Dáil debates

Wednesday, 14 July 2021

Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill 2021: From the Seanad

 

The Dáil went into Committee to consider amendments from the Seanad.

Seanad amendment No. 1:

Seanad amendment agreed to.

Seanad amendment No. 2:

8:22 pm

Photo of Bríd SmithBríd Smith (Dublin South Central, People Before Profit Alliance)
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I move amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 2:

In page 6, to delete lines 34 and 35, and in page 7, to delete lines 1 to 3 and substitute the following: " 'climate justice' means the requirement that decisions and actions taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the effects of climate change must —
(a) support the people who are most affected by climate change but who have done the least to cause it and are the least equipped to adapt to its effects,

(b) help to address inequality, and support the human rights and well-being of local communities, indigenous peoples and the most vulnerable,

(c) reflect the UNFCCC commitment to the ‘common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capacities'.".

This is an attempt to address last-minute and ill-conceived amendments from the Seanad and the Minister. The deletion of the definition of climate justice was welcomed by some people in the climate movement who say it is better to have no definition than a poor one but we are taking the opportunity to reinsert our definition of climate justice into the Bill. It is also an opportunity to remind the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, and colleagues that they have rejected hundreds of progressive amendments from Deputies and Senators while at the last minute, in extraordinary circumstances, accepting Seanad amendments that are basically a result of lobbying from vested interests in agriculture.

At this point we find the process ironic, as we have waited so long for a climate Bill, albeit one that is deeply flawed, and tonight we are faced with voting for one that is even more flawed. These flaws have been dictated to the Minister at the hands of those who represented the vested interests of big agribusiness.

The Minister's proposed amendments allow the Government huge leeway in calculating greenhouse gas emissions to take account of how they calculate removals by sequestration, for example. There is also a reference to having "regard" to EU rules and not instead being consistent with those rules. This has rightly started alarm bells ringing among the climate movement. When an eminent campaigner like Professor John Sweeney talks dejectedly about these amendments gutting the Bill, we should pay attention. Professor Sweeney today stated:

Friday's amendments were clearly flawed and seriously erode the Bill's approach to measuring and monitoring greenhouse gas removals. It would be preferable for them to be removed at this stage and for a purely scientific and established approach to be reinforced in the bill.

I appeal to the Minister, even at this late stage, to remove those amendments.

I am not reassured by the Minister's comments or his letter to Stop Climate Chaos. If he is not committed to following the science instead of the politics, he will lose the faith of the environmental movement. That view is also echoed by Professor John Sweeney. I will explain the reasons behind this. The amendments come from the Seanad via Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael Senators who have over the years consistently opposed action on climate change. They come dressed in concern about farmers and rural communities but I do not accept this is the impetus behind these amendments. The Minister, in accepting them, has accepted the logic and arguments used to justify them.

In the Seanad, one Senator told us, "This amendment gives due recognition to the volume of carbon we are tying up in our soils and hedgerows", while another, a former Minister who opposed a climate emergency measures Bill, told us:

There is concern regarding future targets in relation to, for example, the national herd and the consequences of the carbon budgets and the necessity to reduce the level of production of greenhouse gases. The potential of hedgerows, trees and soils to sequester carbon needs to be looked at and taken into account in the carbon budgets.

It is absolutely clear that the impetus behind the original amendments and the Minister's last-minute redrafting of them was an attempt to find a way to take into account existing credits in order to reduce the emissions reductions we require.

This is about maintaining the status quoin agriculture, one that punishes small farmers and allows corporate interests to continue polluting. If this is placed in primary legislation, it will be a way to allow this and subsequent Ministers to be creative in their accountancy, juggle the numbers and try to fool people about what is happening in terms of emissions and reductions. I always feared this Bill and its stated net zero and carbon-neutral target would be a failure but these amendments have confirmed this fear. The Minister's explanation and assurances do not stand up and we do not accept them.

If the Minister accepts that EU rules allow him to do this, why does he not accept the amendments from me and Deputy Whitmore, which would commit in legislation that the regulations proposed would be consistent with EU rules? The Minister's explanation that EU rules change does not stand up either and, frankly, is nonsense. There is no great issue in amending this, if required, through future legislation if EU rules are changed.

My concerns about this are not simply about whether the real point is to allow the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to be more inventive in its calculations of what the EU rules allow. My concern is that the impetus behind this and the regulations proposed by the Minister are to set up yet another failed carbon emissions trading system. The adoption of EU rules for accounting has not stopped that system from being dogged with fraud, miscalculations, windfall profits for big polluters and outright abuse, all in order to allow us continue business as usual.

We had hoped that after decades of this farce, we would at least agree that emissions trading systems are good for one thing and one thing only. They are a mechanism to allow big polluters buy the right to continue polluting and they do not help reduce carbon. They are another failed market mechanism that is wasteful and wastes time as the planet hurtles towards catastrophe.

