Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action

Examination of the Third Report of the Citizens' Assembly (Resumed)

12:00 pm

Photo of Bríd SmithBríd Smith (Dublin South Central, People Before Profit Alliance)
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I know he is from the House of Lords but I find it hard to use the title "Lord" in reference to him.

Something I have noticed in England recently is the pressure from the fracking companies and the response of the people. I have been in awe of the protesters. They have gone out of their way to get their voices heard in a democratic way, although they have been blocked by local authorities left, right and centre. The protests at Blackpool and other locations in Lancashire have in some ways been quite scary in the sense people feel they have to do that. In other ways, fracking is also quite scary. As the representative of the Committee on Climate Change, will our guest comment on the attempt to increase the use of fracking and also on the protests? I would like to use the opportunity to say I would extend my solidarity to those protesters and to the young people involved in the extinction rebellion, where they blocked the bridges around London and glued themselves to Westminster. What young people are saying to us, as we have seen in Sweden and Australia, is "Listen to us, it is our future". They are tired of old farts like me not listening to them. I would like our guest to comment on that.

I want to ask about the mechanisms of the Committee on Climate Change. The first recommendation of our Citizens' Assembly - it enjoyed the support of 94% of the assembly's members - was that we should establish a new and independent body with a broad range of functions and powers to deal with climate change and to ensure it is at the centre of policy-making, with some legislative scrutiny and oversight. The resistance to that from representatives and from the Department of Finance so far has been quite passionate. They do not believe in this at all and they do not want to see it. Can our guest tell us, as Members of Parliament, why he thinks that would be a good idea since he is part of a parliament? He might give two or three main reasons he thinks it would be a good idea for us.

I also want to ask about the value of a carbon budget, which I think is needed here. I understand the UK carbon budget is set at a certain level through the use of science, which is very important, and those who exceed that level are breaking the budget. What penalties are there for the UK Government or the state for overstepping the mark or can they offset the budget by means of carbon offsets? Does our guest agree with that or think it should be allowed, or is it just another market mechanism that fails to actually deal with emissions? I have some other questions but I will leave it at that for now.