Wednesday, 25 November 2015
Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill 2015: Report and Final Stages
I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Paudie Coffey. I remind Members that a Senator may speak only once on an amendment on Report Stage, except the proposer of an amendment who may reply to the discussion on the amendment. On Report Stage, each amendment must be seconded.
Amendment No. 1, in the name of Senator David Cullinane, has been ruled out of order.
I move amendment No. 2:
In page 5, line 35, to delete “have regard to” and substitute “comply with”.
I also welcome the Minister of State to the House. I thank him for indicating he will be accepting several of our amendments. I hope when he proceeds to the forthcoming Paris conference on climate change that he will have this legislation with him.
This amendment proposes to strengthen section 3(2) by replacing the term “have regard to” with “comply with”. This is an important section. The Minister of State illustrated his commitment to this on Committee Stage. One can have regard for something but then do something else. Some of the provisions in section 3(2)(d) involve the obligations of the State under the law of the European Union. On the basis that we are all on the same side in protecting the environment, would this amendment strengthen the Minister of State’s hand and ensure the protection we all wish for the environment? I know it is not the Minister of State’s intention to have regard for something and then do something else. However, could we have regard to an existing obligation of the State under the law of the European Union but not comply with it under this legislation, as drafted, or could another lawyer argue the phrase “having regard to” means that one does comply? The purpose of the amendment is to strengthen this section. People can have regard for something but subsequently ignore it. This has to be somewhat stronger.
I welcome the Minister of State. It is good to know he has listened to contributions on previous Stages and has accepted several of our amendments.
I second the amendment. It seems to me that the phrase “have regard to” seems so much weaker. Replacing it with the phrase “to comply with” would strengthen it no end. I hope the Minister of State understands the idea behind this amendment and accepts it.
This amendment seeks to replace the phrase “have regard to” with the phrase “comply with” in section 3(2), which deals with matters that must be considered when the Government approves a national mitigation plan or national adaptation framework. I appreciate the sentiment behind the proposed amendment. However, as the list of items to be considered in section 3(2) may sometimes compete with one another, it may not always be possible to be fully consistent with all of them simultaneously when approving either national plan. Moreover, in the case of section 3(2)(e), it does not make sense to comply with the most recent national greenhouse gas emissions inventory and projections of future missions. Accordingly, I believe the phrase “having regard to” is the more appropriate in this instance because it requires a balancing of considerations rather than strict compliance with each. I am unable, therefore, to accept the amendment.
I thank the Minister of State for his reply. However, under section 3(2)(d), does having regard to any existing obligation of the State under the law of the European Union not put Ireland at risk of being fined? The European Union will state that the law is the law. Perhaps we should stipulate that there be compliance with section 3(2)(d) and that we should have regard to the other provisions. We are clocking up enough fines in respect of environmental matters without attracting another potential one. I agree with the Minister of State on the use of the original phrase “have regard to” for the other provisions. Ireland - with the agreement of the Oireachtas - being in breach of European law seems a funny way to proceed and it certainly annoys our European partners.
Let me reassure Senator Barrett that there is clear case law on what "having regard to" means, for example in planning and other legislation. It is standard terminology in the Planning and Development Act and there is case law to substantiate that already. Further, we are already bound under EU legislation, so there is no need to duplicate it in this Bill. The safety measures are there to address the Senator's concerns in any event but we think the terminology "regard to" is more appropriate. On that basis, I do not propose to accept the amendment.
Yes, the amendment is being pressed. One could say, I had regard to the speed limit but I was doing 20 km/h more. That is not enough regard. I think one must comply and I think that is what the Garda would be saying.
- Sean Barrett
- John Crown
- David Cullinane
- Mark Daly
- Fidelma Healy Eames
- Terry Leyden
- Paschal Mooney
- Labhrás Ó Murchú
- Darragh O'Brien
- Ned O'Sullivan
- Feargal Quinn
- Diarmuid Wilson
I move amendment No. 3:
In page 6, between lines 8 and 9, to insert the following:"(3) A framework shall be adopted by resolution of both Houses of the Oireachtas as soon as may be after it is approved by the Government.".
