Dáil debates

Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Climate Action and Low Carbon Development: Statements


8:25 pm

Photo of Maureen O'SullivanMaureen O'Sullivan (Dublin Central, Independent) | Oireachtas source

I am beginning to feel that climate is getting like housing with debate after debate. It is really time that we stopped talking and started doing. Equally, while marches and protests have their place, we need comprehensive, easy to read, easy to understand information and measures on recycling. Most of us have our different bins but there is a lot of contamination of recycling materials because people genuinely do not know all of the details. It is a lack of knowledge. I am tired of people saying that we must do more and we have to tackle climate change without saying specifically what each of us can do and what each of us must do so that the individual efforts of one are not undermined by the efforts of another.

I turn now to the frequent topic of what we in this House do in this regard. We now have recycling bins in Leinster House 2000, each of which has a sign. Still, however, the same items are in each of the three bins. I really think that we need pictures on the bins so we know exactly what to put into the bins. We must start here and do our bit.

On a bigger scale, we could look at what the German Bundestag has done. In 2008, they set out to become the greenest parliamentary building in the world when they made a decision to rely solely on renewable energy using water, wind and solar. There was a lot of refurbishment there in the late 1990s, including the glass cupola, and the roof uses solar power. In 2008, a parliamentary sub-committee set out to look for bids from renewable energy producers. This tied in with the growing trend in zero-emission homes in Germany, some of which are so energy efficient that they produce surplus power that owners can sell back to the grid. We could start to look at ourselves in the Houses of the Oireachtas and how we could lead by example.

I believe that the public needs more information so that individuals' homes and communities will know exactly what they have to do. It requires comprehensive, concrete information. This will feed into how necessary it is to have clarity on the long-term strategy with processes, on the measures and on the timeframes.

We know of the need to cut emissions to limit warming to 1.5oC as in the Paris Agreement. A total of 196 states had signed it by 2019, and it has been ratified by 183 and the EU. That is the easy part. We also know the United States of America's attitude. Warming over 1.5oC significantly worsens the risk of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty. Many states are ostrich like, burying their heads in the sand and ignoring the scientific evidence. No matter what the EU, the island states, and the small countries do, the big polluters are getting away with what they please to do. We know exactly who they are. There is, therefore, a legal basis for climate justice. Dr. Lorna Gold has said that tackling climate change at its root means untangling and unmaking that complex web of capital power and privilege. The top 10% of emitters contribute 50% of global emissions annually. I was incredulous when I read of oxygen bars in Delhi where citizens can go to breathe fresh air for certain periods of time.

Four years on from the Paris Agreement it is obvious that current efforts are failing. Science is being ignored and the scientists have warned that without urgent action, global warming is likely to exceed 2oC. We know the devastating impact this would have on nature, on ecosystems and on biodiversity. There is also the huge cost for economies and the impact on the production of food. In his statement the Minister said that this would require an unprecedented level of international co-operation, that all sectors must step up to decarbonise, and that there is a need for radical change. If Ireland is fully committed to implementing the objectives of the Paris Agreement, then I believe that each community and each sector should know specifically how they have to contribute.

We are committed to scaling up our financial contribution to the UNFCCC and to support climate action in developing countries. Increasing finance for developing countries is only part of the answer. We need to ensure that the decisions we make in our developed world are proofed against the impact on developing countries. We have to make hard decisions in our world, which is a high carbon economy. The better off we are, the more we emit, but we cannot leave the future of the planet to the market. Ghandi said "The earth provides enough for every man's need but not every man's greed". We have to acknowledge excessive consumerism and do what is necessary to curtail it, and really take on board that we share the planet, we do not own it. We need more eco villages such as Cloughjordan, more eco communities and more eco countries such as Cuba. We need more community gardens, and all Members have these in their constituencies, and we need more tree planting. We know what to do. It is about getting down to do it.


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