Tuesday, 3 July 2018
Establishment of Special Joint Committee on Climate Action: Motion
Like others, Fianna Fáil wholeheartedly supports the establishment of a special Oireachtas Joint Committee on Climate Action. We welcome the recent establishment of the Citizens' Assembly on climate change. Without a shadow of a doubt, climate change is one of the most pressing issues facing humanity on a global scale and it is vital that Ireland plays a strong role in addressing it.
This Government and its predecessor have dismal records on climate change and that is reflected in the fact that Ireland will miss all of its 2020 targets. I appeal to the Minister in the first instance to accept where we are at and stop this continuous bluff and bluster about what is going to happen in 2030, 2045 and 2050. There are a couple of harsh realities he must face. He referred to the diesel bus fleet from now on. Just last year, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, ordered 110 new dirty diesel buses at a time when everybody was talking about our inability to meet the 2020 targets. The Minister, Deputy Naughten, knows better than any how the electoral cycle works and he knows scant regard is paid to what happens in 2030, 2040 or 2050. He must be able to convince his colleagues in government that we have a crisis. The responsibility does not all lie at the door of the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, nor should it. The Minister does not have to defend the indefensible, nor should he. If he takes a lead role at the Cabinet table he will have my support and that of the Fianna Fáil Party. The Minister must bang the table and demand that there is an acceptance that we are laggards rather than come in here and tell us what he is hoping to achieve in terms of being a world leader in electric vehicles by 2045 when we have failed abysmally with the targets we have set. We are way behind and that is appalling.
The Minister made an official announcement yesterday about passenger vehicles on toll plazas receiving a cut of approximately 50%, for most cars except for hybrid vehicles. The reality is that people who have had hybrid vehicles and have moved to electric vehicles now want to move back because the network of charging units is not adequate to support their continued driving of electric vehicles. There is so much more to be done. Rather than saying what we will do in 2045 the Minister should set a target for the next two to three years that falls within the cycle of this or perhaps the next Government rather than talking too far ahead and being absolved from all responsibility. The Minister knows better than I that we are required to reduce our carbon emissions by 20% relative to 2005 levels. We are on track for a 1% reduction, which will give rise to an estimated fine of approximately €600 million. From 2020, on the renewable energy side we are required to source 16% of our energy requirements from renewable sources. We currently source approximately 9.1% of our energy requirements from renewable sources. The estimated fine in that regard depending on the cost of the credits will be somewhere between €115 million and €600 million.
Deputy Hildegarde Naughton, the Chairman of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment, stated that the Taoiseach is committed to this matter. When elected, the Taoiseach made it clear that this was one of the biggest issues for the Government and that he was going to focus almost exclusively on it in the wake of budget 2018. That statement was laughable because he and the Government did virtually nothing in that budget to try to begin a pathway towards meeting our 2020 targets to the greatest extent possible. I am somewhat dejected because the notion is now taking hold in the Government that we have missed the 2020 targets but, what the hell, there are 2030 and 2050 targets. The Government does not accept the possibility of very significant fines but states that such fines will depend on the cost of the carbon credits and should not be overestimated. This should not be about the cost of carbon credits or what we can get away with. Rather, it should be about setting a standard that a small island such as ours which has come through a tough time can reach. We are resilient and showed our capacity to implement very difficult measures over a relatively short period in 2009 and 2010. The decisions taken were not politically advantageous for my party but the Government may benefit from the very significant economic changes that were made to get the country back on track. The challenge for the Government is similarly to take very difficult decisions on climate change to get our targets in line as quickly as possible and ensure we play our part in Europe rather than picking one item, hanging our hook on it and saying we are world leaders. In terms of emissions, energy generation and this entire issue, we are almost the worst in Europe.