Dáil debates

Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Climate Action and Low Carbon Development: Statements


8:55 pm

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Dublin Bay North, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

On the first question, there is no doubt that the Government, similar to other governments, has lifted its ambition. When I came into office first, my target was to get us back on track. We were failing dismally to achieve our target. People may or may not attribute the hard work that we had to do to get all of the Departments to agree to targets that were set and that would deliver and turn that into solid projects in each of them.. I am not looking for credit, but there was a lot of work in the process.

There is no doubt that the Deputy is correct. The mood has changed. Like most policymakers, I come from the tradition of examining what can be done and then drawing up targets based on a reasonable expectation of what the available policy tools will deliver. That is changing and the mood is changing in the sense that people are saying that we have to get to net zero emissions by 2050 and we have to find the policies that will deliver that outcome. If the tools we have that are tried and tested are not enough, we will have to think beyond them.

There is that shift of policy thinking, parameters or frameworks, or whatever we might like to call it. That is a shift that was very evident even this year compared to last year in Katowice. As the Deputy remarked, the Danes, do not know how they are going to get this done but they are making commitments without being able to say how they are going to get there. That is a shift. We have work through this with the EU, but it has also shifted its target from 40% to a minimum of 50% and perhaps up to 55% by 2030. That represents a shift.

It will have to embody that shift in a policy framework over the coming months by mid-year and we will have to respond to that because we share the need to lift the ambition. It is a matter that we will have to work through.

On the issue of biogenic methane, I detected a shift in the attitude of scientists towards land use. There seemed to be a greater emphasis on the need to speed up what we do in conventional energy areas and land use seems to be greatly influenced by whether we can reduce climate temperatures. Land use as a carbon store is very much influenced by global warming. There is a balance to be struck in food production and food security, and how that is to be worked through. I have read the advice of the Climate Change Advisory Council, although I get the impression that the Deputy does not agree with it. The council spoke of a different range for biogenic methane from what would apply for other greenhouse gases. We have not adopted a position on that, and the long-term strategy is out for consultation and will have to evolve. We have committed to including a 2050 target in the legislation and will doubtless engage in the Chamber on the issue in due course.


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