Thursday, 29 April 2021
Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill 2021: Second Stage (Resumed)
We all agree that urgent climate action is required and that all sectors and each one of have a part to play. There is a genuine fear that more will be asked of some than of others. Some decisions made by the Government have only added to these fears.
As someone who lives on a farm in a rural area, it is important for me to say that farmers and rural areas cannot pay the price for climate action, nor will we be sacrificed for climate change. People in rural areas rely on their car because there is no public transport and no alternative. Likewise, this Government and previous Governments have continued to heap carbon taxes on solid fuels at a time when bills have already been increased, energy poverty is on the rise and there are no affordable alternatives. We now have the situation, which would be laughable if it were not so serious, of peat briquettes being imported from Germany when peat production here is being wound down and jobs are being lost. The workers, families and communities concerned see peat briquettes being imported. It is absolute madness.
Many farmers have been playing their part for a long time when it comes to climate action but they are not being compensated for it. We need to acknowledge that. Many of them have been left greatly disappointed having been sold the promise in the previous general election that REPS 2, a new environmental scheme, was coming down the tracks. Instead, a pilot scheme has been announced with a focus on results rather than actions. It will cost €10 million, whereas €79 million was set aside in the previous budget for a new environmental scheme and other measures. A sum of €10 million is not enough. The signs are not good that we will get the type of environmental scheme that farmers are desperately waiting on to try to increase their income. Farmers need a scheme that recognises the work they already do and puts money in their pockets, that a box-ticking, overly administrative scheme. That is all that is required.
Communities at the coalface in the current move from brown to green, including Lanesborough and Ballyleague, need urgent attention. We need to see the jobs in the Lough Ree power station replaced. These communities are already feeling left behind. In towns like Lanesborough and Ballyleague, which have proactive communities, people understand the change but they need to be supported. This issue should be given urgent attention.
We need to protect domestic turf cutting. Turf has been much more than just a form of heating for many families for generations. Under no circumstances, should domestic turf cutting be banned while there is no affordable alternative available. Many families in areas such as Ballinasloe where domestic turf cutting has been stopped have been left overnight without the source of heating on which they have relied for so long. Domestic turf cutting must be protected.