There was a general measure of agreement the last day, including from the Minister, that the Seanad should be involved in policy-making on these matters and, in fact, that it has a fine record in this regard. I mentioned the Wild Birds Protection Act 1930, which was introduced by the then Senator Samuel Brown, and the proposals brought forward by Senator David Norris to do with Dublin city's built heritage. Senator Ivana Bacik brought an environmental Bill before the House six or seven years ago. I understand some of the Government Senators are willing to support our proposal that the national adaptation framework should be adopted by resolution of both Houses of the Oireachtas, following approval by the Cabinet. The number of asterisks on the amendment list and the provisions they reference suggest the Minister envisages that type of role for both Houses, which I very much welcome. It is reflective of the consensus we saw here on Committee Stage. I am happy to pass this particular ball to the Minister of State today.
I second the amendment. Senator Barrett has explained the rationale for the proposal very well. There is a danger the Seanad could simply be ignored if this provision is not included in the Bill. We have had proposals on several occasions that only the Dáil should be required to give its approval, by way of resolution, for a particular report or document. It is important we stitch the role of this House into the Bill. The people voted last year in large numbers to retain the Seanad. Let us make sure we exercise our role to the fullest.
I made a similar point in the course of the earlier debate on the Bill. As Senator Barrett noted, the Minister, in amendments Nos. 7, 9 and 10, recognises the important role of this House by proposing to replace "Dáil Éireann" with "each House of the Oireachtas" in the relevant places. The Government has taken on board the points we made here.
To be clear, there is no intention on the part of anybody in the Government to ignore the Seanad on any matter. Indeed, I greatly value the views of Senators, as do all my ministerial colleagues. I listened carefully to what they had to say on Committee Stage and we had a very interesting debate. We have tabled Government amendments which will address the concerns expressed by Senators Barrett and Quinn by requiring reports to be laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas. That will ensure there is effective scrutiny of all proposals in this area.
Amendment No. 3 proposes that the national adaptation framework be adopted by resolution of both Dáil and Seanad after its approval by the Government. I understand the intent behind the amendment but I cannot accept it. As things currently stand, it is the Government that approves the framework. Ceding this type of policy decision-making to the Oireachtas as a whole would be a substantive amendment and would harm the requirement to hold Ministers and Departments to account for their decision-making in policy terms. The Government properly should be held accountable to the Oireachtas for its decisions in respect of the adaptation policy measures. If decision-making in this regard were ceded to the Oireachtas as a whole, the question then arises as to whom the Oireachtas would be held accountable, other than the electorate, which may not be more often than every five years.
There is already provision in section 14 of the Bill for Ministers to make annual transition statements presenting an overview of the measures in regard to both mitigation and adaptation as well as an assessment of the effectiveness of those measures. This provides a clear and more valuable level of accountability than what the Senators are proposing. Therefore, I cannot accept the amendment.
While we welcome the Government's amendments and thank Senator Keane for her role in that regard, the environmental lobby is disappointed that neither the mitigation nor the transition arrangements are subject to being adopted by both Houses of the Oireachtas. Members of the lobby were disappointed when they saw the Report Stage amendments today as they thought that more progress had been made on the last occasion. I will not press the amendment but this will disappoint people who spend much time and energy working on behalf of the environment and who are very sincere in that regard.
I move amendment No. 4:
In page 6, line 11, to delete “18 months” and substitute “12 months”.
This amendment was an attempt to speed up matters but I accept the Minister's bona fides in that regard. He is a man in a hurry and wants to get this done. During the initial Stages I believed things were being pushed out too far into the future. In return for the Minister's goodwill in the amendments, I will not press this amendment, although we would welcome it if it can be done earlier.
