Wednesday, 21 March 2007
National Climate Change Strategy 2000: Motion
That Seanad Ãireann condemns the abject failure of the Government to meet the targets set out in the National Climate Change Strategy 2000.
This motion seeks to address the issue of climate change in the context of the Government's stated policy established in 2000 when it set out a number of actions it would take over the succeeding decade specifically intended to meet the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol which was not in force at that time.
Governments occasionally get things wrong and they occasionally do not progress matters as fast as they might and sometimes they have a change of mind, but there are very few examples of an area of policy where there has been such an abject failure to meet any of the targets the Government had set for itself or to take any of the actions it deemed necessary.
The programme is a relatively slight document of only a dozen pages but it pushes most of the buttons that are still of relevance. I will refer to a number of those measures to assess how much has been done in response to the programme.
It begins by referring to cross-sectoral market-based instruments including taxation. It states that appropriate tax measures prioritising CO2 emissions will be introduced in 2002 on a phased incremental basis across a broad range of sectors. This is an interesting example of how the Government has dealt with this issue. In 2001 the Government announced it would introduce carbon taxes on a cross-sectoral basis with burden-sharing involved. However, it added the important rider that it would not do so for at least another year. I recall Charlie McCreevy standing up in the other House and announcing he intended to introduce carbon taxes but he felt it was appropriate to ask the tax strategy group and others to have a look at how it might be done. Money was spent on consultancies and he consulted with the social partners. A general election was held conveniently about three or four months later and it was a surprise that by the end of the year the then Minister, Mr. McCreevy, decided that rather than introduce cross-sectoral taxes on a phased basis, he decided to do nothing at all. Nothing was done then nor since.
The 2000 plan refers to EU emissions trading and this has become a central part of the Government strategy. With reference to the energy sector it states that measures will be taken which will be supportive of the ceasing of coal use at Moneypoint by 2008 and fuel switching towards less carbon-intensive fuels. The Government subsequently decided to do nothing of the sort. Moneypoint is still using coal and, if we are to believe the recommendations of the energy White Paper published last week, the Government intends to use more rather than less coal in the generation of electricity in years to come.
The plan refers to an expansion of renewable energy. Some small progress has been made in this regard but only 4% of our electricity generation capacity is in renewable energy. The Government produced a target of no less than 33% in the energy White Paper last week.
ââseven years ago. The Government committed to incentivise a move away from coal and it has since reversed that decision. The plan refers to an expansion in renewable energy but it is still at 4%. There is a proposal to bring it up to 33% by 2020 but I wonder how this will be achieved.
The maximisation of CHP is proposed but CHP has hardly increased in terms of the contribution it makes towards the generation capacity. The plan also refers to an enhanced demand energy programme managed by the Irish Energy Centre. I will return later in my contribution to the issue of demand management. With reference to the transport sector, the plan refers to fuel efficiency measures, further rebalancing of VRT and annual motor tax to favour more fuel-efficient cars. A provision was made for hybrid cars but other than this there has been no rebalancing of VRT or motor tax in the past seven years in order to favour fuel-efficient cars. Senators will be aware that it is a matter of only a few months since the Minister for Finance, Deputy Cowen, announced precisely the same measure, except that this too will be subject to a year-long thought process which will also span the period of a general election. One would not need to be an arch-cynic to realise where that is coming from or going to. The plan refers to fuel economy labelling for all new cars but I do not know whether this is happening and the Minister may be able to clarify. The plan refers to modal shift measures which effectively amounts to a shift from road transport to public transport. It is a reality that 96% of greenhouse gas emissions resulting from transport usage come from road transport and there has been a significant incremental increase in the use of private transport in the ten-year period. The strategy suggested that a modal shift could take place in seven years but this has not happened.
The strategy refers to demand management and setting fuel taxes at appropriate levels but no effort has been made to achieve this target. It refers to the development of an integrated traffic management system. Anybody judging the way Dublin city works or does not work can make their own judgment on that. The strategy refers to achieving higher residential densities. This has been part of a number of different programmes the Department has produced, but it has not happened in any serious way. It refers to restrictions on out-of-town retail units â we could ask IKEA about that.
In terms of the industrial and commercial sector, it refers to market instruments, including targeted taxation measures and emissions trading. We are getting emissions trading but not targeted taxation measures. It refers to negotiated agreement with industry, with the option for firms to comply with agreements to reduce their tax burden. A pilot study in this regard was undertaken five years ago but was discontinued. It refers to the examination of investment support from the perspective of greenhouse gas emissions. I have no idea whether that happens but I doubt it. It refers to specific measures to tackle industrial gases, including the use of alternatives. There was a threefold increase in industrial gases from 1997 to 2004.
It then goes on to refer to the agricultural sector and reducing the national herd. The truth is the national herd has reduced in size and this has led to a significant reduction in the emissions of methane, but it will come as a surprise to the IFA and most farmers that this was a central plank of Government climate change strategy.
I hope the point is made. We need to examine why Government has done so little and failed so abjectly in this regard because there are a few key messages in the strategy from which we can all learn, not just the Government. The political commitment has not been evident across Government to do anything different. The actions of the former Minister, Mr. McCreevy, and the Minister for Finance, Deputy Cowen, tell us a certain amount. I have no doubt there are those in the Minister's Department â they may include the Minister and his predecessors â who firmly believe the climate change strategy is crucially important and who labour long and hard, and have done so over many years, to produce strategies, statements, endless speeches, press releases and so on.
The problem is there is no joined-up thinking. It is all very well for the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to believe it is important we take measures to combat climate change, but if at the same time the Department of Transport and the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, which is responsible for energy, are doing things which pull in exactly the opposite direction, the end result is stasis and we get nowhere.
Conflicting aims are at play. There are conflicting aims within individual Departments and within Government. It becomes a matter of which gains priority and it is crystal clear, considering the record of the past seven years, that tackling climate change does not take priority. Last week, the White Paper on energy highlighted the fact that the aim of ensuring diverse forms of energy supply and electricity generation is clearly weighted much more heavily than any notion of tackling climate change. It is all very well for the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to suggest we want to move away from coal and towards cleaner, more efficient use of energy, and to reduce the use of energy. If at the same time, however, the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources suggests we need to diversify and ensure we continue to use coal, I am not sure we are going anywhere.
We also need to make the point, because Government has been strong on this point, that we have not successfully decoupled the twin aims of economic growth and tackling climate change. If one considers the two primary indicators of transport and energy usage, they have increasedââ
It is reasonable to take out, for example, the agricultural sector and consider the transport and energy sectors. Demand for energy and the use of transport and transport fuels has increased more or less in line with growth in gross domestic product. In fact, it has increased at a higher rate, which is not surprising. We should acknowledge this. If we do, certain consequences flow from this which are not necessarily the sort of consequences that would make one popular publicly.
This brings me to my final point about why nothing has happened in recent years. This is because some of the measures that would be necessary in demand management are very unpopular. We need only look to the United Kingdom where a few weeks ago David Cameron produced a policy that was intended to discourage people from using air transport. He came up with the notion that if one was a frequent flyer, one would have to pay more and there would a surcharge on those who, by virtue of air transport, were high carbon users. The reaction was very instructive. It was all very well for David Cameron to be Mr. Green Boy in an airy-fairy sort of way, but once he began talking about hard and fast policies which could impact on people's lifestyles, the reaction was a good deal less positive. We have all become hooked on, for example, relatively cheap air travel. It will require quite a change in the public's perception of these issues before they are willing to accept the sort of lifestyle changes that are almost certainly necessary if we are seriously to tackle climate change. This applies equally to the use of cars.
To take a UK example again, Gordon Brown in the early part of this decade incrementally increased the tax on petrol so at present there is a substantial price differential between North and South on this island. It is remarkable that it was probably the low point of the popularity of the Labour Government since it came into power in 1997 and led to a virtual blockade of the UK by truck drivers.
I make that point because I believe we need a genuine public debate. It is useless for politicians of all parties, including Government parties, to genuflect at the altar of climate change and say this is all terribly important and that we must do something about it. People must understand it requires significant lifestyle changes and important choices to be made. It requires a frankness from Government and politicians which we have not had and which we need if this issue is to be advanced. Looking back, we have had seven years of abject failure. We cannot afford to have that replicated in the immediate term. Speaking for my party, we are happy to co-operate with other parties, as all parties must, in looking to deal with an issue which is of such huge importance to the nation.
I hope to persist in the positive and non-confrontational tone of my colleague. All of us now accept the reality of climate change. Let us not ignore the extraordinarily intense rearguard action, which still continues and which was manifested on Channel 4 a few weeks back, of pseudo-science by pseudo-scientists and a pseudo-director who has a reputation for enjoying the fact he says the opposite of everybody else, regardless of whether it happens to be true. Some of his comments to critics which I saw recorded today amount to four-letter words and no more. When eminent scientists contacted him, the reply was a four-letter word.
Probably. There is no doubt there are extraordinary vested interests in many areas. I am concerned that unless the Government â any Government â has an absolute conviction that this is a reality and that it will have an overwhelmingly negative impact on how we and the planet live over the next 50 years, there will not be the political will to do what is necessary.