I have tried in this and the next amendment to limit the damage I think the Minister's amendments do. I have tried to address the get out clause on accounting and the making of regulations by inserting that the aim should at least be making legislation consistent with EU rules and not just having regard to them. I have tried to stop any attempt by the Minister to move the baseline year as a way of reducing the cuts needed in emissions. I have also tried to ensure that inventive accountancy is not used and that any removals of carbon are new, quantifiable and happen within this State rather than being based on farcical trading schemes that we have seen betray the hopes of climate campaigners in the past.

One of my amendments, and an amendment from Deputy Whitmore, removes the clause that would tie the climate change advisory council to the regulations. In other words, we want this to rely on the science rather than politics. The Minister may believe his letter and assurances but many of us do not. We have heard repeatedly from nearly every Green Party Deputy and Senator in these Houses in the recent past how proud they are of this Bill and thrilled they are that their children will not have to campaign in the way they have done because this Bill is so wonderful. The Minister will seriously weaken the Bill if he does not remove his amendments. I have no wish to be cruel but the rhetoric I describe is embarrassing and untrue. Our children and the next generation will have a mountain to climb thanks to the failures of this and past generations of politicians and rulers. A consistent failure to tackle the cause of climate chaos and deflect instead to ordinary people and personal behaviour has resulted in a worsening crisis across the planet, accumulating carbon dioxide in ever greater volumes. Trying to pander to the vested interests in agriculture or business here and globally is driving up those emissions and at the same time destroying the lives of small farmers. It is a betrayal of the climate movement. Hiding behind inventive accountancy or bogus trading schemes may fool some but it will not fool nature and it certainly will not fool physics.

The game is up for the Minister if the Bill passes. What is the point in having the Green Party in the Government in that case? History will judge the Green Party very harshly for its failure to address this crisis in the Bill.

I am asking the Minister, even at this hour, to remove those amendments. If he does not, I ask the House to reject them outright.

8:32 pm

Photo of Catherine ConnollyCatherine Connolly (Galway West, Independent)
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Time is restricted and I ask Members to co-operate. Deputy Danny Healy-Rae is next, followed by Deputy Whitmore.

Photo of Danny Healy-RaeDanny Healy-Rae (Kerry, Independent)
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Of course the sequestering of carbon will have to be counted. My worry from the outset was that farmers would not be allowed the carbon they sequestered. I contend that many farmers are sequestering more carbon than they are producing. I worry that the calculations are supposed to take seven years to account for what farmers are sequestering and how efficient they are. Many farmers are very efficient and have gone to extremes and much expense so that they would not be damaging the environment. That has to be recognised. The scientist who claimed more than 15 years ago that cattle were producing so much methane and were damaging the environment has now admitted that his calculations were two thirds wrong. Imagine that after all the racket about methane gas. He admitted it late last year. That is very serious. I cannot think of his name. We contend that even farmers who are in dairy, given the amount of grass they grow, should get credit for the carbon they are sequestering.

We hear about climate justice and see what is happening. We know the cost of diesel and petrol has gone up by so much recently but so is percentage the Government is getting from the carbon tax. People in rural Ireland have to use petrol and diesel because they have to get from A to B; they have to get to work and do their harvesting with tractors or whatever. Diesel has gone up 50% from last year. The Minister was absolutely delighted today. He purchased three new buses at the cost of €800,000 a piece. They will be more costly to run than any bus. Good friends have told me that hydrogen will cost €20 per kg and it will take 27 kg to do 430 km. That is more than €500. I look around this city day after day at big, tall and long double-decker buses and there is no more than one or two people in them at any time and yet the people in rural Ireland are penalised and must pay for these brand-new shiny buses that are not even economical. It is wrong. There is no justice in that for the people who are out early in the morning in the dark, the cold and the wet, travelling long distances to work, because that is what they have to do, whereas in this city there are so many buses pulling up on Kildare Street and so many have one or two people on them. This is not climate justice.

We have to ensure that biodigesters and the methane they produce can be used to produce energy. One farmer was recently refused planning permission for a biodigester. This is the country we are in. Farmers are trying to do their best and people are complaining that farmers are not being penalised enough but they are. The Minister must realise that and do something to make sure farmers are properly compensated for the carbon emissions they are sequestering.

A farmers' group raised the issue that farmers should be compensated for forestry that they have grown. Lo and behold, the Department officials said "Sure we gave you premiums for that". That premium was only a help. The premiums are all cut now and people cannot get licences to fell the tress that they were told to grow, and now the Department will not allow them to claim for sequestering carbon in these forests. The Minister is very unfair if this is the route he wants to take with people who planted these forests, not allowing them to cut them down.

There was a grand group of people outside today, honest, hard-working people. Then there are the two Ministers telling them they are doing their best for them. They have done nothing at all for them since the Government got into power 12 months ago.

Photo of Catherine ConnollyCatherine Connolly (Galway West, Independent)
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Deputy-----

Photo of Danny Healy-RaeDanny Healy-Rae (Kerry, Independent)
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I am finishing up. It is not even worth the Leas-Cheann Comhairle's while cutting across me. I will finish up on that. The Government has done nothing at all for them and the way it is going, it will not have done anything for them.

