Tuesday, 13 June 2006
Greenhouse Gas Emissions.
The national climate change strategy provides the basis for Government policy and action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the most efficient and equitable manner, and to ensure that Ireland meets its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol. A variety of measures adopted by the Government on foot of the strategy are already contributing to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. These include higher standards of energy conservation provided for in the building regulations, cleaner electricity generation, increased penetration of renewable energy, grant assistance for householders and businesses to support investment in renewable energy technologies, improvements in public transport, tax incentives for more fuel efficient cars, and a package of excise relief for biofuels worth €205 million over five years announced in last December's budget.
Recently updated projections of greenhouse gas emissions for the 2008 to 2012 period, which include the expected effects of all existing measures, show that Ireland will face an average annual distance to its Kyoto Protocol target of 10%. This figure is, in fact, approximately 2 million tonnes per year less than previously estimated. Arising from this study, the Government recently decided the proportion of the necessary reduction that should be achieved by the sectors of the economy included in the EU emissions trading scheme.
The Environmental Protection Agency is now in the process of allocating allowances to individual installations in the scheme. The remainder of the reduction will be achieved through measures in the rest of the economy and through the purchase of credits under the Kyoto Protocol's flexible mechanisms. To ensure our target is met, a review of the strategy is being finalised in my Department. This review will provide an updated progress report on implementation and will identify possible additional measures. I intend shortly to publish this review as a consultation document which will inform the preparation of a revised strategy.
While our greenhouse gas emissions are under control or reducing in agriculture and industry, they are increasing massively in the transport area. Will the Minister introduce a system to oblige local authorities to provide park and ride facilities outside Dublin and other cities for those commuters who must, in the absence of public transport, drive into the city but would be prepared to use public transport onward from these points?
In view of the major increase in population, particularly along the east coast and in the counties surrounding Dublin, does the Minister consider it time to review the national spatial strategy to encourage more people to move away from cities and into the regions? This would serve to reduce the quantity of carbon dioxide emissions from motorists who currently face a 12 or 13-hour day.
The Deputy makes a good point in regard to park and ride facilities. In Greystones, where I lived until recently, the huge park and ride facility is sadly and surprisingly little used. The great hope was that commuters would leave their cars there and take the DART into Dublin. I am not sure whether the limited uptake is because of the 200 m walk from the park and ride facility to the train station. Other such facilities are being developed elsewhere and this is something I encourage. It is a good option for commuters in less accessible areas. The DART will never go to Roundwood, for example, but its residents can avail of the park and ride facility in Greystones to access it.
The national spatial strategy is closely integrated within the general architecture of the planning system. I am sure the Deputy does not contend it is time to abandon that strategy.
One cannot adjudicate after only three or four years on the success or otherwise of a scheme that is designed to take place over a much longer timeframe.
As the Deputy observed, there has been a remarkable increase in population in recent years. Who could have forecast the population would be more than 4 million in 2006 and a projected 5 million by 2020? I believe the latter figure may be a significant underestimation. Pressures will continue to arise in such an environment and issues will be raised in regard to the relationship between transport and planning in terms of densities, multi-storey living and so on. It is premature to suggest the national spatial strategy should be abandoned as part of our contribution towards the Kyoto strategy.
The Minister is being somewhat presumptuous. I used the word "changed" rather than "abandoned". Thousands of homes have been built in counties Wicklow, Louth and Meath, and the quality of life is decreasing for residents who face a commute that means their working day is 12 or 13 hours. If the national spatial strategy were effective, people would move out of cities into the provinces and endure shorter commutes, thus causing less pollution.
I acknowledge the Deputy's point. However, having laboured in the recent by-election in Meath, we are both aware that the main issue there was infrastructural deficits. Unfortunately, there are people willing to impede infrastructural developments. Meath, for example, needs an efficient road network more than any other county but people who are not representative of the populace are impeding progress. The House could help in this regard by progressing the national strategic infrastructure Bill.