Tuesday, 3 July 2018
Establishment of Special Joint Committee on Climate Action: Motion
That, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders–
(a) a Special Committee (hereinafter referred to as ‘the Committee’) is hereby appointed, to be joined with a Special Committee to be appointed by Seanad Éireann, to form the Joint Committee on Climate Action to– (i) consider the Third Report and Recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly entitled ‘How the State can make Ireland a Leader in tackling Climate Change’;
(ii) consider how these Recommendations might inform the further implementation of Ireland’s National Mitigation Plan as well as the development of Ireland’s draft Integrated National Energy and Climate Plan in the context of the Regulation on the Governance of the Energy Union (COM 2016/759), taking into account the recently published National Development Plan;
(iii) generally assess the state of play in relation to the Sectoral Adaptation Plans (SAPs) of relevant Government Departments as required under the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015 and as set out under the National Adaptation Framework (NAF) and, in this context, to engage with the Secretaries General of these relevant Government Departments in relation to proposed adaptation measures to be included in such plans taking into account the recently published National Development Plan;
(iv) engage with the Secretaries General of relevant Government Departments to determine whether they have also set out sectoral mitigation measures which could inform further implementation of the National Mitigation Plan and the preparation of Ireland’s draft Integrated National Energy and Climate Plan taking into account the recently published National Development Plan; and
(v) consider such other related matters and engage with such other relevant stakeholders as the Committee sees fit;
and to report to both Houses of the Oireachtas in accordance with paragraph (g);(b) the Committee shall not exceed sixteen members of Dáil Éireann as follows:(i) five members appointed by the Government;
(ii) four members appointed by Fianna Fáil;
(iii) two members appointed by Sinn Féin; and
(iv) one member each appointed by the Labour Party, the Solidarity–People Before Profit (Sol–PBP), Independents 4 Change, the Rural Independent Group, and the Social Democrats–Green Party Group;(c) the Ceann Comhairle shall announce the names of the members appointed under paragraph (b) for the information of the Dáil on the first sitting day following their appointment;
(d) the quorum of the Joint Committee shall be eight, at least one of whom shall be a member of the Dáil, and one a member of the Seanad;
(e) the Joint Committee shall elect one of its members to be Chairman;
(f) the Joint Committee shall have the powers defined in Standing Order 85(1), (2), (3), (4), (5), (7), (8) and (9); and
(g) the Joint Committee shall report its conclusions and recommendations to both Houses of the Oireachtas not later than 31st January, 2019.
I wish to share one minute of my time with Deputy Hildegarde Naughton, the Chair of the committee. The Ceann Comhairle might indicate when there is one minute remaining.
The Citizens' Assembly published its final report on how the State can make Ireland a leader in tackling climate change, on 18 April 2018. The report builds on the conclusions of the Citizens' Assembly following two weekends of deliberation on the energy, transport and agriculture sectors, international best practice and existing national policies and activities. A total of 17 recommendations are detailed in the report. This is comprised of 13 recommendations reached by majority vote from the Citizens' Assembly ballot paper voting and four ancillary recommendations compiled from further submissions made by members via a member reflective exercise response facility for the assembly. The terms of reference of the special committee take into account the recommendations of the Citizens' Assembly and the committee will play an important role in informing the preparation of Ireland's draft national energy and climate plan, which the Department is currently preparing. The terms of reference also include the national development plan. The Government means to do mean business when it comes to taking strong action on climate change. I was very pleased recently to launch the climate action priority of Project Ireland 2040 with An Taoiseach and a number of my Cabinet colleagues. Over the next decade we will spend €22 billion on climate-focused investments. That represents a huge leap forward in our approach, both in the scale of our ambition and the funding we are making available as a Government to meet the challenges. In fact, €1 in every €5 to be spent by the State and State companies in capital investment over the next decade will have a climate-related focus. That is not just significant on a European scale but on a global scale.
We also expect to invest €4,000 million in energy efficiency upgrades of buildings and within the next 200 months, dirty fossil fuels will be taken out of our heating systems, including homes. That will be an achievement of global significance given the fact that 37% of homes are in rural areas. We will have dirty fossil fuels taken out of electricity generation by 2030. Over the next decade our ambition is to increase production of electricity from renewable sources to 55% by 2030, which would be a phenomenal feat, in light of the fact that we have such an isolated electricity grid.