I move amendment No. 5:
In page 6, between lines 16 and 17, to insert the following:“(a) specify the projected total national emissions for the period of the plan on the basis of all the policy measures specified in the plan,”.
The important point here is the lack of quantification of the targets. A report from BBC News on the climate change conference, which we all look forward to at the end of the month in Paris, includes a quote from Taryn Fransen from the World Resources Institute who says that the vast majority of intended nationally determined contribution, INDC, targets this time around, 105 of them, contain concrete greenhouse gas mitigation targets, which is in contrast to the 27 in Copenhagen, the failed conference in the Danish capital. One environmentalist said this morning that he used to think of Ireland, the United States under President Bush and China as the laggards with regard to the environment, but the other two have moved substantially.
We should have quantified targets for dealing with climate change. It would be a sign of the Government's earnestness of intent and would give the Oireachtas a measure to see if progress is being made. We have gone past the goodwill platitude status. We must do something now. Why not quantify the targets and look each year to see how we are doing? The majority of people at the Paris conference will be able to say that they have quantified their targets. Undoubtedly, mistakes can be made in quantification and sometimes governments find it embarrassing to put them forward but we should at least try in this regard. We must get past woolly aspirations because all the research tells us that this will probably get more serious. Let us tackle it in a determined way, which the Minister is well capable of doing in the other area of his Department. A housing policy without quantified targets would sound very strange. An environmental policy without them will not do Ireland much credit at the international conference.
I second the amendment. I agree with Senator Barrett in this regard. It is essential to have targets. Otherwise, how will we know how well we are doing? It is simply an aspiration. These amendments are worthy of being accepted.
In an ideal world everybody would like to have targets. The Senator asked how we will know how we are doing. Monitoring of the framework and the plan by the committee that will be set up and by the Government will play a huge role. I welcome the remarks last week by the EU Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, Miguel Arias Cañete, on the flexibility mechanisms under the EU rules. Ireland is being flexible. There is a huge agricultural production sector in the economy and obviously we must take that into consideration. The EU Commissioner said last week that Ireland is on course to meet its emissions obligation. Furthermore, we are on course to over-achieve our 2013 to 2017 obligations. While this legislation leaves room for manoeuvre on exact targets, this achievement shows our commitment to ensure that we not only achieve the minimum goals but, as the Commissioner said, to over-achieve on 2013 to 2017 obligations. Of course, we must be careful about the 2020 targets because they will be more stringent. I have some suggestions, which I will give to the Minister, on how we can help in that.
I will be talking against myself because I drive a diesel car at present. With regard to the Paris negotiations next month, every country in Europe except the UK has a lower tax rate on diesel cars than on petrol cars. That is the reason I invested in a diesel car. The first studies that were done found that there was 5% to 10% less climate pollution from diesel cars. This was before Volkswagen was caught out for what it was doing. However, new research has shown that petrol is better. By 2010, the design of the petrol car was improved and the direct climate emissions saving on new diesel cars had been cut to 1.5%. That is one of the matters I will put to the Minister. It is something we can examine.
Obviously, we must ensure that we set targets for each Department, and the Minister will do that, but it must be done within the constraints. I would love to set a target here and now but we must be realistic as well to ensure that human activity is encouraged to do what is right.
I thank the Senators for their contributions on these amendments. The national mitigation plans will, by their nature, contain our emission targets and we will note how we are doing in respect of them. There is no need to cite this specifically in legislation. It is important to remember that there are quantified legally binding targets under EU legislation already.
I do not agree with the proposals in the amendments. They are unnecessary and superfluous. The national mitigation plan is designed, as set down in section 4(2)(c), to take into account any existing obligations on the State under EU or international law. That is binding on the State. Each successive national mitigation plan will have to abide by our legally binding mitigation obligations, so specifying the quanta of emissions as each successive plan is implemented would be redundant. Accordingly, I cannot accept the amendments.