Photo of Catherine ConnollyCatherine Connolly (Galway West, Independent)
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We are under time pressure. I cannot stop Members talking but Members have gone to the trouble of tabling amendments so we should speak to those. That goes for everybody.

Photo of Jennifer WhitmoreJennifer Whitmore (Wicklow, Social Democrats)
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It is safe to say that many of us were very surprised when we saw these amendments coming from the Seanad. After spending weeks and months, hundreds of hours of work, listening to advice, listening to the experts and trying to work as collaboratively as possible on this Bill, to see these amendments come in at the last minute with no real notice was incredibly disappointing. In my opinion, and that of many others, including Professor John Sweeney, it has undermined the work that has gone into this Bill. It is a very important Bill and we all wanted to work with the Minister to make it stronger and to future-proof it to make it a Bill for future generations and governments. Unfortunately, these amendments have undermined that completely. We tried to put amendments in before. They were good, simple amendments, and the Minister refused to engage. On Committee Stage he accepted no amendments at all. To see these amendments come in now at this stage is very disappointing.

The Government amendments to section 9, in particular, give it extraordinary powers to sidestep international standards and scientifically-based accounting rules. They will also greatly politicise climate action by putting into the Government's hands the capacity to rewrite how it calculates removals of carbon and determines consequential obligations to reduce emissions in sectors. All the way through, the Bill was supposed to be evidence-based and scientifically led but now these amendments have turned that on its head and it will be politically driven.

It is a big mistake and I believe it will cause big problems down the road when we are trying to meet our climate obligations.

The issues are that the powers granted in these problematic Seanad amendments made by the Government to section 6(a) are about making new accounting rules for removals. This creates huge risk. The powerful sectoral lobby interests will be in the driving seat, not science, when we are preparing the fundamental core element of the framework to the Bill, the carbon budgets from which so much of the rest of the framework of this Bill then flows. Furthermore, regardless of this, whatever methodology the Government decides to use for removals, the Climate Change Advisory Council will also now be bound to comply with these rules in its carbon budget considerations. This greatly compromises the council's independence, which is crucial for proper, effective, scientifically based climate action and it also provides no Oireachtas oversight.

This Seanad amendment introduces extra powers in the new subsections in the new section 6(a), but these are not even currently covered by the overarching obligations on Ministers or Governments in the new section 3(3) proposed in section 5 of the 2021 draft Bill. This is a very technical issue. It is a very complex issue and my fear is that all the amendments the Minister has subsequently proposed are doing, is providing him and his party with cover on this issue and they will not fundamentally address the matters at hand.

The overarching obligation details general UNFCCC, Paris and EU obligations and binds the Government and Ministers to act in a manner consistent with those specified obligations and to take into consideration the latest EPA inventories when carrying out its functions under specified sections of the Bill. However, the overarching obligations do not address the relevant considerations for accounting rules. Simply put, we need a lot more safeguards.

I acknowledge that the Minister included a further amendment to attempt to address it, but it only partially addresses the accounting issue that I have outlined. While it is welcome that the Minister made the effort, it is not enough. What is included in the overarching provisions is not sufficiently relevant to what the Government will be doing in the accounting rules. It simply does not cover the UNFCCC methodology and the EU requirement for accounting.

The Minister has also failed to address the concerns on how the Government's Seanad amendments compromise the independence and scientific basis of the work of the Climate Change Advisory Council and he has made no provision for the Oireachtas to approve these accounting rules. The amendments Deputy Bríd Smith and I have tabled cover that. My amendment attempts to rectify these concerns by counteracting the politicisation of climate action and restoring the independence of the Climate Change Advisory Council, while also strengthening the language contained in the Government's amendments. In short, my amendment proposes the following: to bind the Government to achieve consistency with the UNFCCC methodology, which adopts the IPC approach, and also with the EU approach when making these regulations and homespun rules. It requires Oireachtas approval of these rules so there is some democratic oversight, accountability and scrutiny and does not bind the climate committee to comply with them so it leaves it independent.

Huge work has been done by so many on this Bill, inside and outside of the Oireachtas. We have benefitted from the expertise of so many who have tried to assist us to build a robust Bill fit for the road ahead. I acknowledge the assistance of people from the environmental NGOs for alerting us to these issues, in particular Professor John Sweeney and his tireless efforts and vigilance in championing climate action and that of Dr. Andrew Jackson on this critical issue as well. As Deputy Bríd Smith said, the comments of Professor Sweeney should have been an alarm bell not just for the Minister but for all members of the Government when it came to this Bill. The Minister should heed what he says. An Taisce has recommended that any of the amendments that have come through should not be approved.

