Wednesday, 18 December 2019
Climate Action and Low Carbon Development: Statements
Every week we are in this Chamber or at a committee talking about climate action. If the Government is to achieve everything that it has set out in the climate action plan, it would be useful if we could nail down the financial package involved. Let us take targets around afforestation or the retrofitting of houses. While I do not wish to be partisan tonight, by any objective analysis, there were only 300 deep retrofits carried out 2019 when the Government has spoken about committing to a B2 BER standard for 50,000 houses per annum. This will require money.
If the Minister is talking about ring-fencing carbon taxes to build a fund, it is arguable that those resources may not meet the demands, particularly in the transport sector and with the provision of rolling stock to meet public transport demand. There is the issue of putting together the fund which will retrofit local authority housing. There are issues with the just transition. I am glad Mr. Kieran Mulvey was mentioned tonight because he is normally the person the Government of the day calls in to act as chief firefighter. He has a remarkable record in that respect. If we are serious about the just transition and the midlands is ground zero for this, it must be resourced adequately.
We then need to see how that just transition is replicated throughout the State because other parts of the country would have that transition from carbon producing, particularly my area, which is the main hub for energy sources for a significant part of the island. We are anxiously waiting to see what funding will be made available for this just transition for the remainder of the country. Notwithstanding the appointment of Mr. Mulvey, the jury is still out on how that process in the midlands is going. It is early days.
I ask the Minister to address the financial elements of what is proposed. The European Union has proposed a €100 billion fund. What is the Government's thinking on how much will be available for Ireland to draw down? As I understand it, the package has yet to be signed off on but it is in play.
In the context of the agricultural sector in particular, what will the permutations of the negotiations relating to the multi-annual financial framework mean for the next Common Agricultural Policy, CAP? Right now, we are being told that the CAP negotiations could become not interminable, but could surpass the closing date of the current CAP. There is an opportunity to invest in agriculture in partnership with farmers on carbon sequestration. What funding measures does the Minister envisage could be brought to bear? The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Creed, will have a view on that, but I would like to hear the views of the Minister, Deputy Bruton, on it.
What is the status of the draft national energy and climate plan? We had some deliberations on this matter in the committee today. Obviously, we want to ensure the voice of the Oireachtas committee is heard when we reach a point when there is consensus - hopefully there will be consensus - on that draft national energy and climate plan. I hope the Minister will have regard to what the Oireachtas committee has to say.