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National Development Plan: Motion [Private Members] (Continued)

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 983 No. 4

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy] We fundamentally believe spending strategically on the right things at the right time does not mean continuing to waste money on trying to backfill problems when they emerge. It is positive that a large amount of new rolling stock has been purchased. I had been seeking same, but there must be an integrated network to make it viable. I would have expected that to be the approach taken to this issue.

  Due to successive Governments consistently failing to address climate and environmental issues adequately and to spend accordingly, we are facing into hefty fines for missing our 2020 targets. Missing them will make it even more difficult to meet the 2030 targets, as we will already be on a slippery slope. I introduced legislation on energy security and climate change in 2012 that was debated a year or so later. It would have set targets and indicated how to meet them. The then Minister, Commissioner Phil Hogan, introduced legislation a week or two later without targets. He is now critical of us for being laggards even though he had the opportunity to introduce legislation with targets and did not do so. This requires difficult choices. It is a question of timetabling and deciding where to make a difference.

  The Government's amendment to the motion talks of transitioning to renewable energy as being a key priority. It also refers to the impending publication of an all-of-government action plan that will use funding available under the NDP to help achieve targets. From the amendment in the names of Deputies Eamon Ryan and Catherine Martin of the Green Party, however, we can see that we would still have a shortfall in emissions reductions by 2030 of approximately 70% even if every initiative in the NDP was implemented. This shows that there is even an issue with our ambitions.

  Put simply, the NDP is not fit for purpose where strategic actions to address meaningfully the climate and environmental emergency are concerned. In terms of the reality of delivering on projects listed in the NDP, the Government believes it is feasible to brush off the impact of cost overruns on two major projects in the face of the level of spending that is required to address the climate emergency adequately is just more smoke and mirrors. The Government has a laissez-faire approach and is relying on future budgetary adjustments as a fallback when there are overruns.

  In its report today, the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council identified some of the risks, including our over-reliance on corporate taxes. This takes us back to the early 2000s, when concerns were constantly raised about the reliance on a transient tax. I do not entirely agree with the council on what should be done, as we believe the State should spend to save. DART underground is such an example.

  The G20 countries are seeking to make significant amendments to corporate taxation. If there was a significant shortfall like the last one in future budgets, not only would it influence what we could spend under the NDP, but it would also radically change our debt-to-GDP ratio. In turn, that would impact on our annual budget and ability to fund services, as we would have to service that debt. That point cannot be ignored in how we deal with the NDP.

  I knocked on quite a number of doors in many places during the recent local elections and there were serious concerns raised about the cost overruns and the Government's ability to get a grip on the delivery of capital projects in a way that was cost effective and prudent. The Minister must have heard the same thing, as people were not just deciding to say this to Opposition canvassers who arrived at the door.

  Long-term strategic planning is welcome and the NDP and national planning framework constitute the right approach, but they have been undermined by a number of events already and will be further undermined by others, not least the question of how Brexit will play out. The long-term plan must be deliverable and prioritise sustainability in all its forms, both economic and environmental. We are paying a price for the glaring mistakes of the early 2000s when, for example, the opportunity to build sizable numbers of local authority houses was not taken. Would we have the same housing crisis now had it been taken? We could have delivered a decent public transport system, meaning that we would not now be playing catch-up. We could have retrofitted the built environment, or at least commenced it. That all of these tasks needed to be done was evident. Imagine the very different society that we would be living in now had all of that happened and had we prioritised spending. While I realise that was prior to the Minister's involvement in government, we would not now be living through the housing emergency in its current manifestation.

  This is being described as one of the slowest moving cities in Europe. In the early 1990s when the Luas received European funding, the argument made at the time was that the public transport system needed to be funded because Dublin had become uncompetitive owing to traffic chaos. Now, Dublin is at least as bad as it was then, if not worse. I include in that the city's fringes and counties like mine. We have prioritised the car over investment in public transport. Some of that predates the Minister's time in office, but if we do not make choices now, people in ten years' time will be asking who was in office and why they did not decide to take the approach that was necessary to address what was evident at the time, namely, that a flawed budget was underpinning the NDP and we were not paying anything like the attention to issues such as climate change that we needed to.

  The three main areas are housing, transport and agriculture. We can do something in respect of each and must be ambitious in that regard. Unless we tackle them, the problem will grow larger for us from 2020 onwards. If we do not meet our 2020 targets, it will become much more difficult to meet our 2030 targets. This Government will be viewed as not having dealt with the decision on the requisite major investments and the strategy for same as it should have. I urge the House to revisit the NDP for those purposes.

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Paschal Donohoe): Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe I move amendment No. 2:

To delete all words after "Dáil Éireann" and substitute the following:
— the significant progress made in implementing the National Development Plan (NDP) as detailed in the first Project Ireland 2040 Annual Report published on 2nd May, 2019;

— that climate action and the transition to renewable energy is already a key priority in the NDP with circa €30 billion dedicated to this over the period of the plan, and in addition, the Government will shortly publish a new all-of-Government Climate Action Plan which will set ambitious targets for decarbonisation over the coming decades, using the funding available in the NDP to the maximum potential to help achieve these targets; and

— that the approach to remaining funding requirements will be clarified in the Summer Economic Statement and the Mid-Year Expenditure Report."

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