The Minister has an opportunity to do real good with this Bill, to create something that is strong that we can give and leave, safe in the knowledge that future Governments and Ministers will be held to account and that they will be legally compelled to meet our requirements. I trust the Minister’s bona fides on this. I believe that he wants to see this get through and that he honestly believes he will fulfil the commitments he has made. I have said from the very beginning that this legislation needs to be strong no matter which Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications is in power or what Government is in place. We can no longer have the politicisation of this issue. We must address it. We cannot put it off any longer. Unfortunately, the most recent amendments that have come through the Seanad-----

8:42 pm

Photo of Catherine ConnollyCatherine Connolly (Galway West, Independent)
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We are speaking to amendment No. 1. I must be fair to everybody.

Photo of Jennifer WhitmoreJennifer Whitmore (Wicklow, Social Democrats)
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I am aware that this will probably be the only opportunity I will get to discuss this.

Photo of Catherine ConnollyCatherine Connolly (Galway West, Independent)
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I understand that. We are discussing amendment No. 1. I am just trying to be fair to everyone.

Photo of Jennifer WhitmoreJennifer Whitmore (Wicklow, Social Democrats)
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In general, with the climate justice amendment and all the subsequent amendments that have come through, the Minister is weakening the Bill, which is probably the most important Bill that we will pass in this Dáil. I urge the Minister to take this final opportunity to do the right thing with this Bill – the right thing for future generations and for society.

Photo of Darren O'RourkeDarren O'Rourke (Meath East, Sinn Fein)
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Are we speaking to amendment No. 1 or amendment No. 2?

Photo of Catherine ConnollyCatherine Connolly (Galway West, Independent)
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We are speaking to amendment No. 1 in Deputy Bríd Smith's name, which is to the second Seanad amendment.

Photo of Darren O'RourkeDarren O'Rourke (Meath East, Sinn Fein)
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It relates to climate justice. We had a long discussion and debate on climate justice during pre-legislative scrutiny and on Committee Stage. There was progress and then we hit a wall in regard to it. It seems like there has been a sprint in recent days given the level and number of changes. It is very frustrating for those of us in the Opposition who have spent time on the Bill, who have listened and learned during the process. We have tried to contribute in a constructive way. It is difficult to comprehend what is happening with the Bill in the Government and the Department.

I support the amendment on climate justice. I know we have debated this high up and down low on Committee Stage and there was no movement on it. I think there is agreement that we should withdraw the climate justice definition on the basis that it is better to have no definition than the one contained in the Bill. I would argue that we are better with the definition that has been proposed by Deputy Bríd Smith. It is a significant improvement on the definition the Minister introduced, and I would encourage his support for it.

The just transition has been consistently raised. It is now included in the Title of the Bill. That is a very half-hearted effort because, as the Minister well knows, there were proposals at various stages to include a just transition definition and just transition principles throughout the Bill to strengthen it and they have not been accepted. People will see through what is happening in that regard.

An important point to raise at this juncture is what has happened between the discussions in the Seanad and now on the amendments introduced by the Minister. It is very clear that there is deep concern at the very least. The Minister will acknowledge himself that the fact that he has to introduce amendments to his own Bill indicates it is a long way short of good practice in the legislative process.

I urge the Minister to heed the criticisms of these amendments and to withdraw them. He will have the opportunity between now and Friday to consider this matter again. There is deep concern about the amendments' implication. I am not satisfied that they are robust and sound, given how they have been developed and proposed in just a handful of days. I echo the call from others regarding the Minister's approach of introducing these amendments, which could have profound implications, at the eleventh hour.

8:52 pm

Photo of Michael CollinsMichael Collins (Cork South West, Independent)
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I will try to be brief. There is something that I cannot understand. I will stand corrected, but I believe that more than 200 amendments had been tabled to the Bill in the Dáil and that none of them was accepted. The Government voted for this and was jumping for joy that it had passed the Dáil. Even in my constituency, the Government was telling people that it was a fabulous Bill. We now have amendments, though. Is there a problem within the Government parties already? Why were they jumping for joy and claiming that this was a great Bill when it obviously is not, given that amendments must be proposed?

There has been a great deal of talk about agriculture. Deputy Bríd Smith of People Before Profit and Deputy Whitmore of the Social Democrats said that they were, through their amendments, trying to insert something stronger in terms of our carbon emissions. It is simply an attack on agriculture. What is wrong? The farmers of this country in the beef, dairy and every other sector are bending over backwards trying to do their best where farming is concerned, but they are being attacked continuously. I am concerned about parties that do not understand agriculture. I am a big believer in it being the case that, if someone does not wear a pair of wellingtons, he or she should not talk about farming. That is my attitude. Maybe it is a rough one.

Farming has moved beyond milking a cow in the middle of the field on a stool. It has progressed, and we need to sit up and understand that. People Before Profit criticised the fishing industry a couple of weeks ago. Fishing has gone beyond casting a line from a rod on the side of a rock. Industries grow, and we need to protect them and work with them to ensure that happens. Members should please remember that. We cannot attack these sectors continuously.

