Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Tuesday, 2 October 2018
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action
Business of Joint Committee
Apologies have been received from Senator Devine. I confirm that a meeting with Bord na Móna and EirGrid will take place at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 13 November.
I welcome members and viewers who may be watching our proceedings on Oireachtas TV to the fifth public meeting of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Climate Action. Before we begin the meeting, I ask members to turn off their mobile phones or switch them to flight mode as they interfere with the broadcasting service.
I wish to raise a matter now rather than at the end of the meeting. As the Chairman will know, at the recent meeting of the Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment, we asked the Minister, Deputy Naughten, about the consultation document on the national energy and climate action plan. Last week, his Secretary General said that the completion of the document was imminent and that it was about to go on to his desk, but today the Minister said that he did not receive anything. With the committee's timelines being so tight, access to information is crucial. Part of the committee's job is to open up this process. We, as a committee, should not be backward in asking Departments for documents and, if they are not presenting them, we should ask why. For example, and perhaps the Clerk to the Committee will confirm, we said that in advance of the Secretary General at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport coming here on Thursday, we would get some of the Department's proposals for the new plan. What we need to avoid is what we had last week, which was a Secretary General listing everything contained in previous documents that anyone can read for themselves. Listing things is of no use to the committee. What we need is to know what is new. I do not know whether we have received the presentation from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport in advance, which is what we asked for.
We must also ask for a copy of the report on the update of the Project Ireland 2040 from the high-level senior officials group that the Secretary General said he would see if he could provide. He said that they would try to present that material to us as well.
We have an opportunity to open up this process in a healthy way. Recent Supreme Court or High Court decisions around access to information on Government climate papers will force the State, against precedent, to open up some of those documents. If the Departments tell us that they cannot supply information, we have legal precedent on our side now to say that they will provide open access to what is going on.