In terms of regulatory measures, the national development plan commits the Government to no new non-zero emission cars to be sold in Ireland post 2030. In effect, there will be a ban on tailpipes on new cars from 2030. We will become the first EU country to do so. It is intended that no NCT certificate will be issued for non-zero emission cars post-2045. That is one of the most ambitious commitments on zero emissions on passenger cars in the entire EU. There will also be a transition to a low emission urban bus fleet, including electric buses, with no diesel-only buses purchased from 1 July 2019. The low-carbon, climate resilient transition ahead will require a societal transformation.
The Citizens' Assembly demonstrates that individual citizens can produce very clear recommendations when provided with an opportunity to reflect and consider in detail a specific societal change. It also underlines for me that Ireland will not achieve its climate objectives through Government action alone and engagement with wider society on an ongoing basis will be vital. Last Saturday week, I hosted the first regional gathering under the national dialogue on climate action to involve individual citizens and communities in the process of shaping Ireland's low-carbon transition. These meetings are the first step of engagement with communities across the country. The establishment by the joint Houses of this special committee is an important milestone for the Oireachtas. I and my officials look forward to working with the committee on its work programme.
I thank the Minister for allowing me a moment of his speaking time. As the Chair of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment, I wish to put on the record of this House how important I view the establishment of this special committee. As one who served on the Special Committee on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, I can attest to the value of such a move. The establishment of this committee will give a focus to the climate change issue that it simply cannot get in the midst of a Department's or a committee's consideration of other matters. To put it very simply; climate change has not got the attention or action it deserves because the Department, and my committee, must consider a whole range of other subjects within our remit. Important matters such as public service broadcasting, the media landscape in general, broadband and a myriad of other issues take up time that we could otherwise devote to climate action. The fact that we are going to miss our 2020 targets by a considerable margin illustrates the point that we have not paid sufficient attention to this issue.
My statement today is not to criticise the Minister, his Department or my committee, rather the contrary, we need to put substantial resources into developing a proper and effective policy on climate change. It is my view that the establishment of this committee to consider the report of the Citizens' Assembly and ancillary matters is a very positive step in developing such a policy in the short term. Having recently spoken to the Taoiseach on the issue I can assure the House of his and Fine Gael's complete support in the work this committee will do.
Like others, Fianna Fáil wholeheartedly supports the establishment of a special Oireachtas Joint Committee on Climate Action. We welcome the recent establishment of the Citizens' Assembly on climate change. Without a shadow of a doubt, climate change is one of the most pressing issues facing humanity on a global scale and it is vital that Ireland plays a strong role in addressing it.
This Government and its predecessor have dismal records on climate change and that is reflected in the fact that Ireland will miss all of its 2020 targets. I appeal to the Minister in the first instance to accept where we are at and stop this continuous bluff and bluster about what is going to happen in 2030, 2045 and 2050. There are a couple of harsh realities he must face. He referred to the diesel bus fleet from now on. Just last year, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, ordered 110 new dirty diesel buses at a time when everybody was talking about our inability to meet the 2020 targets. The Minister, Deputy Naughten, knows better than any how the electoral cycle works and he knows scant regard is paid to what happens in 2030, 2040 or 2050. He must be able to convince his colleagues in government that we have a crisis. The responsibility does not all lie at the door of the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, nor should it. The Minister does not have to defend the indefensible, nor should he. If he takes a lead role at the Cabinet table he will have my support and that of the Fianna Fáil Party. The Minister must bang the table and demand that there is an acceptance that we are laggards rather than come in here and tell us what he is hoping to achieve in terms of being a world leader in electric vehicles by 2045 when we have failed abysmally with the targets we have set. We are way behind and that is appalling.
The Minister made an official announcement yesterday about passenger vehicles on toll plazas receiving a cut of approximately 50%, for most cars except for hybrid vehicles. The reality is that people who have had hybrid vehicles and have moved to electric vehicles now want to move back because the network of charging units is not adequate to support their continued driving of electric vehicles. There is so much more to be done. Rather than saying what we will do in 2045 the Minister should set a target for the next two to three years that falls within the cycle of this or perhaps the next Government rather than talking too far ahead and being absolved from all responsibility. The Minister knows better than I that we are required to reduce our carbon emissions by 20% relative to 2005 levels. We are on track for a 1% reduction, which will give rise to an estimated fine of approximately €600 million. From 2020, on the renewable energy side we are required to source 16% of our energy requirements from renewable sources. We currently source approximately 9.1% of our energy requirements from renewable sources. The estimated fine in that regard depending on the cost of the credits will be somewhere between €115 million and €600 million.
