Thursday, 29 April 2021
Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill 2021: Second Stage (Resumed)
I welcome that many of the suggestions and changes that were put forward have been inserted into the Bill. However, there are still significant weaknesses in it. I hope the Government will keep listening to those who continue to have concerns and ensure there is the necessary public confidence in a just and fair climate action plan. Youth throughout the world have driven the pace of change on these issues. I commend, in particular, the young students in Blakestown Community School in my constituency, who have organised a number of protests outside Fingal County Council's offices in recent years to highlight the points we are discussing today.
I want to address the issue of climate justice, which will be a core part of getting people to buy into efforts to achieve our climate change objectives. Deputy Cowen spoke yesterday evening in the House about the importance of a just transition. However, the Bill gives many of us cause for serious concern in this regard. It appears that working people are being set up to bear the largest cost of the transition. Working families are already struggling as we come out of the pandemic. We had a warning this week by the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, that the supports in place to help workers in some way to cope with the pandemic will be withdrawn over a short period. That is a cause for particular concern. If this is being done during a pandemic that has devastated the economic well-being of people in our community, how can we trust that supports will be put in place to help them through the changes needed to tackle climate change and enable us to reach the targets that have been set?
The challenges we face in my constituency of Dublin West are significant. Sinn Féin is working on a submission on the county development plan that will seek to address those challenges. Many of the themes for the next decade set out in that plan are intrinsically linked to climate change. How do we protect our trees and hedgerows, many of which have been devastated by urban sprawl and the years of corruption in our planning system? How do we protect our green spaces and green belts and ensure we have a green lung left in Dublin? How do we revitalise towns and villages that have been affected by Walmartisation? Massive superstores, built with only car users in mind, have sucked the life out of those towns and villages. Planning legislation such as that to deliver strategic housing development has rocked the confidence of communities in proper and sustainable planning and development.
How do we ensure we have strong public support for major infrastructural projects such as BusConnects and DART+? Another major public transport scheme, metro west, has been all but abandoned. It would have connected Tallaght, Clondalkin and Blanchardstown to Dublin Airport. Without it, people in Dublin 15 continue to have absolutely no public transport access to the airport. If we are serious about connecting communities and getting people out of cars, we need a free public transport system.
If we are to bring everyone along on this journey, a just transition must be about more than a few paragraphs in a climate strategy document. Justice must be at the very core of everything or our efforts will fail. We must avoid that at all costs.