Wednesday, 10 March 2021
Ceisteanna (Atógáil) - Questions (Resumed) - Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions
37. To ask the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment when the climate action and low carbon development (amendment) Bill will be brought before Dáil Éireann; if he has amended the Bill to include recommendations from the pre-legislative scrutiny report of the Joint Committee on Climate Action; if so, the recommendations adopted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13516/21]
As the Minister knows, before Christmas, the Joint Committee on Climate Action did a huge amount of work on the draft climate Bill at pre-legislative scrutiny stage and submitted 78 recommendations to him. Where does the Bill stand? When will the Dáil or Seanad see it? Has the Minister taken on board any or all of the recommendations?
The climate action and low carbon development (amendment) Bill will provide for a whole-of-government approach to address climate change, with the purpose of achieving the transition to a climate resilient, biodiversity rich and climate neutral economy by the end of the year 2050. The Bill will significantly strengthen the statutory framework for climate governance, with appropriate oversight by the Government, the Oireachtas and an enhanced Climate Change Advisory Council. The Bill will introduce new legal obligations, including enacting an objective to achieve a climate neutral economy by 2050 at the latest, embedding a process of carbon budgeting, including sectoral emission ceilings, and providing for the preparation of an annual update to the climate action plan and a national long-term climate strategy every five years.
To this end, the Bill will provide for a significantly strengthened climate governance structure, which includes annual revisions to the climate action plan to address the need for intensive and regular monitoring and updating of policy actions to ensure we remain on track and within our emissions limits. In addition, Ministers will have to account annually to an Oireachtas committee for their performance in reducing emissions. The annual revision to the climate action plan and enhanced ministerial accountability will combine to act as a further review mechanism and opportunity to readjust or refocus actions, if required.
I welcome the extensive pre-legislative scrutiny report on the Bill published by the Joint Committee on Climate Action on 18 December. I have considered the 78 recommendations contained in the report and I am finalising proposed amendments, which are being carefully reviewed in the context of the overall framework and objectives of the legislation.
I intend to bring the Bill to Government at the earliest possible opportunity for approval to publish and initiate the legislative process in the Oireachtas as soon as possible thereafter. I also intend to formally respond to the Joint Committee on Climate Action, following publication of the Bill, to set out how the extensive work and detailed report has informed any revision to the Bill.
I thank the Minister for his response. He will appreciate that it does not provide the type of clarity I was hoping for. Will he give some indication of the date on which we might see this? Will it be in a week, a month or a year? I am conscious that there was great energy to try to get the Bill before the Dáil prior to Christmas. In fairness, a massive amount of work was done by the members of the committee across the political spectrum. It has been with the Department since before Christmas. What is the timeframe? The Minister mentioned targets. Will there be 2030 targets? Will there be interim targets before 2050? Will there be mechanisms to correct as we go along rather than rolling on a yearly or five-yearly basis? What is the date? What is the hold-up? What are the problems?
There is time sensitivity because we want 2021 to be the first year in the initial five-year budget. By summertime, we want to have our new updated climate action plan. We want the Climate Change Advisory Council to be able to inform it. Yes, there is an urgency. We have an interim advisory council chaired by Marie Donnelly, who has already started the preparatory work, but we do need the full legislation in place. I expect it very shortly, not within days but within the month for sure. We will bring it to the Dáil and the Chief Whip and the Business Committee will facilitate it.
To answer the Deputy's question on the committee's recommendations, I hope we can reflect many, if not most, of the recommendations in the final Bill. This process, while it has somewhat delayed developments, has been very positive. The work of the joint committee was really progressive and useful. We will reflect a lot of that in the final Bill.
I reiterate the point on the level of examination at pre-legislative scrutiny stage from across the political spectrum. There is a willingness and eagerness to get this work done. On this point, will there be 2030 targets? A significant point made by the committee was that it would not just be a matter of 2050 targets. Were the proposals on the Climate Change Advisory Council taken on board? Do the recommendations in respect of which the Minister is agreeable include that the Climate Change Advisory Council would be independent and adequately resourced? Will specific reference be made to just transition in the Bill as it is brought through the Dáil and Seanad? Is it the Minister's intention to bring the Bill before the Seanad or Dáil first?
My expectation is that it will come to the Dáil first. I cannot answer specifics regarding the final wording on amendments or particular aspects. I hope we will have this discussion in the Dáil very soon. This has been a very unusual process in that it was an actual draft Bill that went to pre-legislative scrutiny. Usually it is the heads of a Bill. The extent of analysis and discussion in the pre-legislative scrutiny was unprecedented. A lot of good work has been done, which will inform the Dáil debate. It means it is a much more advanced Bill. It has almost already gone through Committee and Report Stages and not just pre-legislative scrutiny. It has been through what would ordinarily happen in a very extensive Committee Stage or Report Stage process. We have done this before we have even introduced the Bill to the Dáil. I look forward to further debates in the Dáil and then the Seanad.