Deputy Hildegarde Naughton, the Chairman of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment, stated that the Taoiseach is committed to this matter. When elected, the Taoiseach made it clear that this was one of the biggest issues for the Government and that he was going to focus almost exclusively on it in the wake of budget 2018. That statement was laughable because he and the Government did virtually nothing in that budget to try to begin a pathway towards meeting our 2020 targets to the greatest extent possible. I am somewhat dejected because the notion is now taking hold in the Government that we have missed the 2020 targets but, what the hell, there are 2030 and 2050 targets. The Government does not accept the possibility of very significant fines but states that such fines will depend on the cost of the carbon credits and should not be overestimated. This should not be about the cost of carbon credits or what we can get away with. Rather, it should be about setting a standard that a small island such as ours which has come through a tough time can reach. We are resilient and showed our capacity to implement very difficult measures over a relatively short period in 2009 and 2010. The decisions taken were not politically advantageous for my party but the Government may benefit from the very significant economic changes that were made to get the country back on track. The challenge for the Government is similarly to take very difficult decisions on climate change to get our targets in line as quickly as possible and ensure we play our part in Europe rather than picking one item, hanging our hook on it and saying we are world leaders. In terms of emissions, energy generation and this entire issue, we are almost the worst in Europe.
We are second from the bottom. If the Minister is satisfied with that and continues to defend the indefensible he will cloud himself in the smoke of burning fossil fuels. He is lost in that smoke and needs to get out of it. He can be a leader and make his ministerial career on the back of fighting for the tough decisions rather than looking over his shoulder and wondering if he is going to get re-elected in Roscommon-Galway if a wind farm goes ahead.
The Minister must forget about that. He has reached the Cabinet table. He must make the right decisions and commit to working on the basis of the recommendations of the committee. Fianna Fáil will participate in the committee as a member of the Opposition. We did not stand back when it came to recommending difficult decisions on the future of public service broadcasting. The Minister has yet to act on those recommendations. He has political cover from the committee and I am sure he will again have that on this issue but he must be committed to taking the tough decisions that will earn him a place in the history books.
I welcome the establishment of the committee and commend the Citizens' Assembly on its work. However, this House is also a citizens' assembly. It is directly elected and paid for by the people of this State and it is answerable to them. These issues should be tackled head on in the Oireachtas and we should make the decisions to put us on the right path to counter climate change. The Citizens' Assembly recommended that the State take leadership on this issue but the State and the Oireachtas have not done so sufficiently. Everyone will play their part and be involved if given the means to so do. Communities need to be involved and, most importantly, respected in the transition ahead. However, it starts with leadership by the Government and the Oireachtas and seeing beyond the election cycle referred to by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.
We cannot hide that the State is in a shameful position in terms of climate action. Emissions are spiralling and we are the second worst in the European Union in terms of climate change measures. We will miss our 2020 targets and face fines of hundreds of millions of euro as a result. The shame on the State in regard to climate change is doubled because we have some of the best renewable resources in Europe. Not only will we not meet our emissions targets but Ireland will only achieve a 1% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 rather than the 20% reduction target which we should have tried to exceed. Our emissions are increasing. The only renewable energy we have developed has been from onshore wind and, rather than having community involvement in that, the opposite has been the case. Many of the key participants in the industries involved in directly combatting climate change have not shown the vision needed for the future but rather have been stagnant and lacked imagination and will. There has been a lack of political will on behalf of the Government and the Oireachtas and a lack of vision by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment. It is important for senior and other civil servants to wake up on this issue. It will be up to the Oireachtas committee to address issues directly and make recommendations which will lead to solutions and change.
There is much discussion of the targets but those targets are being missed badly. We must discuss solutions to protect our environment, create security of energy and see climate action not as a burden but rather an opportunity to create long-term jobs and new industries, particularly in rural Ireland. The committee must be focused on solutions such as making homes more energy efficient and changing our sources of power for electricity, heat and transport. That is very important. There are many aspects to addressing this issue. It is not a case of simply putting obligations on citizens and asking them to take the burden without any alternative. Our first step and policy must be to offer alternatives to people, industry and communities. That will require political leadership and a major shake-up of civil servants, semi-State companies, private companies etc. We must offer people alternatives in public transport, energy and efficiency and have specific targets for each industry to help develop alternative sources of energy.