Green experts - they might call themselves "advisory for climate action" or whatever, but they are green experts - have said that, to meet the targets the Government has set, there would have to be a 51% cull in cattle by 2030. I have been told that I am being outlandish and away with the fairies, but this is what is happening in places like New Zealand. Apparently, there will be a 15% cull in cattle there. I hear many Government Deputies saying that there is no issue and that the targets will not lead to a cull in cattle. There are politicians who do not farm and do not understand farming but think they do, yet they live in the city, so their belief is difficult to understand. I would not dare come up and dictate to people how the city works. As someone who is proud to be a farmer, I will talk about how rural Ireland works. I understand my neighbours, who are efficient and environmentally top-class farmers. They mean well, but they are working under severe stress.

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae mentioned the double-decker buses in Dublin. He was right. They just stream up streets one after another. We have no public transport in rural Ireland, and that situation has not improved one bit since the Green Party went into government. Despite all its promises to rural Ireland, not one extra bus has been added to the timetables for communities in my area. I am meeting businesses that are in dire trouble because of the Government's carbon tax. In west Cork, diesel has gone from €1.17 to €1.45 per litre in less than 12 months. Businesses are ringing me saying that they will let staff go because they cannot afford to continue, but Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are patting themselves on the back. The price of diesel will increase again in another few months' time. We are facing difficult times.

It is astonishing that no amendment could be taken previously and we were told that this was a super Bill only to find out now that it is not, given that amendments are being tabled for whatever reason. I have suspicions on why that might be.

I will finish on this point, as others wish to speak. It is nice to see Ministers out there talking to people, but they need to work with them because the forestry and nursery sectors are on their knees. How they have been treated is outrageous. The Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, needs to speak to the Minister of State, Senator Hackett, immediately - the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy McConalogue is also present - about turning this around. It can be done. How people's livelihoods are being destroyed is shameful. They have been protesting here all week.

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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I call Deputy Michael Healy-Rae.

Photo of Jennifer WhitmoreJennifer Whitmore (Wicklow, Social Democrats)
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Might I speak? I am not sure what the procedure or protocol is, but I wish to comment. A personal statement was made about me and Deputy Bríd Smith in relation to-----

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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Not at this time. I am sorry.

Photo of Jennifer WhitmoreJennifer Whitmore (Wicklow, Social Democrats)
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There was an untruth said that we have no experience of the fisheries or agriculture sectors.

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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Please, Deputy. You are out of order.

Photo of Jennifer WhitmoreJennifer Whitmore (Wicklow, Social Democrats)
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I worked for many years in the fisheries sector.

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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Please, you are out of order. I have called Deputy Michael Healy-Rae.

Photo of Jennifer WhitmoreJennifer Whitmore (Wicklow, Social Democrats)
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I worked for many years in the agriculture sector.

(Interruptions).

Photo of Jennifer WhitmoreJennifer Whitmore (Wicklow, Social Democrats)
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It will be those sectors that will be most impacted-----

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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Will Deputy Whitmore respect the Chair, please?

Photo of Jennifer WhitmoreJennifer Whitmore (Wicklow, Social Democrats)
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-----if we do not get climate action right. That is why we need a robust Bill.

(Interruptions).

Photo of Jennifer WhitmoreJennifer Whitmore (Wicklow, Social Democrats)
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I will not have untruths said about me. The Deputy has no-----

Photo of Michael CollinsMichael Collins (Cork South West, Independent)
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It is the truth.

Photo of Jennifer WhitmoreJennifer Whitmore (Wicklow, Social Democrats)
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No, it is not the truth. You know nothing about me. You know nothing about my background. You know nothing about my professional experience. Do not dare stand there and say that you do.

Photo of Michael CollinsMichael Collins (Cork South West, Independent)
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You said that this Bill would not go far enough.

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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Deputies, please.

Photo of Jennifer WhitmoreJennifer Whitmore (Wicklow, Social Democrats)
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You can spin whatever way you want, but do not say that.

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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Deputy Whitmore, please respect the Chair.

Photo of Michael CollinsMichael Collins (Cork South West, Independent)
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It is not going far enough. That is what was said.

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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We will move on. We do not want those kinds of interruptions.

Photo of Michael Healy-RaeMichael Healy-Rae (Kerry, Independent)
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Yesterday, people from the peat industry were outside. I was disappointed that the Minister did not go out to meet them. They are growers who say that their businesses are being adversely affected. I met people who have been involved in horticulture for decades. Their families are steeped in it. They wonder how in the name of God it makes sense that they must now get their peat from Scotland. They are looking at importing it from other parts of Europe at a significant cost. They do not want to do that. It is not natural to leave Ireland to bring home a product that they will use to grow produce that we will say originates in Ireland. The Minister is forcing them to use peat from abroad because he shut down our peat industry.

Today, people from the forestry sector were outside. They cannot get permits to plant or thin trees or make roads. What is happening-----

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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There are three other speakers besides the Deputy. Could he keep his contribution to two or three minutes, please?

