Thursday, 29 April 2021
Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill 2021: Second Stage (Resumed)
I thank the Leas-Chathaoirleach for her consideration. The entire world is aware of the need to enact change to prevent global warming. The human, environmental and economic costs of global warming are becoming increasingly clear each year. Every year, we witness the global results of, and the damage caused by, climate change. Major flooding, hurricanes, droughts and wildfires are not fears for the future but the realities of the present. Climate action is critical. We must stop the inexorable rise in global temperatures. We owe it to this generation and to those who will come after to protect our planet. In doing so, we must also remain conscious that a one-size-fits-all approach to climate action cannot be taken across the globe. Put simply, what can be achieved with relative ease by one country may have the potential to cause significant change and upheaval in another. It falls on every country to address the growing problem but it falls on the government of each country to introduce change in a fair and equitable manner. Ultimately, it falls to each of us to play our part.
When talks on the urgent need to take climate action were headline news during talks on the formation of this Government, a number of fingers were pointed towards the agricultural sector. We were led to believe reducing our national herd would be a quick-fix solution in reducing Ireland's emissions profile. Very few acknowledged the enormous volume of CO2 that Irish grasslands and farms actually remove from the atmosphere. Even fewer highlighted the fact that Ireland's agrifood industry remains a global leader in sustainability. Ireland is the most carbon-efficient country in which to produce dairy products. Limiting milk production here will shift production to less sustainable and less regulated markets. The Irish sector continues to break new ground every year due to cutting-edge research on carbon-neutral beef and dairy farming. The Irish dairy industry should not be damned for pursuing a livelihood from livestock. Farmers should not be scapegoated.
While many challenges remain for the agricultural sector in the quest to positively address climate issues, it is vital that we recognise the enormous change taking place. Ireland's agrifood sector is transforming. With financial and educational support, this sector will not be a major stumbling block with regard to Ireland's contribution to proactive climate action.
Rather than pointing the finger at agriculture and industry, as many have chosen to do, the key to taking positive climate action lies within our own daily lives. Every one of us can play a part and, in many cases, this can involve saving money as well as our planet. Homes, businesses, farms, industry and educational centres all have a role to play. Small daily changes to the way we live will accumulate and have a major impact. Turning down the heating, reducing water and food waste, switching off lights, not leaving appliances plugged in and using public transport instead of driving are all little things that can help. If we had the collective will to change little things, the impact would be enormous. In fact, it would have a similar effect to culling the national herd.
When we speak of taking climate action, our thoughts revolve around major changes that will most certainly come our way in the future. We seldom concentrate on the simple things we can do to help today. By doing things differently, we can all be part of the solution. This analogy also applies to Government. The aim must be to bring people willingly on board rather than to bombard them with dramatic scenarios as happened in respect of the farming sector. There is no for and against saving our planet. It is a universal objective. Each one of us has a shared responsibility.