What I hope was one of my more rational criticisms of the present Government is that when it landed in office in 1997, it was the first Opposition to have entered Government and inherited a boom on such a scale. However, it sat there for approximately five years, unable to believe its luck as money flowed into the coffers through no major decision of the Government.
If the Government deserves credit for anything, it is that it perhaps sustained the boom, but it did not create it because it was well under way, and that is a fact. However, because it was a boom and did not represent the things Governments in Ireland used to have to worry about, the Government stopped worrying. It did not look at the new issues and the new ideas, one of which, already well over the horizon, was the issue of climate change.
Perhaps at that stage there was no overwhelming scientific consensus but it was growing and even ten years ago, the majority of scientists, perhaps 60%, claimed the most likely reason global temperatures were on an upward curve was because of human activity and that it was not caused by sunspots or any of the other causes that are still being floated around. This is why the strategy of 2000, while belated, was welcome. However, the failure to meet its own quite limited targets is troubling.
I am unconvinced that the Government really believes climate change is perhaps the most important issue with which we are faced. This is the first occasion outside instances of war on which any generation has been obliged to make sacrifices in order to ensure future generations will have a world in which it will be worth living. This matter is continually discussed but nothing is ever done. We deal in short-term solutions. The market economy model to which we have become used is based on the idea that individuals operating in their own self-interests ultimately and accidentally create together the best possible outcome. That is simply not true. As the Stern report in the United Kingdom indicated, climate change is the greatest example of market failure the world has ever seen. There are market mechanisms which can be used but the market will not rectify climate change. Irreversible damage will have been done before any market force would begin to become evident. The insurance companies are beginning to realise this fact but that realisation is not widespread.
There is only one issue I wish to raise. Transport, energy and agriculture are the three biggest contributors to carbon emissions in this country. It is time we confronted the fact that agriculture is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.
Correct. Approximately 28% of our greenhouse gas emissions emanate from agriculture. If we are determined to carry out a cost-benefit analysis of the contributions of different sectors to both the economy and our greenhouse gas emissions, we must face up to and deal with the part played by agriculture. There is a sense that agriculture is benign and that it involves green fields, etc.
The second contributor to our greenhouse gas emissions about which I am concerned is transport. One of the reasons for the growth in emissions in transport is the huge increase in the transport of goods by road. The rail strategy group informed the Government that we ought to divert some of the goods transported by road to rail but that this would involve intervention by the State in terms of subsidies and supports. I understand a significant number of agencies and private enterprises want to use the railways but that there is a problem with allowing them to do so. The current operator of the rail service â Irish Rail â is deliberately and systematically running down its rail freight business. The company wants to get out of this sector completely. That is a profound contradiction of any national strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions because one of the most effective ways in which such emissions could be reduced would be by moving large quantities of goods by rail and, in particular, at night. From 10 p.m. to 5.30 a.m. or 6 a.m. our railways are virtually empty. Considerable amounts of money were spent on upgrading the rail network and it remains empty for most of the night because many of the goods that used to be transported by rail are now delivered by road.
If the fundamental argument is that it is more cost beneficial to industry and manufacturers to transport goods by road, we must consider the entire structure of taxation in the context of the overall common good, namely, the reduction of emissions. We must ask whether we believe this is the most important issue with which our generation must deal and whether it will determine whether the planet will be capable of supporting life. If the answer is yes, we must develop and create a consensus which will enable us to make the decisions that will make it more attractive economically, either by taxation or the imposition of charges, to send goods by rail rather than by road. If we removed a huge number of trucks from our roads, the consequence would be a significant reduction in greenhouse emissions per tonne of freight.
Private transport, energy, etc., are matters for another day. I would love to hear a Government Minister explain why there is no evident strategy to transfer goods from road to rail transport, particularly in view of the fact that this would have an immediate and major impact on our greenhouse gas emissions.
I move amendment No. 1:
To delete all words after "Seanad Ãireann" and substitute the following:
"welcomes the progress made under the National Climate Change Strategy in decoupling greenhouse gas emissions from economic growth".
I reserve my right to speak.
I thank Senator Kitt for allowing me to contribute at this stage. I particularly want to participate in this debate but I am also obliged to go to the Lower House to deal with some business there.
This is a timely debate. I wish to take up a point raised by Senator Ryan. There is a great denial that we face an extraordinary global challenge. Every logical and sound-thinking person accepts that it will be the biggest challenge with which we will be obliged to deal in the years ahead. The Senator is correct to state there are two contradictory lobbies, the first of which is the nuclear lobby which is trying to capture the climate change debate for its own purposes, while the second is the lobby that denies climate change. The reality is that there is climate change. Whether this is partly, predominantly or entirely due to human activity, there is no doubt that human activity is a large part of the problem and it is the only part that we can address. It is, therefore, incumbent on every government to play its part and this Administration is certainly doing so.
Our Kyoto Protocol target is to remove, on average, 15.2 million tonnes of carbon each year during the period from 2008 to 2012. With respect to those who moved the motion, to suggest, ahead of the period, that we have failed abjectly to meet the target is, to put it mildly, somewhat odd. Our aim is to achieve a position where our emissions will be 13% above 1990 levels. We will achieve our targets by a combination of the emission reduction measures being implemented across the economy, including by our heaviest emitting installations â of which there are 109 â under the EU emissions trading scheme.
There is no silver bullet to help us deal with this problem. The concept that the introduction of a carbon tax would address the matter in its entirety is undoubtedly sincere but it is also misguided. It will take measures that will cut across a range of policy areas to achieve our targets.
Ireland's first national climate strategy was published in 2000. It has, by any objective standard, been enormously successful. The facts in this regard stand up to scrutiny. Our greenhouse gas emissions had increased by approximately 25% over 1990 levels up to 2005. It would be great if the figure in this regard was smaller but during the period in question the economy grew by 150%, the number of people in work and the number of cars on our roads both increased by almost 100% and the number of new houses being built went up dramatically. As an economy expands, it is logical that the level of emissions will rise. To create a situation where emissions in this country grew by only one sixth of the growth rate of the economy is a mark of a successful policy. The success we have achieved will put us in a good position when we enter the post-2012 period.
Tackling greenhouse gas emissions does not have to imperil economic growth. If ever there was a country which exemplified that fact it is Ireland. In his report Sir Nicholas Stern makes the point that we must recognise that dealing with greenhouse gas emissions is not in any way inimical to economic growth. We should stop knocking ourselves. Ireland has achieved more than any other country in the OECD group in this area. We have grown the economy by 150% and our emissions have increased by 25%, an extraordinary example of decoupling. The challenge we face is to maintain strong economic performance, while continuing to lower our emissions. It is imperative that we should do that. Doing so creates an economic advantage because if we achieve a carbon-lean or carbon-neutral economy at the same time as economic growth, we all will benefit. It is a classic win-win scenario. Policies proposed by the Opposition, in particular by Labour and the Green Party, might achieve a greenhouse gas reduction â I listened in particular in the other House â but the problem would be that they do not achieve the balance that will allow our economy to continue to grow.
The national climate change strategy measures in place are projected to deliver 8 million tonnes in greenhouse gas emissions savings. These measures include the following. On the energy side, the European Union has set a target of generating 13.2% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2010. We will meet and surpass that target. We have already set more ambitious targets of 15% by 2010 and 33% by 2020. The White Paper, Delivering a Sustainable Energy Future for Ireland, sets out precisely how that will be done. It sets it out in a way which measures the carbon savings we will achieve by moving to sustainable energy.
Senator McDowell is quite correct to state that we use coal to produce a high proportion of our energy needs, but it is imperative that we, having decided not to go the nuclear route, use a mix of energy sources. His colleagues in the other House criticised our move to turf, but one cannot have it every way. One cannot rule out coal, turf and nuclear. What would we be left with? There is a need for a more balanced approach to this and one will find that in the White Paper.
Senator Ryan was quite correct that the role of agriculture has not been adequately recognised. On the changes arising from the Common Agricultural Policy reform, the fact that 48,000 farmers are signing up for the REPS and that the farming organisations have signed up for the nitrates programme should be recognised. The saving in emissions from both changes will amount to 2.4 million tonnes per year. In addition, the forestry programme will deliver a further 2.08 million tonnes per year. Agriculture is playing its part and this should be recognised and celebrated.
On the residential side, by living in homes we generate heat and all our activity uses energy. I have already announced a planned further increase of 40% in the energy efficiency standards for homes as part of the climate change strategy.
The highly successful green homes grant scheme has persuaded at least 10,000 or 11,000 homes to switch to renewable energy sources. The scheme was extended in the 2007 budget and a further â¬20 million has been added to it. Under that scheme we have already achieved a saving of 37.000 tonnes per annum in those homes that have switched. This emphasises that there is no single silver bullet solution to this and that a multiplicity of approaches will resolve it.
On the issue of encouraging people to switch, I have introduced planning exemptions for micro-renewables in domestic dwellings and also introduced the change which will encourage more homes to switch to solar energy by removing the planning costs concerned.
Senator McDowell is quite correct that transport accounts for a considerable emissions tonnage. The 140% growth in transport has arisen from economic growth and development and is owing to the fact that there are 2 million people at work whereas there were 1 million people at work 15 years ago. It is a reality that people choose a particular lifestyle.