Photo of Michael Healy-RaeMichael Healy-Rae (Kerry, Independent)
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I will most certainly.

The Government is attacking our people in the name of protecting the climate. My goodness gracious me, but what it is doing is an absolute disgrace and I will rub the Government's nose in it again and remind it that it stopped us from making and selling peat briquettes in Ireland. The Government shut down our plants while telling us that it was fine for us to import briquettes from Germany and sell those German-made briquettes proudly. I continually spoke on behalf of the farming and forestry sectors and said that if that was what the Government was going to do, then it should put in place a system of carbon credits for our farmers. It did not do that. Belatedly, it underwent a conversion and decided it would do that. It did not do so when we wanted it to or when we tabled amendments asking it to. The Government is now adding such a system, although I am afraid it will not go far enough because it raises the question of who will actually get the credit. It is right and proper that if farmers have hedgerows and natural woodland on their farms or have planted forestry, they should get a credit for it. If the Government attacks people on the one hand for being bad for the environment, it should compliment, congratulate and pay those who are good for the environment on the other.

Every so often, the Minister tries to let on that he is in tune with farming and that he cares about the custodians of the environment.

The people who own the countryside are the real green people. They are not the fellas up on a bicycle today, letting on they are cycling with the ministerial cars driving around with their papers behind them. We are all sick of that old pandering. I know real green people, who were talking about wind energy 30 or 40 years and generating it. They were talking about hemp and all the uses that could be put to. They were real environmentalists and genuine people. They are not people who are on a crazy agenda like the Minister, who is hurting many more people than he is trying to help and who has total disregard for them.

The Minister's 12 months in government has been an absolute disgrace, when you look at the forestry sector and see how he has let it down. Has the Minister heard what these genuine people with forwarders have said? He would know a lot about a forwarder, that is, the machine that goes in to harvest the trees out of the forestry. They owe hundreds of thousands of euro in payments. It is hard enough-----

9:02 pm

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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The Deputy might give way to his colleagues.

Photo of Michael Healy-RaeMichael Healy-Rae (Kerry, Independent)
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I am finishing. It is hard enough to make money out of machinery when it is working. In many instances these machines have now stopped and these people are trying to hold on to those machines by trying to make the payments. They are in a really bad way, but the Minister could not care less about them. He does not give a damn about the traditional things, such as fisheries, farming and forestry. The Minister does not care about any of them. He does not care anything about the horticultural people. If he did, he would have been out there yesterday and out there today meeting with them. Why was he not? It is because he would run from them. He will not meet with them. He is an absolute disgrace and it gives me no satisfaction to say that.

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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I ask Deputy Healy-Rae to conclude please. There are three Deputies left and approximately four minutes.

Photo of Jackie CahillJackie Cahill (Tipperary, Fianna Fail)
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I welcome these amendments from the Seanad. They will bring some fairness to this climate action Bill. I want to support this in terms of peat. With regard to the madness there, we have had discussions at the Oireachtas committee I chair on peat extraction in this country. It makes absolutely no sense that the horticulture and the nursery sectors are not able to acquire locally harvested peat. It is nonsensical and it has to stop.

While we have increased issuing of licences for felling and thinning, the licences being issues for afforestation are still exceptionally low. Last week, only five licences were issued for afforestation. If we take the targets we have missed over the past five years, in the lifetime of that forestry, it would sequester 75 million tonnes of carbon. What this would do to balance the budget in this country would be unbelievable. We have to increase our levels of afforestation. We will only hit 20% to 25% of our target in 2021. That is not good enough and we have to increase the number of licences that will be issued for afforestation.

One omission from this Bill is a separate budget for biogenic methane. That is essential but, unfortunately, it is not in this Bill. We have commentators out there who say this country does not have a responsibility to produce food. We feed approximately 60 million people despite the size of our country. We have a moral responsibility to produce food. We are an affluent society, but much of the world is starving. Some 860 million people in the world tonight are in a famine situation. Another 2 billion have an inadequate diet. We can produce food more sustainably than anyone else in the world and we have a moral responsibility to do it.

I welcome this climate Bill. Yes, we have to adapt but we have to continue to produce our top quality food sustainably. That is what the farmers of this country will continue to do.

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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Two minutes remain. Deputy Naughten might give a minute to his colleague, Deputy Smith.

Photo of Denis NaughtenDenis Naughten (Roscommon-Galway, Independent)
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How many minutes are left?

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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Dhá nóiméad.

Photo of Denis NaughtenDenis Naughten (Roscommon-Galway, Independent)
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I want to make a quick point. I acknowledge the amendments before us that talk about carbon sequestration, which is welcome, but we need to put flesh on the bones. I am glad the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine has been here for this debate. What we need to do now is build on what has been developed with the smart farming initiative, expand that out and look at introducing a grassland and hedgerow management scheme, as part of the overall CAP reforms, and put financial compensation and funding directly into farmers' hands to bring about the sequestration that needs to happen now. Let us put flesh on what is here and make it a reality.

