Tuesday, 3 July 2018
Establishment of Special Joint Committee on Climate Action: Motion
We will have two and a half minutes each.
While we are happy to participate in this special committee, I have to say that we need more than special committees if we are to do something about Ireland's disastrous failure to address the issue of climate change and play its part in contributing to the reduction in CO2 emissions. We have many targets and aspirations that are simply not being matched by reality. In the past two years, carbon emissions in this country went up by 7%, not down. We are facing fines of €440 million for failing to meet our emission reduction targets in two years' time. Even on issues like the Heritage Bill that Members will discuss tonight, the Government is supporting moves to allow greater and earlier cutting of hedgerows when we need more forestry, hedgerows and scrub to act as carbon sinks and to reduce carbon emissions.
There is no sign of radical action in these areas. The Citizens' Assembly made all the right recommendations, in particular a pet issue of mine which I have raised about 60 times since 2011, namely, the need to do something about our pathetic levels of forest cover. We have some of the lowest in Europe, at 11%, even though we have the most favourable conditions in Europe bar none for growing trees but we do not do anything about it. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, says there is evidence of deforestation in Ireland because we are kowtowing to certain lobbies in agriculture who see forestry as a threat to them when they should not.
If we invested in and supported areas like agroforestry, afforestation could complement Irish agriculture. We need radical action in terms of shifting towards public transport use. That would mean much more investment in that area, reducing fares dramatically, if we are serious about getting people out of their cars, and in many other areas. We need the rhetoric to be matched with genuinely radical action by the Government. There is not much sign of that but let us hope this committee can go some way towards pushing the Government on in that regard.
I commend Deputy Bríd Smith's Bill, which is being discussed in committee to stop further extraction of fossil fuels here. I hope the Government will support that too.