On whether we are behind, today's British budget is interesting. I read that one of the headline figures Gordon Brown introduced today is that the drivers of the most polluting vehicles are to see their car tax almost double to Â£400. Compare the top rates in Britain to those in Ireland and one will see who is serious about dealing with the issue.
On the transport initiatives, more than â¬200 million was set aside in the 2006 budget for tax relief for bio-fuels, and Senator McDowell did not mention this. That initiative will deliver a further 250,000 tonnes of emissions savings. It is an important initiative that is doubly beneficial. On the one hand, bio-fuels produce less emissions and on the other, they cut our import bills, as the Senator fully appreciates. More importantly, however, they give a cash crop to farmers who were denied one because of the silly decisions taken by the sugar company. Rather than suggest that there is no joined-up thinking, a complete holistic approach is being adopted. In addition, a bio-fuels obligation will be introduced to ensure that bio-fuels represent 5.75% of Ireland's transport fuel market by 2010 and 10% by 2020.
Transport 21 is a document which Senator McDowell has not recognised. Some â¬16 billion of Transport 21 has been put aside specifically to improve public transport. One cannot decide in a Stalinist way to impose on people a requirement that they travel by public transport without making public transport better. For generations, we in this country failed to invest in public transport. The first Government in the history of the State to invest significant funds in public transport is this one. In fact, the modal shift from implementation of Transport 21 is calculated to save of the order of 500,000 tonnes of carbon emissions.
The figures are impressive. Luas, whatever one says about it, carried 26 million passengers in its first year of operation. It now has capacity to handle 80,000 people per day. The DART extension, which was achieved in the lifetime of this Government, can now carry 90,000 people per day. As I use it occasionally, I can tell the House that it is packed and the extensions, which are long overdue, are welcome.
A combination of tax concessions for lower emission cars and an updating of labelling for cars introducing, as Senator McDowell stated, the change for hybrid cars, fuel-efficient cars and dual-fuel cars will produce savings. It is not true to state that nothing is being done. I referred to British Government's budget today. The British Government is light years behind Ireland, not just this Government but a series of Governments, in terms of the way we tax motor vehicles.
One matter Senator McDowell did not mention, and which is left out of the debate from time to time, is waste management. Waste management is one area where we can make phenomenal changes if only we are honest with ourselves. I agree with Senator Ryan that there is a need to be honest and open in this debate. He is quite right that the hard decisions must be made. One of the major decisions that has been made in the lifetime of this Government in the past ten years is to divert phenomenally increased percentages away from landfill. Only ten years ago approximately 10% of our waste was diverted from landfill. This year the percentage diverted exceeds 35%. We have passed the target set for 2013. We must increase that percentage diverted and move ever more material away from landfill because landfill produces methane, which, as the House will be aware, is one of the worst forms of greenhouse gas emissions.
We have saved 1.2 million tonnes through waste management and waste diversion, and that is before we get into the area of incineration. Combined heat and power, CHP, which Senator McDowell mentioned, is a matter about which we must be honest with the people. We cannot argue for zero waste. While in Toronto at the weekend, I asked about the Guelph method, as mentioned by the Greens from time to time, and people looked at me with mystification and pointed out that they have their own problems. There are further domestic policies which we will announce as part of the climate change strategy document.
I want to deal with the issue of emissions trading. As the House will be aware, 109 Irish firms are in the EU emissions trading scheme, ETS. Those firms will achieve a cut of 3 million tonnes because it pays them to achieve that. They are well under way. There are impressive examples of it being done. It is a key element in the climate change strategy, not only here in Ireland but as part of the national allocations plans in every European country.
Senator McDowell has not made the point in the Seanad, but it has been made from time to time in the DÃ¡il, that somehow the entire imposition should be placed on Irish industry. I will deal with that tomorrow in any event. If one looks at this issue of carbon trading, which is so misrepresented in this country, Sir. Nicholas Stern, the European Commission and progressive environmentalists from around the world are of the view that putting a cost on carbon through carbon trading is the way forward. In fact, Stern has suggested that it should become part of a global response.
There is a second part of carbon trading which is incredibly misrepresented in this country, that is, the issue of using the flexible mechanism under the Kyoto Agreement. That agreement allows countries to buy a certain amount of carbon from other countries which have carbon to spare.
In my view, the contributor to the recent Paris conference who stood out was the executive secretary of the UN Conference on Climate Change, Mr. Yvo de Boers. He argued strongly that the purchase of carbon credits by member states allows developed countries such as Ireland to be progressive and demanding in terms of accepting ambitious targets for carbon attenuation and cutting greenhouse gas emissions while also supporting the developing world without fear of undermining economic growth. Kofi Annan made the same point at the Nairobi conference. Carbon trading has been misrepresented to an astonishing degree in this country. Carbon trading allows a country such as Ireland to meet challenging and difficult targets. I acknowledge that difficult and politically unpopular decisions will have to be made but if we explain the position honestly and truthfully, the people will accept that one of the ways to make the transition is by making use of carbon trading.
We are to cut 15.2 million tonnes and have decided to purchase in the order of 3 million tonnes per year. These purchases allow us to make the transition while assisting the developing world because the danger arises that the latter will be left behind. To find examples of real poverty and challenges resulting from climate change, one only needs to consider what is happening in Sub-Saharan Africa, where people face desertification and women have to spend half their waking hours walking for miles to pick up bits of timber and deplete their forests to provide energy. The great benefit of using the carbon trading mechanisms available under Kyoto, including in particular the mechanisms governed by the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, is that they allow us to be ambitious about cutting carbon emissions while also providing countries with support in meeting their energy needs in a way that prevents them from falling victim to second-hand technologies passed on by the developed world. It is entirely virtuous and positive to operate in such a manner. It is not a matter, as people in this country have claimed, of buying ourselves out of trouble or looking for the easy way out. That is a fatuous approach to this issue.
All the signatories to the Kyoto Agreement accepted this arrangement. Mr. Nicholas Stern agrees with the arrangement and spoke about it at length. The United Nations Secretary General spoke about it in his Nairobi initiative. The UN commission speaks about it, as does the secretary to the UNFCCC and a variety of progressive environmentalists. The positive benefits of the arrangement were even mentioned in the Al Gore documentary. For some reason, however, it is not acceptable to people in this country. Talk about the world being out of step with my Johnny. We live in a world which faces the reality that we have very little time in which to act. We have to be ambitious and impose penalties and strictures if we are to continue to enjoy our current standards. Mr. Stern has pointed out with crystal clarity that if we do not deal with the problem now, we will pay a much higher price later.
I take issue with Senator McDowell regarding the benefits of carbon taxes. Over the past two years, the price of fuel spiked in this country and the cost of petrol and diesel went through the roof but there was no major reduction in consumption. We need to consider that debate very carefully.
We will be debating these issues at length tomorrow in the context of the Carbon Fund Bill 2006, but I wish to make a point regarding the post-2012 period. We are currently discussing the Kyoto period, which runs from 2008 to 2012, but it is imperative for a variety of reasons that we start focussing our minds and policies on the period beyond 2012. The decisions we have to make on energy will have long-term implications.
I have believed for many years with every fibre in my body that we as a people have made the right moral decision to reject the nuclear route. Nuclear energy is an immoral answer to the problem. However, we have to commit ourselves to the post-2012 period. The White Paper on energy is a progressive document in that regard. It explores areas where Ireland could make an impact, save ourselves and contribute a lot to the debate on climate change.
We are sometimes excessively fearful in this country of making decisions. The Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources is committing us to making decisions on issues such as wave and tidal energy and to ambitious targets for biofuels. I would much prefer to be part of a Government that commits Ireland to ambition than one which snivels and looks the other way. If we do not meet the target or only go three quarters of the way, at least we will have aimed high. I believe we can meet our targets on biofuels and alternative energy. We can achieve great results in areas such as tidal energy if we have the courage to commit. We have a moral responsibility to argue the non-nuclear case because the powerful and sinister nuclear lobby is trying to take over this debate. The other night, I listened to that well-known environmentalist, Mr. Bernard Ingham, argue the case for nuclear power and he convinced me more than ever that I was right all along.
It is unfair to continuously castigate ourselves or say we have not achieved anything. We can always do better or be more ambitious but it is not true to say that an economy which has grown by 150% since 1990 while keeping emissions growth to 25% is going nowhere. I accept that hard work remains to be done. We will have to work harder to reach our Kyoto target of 13% above 1990 levels but I believe we can be successful. However, we will not meet the target by suggesting silver bullet solutions because these do not exist.
I want to avoid making political points because too many political shots have already been fired in this debate. Two years ago, I decided to act on waste electrical products, which are the most environmentally polluting of all products going to landfill. Everybody said my initiative would fall flat on its face and quite a few people were hopeful that would be the case. However, because we set an ambitious target, we have passed it. Instead of meeting the EU target for 2008 of 4 kg per person of recycled products per year, we are already recycling 6.7 kg. That demonstrates, as did the smoking and plastic bags initiatives, that when we set our minds to a problem, we can solve it.