Photo of Duncan SmithDuncan Smith (Dublin Fingal, Labour)
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Some 45 minutes to end the legislative process on this Bill is unfortunate, but we are where we are. I welcome Deputy Bríd Smith's amendment in terms of climate justice. There is unfinished work on the definition of climate justice and just transition in this Bill. This debate, as short as it was, again highlighted the lack of reality in this country, in that it is not just one sector which will be impacted and have to change. It is every sector, individual, group and every part of this country. We will have to change how we live and work over the next number of years, if we are to meet our targets. It will change the entire country. That is what we need to do and it what the world needs to do. This Bill is the start. It is a delayed start, but it is a start nonetheless. We have much more work to do.

The horticulture industry had a demonstration yesterday and the Minister was criticised for not attending, but my understanding is the Minister of State attended and looked the individuals in that industry in the eye and said they needed to be supported to transition beyond peat-based compost. That is an honest thing to say to a group who will have to make that transition, but it is a transition we will all have to make. It will be difficult and complex, but if we have a just transition at the heart of everything we do and if we had stronger definitions of same in this Bill, people would be more comforted. That said, this is a Bill to which we will add and to which I hope the State will add to with strong carbon budgets and a climate action plan, in order that we can continue to recapture the ground lost over the past number of years.

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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The time has elapsed.

Photo of Eamon RyanEamon Ryan (Dublin Bay South, Green Party)
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Surely, I will have a chance to respond and press my amendments.

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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I cannot do anything about it. The time is set down by order of the Government.

Photo of Eamon RyanEamon Ryan (Dublin Bay South, Green Party)
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Can I briefly respond to the comments being made for two or three minutes? That would be appropriate.

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary, Independent)
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Is that agreed? Agreed.

Photo of Eamon RyanEamon Ryan (Dublin Bay South, Green Party)
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I will be brief because I realise we are here late at night. We accepted and tabled seven amendments in the Seanad, some of which were from the Opposition but most were from the Government and covered a variety of issues, such as just transition, which was the main subject of the Report Stage debate in the Dáil; and climate justice with regard to accepting what the NGOs said, in that it was better to take out our definition and stick with the wording and provide clarity on the issue of land use, sinks and removals of carbons, as well as dealing with emissions.

I am glad we have done that because - I will be honest - we need a much more detailed understanding of what exactly is at stake here. This is what these amendments do. They do not change the position. I made the exact same case in any contribution I made throughout this whole Bill about how we manage sinks and the storage of carbon. I am glad that, to a certain extent, this issue has now been highlighted.

There is one further amendment we are putting forward today, which refers to the changes we have made. We are making sure they are, as are the other key sections of the Bill, consistent with the Paris Agreement, as set out in section 3(3). Articles 2 and 4 of the Paris Agreement are directly referred to. In Article 2, on the issue of climate justice, it reminds us the agreement "will be implemented to reflect equity and the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities", at the core of the climate justice issue. In Article 4, on this key issue and right through the Paris Agreement, there is a recognition it is not just emissions, sinks and removals that have to be addressed. It states that we would have to undertake rapid reductions thereafter in accordance with best available science, so as to achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century, on the basis of equity, and in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty. Sinks and addressing them, equity and climate justice go absolutely together.

I will not read out the full details of Article 5, but it states that we have an obligation to set in place the mechanisms, including payment mechanisms, for how we will deliver that in afforestation and stopping deforestation, which we have in this country, as well as managing wetlands and grasslands, to be able to deliver this.

Some of the commentary would make one think that this is sop to agriculture. The reality is that land use in Ireland is currently a source, not a sink, and is becoming more of a source. We have to completely reverse. There is a great deal of science to do. As I said in the debate on Report Stage, many of the measurements of how we address and promote sinks and storage of carbon will require us, first, to do more science on what is happening in our land use system. We have much information on forestry, but we need much more on wetlands, grasslands and bog management. Also, there will be further developments. Even today, we saw the Fit for 55 legislative package from the European Commission. That backs up and is in tune with what we are doing today. The commitment in that, to have a carbon neutral land use system by 2035, is going to require radical action and absolute change. The great benefit is that it is nature-based solutions which will be good for rural Ireland, biodiversity and for tackling pollution. It also has to be good for farmers and foresters in this country.

Within that, as is set out in the Paris Agreement, we look at results-based payments that increase the income of young people going into forestry and farming. It is appropriate for us to plan and start managing for that, as well as getting the science right. Central to it will be a land use plan which looks at what is the right tree in the right place, which restores biodiversity as well as storing carbon and which sees grassland management as key. Our smart farmers are going to be good at that, and we are going to pay them properly for doing it. In addition, there is bog rehabilitation and recognising that climate adaptation and resilience are just as important because the risk we have here of losing all that carbon into the atmosphere through fire is just as real as it is in Canada, the Amazon or in other regions.

