Thursday, 29 April 2021
Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill 2021: Second Stage (Resumed)
There has been much discussion of this legislation over the past few months. I am glad the debate on Second Stage is being given the time it deserves. The view among environmental activists is that the Bill does not go anywhere near where it should. Notwithstanding the good provisions it contains, many people have concerns. A large number of constituents have contacted my office to express their concerns about the provisions in the Bill and, even more so, what is not in the Bill.
A key focus for me is the need for the actions to tackle climate change to be fair for people and for a just transition to be a key part of Government thinking. There must be an element of social justice to it. Those who are least well off cannot be left, once again, to pick up the tab. Climate action can be a huge opportunity to improve people's lives, deliver warmer homes and ensure a better work-life balance. However, we must bring people along with us. We must give them the choices and the means to do so and we cannot punish them.
Carbon taxes are an example of poor policy decisions that impact most on those who cannot afford an alternative. Rather than work with people, the Government will penalise them for a behaviour they are not in a position to change. We need a definition of what the Government means by a just transition and there is an opportunity to provide it in this Bill.
The whole purpose of setting targets is that they are achievable. If we go beyond them, we will celebrate. The lack of accountability by previous Governments has got us where we are today. This is our opportunity to get things right.
My colleague, Deputy Darren O'Rourke, spoke about the need for the Government to invest significantly in public transport. Many communities have been failed by a lack of investment over decades. Governments have prioritised profitable bus routes but then complained when Bus Éireann has not made money. We need to stop looking to the private market to serve the public. If we have to get cars off our roads, we need a complete overhaul of public transport because the current system is not sustainable.
There is much good in the Bill but it is not a silver bullet. Much more needs to be considered before it is passed.