When I say "we", I do not refer to the Government of the day but to the people. We are meeting the ambitious targets we have set ourselves for recycling. It is not a political point to say we lack self-confidence in our capacity to deliver. This Government has made the decision to support the EU in persuading the international community to sign up to ambitious reductions of 30% by the year 2020. If this is not accepted, we have agreed that Europe should impose on itself a 20% cut. That is the way to show leadership.
Meeting the challenge of global climate change will be difficult, particularly for small countries such as Ireland. I regularly listen to the demands of Members in the other House that we lead the world on this issue but if we closed our entire economy, switched off all the lights, destroyed our herds and returned to the time when we did not have fire, we would save 2.75 minutes in terms of global warming. We could take the view that we are too small to have an effect but it would be immoral to do so.
We are making change. We can all be ambitious and impatient and they are good qualities whereas self-delusion is not. It is wrong to suggest we have not done our bit in Ireland and it runs counter to the facts. We have achieved a great deal but we still have work to do. I outlined a number of policies earlier and I will outline further policies tomorrow. On 2 April, I will announce another set of ambitious policies under the climate change strategy. I am prepared to listen because I am not one of those people who comes into the House and arrogantly believes all wisdom is on the Government side. That is never the case, as there is wisdom on all sides in all debates. If we listen more, we will find solutions.
It is untrue, unfair and inaccurate to say we have achieved nothing. We have achieved a great deal but we still face a major task. Rather than spend time scoring silly points off each other, we should examine each other's policies honestly, give them a fair appraisal and support them. If a good policy is put forward by the Opposition, I would be willing to take it on. I was criticised elsewhere today about an announcement I made last week to eliminate the use of incandescent bulbs. Somebody said I was shooting for the moon and that my proposal was "a bit of a nonsense". If this results in a 10% reduction in our energy output while, at the same time, saving every householder money, it will not be a bit of nonsense.
Senator Quinn knows plenty about a good long-term bargain. Rather than scoring points off each others, if we examine policies honestly and openly and adopt a more holistic, cross party approach on his issue, we will achieve our Kyoto targets in a way that will result in all of us winning because Ireland will become the most efficient and progressive country in terms of energy production. We have achieved a huge amount but we still have challenges to meet, which will be met.
I welcome the Minister to the House. I support the motion and I totally condemn the lack of action by the Government to tackle the issue of climate change, which is affecting the future viability not only of this country but of the entire globe. Climate change and the emission of greenhouse gases is one of the major issues facing the world. In light of increased evidence that man-made carbon dioxide and other gas emissions are having an effect on global temperatures. This has been evident in many reports on television recently from various part of the world. It is necessary that all countries play their part in reducing emissions and tackling climate change.
In January 1996, James Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies said, "The climate system is being pushed hard enough, that change will become obvious to the man in the street in the next decade". The man in the street is aware of climate changes that have taken place over the past decade, with the effects being apparent to most of us for some time. Environmental issues are a high priority among the electorate, according to published polls over the past 12 months. Public awareness recently received an emphatic boost courtesy of Al Gore's hard hitting movie, "An Inconvenient Truth", which should be obligatory viewing for every school child and, especially, for every member of the Government, considering the appalling and frightening lack of awareness and lack of action on the issue of climate change. Shock tactics, however, may fail to penetrate the sand in which they are hiding their heads. That applies to several of the Minister's predecessors as well.
In the foreword to the National Climate Change Strategy 2000, the former Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Noel Dempsey stated:
Business as usual is no longer an option for Ireland. Our record economic growth means that even with flexibility to complete our development, against a low baseline in 1990, our strategy must be radically different in the coming decade. We have already reached our Kyoto 13% growth limitation target. Now we have to achieve the difficult task of dramatically reducing greenhouse gas emissions over this decade. We intend to do so in a manner that protects our economy, that is equitable and that will place a premium on efficiency and on technical innovation.
These were fine words, but like the empty promises of this Government, hollow and without substance.
The Government promised an ambitious strategy to reduce greenhouse emissions, with more than 20 key measures, including promises to introduce carbon taxes, to introduce changes to the VRT car tax system so that it would be based on emissions and the conversion of Moneypoint power station from coal to a more environmentally efficient and friendly alternative. Of these three promises, only the VRT proposal remains and this has not been implemented seven years later. The Government's review of the national climate change strategy, Pathway to Kyoto Compliance: Review of the National Climate Change Strategy, projected that Ireland will miss its Kyoto target by an annual average of 7.174 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent.
A plan for carbon taxes was not acted upon by the Government and Moneypoint still uses coal to produce electricity, which is not expected to change. Fuel taxes have not increased in line with those in Northern Ireland so cross-Border fuel trade continues. The review does not measure progress versus the target in the 2000 strategy. However, by taking account of the target change in emissions from the national climate change strategy, we can examine the progress made up to 2005. Carbon emissions were expected to be approximately 73,800 tonnes without implementing strategy measures and approximately 58,400 million tonnes with them implemented. The emissions targets set in 1990 were revised upwards in 2000 but this should not affect the targeted percentage changes from the strategy. Three years are left before the target date of the strategy is reached while the Kyoto protocol period begins in a year. It is extremely unlikely that emissions can be reduced by enough to meet either target in such a short space of time.
After ten years of Fianna FÃ¡il-Progressive Democrats inactivity, which has produced the least environmentally friendly record in the history of the State, a quick review of the Government's performance shows that it has missed all our Kyoto targets. Ireland's greenhouse emissions are twice the overall target and it is ranked 22 out of 27 countries regarding wind, wave and biomass energy generation. Only 35% of Ireland's primary energy supply comes from renewables. Seven environmental EU directives are still outstanding and the deadline for one was August 2004. A total of 83% of Ireland's recyclable waste is exported according to the EPA and Ireland has consistently finished bottom of the EU league table on recycling.
The EU Commission took Ireland to the European Court of Justice over the appalling state of waste treatment facilities in this country. Our transport emissions have increased by 140% since 1990 and the Government fudged the VRT labelling plan by providing gas guzzlers with a one year window. The Government provided no additional buses to Dublin Bus over a five-year period and voted down a Fine Gael Bill that would have allowed for the compulsory blending of all motor fuels emissions, which have increased to 25.4% above 1990 levels whereas the Kyoto limit is 13%. The Government has no option but to purchase carbon credits at a cost of a whopping â¬270 million to the Exchequer and the taxpayer.
Last month the EU forced the Government's hand with the introduction of an initiative to force car-makers to cut the amount of carbon dioxide produced by their cars to an average figure of 130 grams per kilometre. This cut is only a step and it must be augmented in Ireland by Fine Gael's plan to charge heavy polluting vehicles a higher rate of VRT â a proposal Fianna FÃ¡il completely side-stepped. In Europe, the Commission has taken a vital and welcome step in standing up to producers of big, heavy polluting cars. However, that must be supported by Government action.
I welcome this debate and the Minister. I have already moved the amendment, which I support. Climate change is recognised as the most serious and threatening global environmental problem. Under the Kyoto Protocol, the Government has agreed to limit greenhouse gas emissions to 13%, or 15 million tonnes per year, above the 1990 levels by the first commitment period of 2008-12. The Minister referred to the Stern review talked about the economic impact of climate change predicting that a collective failure to address the world's rising greenhouse emissions will cost the equivalent of at least 5% of global GDP through the adverse impacts of climate change.
Since the publication of the national climate change strategy in 2000, the Government has put in place a variety of measures which will deliver a reduction of an average of 8 million tonnes in greenhouse gas emissions during the period 2008-12. That is our compliance period for the Kyoto Protocol and the period during which the assessment will be made.
We have strengthened the energy requirements in the building regulations and over the key period this will lead to a reduction of approximately 300,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year. The Minister has talked about the three-strand approach which includes measures to reduce emissions, emission reduction in the installations participating in the EU emissions trading scheme and, where it arises, the purchase of credits for carbon reductions elsewhere in the world.
I welcome the fact that the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Deputy Noel Dempsey, has published a White Paper on Energy committed to delivering a sustainable energy future for Ireland. The White Paper describes the actions and targets for the energy policy framework up to 2020, principally to support economic growth and to meet the needs of all consumers. The paper sets a clear path for meeting the Government's goal to ensure safe and secure energy supplies, promoting a sustainable energy future and supporting competitiveness.
The renewable energy directive, to which we are committed, will achieve a reduction of 1.3 million tonnes of CO2 emissions annually. Excess relief of more than â¬200 million between 2006-10 will bring emission reductions of 250,000 tonnes annually, the equivalent of taking 76,000 cars off the road.
I welcome the strategy and the other strategies announced by various Ministers. I particularly welcome the greener homes renewable energy grant. That scheme has been very successful and has had a tremendous take up. It is encouraging to note the many new industries providing wood chips and wood pellets for that scheme. It will deliver a reduction of approximately 200,000 tonnes in emissions. The targets are ambitious but the Minister is right to try to meet them. The target is to increase renewable use by 15% by 2010 and by 30% by 2020.
The power of one campaign is aimed at supporting consumers in changing their energy practices and choices and is very worthwhile. This campaign reflects the suggestion that, along with the Government, every member of society must play a part in the changes. This very well broadcast campaign highlights the Government's commitment to reducing CO2 emissions.
