Dáil debates

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Establishment of Special Joint Committee on Climate Action: Motion


4:40 pm

Photo of Denis NaughtenDenis Naughten (Roscommon-Galway, Independent) | Oireachtas source

I know some people referenced the CAN Europe report. It would be worth their while if they read it because there is no reference to the investment that has been outlined in the national development plan. This is significant. Despite the fact that nobody in this House wants to acknowledge it, the fact is that one in every five euro in capital investment this Government will spend over the next decade will have a climate focus. That is significant. It is significant in European and global terms. Yes, we have a lot of work to do but we will be the first country in Europe to introduce a ban on smoky coal from September 2018. We will spend €4 billion on energy efficiency upgrades. In the next 200 months, we will take dirty fossil fuels out of our heating systems. That is no mean achievement either. We will extend to every home in this country that is affected by fuel poverty the warmth and well-being pilot scheme that was rolled out over the past two years, and we will do so through the fuel allowance, the domiciliary care allowance by the end of this year, and the carer's allowance. Every one of those families will be able to have a deep retrofit of their home carried out free of charge. This is a real practical example of what we are doing and it does show leadership. We will be the first country in Europe to ban the sale of new fossil fuel cars from 2030.

It is a bit cheeky for people to say we are not taking leadership roles when we clearly are taking them and are putting the cash and funding in place. CAN Europe has been critical of us and has argued that we are not looking for enough ambition at European level. Last Monday, I pushed the Commission hard with regard to CO2 standards for cars. The Commissioner was looking for a 30% reduction in CO2 emissions over the next decade. I think this is far short of where it should be. It should be a minimum of 50%. CAN Europe or any of the other environmentalists did not say that the Irish Government was right to do that because they seem just to focus on it when it is on the agenda of the big member states rather than when small member states want assistance to help reach their targets.

We are going to ban the burning of coal in Moneypoint by 2025 and peat at the latest by 2030. Our national broadband plan will have a significant impact on transport emissions in rural areas. We want to become a global leader in terms of food waste and introduce district heating in tandem with that. Bord na Móna BioEnergy has been set up. We are looking at developing a new biomass industry in this country. The support scheme for renewable heat will operate this year. Before the summer, I will bring to Government a paper on the renewable electricity support scheme to approve a microgeneration scheme for domestic users. We have brought in user charges relating to waste, a new recycling regime for tyres, the beef data and genomics scheme and the smart farming initiative. We have the smartest grids globally. Global energy experts are now coming to Ireland to see what we are doing so we have ambition. Can we be more ambitious? Absolutely, but it must be a practical ambition that we can implement.

We are setting targets in that regard. I look forward to working with and engaging with the committee on this.

It would have been nice to at least have acknowledgement of what we are doing. Within the past 100 weeks, things have changed, and changed significantly. I accept that things could have been done better in the past and that if they had been, we would not be in the position we are in today. Let us start by leading from here on. Let us start by making sure we get as close as possible to our 2020 targets to put us on a proper trajectory towards 2030.

In response to Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan, this is the argument I was making to my colleagues at European level. It does not make sense for Ireland to pay penalties from 2021 when we should be using that money to invest in reaching our 2030 targets. We did not seek to alter our 2030 target. What we did was put a proper trajectory in place.

In response to Deputy Danny Healy-Rae and his perspective on climate, the measures we are talking about need to be taken anyway. The economy is far too dependent on imported fossil fuels and we need to become self-sufficient in regard to energy. Renewable energy for our economy is the right way to go.

With regard to farming, we can do far better by managing our grasslands better. The smart farming initiative we are rolling out across the country will see a reduction in overall emissions by 10% and increased profitability for every single farmer. For that reason, if for no other, it should be done. Broadband will also have a dramatic impact on the opportunities across rural Ireland as well as having an impact on climate.

There are huge co-benefits which result from putting the investment in place, benefits that will disproportionately benefit people in rural Ireland above all others. Let us all start working together in a constructive way to put a practical, implementable and ambitious plan in place.


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