Thursday, 29 April 2021
Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill 2021: Second Stage (Resumed)
I support sensible measures to encourage people to lead more environmentally healthy lives but I have major fears about whether this Bill will lead to that. While I believe the Minister and his colleagues in the Green Party are sincere in their motives, I disagree with the approach they want to take. First, this Bill could best be described as motherhood and apple pie. While it sounds wonderful, what will it mean when push comes to shove? We are being asked to pass a vague Bill that will give Governments free rein to do as they please for the next 30 years. I agree with Deputy Naughten's statement that the Bill is anti-democratic and that, by passing it, we are tying the hands of future legislators and depriving them of a say. When we deprive Deputies of a say, we are effectively depriving people of a voice. Past behaviour is a key indicator of action in climate-related matters. Past behaviour is a key indicator of future performance, and this is very true when it comes to action on climate-related matters. The past behaviour of successive Governments has targeted the wrong outcomes. We need only return to 2008 when a Minister responsible for the environment, Mr. John Gormley, told us to buy diesel cars. Sales of diesel cars went up by 30% in six months. The Green Party was delighted. It said consumers had modified their behaviour and turned to fuel-efficient cars, claiming this was evidence that its policies worked. Less than ten years later, the Green Party says that was wrong. Yesterday I heard Mr. Ciarán Cuffe, MEP, say he believes speed cameras on the M50 are a great idea. He said the approach is proven to slow down traffic but that it is not where we want to be. He said we need a modal transport shift, with more people on buses, but preferably on bicycles, meaning that in the future one lane can be dedicated entirely to buses. This is happening all over Europe, he said.
What I have never heard from the Green Party or this Government is that an extension to Dublin Port is a bad idea because of nitrogen oxide, NOx, emissions. Mr. Cuffe may know what is happening all over Europe. Ports in major cities are being wound down or relocated, or commercial activities are being minimised and users are being dispersed to regional or less congested ports, but not in Dublin, it appears. Anyone would believe that the Environmental Protection Agency reports do not matter or that people's lung health is not as important in Dublin Port. Is it being ignored for political reasons? Is it easier to pay the nitrogen oxide exceedance fines than discuss the hot potato, which is that Dublin Port activities could be shared with regional ports to the people's advantage? Dare I mention that removing a toll barrier at Dublin Port tunnel would make a world of a difference with regard to emissions?
The entrance has one of the highest levels of NOx emissions of anywhere in the city, according to the EPA. Perhaps that is simplistic. It would not make us world leaders because First World countries do not have toll barriers and tolls, just Ireland. We have both-----