I look forward to addressing the recommendations of the Citizens' Assembly. However, as I stated, this House is a citizens' assembly. I have been Sinn Féin spokesperson on the environment for seven and a half years and I dealt with the Minister's predecessor in the previous Dáil on this matter. I do not wish to criticise anyone but one of the most frustrating things for me over the past seven and a half years has been all the talk on this issue without the necessary action. I acknowledge that the State has gone through a very traumatic period economically and so on and had to be picked up off the floor. However, that has been done but we have not moved towards a new modern green economy.
We need to create jobs in different types of industries and have different renewable sources of energy. Some people wish to make the switch and immediately turn off all our current energy sources. I wish for that to happen but I know, as does every worker and person on the street, that it cannot unless alternatives are in place. I appeal for the Oireachtas, the committee, the Minister and the Department to set about putting realistic alternatives in place in terms of wind, biogas, solar, hydro, offshore wind and wave power. We have the resources and experts who have considered the matter have told us that we need to use them. We cannot keep lagging behind the rest of Europe and not only because of the shame of completely missing our targets. I did not think it could get any worse than when the Minister last year told me and others that we would only achieve a 4% reduction in our greenhouse gas emissions. However, three weeks ago in answer to a question of mine he announced that we will now only achieve a 1% reduction, which is absolutely disgraceful. We all have a responsibility. We must change our approach and create a major impetus to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and remove the shame of being one of the dirty countries in Europe when we should be a green food-producing island which produces green energy to meet its needs.
The Labour Party welcomes the establishment of the select committee. I look forward to being a member of it. I wish to address briefly the potential for carbon capture and storage. I understand a feasibility study is under way in that regard. I ask the Minister to indicate where Ireland stands in regard to the potential for carbon capture and storage. I specifically put that on the agenda because it should be discussed within the remit of the committee.
I understand the European Union is looking for large-scale carbon capture and storage, CCS, projects, for which significant funding is available. That represents a potentially good opportunity for Ireland and will help to decarbonise electricity generation on our island. It could act as a potential for further foreign direct investment into Ireland on the basis that many multinational companies are now considering opportunities for decarbonisation and we have to be practical and pragmatic about those opportunities if they come before us. Could the Minister, in his response, give us some indication as to where stands the feasibility study on carbon capture and storage? I tabled a specific parliamentary question to him on that issue. I met Ervia yesterday, which is very interested in this space. As we know, Ervia is our own company. It has a big interest in this area and it is something on which we should engage with it.
I share the sentiments of other speakers. We have a massive opportunity on this island to send a message globally on meeting targets and realising opportunities. We are a small, innovative island and the networks created as between industry and academia in terms of scientific research and the person to person and business to business networks probably allows for people to come together more easily than in other parts of the European Union. That represents an opportunity for us.
I am hopeful we could also have regard to the work of Science Foundation Ireland on the previous investment by the taxpayer in the marine renewable energy space. When I was Minister of State with responsibility for research and innovation, we launched the MaREI centre in Cork. There was a significant investment by the taxpayer in the area of marine renewable energy. We need to kick the tyres, so to speak, in terms of where that entity currently stands. It is one of the few entities looking specifically at marine renewable energy and as an island nation, and an Atlantic nation, we have to start leveraging more opportunities to make greater investments to ensure our energy mix moves further into the renewable space. I believe the marine renewable sector represents a major opportunity in that regard.
I look forward to working as part of the committee. I am hopeful it will not be just a talking shop. As a Parliament we have an opportunity through this committee, working collaboratively across parties, to try to make some serious changes in the direction this island goes in its responsibilities regarding climate change. We are all green now. Nobody has ownership of green issues. There are existential issues facing us now, as well as future generations, and we all need to collaborate politically in that space for action.
We will have two and a half minutes each.
While we are happy to participate in this special committee, I have to say that we need more than special committees if we are to do something about Ireland's disastrous failure to address the issue of climate change and play its part in contributing to the reduction in CO2 emissions. We have many targets and aspirations that are simply not being matched by reality. In the past two years, carbon emissions in this country went up by 7%, not down. We are facing fines of €440 million for failing to meet our emission reduction targets in two years' time. Even on issues like the Heritage Bill that Members will discuss tonight, the Government is supporting moves to allow greater and earlier cutting of hedgerows when we need more forestry, hedgerows and scrub to act as carbon sinks and to reduce carbon emissions.
