Dáil debates

Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Ceisteanna - Questions

Cabinet Committees

1:25 pm

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

-----the adoption of five-year carbon budgets setting maximum emissions by sectoral legal requirement. It will also establish the climate action council on an independent statutory footing and ensure greater gender balance and increased scientific experience and expertise in its membership. The objective is to have the Bill ready and published within 100 days, give or take a day or two.

On the issue of County Tipperary, Deputy Kelly will note that the Minister with responsibility for housing, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, got a €20 million initiative through Cabinet this week for retrofitting in designated local authority housing estates across the midlands and County Tipperary, as well as other counties. Those estates will be identified by the respective local authorities. This is the first significant part of the just transition response and it is needed to energise some of the county councils to develop capacity to deliver retrofitting programmes in their counties. That is something we want to expand more with local authority housing and an expanded programme of retrofitting across the country. A lot of skilling up of personnel will be needed as well to enable them to do that. We also want to create incentives for the private sector to engage in the retrofitting programme.

On utility bills, as Deputy McDonald knows, there is no mystery to how utility bills are devised. The regulator has a key role in that. Very often, the regulator becomes the Government overnight in terms of how issues are presented.

I am a great advocate of the all-Ireland pollinator plan. It does very significant work. I will talk to the Minister about the issues the Deputy has raised around the legislative underpinning of the National Biodiversity Data Centre.

Deputy Boyd Barrett raised issues related to the carbon tax, as did Deputy Kelly. Under the Government's programme, substantial amounts of funding will be raised from the tax over the next decade or so. It will be potentially up to €9.5 billion over a ten-year period. The idea is that €3 billion of that will be available to prevent fuel poverty and ensure a just transition. That will involve the fuel allowance rate and other issues related to that. It will also involve substantial funding for retrofitting and the national retrofit plan. Funding will also be provided for a rural environment protection scheme and a rural environmental plan separate from the Common Agricultural Policy, which will be designed to incentivise farmers on the issue of biodiversity farming practice that would be good for the climate and for protecting biodiversity in the country. While this did not have total agreement, there was agreement on it among parties which were genuinely committed to the environment and getting something done on it. Last year, the increase in the carbon tax raised €90 million which was used to protect the vulnerable. It was also used for the just transition and investing in the low-carbon transition. Also last year, €20 million was spent on the fuel allowance and €13 million on energy poverty efficiency upgrades.

The programme for Government sets out the broad thrust of how we intend to divide up any carbon tax revenue.

We intend to hypothecate it and ring-fence it so the taxpayer is clear that the money raised on a carbon tax will be used for express purposes with a view to achieving our climate change targets while protecting those on low incomes and social protection payments through the fuel allowance and retrofitting, which will give long-term savings to those in local authority housing who would benefit from a good, comprehensive retrofit programme.

To respond to Deputy Boyd Barrett's question on bus lanes, my sense is he has wronged the Minister, Deputy Ryan, and I know this would not be his intention. He has never said that taxis would be barred from bus lanes. He told me he did not know where that suggestion came from. He has met the Irish Taxi Drivers Federation and is anxious to work with it. Some of the issues raised by Deputy Boyd Barrett last week and the week before are matters that are under consideration. The Minister is very disposed to the idea of electrifying, over time, the taxi fleet but this could not happen without the type of supports the Deputy has suggested and identified. One has to work with the industry in pursuing these objectives and aims. The Minister is clear that his engagement with the Irish Taxi Drivers Federation and representatives of taxi drivers will continue on these issues and, in terms of the future, how they can make a contribution to the overall effort to decarbonise the economy itself.

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