There is no diminution of the role of the Climate Advisory Council. Deputy Bríd Smith says we can amend the Bill in the future. No, far better is what we have done here to clarify. Yes, it is the Government, working with the Climate Advisory Council, recognising the changes that will come in Europe and that we have to make as we move from a Kyoto-based accounting system towards a Paris-based accounting system, which is all about looking forward and having a climate neutral system where we maintain global temperatures in a safe space by getting the balance right between sinks and emissions. That is what the Paris Agreement says and that is what our further amendment today commits us to - being consistent with the Paris Agreement. This legislation does it and I am proud of it, as well as of the role of our party and other parties in government and of Independents and other parties that have supported us. It is a matter of delivering now on the ground, in our ground and paying our people as we do it properly.

9:12 pm

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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As the time permitted for this debate has expired, I am required to put the following question in accordance with the order of the Dáil on 11 July 2021: "That the amendment on the additional list set down by the Minister for Environment, Climate Action and Communications consequential on the Seanad amendments, Nos. 3 and 6, is hereby agreed to in committee, the amendments set down to Seanad amendments Nos. 2, 3 and 6 are hereby negatived and the Seanad amendments not disposed of are hereby agreed to in committee and agreement to the amendments is accordingly reported to the House."

Question put:

The Dáil divided: Tá, 80; Níl, 60; Staon, 0.


Tellers: Tá, Deputies Brendan Griffin and Jack Chambers; Níl, Deputies Bríd Smith and Jennifer Whitmore.

Cathal Berry, Colm Brophy, James Browne, Richard Bruton, Colm Burke, Peter Burke, Mary Butler, Thomas Byrne, Jackie Cahill, Dara Calleary, Seán Canney, Joe Carey, Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, Jack Chambers, Niall Collins, Patrick Costello, Simon Coveney, Barry Cowen, Michael Creed, Cathal Crowe, Cormac Devlin, Stephen Donnelly, Paschal Donohoe, Francis Noel Duffy, Bernard Durkan, Damien English, Alan Farrell, Frank Feighan, Peter Fitzpatrick, Joe Flaherty, Charles Flanagan, Seán Fleming, Norma Foley, Noel Grealish, Brendan Griffin, Simon Harris, Seán Haughey, Martin Heydon, Emer Higgins, Neasa Hourigan, Heather Humphreys, Paul Kehoe, John Lahart, James Lawless, Brian Leddin, Michael Lowry, Josepha Madigan, Catherine Martin, Micheál Martin, Steven Matthews, Paul McAuliffe, Charlie McConalogue, Michael McGrath, Joe McHugh, Aindrias Moynihan, Michael Moynihan, Jennifer Murnane O'Connor, Denis Naughten, Hildegarde Naughton, Malcolm Noonan, Darragh O'Brien, Joe O'Brien, Jim O'Callaghan, James O'Connor, Kieran O'Donnell, Patrick O'Donovan, Fergus O'Dowd, Christopher O'Sullivan, Pádraig O'Sullivan, Marc Ó Cathasaigh, Éamon Ó Cuív, Anne Rabbitte, Neale Richmond, Eamon Ryan, Matt Shanahan, Brendan Smith, Niamh Smyth, Ossian Smyth, David Stanton, Leo Varadkar.

Níl

Chris Andrews, Ivana Bacik, Mick Barry, Richard Boyd Barrett, John Brady, Martin Browne, Pat Buckley, Matt Carthy, Sorca Clarke, Michael Collins, Rose Conway-Walsh, Réada Cronin, Seán Crowe, David Cullinane, Pa Daly, Pearse Doherty, Paul Donnelly, Dessie Ellis, Mairead Farrell, Michael Fitzmaurice, Kathleen Funchion, Gary Gannon, Thomas Gould, Johnny Guirke, Marian Harkin, Michael Healy-Rae, Brendan Howlin, Alan Kelly, Gino Kenny, Martin Kenny, Claire Kerrane, Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, Mattie McGrath, Denise Mitchell, Imelda Munster, Catherine Murphy, Paul Murphy, Verona Murphy, Johnny Mythen, Gerald Nash, Carol Nolan, Cian O'Callaghan, Richard O'Donoghue, Louise O'Reilly, Darren O'Rourke, Eoin Ó Broin, Ruairi Ó Murchú, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Maurice Quinlivan, Patricia Ryan, Seán Sherlock, Róisín Shortall, Bríd Smith, Duncan Smith, Brian Stanley, Peadar Tóibín, Pauline Tully, Mark Ward, Jennifer Whitmore, Violet Wynne.

Question declared carried.

9:27 pm

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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A message will be sent to Seanad Éireann acquainting it that: (1) Dáil Éireann has agreed to amendments Nos. 1 to 7, inclusive, made by Seanad Éireann to the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill 2021; and (2) Dáil Éireann has made an amendment consequential on the acceptance of Seanad amendments Nos. 3 and 6, to which the agreement of Seanad Éireann is desired.