Wednesday, 18 December 2019
Environmental Policy: Motion [Private Members]
I am very pleased on behalf of the Green Party to speak in support of the Labour Party motion, on the intention behind it, and to perhaps outline the thinking behind our own amendments, which are not contrary or disputing any of the arguments made in the Labour Party motion. We have put forward the amendments to broaden the debate and to broaden the context we see as needed.
The most critical of our amendments is the need for us to align with the sustainable development goals as agreed in New York three or four years ago. Central to those 17 goals is the recognition that every facet of our society and economy must tie into a sustainable agenda. In managing the ecological crises we face, we need to look at every aspect of government such as education, justice, health and agriculture. Every aspect has a role to play and it is critical that we achieve all 17 goals, which is a manifesto for the future and for the first time a manifesto for the wealthier northern countries of the world and not just for the poor, as with the previous goals such as the millennium development goals, and the Agenda 21 goals that were agreed in Rio back in 1992.
It may sound very broad, or we all agree and everyone wears the badge, but we have to put it into practice and into thinking in everything we do. This is why we cite it and believe it fits in the motion.
Similarly, if we follow down from this, we have also introduced the concept that the national development plan drafted a year and a half ago is not fit for purpose. We have debated the plan in the House on many occasions. There was no assessment of climate change in its drafting. There was no application of the sustainable development goals in the objectives we seek to achieve. We believe the next Government will, first and foremost, have to agree a new national development plan that will reflect what was a good plan presented by the Government in the national planning framework. This would address many of the issues Deputy Tóibín raised in terms of the ongoing unsustainable sprawl in our society where, as he says, parents do not see their children and people have unhealthy lives because they are stuck in traffic for hours every day. This is vital. The scale of our ambition should recognise that we need a completely new national development plan.
Central to this is the need for a land use plan. Many of the very worthy provisions in the Labour Party motion regarding our approach to managing water and waste and a clear air strategy will come out of new and effective land use plan. It would not tell farmers they have to do this or that but recognise that if we are to address the ecological crisis, restore our peatlands, develop forestry in a new way and make agriculture profitable, which it is not at present, then we have to look at the entire island. Within this we will manage water quality and ensure we tackle the issue of air quality and bring back biodiversity. It has to be a whole-of-Government and all-island approach.
We also cite in our amendment, and it is worthy of citing, the developments last week whereby the European Commission stated its first objective is a new European green deal. While details are scarce and a huge amount of work has to be done to implement it, the green deal sets out the new strategy for Europe and we should and will be able to be good at this and to lead it. It is a completely different economy. It is not just a take economy and a winner takes all economy. It is a more caring economy that values caring work and the environment, and has a different way of doing business, with different values in business and a different sense of what we are about as a country and what we measure as progress. That is the scale of change involved. We believe we can do it in the context of what is happening in Europe. It gives us a very clear direction that a green deal is the centre of new strategy for the country. This country can and will be good as it goes green.
We cite the objective of creating a circular economy. This is a broad and woolly term that everyone uses but we know Europe is bringing through legislation, such as the plastics directive, the circular economy directive and a range of other directives. The digital economy will help us deliver a very efficient economy that is profitable, because businesses have to be profitable to survive, but also sets completely different goals for what businesses have to do.
I agree with the proposal in the Labour Party motion on auditing companies for carbon. That can and should be done under the task force established by Mark Carney for climate-related financial disclosure. It gives us the mechanism, and research has been done to see how it will happen. This is coming as an inevitability. Those businesses that think they can ignore it and remain with the status quowill be left behind and we do not want to do that.
This has to be a just transition. Today, the Joint Committee on Climate Action heard from Mr. Kieran Mulvey. He is an excellent man but it was clear from the questions we asked that what has been established is not fit for purpose and does not match the scale of preparations, planning and engagement that is needed. This transition must bring ecological and social justice. While it is socially democratic, is also bigger than that. It is a new emphasis on looking after nature and ourselves. It is giving up the market model that has dominated politics in the western hemisphere for the past 40 years and recognises that the "me" story - with "me, the market", "me looking after myself" and "rising tides lift all boats" - is no longer fit for purpose. It died in the financial crash but in the ten years since we have not evolved a new mechanism or new way of doing things.
The new green economy is socially democratic and looks after nature at its core. It will require all parties to be involved. It does not belong to any one party. If we are to get this scale of change, it has to belong everywhere. It belongs to every person in the country, and every place matters. It tends towards a politics of co-operation and trying to work together to make the amazing leap we will have to make if we are to face the ecological crisis. This is why we support the Labour Party motion and present our amendments in a way we think gives a slightly broader perspective as to what the transition is about. I very much look forward to seeing how the votes go. It will be complicated voting with so many amendments but it is a useful and welcome debate on our last day of the Dáil in 2019. I thank the Labour Party for presenting it.