An issue which probably needs more promotion is the Government's forestry programme. From the figures I have seen, it will contribute to the removal of more than 2 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per annum. Government policy is to increase the current level of afforestation by up to 17% by 2030. In most cases, farmers will do the planting. Annual premium payments are available as are planting grants to cover the establishment cost. In the 2007 budget, more than â¬15 million over three years was provided to encourage farmers to grow bio-energy crops. We are all familiar with the recent announcements by the Minister, particularly in regard to the growing of willow.
I should also mentioned that we have had great success in the area of recycling. Contrary to what Senator Bannon said, the figures in this regard have increased. In schools, in particular, there is great emphasis among young people on the benefits of recycling. The green flag, for example, is now available. A programme is in place and it is very well supported. An Taisce is involved in this, and a number of green flags have been awarded to schools.
Budget 2007 also provided a scheme of tax relief for corporate investment in certain renewable energy projects which was extended from the end of 2006 to the end of 2011. The national development plan includes a range of major investments which will result in the lowering of greenhouse gases. Under Transport 21 public transport will benefit greatly in the next seven years. In the west, we were very fortunate to have the western rail corridor included in that â¬34 billion package. Many people were opposed to the reopening of the line from Sligo to Limerick, or Killooney to Claremorris, the two ends of that scheme. It took a very brave decision by the then Minister, Deputy Seamus Brennan, to have consultants examine this project. Unbelievably, it was not included initially. Everyone knew a rail service to Galway city was required. The roads need upgrading and there are terrible traffic jams in Claregalway which are mentioned in traffic reports every morning. That development was welcome.
The national development plan provided funding for the purchase of carbon allowances as part of our strategy and funding of â¬93 million for environmental research. The Government is very aware of what can be done in regard to environmental protection. The farm plastics scheme led to traffic jams in Galway when it was first introduced at the marts. Galway was one of the first counties to be included as was County Offaly. Some 18 more counties are now included which is a great improvement. The plastic bags scheme and the tax on white goods, about which the Minister spoke, have been very successful. These are very commendable measures.
I refer to EU directives on water quality. I was disappointed to state on today's Order of Business that Galway still has some problems in regard to a parasite but 90% compliance with EU directives in other areas is a good achievement. However, as I said this morning, we must do a little more in regard to water. I congratulate the Minister on what he has done.
I welcome this motion. The original Labour Party motion was one in Irish about the education system and I thought to myself "What fools". They have missed the obvious issue which is climate change. I had decided to table a motion and I got my colleague, Senator O'Toole, to second it. However, the issue is what is important rather than the personalities involved. I congratulate the Labour Party on tabling this important motion.
I note at the outset that the evidence for climate change is now both overwhelming and incontrovertible. It is not simply confined to the apparently short historical records of scientific accuracy in our possession, because we also possess tools such as core samples and geological evidence. We can go back hundreds of thousands of years to ascertain the prevailing conditions. We know a highly significant change is taking place and that we are responsible for it. Even those who have no altruistic concern for the planet or for future generations have been jolted by the report of Sir Nicholas Stern, of which mention has been made. Effectively, he rattled the money box in the face of international capitalism. Demonstrating that the unchecked emission of carbon gases would lead to a 20% drop in global production has at last caught the attention of erstwhile blasÃ© political leaders. This was followed by the report of the findings of a committee of more than 2,000 internationally reputable scientists, which pointed in the same direction.
However, there are still those who would deny it. A few voices, either eccentric or representing vested interests, have attempted to challenge the facts. Channel 4 broadcast a disreputable film along these lines that purported to represent a reasonable scientific viewpoint. However it is clear that the quotations from the few scientists whose views could be manipulated to these ends were selectively employed and even these scientists have, in large part, protested against the abuse of their names. One would not expect anything else from Channel 4, which has sunk from being a reputable station of strong investigative and progressive bent to being a mere vehicle for the recycling of the American situation comedies, vulgar so-called reality shows and similar rubbish. Just as in the past one had the disgraceful example of Holocaust deniers, one now has the unappetising spectacle, even among some Irish shock-jock journalists, of climate change deniers. Such people remind me of Mrs. Noah in the medieval miracle play "Noye's Fludde" who, drunk and irresponsible, had to be hauled on board the Ark by her unfortunate husband at the very last moment before the waters covered the earth, even as she continued to pretend that nothing was happening.
How is it possible for even the meanest intelligence to deny the clear evidence of climate change and human involvement in such change? All available evidence points in this direction. I saw it myself last year when I travelled to Svalbard in Spitsbergen because I heard an invitation over the airwaves from the Norwegian foreign minister. He stated that everyone who was interested in the subject should go there to see what is happening. This was not a sponsored trip and I was obliged to fork out myself for hotels in Norway.
I could not cycle. I flew, thus adding to my carbon footprint. However, the Norwegian ambassador was extremely helpful in making the arrangements and I saw the impact of climate change on the glaciers. All Members are aware that lumps have been falling off the Matterhorn and villages are threatened by the collapse, not simply of the ice formations, but also of the rock formations behind them. Significant rises in temperature have been recorded and have become so noticeable that even ordinary citizens, let alone scientists, across the planet are aware of this fact.
Animal, bird and insect species are disappearing at an ever-increasing rate and there have been changes in fruit and flower growing patterns. Last week, I heard people from County Wexford discuss the matter. It has affected the industry there and people in County Wexford have been obliged to change their economic patterns. At least one Pacific island has already disappeared under the ocean. Perhaps the doubting Thomas's will be convinced only when the planet explodes. By that time it will be too late and self-indulgence and stupidity will have triumphed. Members should remember the words of Chief Seattle, who said that if one spits upon the earth one is spitting on oneself. One cannot damage the environment without damaging oneself.
At the root of this problem lies the untrammelled capitalism of the world in which we live. This is predicated upon the unsustainable principle of an infinitely expanding market. However, this is an impossible and self-defeating idea because we live in a world of finite resources, as has been seen clearly in respect of fossil fuels. Nevertheless, in the past 40 years business has implemented the notion of planned obsolescence. In other words, decay is built into merchandise.
I recently came across a good example of this phenomenon. My washing machine flooded the kitchen and I summoned a plumber. When he asked me how long I had it, I replied that I had it for only 20 years. He nearly fainted and had to be given active resuscitation.
He told me that washing machines last for only five years, after which they are expected to conk out. I saw a programme recently in which it was stated that television sets provide good value for only approximately two years. I have sets going back to the 1960s, including a black and white 12-inch set in the kitchen, which still adequately receives the RTE television news while I am washing the dishes.
I am a prudent old Protestant and am old enough to remember when, on fashionable Nassau Street, there was a very good umbrella shop called Johnsons. It also re-covered them and replaced their spokes. However, that has gone, as have all similar enterprises. While I am lucky enough to have found a decent cobbler in my neighbourhood, most cobblers have vanished. Many of them have gone out of business because of increasing rents. I managed to get my old Roberts radio repaired last week in a shop in Aungier Street or Camden Street. It was almost the last radio repair shop in Dublin and it closed down last Friday. This disposable culture is a mistake.
I had a slight difficulty with the mobile telephone that the taxpayer kindly gave to me. It is a beautiful Nokia telephone about which I know nothing and I took it to a major retailer on Grafton Street. The assistant informed me that it could not be repaired and that even if it could, it would cost â¬450. The retailer gave me an upgrade at the cheap rate of â¬150. When I asked what would happen to my old telephone he replied that he would shove it in the bin. Luckily, I told my friend Tevfik and he was outraged. He pointed out that the telephone I had was the best on the market and told me to return immediately to the shop and retrieve it from the wastepaper basket, which I did. He told me it was the best telephone available and that it was being withdrawn because it was so good. Such telephones did not get damaged, enjoyed roaming facilities and so on. After fishing it out we found a Congolese shop. While such people may be poor and live on the margins, they knew what to do and managed to repair it for â¬20, which was fantastic. This issue of wastefulness lies behind the damage being done to the environment.
The Kyoto limits on carbon emissions have already been considerably exceeded by Ireland, which has been described as a delinquent. The European Environment Agency has stated that our transport emissions, excluding marine and aviation, grew by a staggering 140%. This is nothing to boast about and Ireland is among the worst polluters. However, like a drunk driver who breaks a red light, totals his car and perhaps fatally injures a pedestrian, we seem to be taking the view that as we have paid the fine, it is all right. However, this is not the case and we have made a mess. In terms of climate change, it is not simply the polluter who will pay as the entire planet will be forced to pay the price for the irresponsibility of world industry and world leaders.
Behind this issue there is not just an elephant in the room, but a tyrannosaurus rex in the middle of the floor. I refer to the population explosion.
Since I sat the leaving certificate examination, the population of this planet has doubled and this cannot go on. However, I look in vain for a single political or religious leader who relates to this obvious fact. I have no patience for those who bemoan the decline in population in countries such as Italy and France. As we live in a global environment, I am delighted to hear of such declines.
