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Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill 2021: Second Stage (Resumed) (Continued)

Thursday, 29 April 2021

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1006 No. 3

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Deputy Patricia Ryan: Information on Patricia  Ryan Zoom on Patricia  Ryan There can be no climate justice without social justice. We are not doing enough to ensure a just transition. Current Government policy punishes ordinary workers and their families and rewards big businesses and wind farm developers. This needs to change. I welcome the fact that we have a Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill but it needs to be stronger. It needs to be less aspirational and more legally binding. The climate crisis will not be solved by hopes and dreams. We need targeted action if we are to arrest the downward spiral. In years to come we will be speaking of the curlew and the corncrake as we now speak of the dodo if we do not act.

  We cannot rely on crude measures like banning cars and culling herds and certainly not without proper planning and consideration for the consequences. Energy efficiency needs to be prioritised and our housing stock needs to be brought into the 21st century. I am assisting a lady who has been offered a grant for front windows and was told that perhaps she might apply for the back windows next year and a new door the year after that. This approach is wrong and it needs to stop. If we are not serious about sorting these things out properly, why bother at all? Is this what we are now reduced to?

  Ireland is supposedly a very affluent country and ranks fourth in the IMF list of the ten richest countries in the world, as apparently measured per capita. Unfortunately, the contempt shown towards working class families for years has increased the unequal distribution of wealth, meaning that many are left behind when the tide rises.

  We need to implement a rolling programme of upgrades for older housing stock. I am thinking of estates like St. Brigid's Square in Portarlington, St. Evin’s Park in Monasterevin, Dara Park in Newbridge and Maryville in Kildare town. Where is the just transition for the residents of these areas?

  We need a comprehensive plan to ban the importation of fracked gas and, specifically, to ban liquefied natural gas terminals in Ireland. The Bill needs to be reviewed to ensure compliance with the Aarhus Convention. We need more engagement and consultation with the public. We say there must be nothing about us without us. Another way of looking at this is that those who are not at the table can find themselves on the menu. We must consider the views of our citizens. The Government cannot rely on carbon taxes alone to beat the working poor and their families into submission.

Deputy Claire Kerrane: Information on Claire Kerrane Zoom on Claire Kerrane We all agree that urgent climate action is required and that all sectors and each one of have a part to play. There is a genuine fear that more will be asked of some than of others. Some decisions made by the Government have only added to these fears.

As someone who lives on a farm in a rural area, it is important for me to say that farmers and rural areas cannot pay the price for climate action, nor will we be sacrificed for climate change. People in rural areas rely on their car because there is no public transport and no alternative. Likewise, this Government and previous Governments have continued to heap carbon taxes on solid fuels at a time when bills have already been increased, energy poverty is on the rise and there are no affordable alternatives. We now have the situation, which would be laughable if it were not so serious, of peat briquettes being imported from Germany when peat production here is being wound down and jobs are being lost. The workers, families and communities concerned see peat briquettes being imported. It is absolute madness.

Many farmers have been playing their part for a long time when it comes to climate action but they are not being compensated for it. We need to acknowledge that. Many of them have been left greatly disappointed having been sold the promise in the previous general election that REPS 2, a new environmental scheme, was coming down the tracks. Instead, a pilot scheme has been announced with a focus on results rather than actions. It will cost €10 million, whereas €79 million was set aside in the previous budget for a new environmental scheme and other measures. A sum of €10 million is not enough. The signs are not good that we will get the type of environmental scheme that farmers are desperately waiting on to try to increase their income. Farmers need a scheme that recognises the work they already do and puts money in their pockets, that a box-ticking, overly administrative scheme. That is all that is required.

Communities at the coalface in the current move from brown to green, including Lanesborough and Ballyleague, need urgent attention. We need to see the jobs in the Lough Ree power station replaced. These communities are already feeling left behind. In towns like Lanesborough and Ballyleague, which have proactive communities, people understand the change but they need to be supported. This issue should be given urgent attention.

We need to protect domestic turf cutting. Turf has been much more than just a form of heating for many families for generations. Under no circumstances, should domestic turf cutting be banned while there is no affordable alternative available. Many families in areas such as Ballinasloe where domestic turf cutting has been stopped have been left overnight without the source of heating on which they have relied for so long. Domestic turf cutting must be protected.

Deputy Dara Calleary: Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary This is possibly one of the most consequential and society-changing Bills this Dáil and, dare I say, any Dáil will discuss. It requires substantial and detailed parliamentary scrutiny. It also requires public engagement. It can be legislatively successful but it may not have an impact or support. Without public engagement and support, it may not achieve the results we need it to achieve. I am concerned that as we discuss the Bill, everybody else’s attention is on Covid-19. While that is understandable, given the changes involved in this legislation, the attention it requires has been diverted elsewhere. When the consequences of this legislation and the changes that it will place on our shoulders become apparent, the public may not support it because they have not engaged with it. We must all do a better job at this.

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