable development goals. We need to achieve policy coherence. Cuirim fáilte roimh an choiste agus an obair atá le teacht.

Deputy Thomas Pringle: Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle I welcome the setting up of the special committee on climate change. I acknowledge the efforts of the Citizens' Assembly in its discussions on how to make Ireland not just compliant in respect of climate change mitigation but also a leader. This is something we need to remember as we experience this unprecedented heatwave and other recent weather phenomena which are happening with increasing frequency every year. Just last month, a European report found that Ireland ranks worst in Europe for taking action against climate change, yet the Minister responsible for climate action denies this, which is quite unbelievable.

As Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan indicated, Report Stage of my Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill will be taken in the Dáil next week. The Bill proposes to compel the Government to divest public money in the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund from fossil fuel companies. If enacted, it will compel Ireland to comply with Article 2 of the Paris Agreement, which expects countries to make finance flows consistent with the pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development. I thank the Government for its support in seeing the Bill progress and I hope to see it pass next week. I also thank those from Trócaire and the Global Legal Action Network, GLAN, who worked diligently on the content of the Bill. I hope Deputies across the House will support it as it progresses. Divestment is one of a broad range of actions Government must take if we are to mitigate climate change. I look forward to working on those issues as they come before the new committee.

Let us not forget that it is vulnerable populations around the world that will pay the price. People are already dying from climate change. It is our responsibility in the West to do what is in our power to carry the burden for those who cannot protect themselves.

As a member of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine, I am aware that the agriculture sector has a lot of catching up to do and that there are many camps on the issue of climate change within that sector. We need real and concrete solutions that reflect burden sharing that is fair and appropriate. Larger farmers and factories produce phenomenally more carbon emissions than small-scale farmers. The burden sharing is entirely disproportionate. Large companies in the agriculture sector should be compelled to play their part in climate action while small farmers should be supported in their attempts to reduce carbon emissions as well as assessing climate risk. I hope to look more closely at this scenario in my work in the special committee on climate change as well as exploring the full range of opportunities available to Ireland. I look forward to seeing a more ambitious initiative coming before the Houses as a result. This would help make Ireland a leader rather than a lagger on the issue of climate change.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Deputies Michael Collins and Danny Healy-Rae are sharing time.

Deputy Michael Collins: Information on Michael Collins Zoom on Michael Collins I welcome the opportunity to speak on today's motion regarding the establishment of a special joint committee on climate action. This is all well and good if the committee addresses the issues and concerns of the people head on and not become just another junket layer of bureaucracy. I listened to previous speakers who attacked the agriculture sector in respect of climate change. Farmers are in serious difficulties in these times and are caught in a system called calendar farming which no Deputy will understand unless he is a farmer. There are plenty of other ways we need to tackle our climate issues rather than pointing the finger at the farmer all the time.

Last Sunday evening I attended a protest. There is no talk about it in here except from a couple of Independent Deputies. It was a protest in my constituency area of Bantry where hundreds of people turned up with one clear message, that the people of Bantry do not want mechanical harvesting of kelp, which will be the cause of an environmental disaster on our shoreline. These people want to protect their waters. An areas of 1,860 acres is to be mechanically harvested. No one in the Government wants to stand by the people of Bantry. They want us all to lie down. The livelihoods of the fishermen who depend on fishing in these waters are at stake. In the last year, I have worked very closely with the Bantry group and have raised the issue of kelp many times in the House. Only last week, I asked the Taoiseach during Leaders' Questions to stop the mechanical harvesting of kelp in Bantry Bay. I am over a year pleading with the Government to take action and it has stood idly by when it could revoke the licence under Article 12.2. If this special joint committee on climate action is established, would we see real action being taken in cases such as this? Will we just have the same result but with another layer of bureaucracy that costs the taxpayer money that could be invested in our roads, schools, communities, transport network and hospitals?

While I have the floor, I want to talk about solar panels. There are no planning regulations. I have confidence in the Minister. He was down in west Cork and spoke to the people there. He gave them the time with the wind turbines and I greatly appreciate that. He could not have been more clear or more fair to them. I plead with him to make sure that if this committee is set up, it will work for everybody going forward in respect of climate change.

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae: Information on Danny Healy-Rae Zoom on Danny Healy-Rae My views on climate change are well known since my days on Kerry County Council before I ever came to Dáil Éireann. The climate has changed going back over the centuries when there were no fossil fuels and when there was a very limited number of cows, which are being blamed now for the change in the climate. When the weather is wet or rainy, the scientists are blaming what we are doing on this earth for causing it to rain. Likewise they are blaming people now for the fine weather as well. The facts are that since 1850, since what was known as the little ice age, the temperatures have risen by less than one degree.

We are going to set up a committee now, what I call a talking shop, discussing ways of changing the weather that we have not a hope in the world of doing because patterns of climate change happened back over the years before. The Government is suggesting providing millions in Project Ireland 2040 to address climate change. Where will that money come from? Farmers' pockets and workers' pockets who are trying to go to work - that is where is will come from. The Minister has no leprechaun, or if he has I do not know where he is living or where the Minister is keeping him.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley They might have a couple of your fairies, Danny.

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae: Information on Danny Healy-Rae Zoom on Danny Healy-Rae Is the Government going to paralyse the working people and farmers? Is this talking shop going to be about how to do that? When we get flooded the story is that it is climate change and we will do nothing about it. What the Government is not doing anything about is allowing farmers to clear the rivers. Let us be honest about it. Water has to rise if the rivers are blocked and choked, which they are right around the country. Cross compliance means farmers are not allowed to touch a river.

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