Our ecological footprint is far worse than that of those living in the deprived parts of the world. I do not say this for myself as I am growing old, have no offspring and am unlikely to ever have. However, despite the depredations of mankind, there is a strong likelihood that this old planet will last my time. However, unless we change our attitudes, there is every chance that other Members' children will inherit a world that has been very significantly damaged and in which the struggle for survival will lead to ever more internecine conflicts and a situation where life itself will be barely worth the effort. As the Minister noted, we are still in time to amend our ways but only just. If we do not heed the warnings, there are stormy waters ahead.
I welcome the opportunity to discuss this matter. At the outset I congratulate the Minister and his Department on their achievements to date. A great deal has been achieved in the past ten years. In 2000, we were finally in a position to afford to have a strategy and invest serious finances in tackling an issue which no one denies is a major challenge not only globally but for us as a country and individuals. We have made steps forward. We will remove 8 million tonnes of greenhouse gases between 2008 and 2012, the term of the Kyoto Protocol. This will not be achieved by sitting back and waiting for things to happen or by not taking on the challenge or not having policies to tackle the issues as they arise.
We will debate the Carbon Fund Bill tomorrow and the point of the strategy and thrust of the policy is to minimise the buying of credits under the Kyoto Protocol. As a Government we recognise in the long term it is in Ireland's best interest to reduce and minimise the amount of credits we must buy. This is about getting the balance right between our competitiveness as a country and our ability to reduce our emissions. As previous speakers stated we must compete globally and any advantage we can gain is in the interest of maintaining growth and continuing to provide jobs and futures for our children and young people.
As the Minister pointed out, we have maintained this balance. Our economy grew by 150% between 1990 and 2004 and our emissions increased by only 25%. This is a major achievement in itself and it did not happen by accident. The balance between our rate of population and economic growth and our responsibilities with regard to emissions is delicate. We must consider our achievements.
The issue of traffic was raised and traffic measures, improved roads and infrastructure such as the Port tunnel mean we have shorter journey times. This morning, one side of the tunnel was closed for a short period of time and it caused chaos on the roads in Dublin. People sat in their cars with the engines running and emissions went shooting through the roof. People slated the tunnel when it was first suggested and stated it would never happen or make a difference. It has made a major difference, particularly to the centre of Dublin.
Transport 21 is being rolled out and the majority of new roads are on time and under budget. We have new train stations and DART extensions. Investment in public transport is up. The reality of life is that we cannot all cycle everywhere and this is a fact. We must consider alternatives and examine issues such as transport emissions which increased by 140%. The reason they increased is that we have twice as many people getting up in the morning to go to work and twice as many cars on the road. One quarter of all our diesel fuel is used up in fleets, a substantial amount of which is used abroad on transport and other areas. We must consider all of these areas and how to tackle issues such as SUVs. We have made strides in this regard.
Senator Kitt mentioned the greener home schemes and encouraging individuals and family groups to take on the responsibility of change through grants and other incentives. The Minister pointed out that the number of applications for the scheme surprised everybody. We can always do more, both collectively and individually. Much of it comes down to individual choice.
I wish to take issue with a particular point, namely, the argument on per capita emissions which are the emissions a country produces per head of population. When one considers it logically, if every country was judged on a per capita emissions basis all of the parties signed up to the Kyoto Protocol including China and India would be considered as not having as much of an effect as they actually do. When it comes to judging Ireland, these issues must be taken into consideration. As a country, one must consider our increase in population and economic success when one deals with how we as a country are seen throughout the world.
The global warming debate is centre-stage with films, the Internet and all types of television programmes about it. It is up to us to take responsibility, particularly as a Government. We must have a steady but firm course and maintain the progress we made so far. We must continue to research and develop renewable sources. The Minister and the Government have taken this issue extremely seriously. We must modernise our energy networks, which we are doing. We must encourage and finance our industries to continue to find ways to reduce emissions. The 109 most prolific industries are now signed up and major progress has been made in this area.
We had major successes in agriculture and forestry through CAP reform, the nitrates policies and continuing to encourage afforestation. The Building Control Bill went through the House today and will ensure all new housing and public buildings will conserve energy and reduce emissions. The Minister steadfastly pursued, studied and approached this Bill in such a way that it is fair but firm. This is what we need to do when considering an area such as emissions. Transport will continue to play a key role in reductions and biofuels play a major role. The more public and private companies make the change to alternative fuels, the quicker these changes will have an effect. It is about encouraging people to do so.
We have been successful to date in making progress towards meeting the Kyoto targets. As the Minister stated, we should not talk down ourselves. We need only look at some of our EU neighbours to see how successful we have been. We cannot afford to slow the progress. However, availing of whatever mechanisms are in place under the Protocol, including trading allowances, not only helps us achieve our aims. It also allows developing countries invest in their infrastructures to improve their contributions towards improving the global climate. We as a country have made a major contribution and taken major steps forward through many of the policies we pursued over the years. I have no hesitation in supporting the amendment.
I welcome the Minister to the House. I had an interesting day yesterday. I spent the day in Brussels at a meeting of 40 or 50 supermarket operators and retailers with Mr. Vinois who heads the unit implementing AngelaMerkel's proposals. He reminded me ofRoosevelt who stated, "Speak softly but carry a big stick". Mr. Vinois stated what he wanted to achieve and we stated we would do our best to achieve it for him. However, it was clear if we do not do our best and achieve it he has a big stick which he will use.
The reason I support the motion is that I do not believe we implemented the plan we have. I was interested to hear the Minister report what was achieved. However, we are failing in many ways. One can twist statistics and measure it in other ways. We have not met anything like the targets we must. We set out a strategy and plan and we have the economics to work at the same time. However, the Minister is in danger of making a mistake because the challenge is far greater than we think. The Government made a cynical calculation about public attitudes to private change. I believe it decided the majority of people did not really care about it. It believed the general public was incensed about many other issues, such as those mentioned by Senator Brady. The public is annoyed about traffic congestion and the price of houses and child care, but the Government made a cold calculation that not many people would care very much about climate change.
This is the reason the strategy does not get implemented, as the Government believes the people do not require real action to be taken with this problem. It believes people will be satisfied there is a plan in place, and they will not look beyond this to see if action is flowing from the plan. The Government may be correct in its calculation of how the public thinks, but although it may be correct, it is certainly not right.
It is not the job of Government simply to satisfy the short-term needs and desires of the public. Many would argue that the Government's most important job is to look into the future and prepare the country for the eventualities beyond the horizon. It is not a matter of responding to publicity expressing immediate needs, but one of identifying long-term threats and opportunities to prepare the country to meet them in the best possible way. That is the fundamental role of Government and a Government failing to live up to the challenge will be harshly judged in the cold, unforgiving light of history.
One of the most important issues arising from the very interesting meeting yesterday was the discussion about energy in Europe. We are in danger of relying on energy coming from outside Europe and Ireland is most at risk of all the European countries because we produce very little of our own energy. What happens if Russia decides to cut off its energy supply, as it did to the Ukraine earlier this year? We would find ourselves without sources of oil, yet we have not developed anything to solve the problem that may arise. There is a danger the lights could go out.
We had to install generators in the company I ran for many years because we had a memory of 20 or 30 years ago when on a number of occasions the power went out, usually due to ESB power failures or strikes. We have forgotten that blackouts occur. We have been very fortunate that they have not happened in recent years and I offer congratulations to all who have managed to maintain that record.
We read of what happened in Italy some years ago, as well as in the United States and Canada three or four years ago. We realise there is a danger we could lose our power and we therefore must take significant steps to prevent that happening. The reason we would do this does not relate solely to climate change but because there is not enough energy being produced. Every time we ignore that threat we are in danger of being placed in that scenario.
Senator Ryan spoke of how the transportation of goods around the country should be moved from road to rail. That is an interesting challenge of which I have not thought previously. I have been on the M50 and other motorways recently and was amazed at the number of trucks on the road. Does the Minister realise half of these trucks are empty?
That is a challenge that surely can be solved. From a commercial point of view, it would make more sense to have trucks full on both journeys. This may necessitate a different use of trucks and I am not sure how this would happen.
I am delighted to note the move by Europe to energy-efficient lightbulbs, which was mentioned by the Minister. I commented on this when I heard it had occurred in Australia a month or two ago. This is achievable although, as the Minister said, it is an investment that will incur costs. The EU and Government can make this a reality and we will benefit on that basis.
I was reminded of another issue at approximately 6.30 a.m. this morning. I could not believe it was bright at that time. Why do we not move to central European time for the whole year and gain the benefit at this hour of the night. We could have another hour of daylight if we did so.
We can take steps in the right direction. I have a daughter who is anxious to use biofuels but is afraid that if she uses them in her car she will be unable to buy them in service stations. Where can they be bought in Dublin? I gather it is nearly impossible to do so, although I understand CIE and in particular Bus Ãireann have the benefit of such biofuels. They are certainly not advertised as being available, and somebody told me one would have to go to the Minister's constituency to get biofuels in a service station.
The targets set by Europe include having renewable energies providing 20% of the supply and improving energy efficiency by 20%. From what I understand, if we can convince the rest of the world to join in we could have up to 30% savings. The United States, India and China have not joined in. We must convince them, as the moral power of Europe may be able to do something, although it may be wishful thinking.
