Seanad debates

Thursday, 24 January 2019

10:30 am

Photo of Victor BoyhanVictor Boyhan (Independent) | Oireachtas source

I know the Minister can wing it, and wing it well, but it would be helpful to reference it.

What Senator Humphreys said was right in that it was a bit of a sham when we had Ministers coming into the House, darting in from the side, saying their piece and then running out. They did not have the courtesy to stay here and listen to the Members. I thought that was quite disrespectful. It is such an important subject. That was a disappointment.

I welcome the fact that the Minister has taken the time to come back here and that is important. We need to reconsider the way we will manage this annual review or annual account of key objectives in terms of climate change for both Houses. It is important to have a whole-of-Government approach. We hear a great deal about that. We see all the logos and the branding. Everything that goes out in the form of press releases now refers to a Government initiative. It is a whole branding packaging. Someone has made a conscious decision in government to brand itself as a collective in those terms. I do not have a problem with that but I note that it is happening, so why is it not happening here? I ask that the Minister would review long before the end of this year the way in which he will address that in a meaningful way but, more importantly, in terms of accountability to both Houses.

I want to acknowledge two matters. I thought it was important that in early January we had reports in all the national media about the fossil fuel divestment programme. It must be welcome news for Ireland. We are one of the first countries in the world to divest public money from fossil fuels. That follows, ultimately, a landmark vote of the Dáil, and of the Seanad for that matter, on the Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill 2018. That is an important point to acknowledge. Great credit is due to the Independent Deputy, Deputy Pringle, who started this process and introduced the Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill, which has compelled Ireland's Strategic investment Fund, ISIF, to look at the matter again. It has confirmed it has sold investments in the global fossil fuel industry, which is valued at hundreds of millions of euro across, I am reliably informed, 150 companies worldwide. It is significant that the ISIF can confirm it sold those investments on behalf of Ireland. That is only one step but it is a positive and practical one.

I also acknowledge that the Government and, in particular, the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, moved to implement Ireland's fossil fuel divestment strategy. He has clearly set out that strategy. It is important we acknowledge that because, after all, we signed up to and agree with the Paris Agreement in terms of action on global warning and how we would progress it. I note from the Government's website that it has now established a climate change unit. That posting was put up at the end of December 2018 with respect to the introduction and implementation of a green budgeting policy and strategy for Ireland. There is clearly a lot of meat on that. The Minister at some other stage might arrange for a briefing on that because it is important. It is a practical step.

The Government has established this green budgeting for Ireland strategy and initiative and there is the matter of how that is going to be measured and how the key objectives that are set down in that strategy will be implemented. We can have all the plans in the world but we have to monitor those on a regular basis and report back. That may be relevant to the Oireachtas joint committees in terms of the environment. Given our remit and given the Minister's responsibility to come to both Houses of the Oireachtas once a year and report on the objectives of climate change, it would be good if we could hear something on this and if he would agree to arrange for a briefing on the climate change unit, the establishment of which is positive and welcome. That would be important. I wish the Minister well. I do not want to repeat what all the main leaders of the groups have dealt with comprehensively.


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