There is no sign of radical action in these areas. The Citizens' Assembly made all the right recommendations, in particular a pet issue of mine which I have raised about 60 times since 2011, namely, the need to do something about our pathetic levels of forest cover. We have some of the lowest in Europe, at 11%, even though we have the most favourable conditions in Europe bar none for growing trees but we do not do anything about it. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, says there is evidence of deforestation in Ireland because we are kowtowing to certain lobbies in agriculture who see forestry as a threat to them when they should not.
If we invested in and supported areas like agroforestry, afforestation could complement Irish agriculture. We need radical action in terms of shifting towards public transport use. That would mean much more investment in that area, reducing fares dramatically, if we are serious about getting people out of their cars, and in many other areas. We need the rhetoric to be matched with genuinely radical action by the Government. There is not much sign of that but let us hope this committee can go some way towards pushing the Government on in that regard.
I commend Deputy Bríd Smith's Bill, which is being discussed in committee to stop further extraction of fossil fuels here. I hope the Government will support that too.
The outcome of the Citizens' Assembly on the environment, as it was on the eighth amendment, shows how progressive ordinary people are when asked their opinions about issues and how it contrasts very favourably with the attitudes of the political establishment. What struck me strongest was the 98% who said that climate change should be put centre stage in policy making. That cannot be done by tinkering around the edges. It cannot be done with some electric cars or with some consumption charges. It has to be done with a radical break in terms of how our society is organised in the areas of energy, agriculture and in transport centrally.
How radical a break is needed is reflected in the report that came out last week from the Climate Action Network that is utterly damning in terms of the approach of the Government. It has all the EU countries listed and grouped into the good, the bad and the ugly. Estonia, Ireland and Poland rank lowest in the ugly category because of their stiff opposition to climate action nationally and in the European Union. They are ranked second lowest in the EU, confirming what the former Taoiseach, Deputy Enda Kenny, said - incredibly, in Paris when the Paris Agreement was being signed - that climate change is not a priority for Ireland. Unfortunately, that remains the case.
On energy, we currently have five times as many known fossil fuels as can be burned without the temperature rising above 2o Celsius. The idea that we should be issuing any more exploration licences is utterly mad and, therefore, the Government should drop its opposition to the Bill proposing that fossil fuels be kept in the ground sponsored by Deputy Bríd Smith and the Solidarity-People Before Profit alliance.
Only last week, the Minister of State, Deputy Kyne, spoke about the need for an increase in drilling and the realisation of our oil and gas potential. We need there to be an end to the use of fossil fuels and a radical shift to renewable energies.
On transport, the push for the shift to electric cars is not the answer. I am for electric cars. They are better than petrol cars but the issue is the mode of transport, the way that people move from place to place. Massive investment in public transport is required to make it more accessible, realistic, achievable and affordable for people to use as a mode of travel. The example of Estonia is worth considering. It now has free public transport across the country. We estimated in our last budget proposal that it would take €500 million to halve the cost of public transport.
On the point about agriculture, Ireland is unusual in that agriculture, as opposed to transport, is the number one emitter in this regard. Having 6.7 million cows in Ireland currently using over 150 l of water each is not a sustainable model of organising agriculture and we need a break from that.
The word I would use about Ireland is "disconnect". There is a perception that climate change has nothing to do with us, we did not cause it and really we are not affected by it. However, we have scientific evidence that climate change is real. It is happening, humans are responsible and we are all affected. Some are affected more than others, as the Minister knows - crucially, those who are in what is known as the global south or developing world. Those who have done the least damage to the environment are most affected by the decisions we make in the so-called developed world. Our record has been very poor. Although Ireland did not have massive industries such as the coal industry, we need to accept the reality that we could and should be doing more.
We have a drought warning, the first in many years. The drought we are experiencing today is a reality for millions in the developing world every single day. Their crops and productivity are not for profit but are a matter of life and death, of survival. Our relationship to climate change and way of tackling it seem to involve renegotiating targets, finding loopholes to avoid targets, and avoiding fines. We consider that a win because we are valuing profit over sustainability. Climate change is a massive threat. Our generation cannot understand how previous generations tolerated slavery for so long. Later generations will be at a loss to understand why we did not do more about climate change. Deputy Thomas Pringle's Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill will be before the House on Report Stage next week. It is long overdue. As Iceland harnessed its volcanic geology for energy, surely we can do more, even for purely economic reasons. Our reliance on fossil fuels makes us very susceptible to changes in the market.
