Wednesday, 18 December 2019
Environmental Policy: Motion [Private Members]
I am sharing my time with Deputy Bríd Smith. We will be supporting this motion, as well as the amendments tabled by Sinn Féin, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party. We support the idea of a nationwide ban on smoky coal and taking on the vested interests that would stand to lose from that in terms of profiteering.
Illegal dumping is referred to in the motion but it has not featured much in this debate. There has been an explosion in the level of illegal dumping over the past two decades. It is no coincidence that it coincided with the privatisation of bin services and the introduction of bin charges. I am opposed to illegal dumping in any circumstances. However, it does not take a rocket scientist to explain or understand that if one hikes the cost of bin collections every year over a period of time, there will be an increase in illegal dumping. For example, when I was a member of Cork City Council, the officials in the waste department made it clear that there had been a tenfold increase in illegal dumping since the introduction of bin charges and the privatisation of services in Cork city. These policies should be reversed with the taking of bin services back into public ownership, the abolition of bin charges and the introduction of a steeply progressive tax system where the people at the top pay tax in a real sense to fund public services.
Lives are at stake. Air pollution in Cork city is as bad as it is anywhere else in western Europe. PurpleAir, a real-time air quality monitoring website, has stated that on several nights recently, Cork was top of the European tables in this regard. It had double the air pollution levels of London and treble those of Rome. The burning of coal, peat and wood at home are important factors in this. Up to 1,500 people die every year as a result of air pollution. A staggering 400,000 people across Europe died as a result of air pollution in 2016, ten times the number of people who died as a result of road accidents.
There are huge profits to be made out of this. Those vested interests might need to be taken on. One weakness in the Labour Party motion is that it refers to social democratic societies in Scandinavia being the ideal and so on. These are societies where capitalism remains in place. While an attempt was made to tame it in these societies, profit is still the key motive. One needs to go much further than that to break with that system if one is going to tackle these issues. That will not stop us, however, voting for the motion. We will be putting in some written points to explain our view on that.