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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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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Dara Calleary: Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary] In terms of parliamentary democracy and respect for ourselves as parliamentarians, our carbon budget by its nature should be introduced, in my view, by the Minister.

As for the input of communities, the document that goes with the legislation has a phrase to the effect that the climate change plan should offer the least burdens and the greatest opportunities in the pathway to decarbonise and achieve the carbon budget for a given period. We all agree with that. The least burdens and the greatest opportunities should apply in this regard. The burden and the opportunity should be shared. However, many communities feel the burden is heavy on them and the opportunities are limited. I speak for many rural communities, which already feel alienated from this process. I speak for the agricultural community, which seems to be in the firing line every time, despite what it has done over at least 20 years in terms of changing processes and ways of doing businesses and farming.

If this legislation is to work, have an impact and get buy-in, we must ensure, as is laid out in that document, that we offer the least burdens and the greatest opportunities to rural communities. We must ask the agricultural sector to come with us in partnership on this journey, rather than telling it what to do, blaming it or fingering it, and the Minister must engage in that partnership with it.

One sector that has made huge changes in the past 20 years is the hill farming and sheep farming sector. It potentially will be asked to make massive changes under the new Common Agricultural Policy, CAP. That cannot be allowed to happen, given what it has done already. Now is the time to engage with all communities around this, particularly the agricultural community, on a partnership basis, rather than a lecturing basis.

The challenges of decarbonising transport, including public transport, are necessary and welcome but, for rural communities, there is not an option. The option is one's car or one does not get to travel. We have to look at investing in public transport as well as decarbonising it, also opening it up, investing and ensuring it all lines up in rural areas. We have a myriad of services but few of them seem to talk to one another in a way that makes them practical and effective for people's day-to-day lives. With the Minister's transport hat on, let us try to put something together so that all our transport services add up. Let us invest in public transport as well. We have spoken about the western rail corridor. That is a perfect example of how we can link regional communities up with regional capitals for education, work and healthcare. A proper service in place will give people the option of leaving the car behind. That is not an option they have at the moment.

There are many communities for which the road is necessary. Not investing in roads is not an option. Otherwise, the Minister will isolate people or force them to live in the big cities where there is already overmuch pressure on systems and ways of living. The Government cannot ignore road investment programmes with a view to emphasising public transport. That will drive more people into cities and into bigger carbon usage.

The area of retrofitting offers massive potential and opportunity in terms of achieving the aims of the climate action plan, reducing our emissions and enhancing people's living experience. We talk a lot about it and there are big targets but it is about trying to start making those targets happen around the country.

The Bill contains a number of commitments in respect of oil and gas exploration. There is a programme for Government commitment in this area. However, work is also under way in the Department on an energy and security review to ensure our energy security is upfront and is being dealt with in the context of changing the energy inputs. It would be useful to have that review completed before we move towards a complete change of our energy mix. It does not make any sense for us to ban offshore exploration and ban fossil fuels in our gas and oil but still import fossil fuels from countries where that ban is not in place or where they are quite heavy users of fossil fuels. That makes no sense whatever and we need to be clear on that.

Before this legislation came in today we had the marine area planning Bill, which is very welcome. I commend the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, as well as the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, on bringing that forward relatively quickly, despite its complexity. Without that Bill, this Bill will not happen. That Bill will change the opportunities for offshore wind but let us be sure that before we make decisions on our energy mix, we can be confident of the supply into the future.

I have raised hydrogen and other issues with the Minister previously and I fear there is not enough ambition around the potential uses of fuels such as hydrogen in relation to our energy mix. As the world is moving quickly to hydrogen, Ireland is uniquely placed in terms of using wind to drive on the hydrogen agenda. We can be a world leader there if we show more urgency.

As I said at the outset, this is hugely consequential legislation and it will change the way we do things in every aspect of our lives. It is happening in the Covid bubble and the legislative bubble and we need to do more to involve everybody in the discussion and make everybody aware of the consequences of this legislation. If we do not, we will lose people. We will not bring people on this journey but it is absolutely necessary to do so.

While people are willing to contribute and share their part of the burden, they need to see the opportunities for themselves, their communities and their families. They need to see those opportunities are real and not pie in the sky or a form of spin. They need to see that the changes they are being challenged to make in their daily lives have a point and that everybody is shouldering the burden, regardless of income or geographical location. They need to know the changes we are making in Ireland are being made internationally and that we as a country are sharing our burden and that burden is being shared internationally.

We all want this Bill and its aim to succeed but we have to ensure we bring people with us. We have to do a much better job of bringing people with us and showing the opportunities that come from this Bill. We have to do a better job of reassuring people that, while there will be burdens, those burdens will be shared fairly and shouldered collectively. If we do not do that, this Bill will only be a piece of paper. It will only have some sort of legislative impact but it will not have public buy-in and there is no sense in doing this unless we get public buy-in.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl We move to Solidarity-People Before Profit. I understand Deputy Boyd Barrett is sharing with his colleague, Deputy Barry. Are they sharing equally?

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett I will take ten or 12 minutes. There will be definitely eight, if not ten, for Deputy Barry.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl The Deputies are not sharing equally, no?

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett Maybe.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Sorry, Deputy. I am being mischievous.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett I thank the Ceann Comhairle for looking after our interests. I appreciate it.

When the school student climate strikers came out on the street in this country and across the world, they shouted and had on their banners and placards the slogan "System change, not climate change!" They also loudly shouted about the need for a just transition as being absolutely critical to delivering the radical climate action we need to stop climate disaster. This Bill should be a reflection of the demands and aspirations of those school student climate strikers and the demands they are making for truly radical action to prevent a climate disaster. I would like to be able to celebrate it as such but, to be honest, it is not. There are so many compromises and get-out clauses in this that it may well be a dead letter.

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