Our country has a considerable record when it comes to human rights. Our aid is poverty focused and untied. We played a phenomenal role in developing the sustainable development goals and getting agreement on them. The Minister's Department is taking part in the first voluntary national review of progress. Climate change or some aspect of it is a feature of practically every one of those sustainable development goals. We need to achieve policy coherence. Cuirim fáilte roimh an choiste agus an obair atá le teacht.
I welcome the setting up of the special committee on climate change. I acknowledge the efforts of the Citizens' Assembly in its discussions on how to make Ireland not just compliant in respect of climate change mitigation but also a leader. This is something we need to remember as we experience this unprecedented heatwave and other recent weather phenomena which are happening with increasing frequency every year. Just last month, a European report found that Ireland ranks worst in Europe for taking action against climate change, yet the Minister responsible for climate action denies this, which is quite unbelievable.
As Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan indicated, Report Stage of my Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill will be taken in the Dáil next week. The Bill proposes to compel the Government to divest public money in the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund from fossil fuel companies. If enacted, it will compel Ireland to comply with Article 2 of the Paris Agreement, which expects countries to make finance flows consistent with the pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development. I thank the Government for its support in seeing the Bill progress and I hope to see it pass next week. I also thank those from Trócaire and the Global Legal Action Network, GLAN, who worked diligently on the content of the Bill. I hope Deputies across the House will support it as it progresses. Divestment is one of a broad range of actions Government must take if we are to mitigate climate change. I look forward to working on those issues as they come before the new committee.
Let us not forget that it is vulnerable populations around the world that will pay the price. People are already dying from climate change. It is our responsibility in the West to do what is in our power to carry the burden for those who cannot protect themselves.
As a member of the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine, I am aware that the agriculture sector has a lot of catching up to do and that there are many camps on the issue of climate change within that sector. We need real and concrete solutions that reflect burden sharing that is fair and appropriate. Larger farmers and factories produce phenomenally more carbon emissions than small-scale farmers. The burden sharing is entirely disproportionate. Large companies in the agriculture sector should be compelled to play their part in climate action while small farmers should be supported in their attempts to reduce carbon emissions as well as assessing climate risk. I hope to look more closely at this scenario in my work in the special committee on climate change as well as exploring the full range of opportunities available to Ireland. I look forward to seeing a more ambitious initiative coming before the Houses as a result. This would help make Ireland a leader rather than a lagger on the issue of climate change.
I welcome the opportunity to speak on today's motion regarding the establishment of a special joint committee on climate action. This is all well and good if the committee addresses the issues and concerns of the people head on and not become just another junket layer of bureaucracy. I listened to previous speakers who attacked the agriculture sector in respect of climate change. Farmers are in serious difficulties in these times and are caught in a system called calendar farming which no Deputy will understand unless he is a farmer. There are plenty of other ways we need to tackle our climate issues rather than pointing the finger at the farmer all the time.
Last Sunday evening I attended a protest. There is no talk about it in here except from a couple of Independent Deputies. It was a protest in my constituency area of Bantry where hundreds of people turned up with one clear message, that the people of Bantry do not want mechanical harvesting of kelp, which will be the cause of an environmental disaster on our shoreline. These people want to protect their waters. An areas of 1,860 acres is to be mechanically harvested. No one in the Government wants to stand by the people of Bantry. They want us all to lie down. The livelihoods of the fishermen who depend on fishing in these waters are at stake. In the last year, I have worked very closely with the Bantry group and have raised the issue of kelp many times in the House. Only last week, I asked the Taoiseach during Leaders' Questions to stop the mechanical harvesting of kelp in Bantry Bay. I am over a year pleading with the Government to take action and it has stood idly by when it could revoke the licence under Article 12.2. If this special joint committee on climate action is established, would we see real action being taken in cases such as this? Will we just have the same result but with another layer of bureaucracy that costs the taxpayer money that could be invested in our roads, schools, communities, transport network and hospitals?
While I have the floor, I want to talk about solar panels. There are no planning regulations. I have confidence in the Minister. He was down in west Cork and spoke to the people there. He gave them the time with the wind turbines and I greatly appreciate that. He could not have been more clear or more fair to them. I plead with him to make sure that if this committee is set up, it will work for everybody going forward in respect of climate change.
