Seanad debates

Thursday, 12 May 2022

An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business


10:30 am

Photo of Gerry HorkanGerry Horkan (Fianna Fail)

This morning, I attended the opening of the Dublin Climate Summit 2022 in UCD’s O’Reilly Hall. The Taoiseach was the first guest speaker to make a speech. He had a question-and-answer session with the organisers directly afterwards, which has already been covered by the national media this morning.

The Taoiseach pointed out that the climate change challenges are very stark. We need a debate and an update on this. We do lots of talking about it, put in carbon budgets and so on but yet, how do we implement all these things? How do we make sure we are making our move to active travel and to public transport? We heard Senator O’Loughlin complaining about people trying to use public transport and then the bus does not turn up. People are trying to retrofit their houses and they cannot find plumbers or people to do updated heating systems. They cannot get windows. They cannot get retrofitting for insulation and so on.

We therefore need not just a single-session debate but rather a series of debates to deal with the idea of climate change, with just transition and with the different sectors. The debate should address how we are dealing with it in agriculture, how we are dealing with in housing and how we are dealing with in transport. The challenges are stark and urgent and while everyone says that we must do it, we are not all doing it. We are perhaps not in a position to do it. This is about how we move to the new economy and about the circular economy discussion, which is about reusing, reducing and recycling.

All those points are really important matters we should debate in this House. There is an urgency to it, particularly in the context of rising energy prices. Fuel is getting more expensive but if we can manage to reduce people's fuel use that will save them money. Equally, people may not initially have the funds to provide for the construction themselves. Therefore, we need to be looking at how we can front-load the construction and then people can pay it back to their ESB bills or pay it back in other ways. There are also grants needed from the carbon tax and so on.

We need an urgency in this House. We need to take on board Mary Robinson’s challenge to us at the launch of the Seanad100 programme to take ownership of this topic. The sooner we have debate on the urgency of climate change in its broadest form, the better.

I know that I am out of time, but I also seek an update on how we are getting on with our new Ukrainian people. I have met people who have found them in retail and in hairdressers. They have been really impressed with their willingness to be involved and to integrate into the community and in schools. We might get an update on how we are doing on that soon.


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