Dáil debates

Wednesday, 16 June 2021

Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

Climate Change Policy

9:12 am

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Dublin Bay North, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for the permission to raise this important issue. If present trends continue, by 2050 it will take three planets for nature to replenish the materials we use each year. The take, make, use and dispose model has got an iron grip on the way we live our lives. That has to change. The care of our planet must be at the heart of Ireland 2040. The food we waste each year in Ireland generates the same emissions as 1 million cars. The plastic that wraps our lives so conveniently is rarely used a second time and generates emissions equivalent to half a million cars. Every night, 2 million bedrooms lie empty, in the midst of a housing crisis. All around us, items are used in a throwaway fashion: non-reparable, rapid obsolescence. Two thirds of what goes into our black bins already have better uses available for those who put them in those bins.

The clue to how we might change this is revealed in the fact that 80% of the environmental damage in the items we use is baked in at design stage, both in the products we use, and the markets in which they trade. If we rethink our choices and our supply chain, we can have different outcomes. For many consumers, the choice to purchase, use and re-use these items in a manner consistent with the principles of circular economy is not being made available to them.

I welcome today’s publication of a waste Bill. However, we need to go a great deal further than what is envisaged in that Bill. I have set out in a report that I have presented to the Committee on Environment and Climate Action an approach to which we can deliver much more ambition. It is built around five pillars for action. The first of those is in the investment world: both the public investment world and the private. We need to follow the EU so-called taxonomy, in other words, building principles of sustainability into the investments we make. The second pillar is among designers and manufacturers. We must make sure that the designs that are made at that early stage include sustainability. The third pillar is around packaging and labelling. At the moment, we have complete ambiguity and confusion in respect of the labels that are presented. That needs to change. The fourth pillar is to offer new options to consumers, through distribution and retail chains. The final is to develop new consumer markets that can ensure access to accurate information and options for more sustainable practice.

The reality is that even with the publication of the waste Bill yesterday, little of this territory has been developed in Ireland. We do not see in either the public sector or the private sector the sort of commitments to those investment and design strategies. I urge the Minister of State to do a number of things. He needs to set targets, he needs to develop concrete actions and he needs to establish indicators that are reported regularly. For example, we have been talking about green procurement for years but we do not have one single consistent indicator of what is progress is being made under green procurement. That is just one example of how we can demonstrate that we are making progress.

I would say to the Minister of State that this cannot be done without a budget. We need to see a substantial budget to ensure that sectoral roadmaps can be opened up in areas like food, construction and retail, where there are huge opportunities to change that pattern, for the benefit of our planet.


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