My views on climate change are well known since my days on Kerry County Council before I ever came to Dáil Éireann. The climate has changed going back over the centuries when there were no fossil fuels and when there was a very limited number of cows, which are being blamed now for the change in the climate. When the weather is wet or rainy, the scientists are blaming what we are doing on this earth for causing it to rain. Likewise they are blaming people now for the fine weather as well. The facts are that since 1850, since what was known as the little ice age, the temperatures have risen by less than one degree.
We are going to set up a committee now, what I call a talking shop, discussing ways of changing the weather that we have not a hope in the world of doing because patterns of climate change happened back over the years before. The Government is suggesting providing millions in Project Ireland 2040 to address climate change. Where will that money come from? Farmers' pockets and workers' pockets who are trying to go to work - that is where is will come from. The Minister has no leprechaun, or if he has I do not know where he is living or where the Minister is keeping him.
Is the Government going to paralyse the working people and farmers? Is this talking shop going to be about how to do that? When we get flooded the story is that it is climate change and we will do nothing about it. What the Government is not doing anything about is allowing farmers to clear the rivers. Let us be honest about it. Water has to rise if the rivers are blocked and choked, which they are right around the country. Cross compliance means farmers are not allowed to touch a river.
They will lose their headage payments, which means they will lose the bread from their tables. This is what is causing the rivers to be choked. None of them has been touched for the past 20 years.
I very much welcome the establishment of this committee and what I hope will be the approval of this motion. I have listened to Ministers one after the other who seem to be itching for an election. They are doing everything they can to prod for an election. I have little or no faith in Fine Gael and its Independent Ministers. They have one of the worst environmental records I have ever seen in politics and are shaming our country but I have faith in this Dáil and want to see it last one more year to bring in Deputy Pringle's legislation, legislation to stop oil and gas exploration and the waste reduction Bill, and to allow this climate committee to do its work because it is critical work. It is some of the most important work we need to do.
We need a new national climate and energy plan by the end of this year. The current one is not fit for purpose. Every single expert I met at the national economic dialogue recognised that last week. If they did not say it to the Minister, they said that Project Ireland 2040 will not deliver on climate. We are going to miss by a country mile. It has to change. The job of this committee is to help Government and the public service work out how we do it. It will be bloody difficult. The scale of the challenge is immense. If we were serious, we would start today by putting 20% of our transport budget into making our roads safe so our kids can cycle to school rather than the current reality where more schoolchildren drive themselves to school than cycle. If we were serious, we would stop peat production today because we know on foot of the meeting the Minister had last week that our biggest problem in the midlands is the shortage of workers to undertake the climate work that needs to be done. Could we not take those Bord na Móna workers, retrain them very quickly and pay them really well for the very skilled job of making our homes fit for purpose? That could and should be done today.
This committee is vital because it can help and open the books on the new climate and energy plan which we must do under European legislation. We have no choice in this matter and we must have a first draft by the end of the year. The timeline of this committee is set on that basis. We need to meet next week as a committee. I look forward to taking part in it. We need to work collectively. The first thing we need to agree is the research back up we will have. We need to pull in Irish universities and the expertise they have. It should be remembered that we only have months, not years, to do this so we must be quick.
Deputy Dooley made a valid point. We should get research capability from the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission because this is difficult and technical work, so in the short time we have to do the proper analysis, we should get this help. We should set up our research teams in September and start our first meetings in October. We should bring in the seven key Secretaries General, call them to account regarding what their Departments are going to do and show them - they know this already - that the mathematics of the existing national development plan simply do not work. It is millions of miles away from where we need to go so the simple question involves what we are going to do. What will we change, because change we must? The centre of it is finance in terms of where the budget goes.
We will not complete the work until the end of November so the interim budget will need to be done but we should have a key role in the development of this new national climate and energy plan, which must be done by the end of the year with the final agreement being agreed with Europe next year. It is for that reason that I say that this Dáil should stay together for another year. Let us have the local and European elections and then have a general election. I cannot imagine it going any further. I cannot imagine that Fianna Fáil would agree another budget but it can agree this year's budget. We have vital work to do in climate as much as in anything else.
The attractive thing about it is that it provides a vision for this country for the future, one that is positive and that is not just spin. It is a real vision that brings about social change. I hear none of that in the Government. All I hear is it playing political games for its own advantage rather than thinking of the national interest. If it was thinking of the national interest, it would stay the course for another year, we would do the work we must do and the Dáil would pass Deputy Pringle's Bill, which I look forward to passing next week. It will be the first step in restoring our international reputation, which is in the dog house. I am sorry for insulting dogs. We are in the dog house in terms of how we are seen with regard to climate. That is not fair to the people.