I understand the plans, targets, objectives and ambitions, but I do not understand how they will be implemented. We can take both small and big steps. As the Minister stated, we have achieved significantly. I remember some years ago a Swiss man in my home who could not believe we were burning coal that was not smokeless. He told me they had not burned that type of coal for years in Switzerland. Deputy Harney as a Minister of State grabbed hold of that target, Deputy Martin as Minister for Health and Children grabbed hold of the target on the smoking ban and Deputy Noel Dempsey as Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government grabbed hold of target on the levy on plastic bags, although the Minister before us was also involved.
We have seen the light. When we believe we can achieve something, we can do it. What we need is for the Minister to state that this is something that can be done. I met a Japanese businessman some years ago who spoke of how he had achieved so much. I asked him what helped him in his achievements and he gave me a lovely quote. He was in his 70s, which is quite young nowadays and I believe he was a tennis player. He told me when he went to play a game of tennis, if he thought he had no chance of winning he would be right. If he went in thinking he had a chance of beating the other fellow, he knew he could do it. His quote was "Whether you believe you can or whether you believe you cannot, you are right."
I believe we can do this and set our hearts to it. I touched on three or four minor actions that we can take. I know the Minister's heart is in the right place and that the strategy and plans exist. However, I have not seen any implementation. I urge the Minister to convince the people of Ireland that he has the ability to do this because he wants to do it. If that is so, he will achieve his target.
When this side of the House puts down a motion we praise the Government and when the Opposition puts down a motion it condemns the Government. This is an important motion because it concerns not just a part of Dublin, Leinster or Ireland, but the whole world. In one way I am glad the motion has been put down because it will contribute in some way to what Senator McDowell called for, a genuine public debate. The issue is important because it affects the lives of everybody throughout the world.
It has been said that we have not decoupled growth from emissions, but Ireland has successfully decoupled greenhouse gas emissions from economic growth. From 1990 to 2004 emissions increased by 23%, whereas our economy increased by almost 150%. This is reflected in the emissions intensity of the Irish economy. In 2004, emissions per unit of GDP were 48% of the 1990 level and the equivalent figure for the EU 15 was 78%.
We will meet our Kyoto Protocol target of cutting emissions by 15 million tonnes per year, 13% above the 1990 limits. This will be achieved by a number of measures. For example, action by Irish firms, some 109 installations in total, already participating in the EU emissions trading scheme amounts to 3 million tonnes per annum. Action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the rest of the economy, including agriculture, forestry and transport amounts to 8 million tonnes per annum.
Investment in clean technology to ensure emission reductions in developing countries in return for carbon credits to offset against our emissions is explicitly provided for in the Kyoto Protocol and was supported in the Stern report. That amounts to a saving of 3.6 million tonnes. The purchase of carbon credits under the Kyoto Protocol is very important for developing countries in terms of access to clean energy technology.
Climate change is a global problem and a tonne of emissions saved in the developing world is the same as a tonne of emissions saved in Ireland. This approach has been supported by the Stern report and the UN and the Government is prepared to purchase up to 3.6 million carbon allowances per year during the 2008-12 period. Our approach will help Ireland achieve its Kyoto target on a cost efficient basis, protect competitiveness and jobs and support developing and emerging nations.
Ireland has a high level of greenhouse gas emissions per capita. In 2004, the figure was at 17 tonnes compared to the EU average of 11 tonnes. Belgium, Denmark, Finland and Luxembourg had higher per capita CO2 emissions than Ireland. There are reasons for Ireland's figure, such as our heavy reliance on fossil fuels for power generation. In 2004, renewable energy met only 5.2% of electricity needs. The energy Green Paper commits us to reach 30% by 2020, which we will do in our fourth term of office.
The scale and nature of the agricultural sector are problems. Our livestock numbers are large compared to our population and agriculture accounts for 29% of greenhouse gas emissions here compared to an average of 10% for the EU-15. Only Mongolia has more agriculture in this respect.
The high level of cement production per capita due to considerable construction activity is another problem. Ireland's cement production accounted for approximately 5.5% of emissions in 2004. Also that year, an estimated 10% of petrol and 25% of diesel sold in Ireland was consumed outside the State, comprising 18% of our road transport emissions. It is not often understood that a significant portion of Ireland's purchasing requirements arises not from the Government's failure to reduce emissions, but from so-called fuel tourism. Due to UN greenhouse gas counting rules, the fuel purchased in the State by motorists and hauliers and consumed elsewhere must be recorded in our greenhouse gas inventory. In 2005, this was estimated to have accounted for 2.4 million tonnes of Ireland's emissions, two thirds of the Government's annual purchasing requirement. However, the revenue raised from excise and VAT on the sale of the fuel amounts to approximately â¬317 million, which more than offsets the cost of purchasing the allowances.
Other measures have been taken. The roll-out of Transport 21 in the period ending 2015 will see investment of almost â¬16 billion in public transport projects, encouraging more people to use public transport. Senator Ryan had a great idea, that is, to encourage greater heavy goods transport by rail. Unfortunately, the railways do not encourage increased transport and those who use rail services for heavy goods transport say they are slow. I will address that matter later.
The alignment of the investment with the national spatial strategy and the development of integrated land use and transportation strategies at gateway-city level will help to constrain growth in transport emissions by ensuring that future residential and commercial developments will be concentrated as close as possible to current and future public transport systems, thus maximising the investment's benefit.
The Government's announcement of a new target for the use of biofuels of 5.75% by 2009 is calculated to achieve CO2 savings of up to 700,000 tonnes, the equivalent of removing almost 200,000 cars from the road. A more ambitious target of 10% by 2020 has been set by the Government. The Government has approved the establishment of a ministerial task force on climate change, which is working on the new national climate change strategy. A priority, the strategy will be published before Easter.
I am a believer in the adaptability of humans. We have shown that we can exist in and adapt to any environment. I am also a believer in human ingenuity and enterprise. People will not give up driving cars or lorries. We have become used to a lifestyle and will not abandon it overnight, but we will develop other forms of fuel and styles of transport. We will not let the world go downhill. It is good that we have called a halt and highlighted the issue. It is also good that motions such as this are tabled because they accentuate our concern for the problem. Like other Governments, our Government knew the problem existed for some time and came to accept it gradually. We are now tackling it.
Humans have been always able to adapt to any environment in which they found themselves and I do not doubt we will be able to do likewise in this regard. We will change, use other fuels and methods of transport and prevent the world from being destroyed gradually.
I welcome the opportunity to speak on this important motion, which I support, and commend the Labour Party on tabling the subject for debate. I also want to acknowledge the contributions of all Members. I listened to three or four speeches.
This is a topic on which every Member across the political divide wishes to promote and secure progress. If any party placed a motion re climate change or broader environmental issues on the Order Paper ten or 15 years ago, most Members would have wondered about what the motion was concerned. The rightful success of the environmental movement since then has resulted in every citizen of the world recognising the fact that environmental issues are of considerable concern and must be addressed. We need only reflect on the success of Al Gore's film, "An Inconvenient Truth", a year ago to appreciate that the debate on environmental protection concerns every political party and group in society, not just one.
The motion before the House refers to the Government's performance in recent years, our response to climate change, our plans and how we are adapting to deal with the current situation. Fianna FÃ¡il's slogan at the last election â "A lot done, more to do" â could apply to this issue. While progress has been made, more work must be done.
I will comment on some of the issues raised in the Minister's speech. He referred to waste management and the contribution of recycling, etc. It is an area in which local authorities have probably moved in the wrong direction in the past ten or 15 years. Only recently have they taken on board the issue of recycling and provided suitable recycling centres and sufficient recycling facilities.
In my county and parish, we have spent tens of millions of euro on developing a large landfill site.
Yes. That is no longer the politically correct word, but the site at Bottlehill is a dump. It caused significant grief among the local community and local politicians, including me. It seems to be out of step with current thinking on waste management policy, but pouring all of County Cork's waste into a landfill is Cork County Council's solution to waste management.
As far as most local authorities are concerned, that is phase 4, but we have not moved to phase 2 yet. It is disappointing that there is no national waste management strategy. What is occurring in County Cork is not occurring in County Limerick and what is occurring in County Limerick is not occurring in County Donegal. This is not the largest country in the world. We need to put in place a national system. It seems that one local authority is developing a substantial landfill site, while other local authorities, such as Galway County Council, are trying to put in place the ultimate green system of waste management and disposal, involving recycling, etc. The Minister, Deputy Roche, and his Department have to ensure there is a single national waste management strategy.
The Minister mentioned in passing the issue of biofuels, which I am concerned about as a representative of the Mallow area of north Cork. He participated in the broad political debate on the closure of the Mallow sugar factory and the winding up of the Irish sugar industry. Such events must give us an opportunity to develop a proper biofuels strategy. While we are all in favour of biofuels, some Senators pointed out that if one travels in a car that has been converted to run on biofuels, one cannot be sure where the next fuel supply station will be. The Government needs to give more support to biofuels. It seems that an opportunity was lost when the plants in Mallow and Carlow were closed. Anyone with a basic knowledge of science will be aware that sugar beet and other crops such as wheat can be used to produce biofuels. While that process is not as simple as we sometimes pretend it is, we should examine its potential. We can help the ailing agriculture industry â farmers do not know what to do next to make a living â by investing significantly in alternative crop production.
