Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Thursday, 20 September 2018
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action
Third Report of the Citizens' Assembly: Engagement with Ms Marie Donnelly
I thank Ms Donnelly for her presentation. It is quite inspiring because she has given us examples of countries such as the Netherlands and Germany where it all seems so easy. There are so many different mechanisms to generate energy and to work towards energy security. We are here on the island of Ireland and we have probably the best wind in Europe available on the western seaboard. We have the potential for solar energy and we are good at research and development, and innovation.
Having listened to Ms Donnelly, I am wondering why we are not doing it. We have every opportunity. We must become energy secure. We must decarbonise, without a doubt. In my local pub, we talk about the weather. We do not talk about the climate, but I can guarantee that we talk regularly about weather. How do we change the conversation? How do we use the best of the Irish to move towards energy security and decarbonise? The targets are there. We are not meeting them. Many of us are very frustrated. If a person has an examination, he or she sets himself or herself a target, and to proceed and to progress, that person needs to reach that target. We are not doing that. There is frustration in our communities. We see that one good example, Tipperary Energy Agency, and we are looking forward to visiting it. Ms Donnelly is correct that it should be rolled out to all the local authorities. Why has it not? It is not that the Tipperary Energy Agency was formed yesterday. It has been in operation for a number of years. Why is it not happening throughout Ireland?
Ms Donnelly spoke about economies of scale around retrofit in the Netherlands. We have some retrofitting and again Tipperary Energy Agency is excellent on super-homes. Why is there not a programme to do that en masseto get the efficiencies instead of this happening one by one in communities, thus not creating the efficiencies of scale? My central question is the reason for the resistance. What is the problem in Ireland that does not allow us make the steps and get traction because we are not making the necessary progress? I would be interested to hear Ms Donnelly's response.
Some 97 per cent of the members of the Citizens' Assembly recommended that a new independent body be formed as a matter of urgency with new powers and functions in legislation to address climate change urgently, and twice I have used the word "urgently". In her opening statement Ms Donnelly suggested, and I agree, that the senior officials in Departments should work together and present a document each quarter. In respect of that recommendation, does Ms Donnelly think we should have independent body and have the cross-departmental senior officials producing transparent and open reports to allow for the process that my colleague, Senator Devine, mentioned of building the awareness and getting greater understanding? At present, marine spatial planning is not in place nor is the foreshore consenting licence. There are so many opportunities and so many steps that we need to take but we are not taking them.
My final question is on marine capacity. We have a great maritime capacity, more so than most other European countries. We should be developing offshore windfarms. I have friends who work in the offshore sector in the North Sea and I hear of the benefits in terms of job creation, not to mention the benefits of clean and renewable energy. In terms of carbon sequestration, is there anything we could do with the sea all around us? I am thinking about is seaweed. Seaweed is a marine plant and could be beneficial in terms of carbon sequestration. The Government is talking about licensing aquaculture that will deplete our seaweed resources, such as the large kelp forest in Bantry Bay. Should there be a cessation of that immediately with regard to our climate potential?