We are not bad at dealing with climate. We are itching to be good at this. The thing that is holding us back is the lack of political will, and the evidence is in the committee I have just come from where I have heard civil servants say yet again that gas is good and we should be looking for more of our own oil. That day is over. There is an open opportunity for us to be brilliant at developing renewables and efficiency and at managing water, really smart farming and really new transport systems. The current transport system does not work. The Government can add 63 motorways in its new national development plan but they will not solve the gridlock that is coming. The only thing that will solve it is the low-carbon alternative which is open to us and which this committee can help out.
I know some people referenced the CAN Europe report. It would be worth their while if they read it because there is no reference to the investment that has been outlined in the national development plan. This is significant. Despite the fact that nobody in this House wants to acknowledge it, the fact is that one in every five euro in capital investment this Government will spend over the next decade will have a climate focus. That is significant. It is significant in European and global terms. Yes, we have a lot of work to do but we will be the first country in Europe to introduce a ban on smoky coal from September 2018. We will spend €4 billion on energy efficiency upgrades. In the next 200 months, we will take dirty fossil fuels out of our heating systems. That is no mean achievement either. We will extend to every home in this country that is affected by fuel poverty the warmth and well-being pilot scheme that was rolled out over the past two years, and we will do so through the fuel allowance, the domiciliary care allowance by the end of this year, and the carer's allowance. Every one of those families will be able to have a deep retrofit of their home carried out free of charge. This is a real practical example of what we are doing and it does show leadership. We will be the first country in Europe to ban the sale of new fossil fuel cars from 2030.
It is a bit cheeky for people to say we are not taking leadership roles when we clearly are taking them and are putting the cash and funding in place. CAN Europe has been critical of us and has argued that we are not looking for enough ambition at European level. Last Monday, I pushed the Commission hard with regard to CO2 standards for cars. The Commissioner was looking for a 30% reduction in CO2 emissions over the next decade. I think this is far short of where it should be. It should be a minimum of 50%. CAN Europe or any of the other environmentalists did not say that the Irish Government was right to do that because they seem just to focus on it when it is on the agenda of the big member states rather than when small member states want assistance to help reach their targets.
We are going to ban the burning of coal in Moneypoint by 2025 and peat at the latest by 2030. Our national broadband plan will have a significant impact on transport emissions in rural areas. We want to become a global leader in terms of food waste and introduce district heating in tandem with that. Bord na Móna BioEnergy has been set up. We are looking at developing a new biomass industry in this country. The support scheme for renewable heat will operate this year. Before the summer, I will bring to Government a paper on the renewable electricity support scheme to approve a microgeneration scheme for domestic users. We have brought in user charges relating to waste, a new recycling regime for tyres, the beef data and genomics scheme and the smart farming initiative. We have the smartest grids globally. Global energy experts are now coming to Ireland to see what we are doing so we have ambition. Can we be more ambitious? Absolutely, but it must be a practical ambition that we can implement.
We are setting targets in that regard. I look forward to working with and engaging with the committee on this.
It would have been nice to at least have acknowledgement of what we are doing. Within the past 100 weeks, things have changed, and changed significantly. I accept that things could have been done better in the past and that if they had been, we would not be in the position we are in today. Let us start by leading from here on. Let us start by making sure we get as close as possible to our 2020 targets to put us on a proper trajectory towards 2030.
In response to Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan, this is the argument I was making to my colleagues at European level. It does not make sense for Ireland to pay penalties from 2021 when we should be using that money to invest in reaching our 2030 targets. We did not seek to alter our 2030 target. What we did was put a proper trajectory in place.
In response to Deputy Danny Healy-Rae and his perspective on climate, the measures we are talking about need to be taken anyway. The economy is far too dependent on imported fossil fuels and we need to become self-sufficient in regard to energy. Renewable energy for our economy is the right way to go.
With regard to farming, we can do far better by managing our grasslands better. The smart farming initiative we are rolling out across the country will see a reduction in overall emissions by 10% and increased profitability for every single farmer. For that reason, if for no other, it should be done. Broadband will also have a dramatic impact on the opportunities across rural Ireland as well as having an impact on climate.
There are huge co-benefits which result from putting the investment in place, benefits that will disproportionately benefit people in rural Ireland above all others. Let us all start working together in a constructive way to put a practical, implementable and ambitious plan in place.