Dáil debates

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions


3:00 pm

Photo of Catherine ConnollyCatherine Connolly (Galway West, Independent) | Oireachtas source

Tá an cheist atá agam inniu ag díriú isteach ar athrú aeráide, go háirithe na bearta práinneacha atá ag teastáil ó d'fhógair an Dáil seo éigeandáil an Déardaoin seo caite. Tá mo cheist ag díriú isteach ar na bearta práinneacha atá ag teastáil go háirithe ó thaobh cathair na Gaillimhe de. Ireland became only the second country in the world to declare a climate and biodiversity emergency last Thursday. That declaration was made on foot of amendments tabled by all Opposition parties in the Dáil further to the publication of the report from the Joint Committee on Climate Action. That committee was set up on foot of a recommendation contained in the Citizens' Assembly report which outlined other urgent recommendations on how the State can make Ireland a leader in tackling climate change. It has taken the visual imagery, however, of children protesting on our streets and streets throughout the world to force the Dáil to take action, along with the numerous reports, both national and international, from UN bodies, the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, and the Climate Advisory Council. These all clearly show that our trajectory of development is not just unsustainable, but catastrophic.

Last week the UN-commissioned report was published, and it highlighted in the most acute way the gravity of the biodiversity crisis. A few months before that we had the intergovernmental climate report, which cautioned that we had a window of 12 years in which to take action, without which there will be drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people. We are talking about the most innocent people, who made very little contribution to climate change. While we have taken the first step, which is to be welcomed, it has to have meaning. I have some difficulty with the cognitive dissonance - the Taoiseach is familiar with the concept - that the Government displays. On the very day we declared an emergency, that morning Ireland was conspicuously absent from a list of EU states demanding that 25% of the budget be set aside for climate change. It was conspicuously absent from the list of countries demanding more action on climate change. Indeed, our advisory council has told us that we will miss our targets in 2020 and 2030.

In that context, following on from a specific recommendation on page 97 of the report published last week, I am asking the Government to choose Galway and its regional hinterlands as a blueprint for other cities in relation to the roll-out of climate mitigation measures. As the Taoiseach knows, is cathair álainn dhátheangach ar thairseach na Gaeltachta is mó sa tír í an Ghaillimh. It is a city that is destined for 50% growth. It has been picked out in the national planning framework as one of the five cities. However, in contrast to the other four cities, it has a major traffic problem and a housing crisis. The traffic crisis is actually strangling development in the city. I have asked, and am asking again, that a city be picked. The report asks for the same. I ask the Taoiseach to please pick Galway. It has 80,000 people, and is destined to grow by another 50%. Let us roll out a masterplan that is sustainable and allows for the development within the footprint of the city. In particular, we should carry out a feasibility study for light rail.


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