I ask the Minister to speak to his colleague, the Minister for Agriculture and Food, about the rural environment protection scheme. I fully endorse the scheme because it supports those involved in the industry. However, I understand farmers participating in the scheme will not be allowed to participate in the environmentally friendly scheme whereby crops will be grown for use in the production of biofuels. It seems politically and economically bizarre that a person who is involved in one environmental support measure â the REP scheme â will not be allowed to take advantage of the grants which are made available under another scheme for the production of biofuels. The Minister, Deputy Roche, should consult his Cabinet colleague, Deputy Coughlan, to ensure this little anomaly is resolved.
I appreciate that the House could discuss this subject for a long time. The challenge we face is to respond to the wishes of the public, which was not interested in environmental issues ten, 15 or 20 years ago. There was a time when people did not appreciate the scale of the crisis, but they do now. They are demanding answers from us and it is important we respond fully. The Government has much more to do.
I do not think I will get a chance to say everything I would like to say. A great deal of it has been said earlier in the debate.
I congratulate the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government on his knowledge. He has spearheaded the Government's climate change strategy, which I welcome. I will speak about the great deal of progress that has been made to date. I do not doubt that much more can be done over the next couple of years. There is not enough public awareness of the climate change strategy.
I congratulate the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Deputy Noel Dempsey, on the publication of the White Paper on Energy. The Government set in the White Paper an ambitious target of ensuring that by 2020, one third of the energy that will be consumed will come from renewable sources. Such ambition is to be welcomed.
I will highlight some of the many things which have been done. The greener homes grant scheme for renewable energy in domestic homes has been a great success. Our VRT and motor tax systems are heavily biased in favour of cars with smaller engines, which produce fewer emissions.
I would like to highlight a certain point for the Minister, Deputy Roche. I wonder whether the industry is taking advantage of the current system. If a garage owner can sell a car, he or she will choose to sell a petrol car and then give the discount, whatever it is. He or she will not choose to sell a biofuel car because certain discrepancies would mean he or she would not gain in such circumstances. I would like the Minister to examine such matters. I could give many other examples if I had the time.
A huge strategy needs to be developed if we are to ensure Ireland is energy-efficient. Our schools have a major role to play in this regard. The public does not know enough about energy efficiency.
I welcome the decision of the Minister, Deputy Cowen, to provide â¬200 million in the budget for relief on biofuels. That is to be welcomed. Where will we go in the future, however? We all have a role to play in discussing this technical issue. More non-technical information needs to be made available if the Government's strategy is to work.
A great deal can be said about this matter in the future, but I will not say any more for now. I wish the Minister luck with his work in this area. I look forward to further discussions on it.
I thank Senator Ormonde and other Members for giving me an opportunity to speak for a minute on this issue. I would like to draw the attention of Senators to a document that was recently published by the Minister and his Department. This simple and readable document, which contains a good and clear message, should be sent to every school in the country. It outlines under eight categories what is being done, what needs to be done and what direction we are taking. I was in the Loop Head area of County Clare at the weekend. I assure the House I had other purposes in mind as well. One would have had to witness the power of the Atlantic Ocean at the weekend to understand it.
I want to lobby the Minister to invest more resources in wave energy. I understand that some work is ongoing in Galway. A number of sites have been identified on foot of work that was done by the University of Limerick, but the process is not moving fast enough. I direct the Minister's attention to the electricity generation possibilities offered by wave energy.
The Government and the ESB are investing hundreds of millions of euro in Moneypoint, which was mentioned at the start of the debate, to install the equipment that is needed to ensure the plant's emissions are reduced. Germany and France have been working for a number of years on clean coal technology processes to help to reduce substantially the emissions caused by the use of coal, which is in plentiful supply throughout the world. I am glad the ESB is working to reduce Moneypoint's emissions, thereby ensuring it will continue to play a major part in meeting Ireland's energy requirements. I am pleased the recent Government White Paper proposes that coal will continue to be used to generate power. The technologies which are being developed will ensure coal will continue to be an important commodity. As there is such a large global supply of coal, it is important we include it in energy policy for the years ahead. I am happy to support Moneypoint, which I hope will continue to generate electricity for many years to come.
I will start by commenting on what Senator Daly has just said about Moneypoint. There has never been any suggestion from this side of the House that Moneypoint should be closed. I commented earlier on the commitment given in the 2000 plan that Moneypoint be incentivised to use some fuel other than coal to generate electricity. A number of options are available.
Senator Daly is aware that the use of such technology continues to be quite expensive. We are spending hundreds of millions of euro to install certain facilities in Moneypoint which really should have been there in the first place. While such facilities will help to reduce emissions, we will continue to use coal, which is essentially a dirty fuel. If we do not do something soon, we will have lost our opportunity to develop cofiring, which is the use of a mix of fuels. The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has been talking about cofiring as a means of electricity generation for a number of years. It could involve a mix of peat and biomass, or a mix of coal and biomass. An opportunity still exists in Moneypoint to do something along those lines and I hope we will take it. This illustrates the essential conflict between the aims of seeking to tackle climate change and seeking to ensure we have a diversity of fuels available for generating electricity in the future. We have not resolved that and as long we do not do so, we will continue to emit far too high a level of carbon emissions in the energy sector.
On a point of information, the White Paper outlines an ambitious project to move from turf burning to cofiring. What the Deputy said is right.
I accept that is the case. If one considers this issue from the point of view of purely climate change, there is an overwhelming case for closing all the peat stations. They have been effectively closed and three new ones have been recommissioned. Peat is an enormous emitter of greenhouse gases, accounting for approximately 10% of the greenhouse gases emitted by the electricity sector. That level of emissions is far too high. If one was considering this issue purely in terms of a climate change strategy, one would close them all in the morning, regardless of how efficient the new stations are compared with the old ones. Peat is still a very dirty fuel. One would not have to be a total cynic not to think that some political considerations have come into play in terms of that debate.
Senator Kitt mentioned the area of afforestation, which is an interesting one. In a sense this is the other side of the coin â the positive side. Afforestation is a positive step and it acts as a carbon sink. There are two reasons we should develop our forests, the first is that they gobble up carbon and the second is that we need to invest in biomass and forestry if we are serious about increasing the renewable usage up to the levels we mentioned. The Government needs to seriously examine the afforestation programme. We have been growing more forests in recent years but that follows a period of prolonged deforestation. Our forestry coverage here is still extremely low by comparison to the European average. It is approximately 10% of the total land coverage of the country in comparison to an EU average, which I consider a high figure, of 30% or more. We need to invest in the afforestation programme and to encourage and incentivise the sector in the years ahead.
Much mention has been made of the emissions trading, with which I do not have a problem in principle. The arguments made by Stern and others in its favour are persuasive but there is no doubt equally that it is very much the easy option in the current context of trying to get anywhere near our Kyoto targets. Approximately half of the shortfall will be made up by carbon trading. We are doing that simply because we have no other option, and we may as well be honest about it. By all means we should continue to use the emissions trading system but we also need to do enough at home. We need to make our own contribution, otherwise the moral and persuasive political argument the Minister made will fall flat on its face. We are basically saying we will buy ourselves out of a problem if we need to do that.
Senator Brady said the stabilisation of emissions in the past three or four years did not happen by accident, but in a sense it did. We have dealt with two policies well in the last while, which we were not doing previously. One is the change in the CAP, which has resulted in a reduction in the size of the national herd, and the other is the recycling policy. Both have resulted in the reduction in emissions but that was not the primary purpose of either policy. Therefore, it has happened almost by accident. Let us take it as a gift.
The purpose of tabling this motion was to stimulate a debate, the commencement of which we have had this evening. That is a good development. I also tabled the motion in the terms outlined, referring back to the 2000 strategy, in the knowledge that the Government is about to publish a new strategy. I wish the Government well in setting ambitious targets. They are, I hope, not only the Government's targets but will become national targets in the years ahead. I regret that if we reflect on the experience of the past seven years, one would have to be somewhat sceptical about our capacity to deliver it.
The Dail Divided:
For the motion: 31 (Eddie Bohan, Cyprian Brady, Michael Brennan, Peter Callanan, Margaret Cox, Brendan Daly, John Dardis, Timmy Dooley, Geraldine Feeney, Liam Fitzgerald, Camillus Glynn, John Gerard Hanafin, Tony Kett, Michael Kitt, Terry Leyden, Don Lydon, Marc MacSharry, Martin Mansergh, John Minihan, Paschal Mooney, Tom Morrissey, Pat Moylan, Labhrás Ó Murchú, Francis O'Brien, Mary O'Rourke, Ann Ormonde, Kieran Phelan, Eamon Scanlon, Jim Walsh, Mary White, Diarmuid Wilson)
Against the motion: 15 (James Bannon, Paul Bradford, Ulick Burke, Paul Coghlan, Noel Coonan, Maurice Cummins, Frank Feighan, Michael Finucane, Brian Hayes, Derek McDowell, David Norris, John Paul Phelan, Shane Ross, Brendan Ryan, Joanna Tuffy)
Tellers: Tá, Senators Minihan and Moylan; Níl, Senators McDowell and Ryan.
Amendment declared carried.