Tuesday, 3 July 2018
Establishment of Special Joint Committee on Climate Action: Motion
The outcome of the Citizens' Assembly on the environment, as it was on the eighth amendment, shows how progressive ordinary people are when asked their opinions about issues and how it contrasts very favourably with the attitudes of the political establishment. What struck me strongest was the 98% who said that climate change should be put centre stage in policy making. That cannot be done by tinkering around the edges. It cannot be done with some electric cars or with some consumption charges. It has to be done with a radical break in terms of how our society is organised in the areas of energy, agriculture and in transport centrally.
How radical a break is needed is reflected in the report that came out last week from the Climate Action Network that is utterly damning in terms of the approach of the Government. It has all the EU countries listed and grouped into the good, the bad and the ugly. Estonia, Ireland and Poland rank lowest in the ugly category because of their stiff opposition to climate action nationally and in the European Union. They are ranked second lowest in the EU, confirming what the former Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny, said - incredibly, in Paris when the Paris Agreement was being signed - that climate change is not a priority for Ireland. Unfortunately, that remains the case.
On energy, we currently have five times as many known fossil fuels as can be burned without the temperature rising above 2o Celsius. The idea that we should be issuing any more exploration licences is utterly mad and, therefore, the Government should drop its opposition to the Bill proposing that fossil fuels be kept in the ground sponsored by Deputy Bríd Smith and the Solidarity-People Before Profit alliance.
Only last week, the Minister of State, Deputy Kyne, spoke about the need for an increase in drilling and the realisation of our oil and gas potential. We need there to be an end to the use of fossil fuels and a radical shift to renewable energies.
On transport, the push for the shift to electric cars is not the answer. I am for electric cars. They are better than petrol cars but the issue is the mode of transport, the way that people move from place to place. Massive investment in public transport is required to make it more accessible, realistic, achievable and affordable for people to use as a mode of travel. The example of Estonia is worth considering. It now has free public transport across the country. We estimated in our last budget proposal that it would take €500 million to halve the cost of public transport.
On the point about agriculture, Ireland is unusual in that agriculture, as opposed to transport, is the number one emitter in this regard. Having 6.7 million cows in Ireland currently using over 150 l of water each is not a sustainable model of organising agriculture and we need a break from that.