I note Senator Keane's comments on diesel car emissions and their impact on climate change. All sectors, with the main ones being transport, which includes cars, energy and agriculture, will be reviewed, analysed and researched. The plans will adopt plans to address those emissions in terms of new technologies, interventions that can be made and, indeed, human behaviour and how we respond to the climate change challenge together.
- Sean Barrett
- Gerard Craughwell
- David Cullinane
- Mark Daly
- Fidelma Healy Eames
- Terry Leyden
- Paschal Mooney
- Darragh O'Brien
- Ned O'Sullivan
- Labhrás Ó Murchú
- Feargal Quinn
- Diarmuid Wilson
Amendment No. 7 is a Government amendment and it is also in the names of Senators Barrett and Quinn. Amendments Nos. 7, 9, 10, 26 to 30, inclusive, and amendment No. 32 are related and may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.
These proposed amendments serve a number of functions as follows. They provide for each national mitigation plan to be laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas rather than just Dáil Éireann. They also provide for each national adaptation framework to be laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas rather than just Dáil Éireann. They also provide for the annual transition statement to be presented to both Houses of the Oireachtas rather than just Dáil Éireann.
The amendments were introduced by the Government as a result of the debate we had on Committee Stage in this House. I believe that it is important that we listened to Senators' contributions on Committee Stage and I am happy to bring forward these amendments. I hope Senators will welcome and support them.
I am delighted to second the Minister of State's amendment. I thank him very much for this. The challenge he has put to us is that the Seanad must live up to these responsibilities and participate, as I hope we are doing this afternoon, in a constructive debate with the Minister on environmental matters. This is a huge issue and there are huge concerns that it is not being addressed seriously enough worldwide. I am sure that Seanad Éireann will respond to the invitation, generously offered by the Minister of State this afternoon.
It was stated yesterday that the Seanad never accepts amendments from the Opposition but I want to put on the record that we have brought forward about ten Opposition amendments in this Bill alone, even those people do not tend to develop amnesia. When realistic proposals are put forward, we accept them.
It is important to note that even the make-up of the Seanad panels brings a valuable insight and expertise to the climate change debate. We have the agricultural panel, the industrial and commercial panel, the labour panel, the culture and educational panel and the universities. It is a unique Chamber that can bring valuable oversight and insight to all of these plans when they are laid before the Houses. That is important. I saw to it that the Seanad would be included in this legislation. I am delighted to do so, as a former Member of this House. I value Senators' contributions in this respect.
I move amendment No. 8:
In page 9, line 13, to delete "24 months" and substitute "12 months".
Section 5 provides, "The Minister shall, not later than 24 months after the passing of this Act, make, and submit to the Government for approval, a plan, which shall be known as the national climate change adaptation framework." In tabling this amendment I was trying to secure a faster speed of action than having to wait for the 24 months timeframe provided.
I was delighted to find that this advocacy is shared by An Taoiseach. I would like to read what he said when he addressed the United Nations in New York in September 2014. The report states An Taoiseach spoke out powerfully about the looming global climate change crisis and the duty of those who exercise political power to act now and to act decisively. He said, "The hand of the future beckons, the clock ticks and we have no time to waste." I wonder if the Taoiseach was here today would he vote against the 24-month delay provided for in the Bill. The Taoiseach went on to say:
Global warming is a stark reality that can only be dealt with by a collective global response. We are all interdependent and interconnected [...] we share a common humanity [...] each of us must play our part.
The Taoiseach obviously thought in New York in September 2014 that this was a matter of some urgency and perhaps his supporters on the other side of the House might like to share that sense of urgency. It was a very powerful quote from him.
I second this amendment. It makes a lot of sense. When I first came into this House 22 years ago, I could not get over the delays that there were with respect to the length of time it takes to get anything done. I noticed at that time that there was no date set for when State bodies had to publish their accounts. I started proposing amendments that they had to be published within three months. I did not win that fight but I was successful in that it would be required within six months in practically every case. Within a year all the State boards had changed and they had put in a date that was in or around six months. That was an improvement on the 12-month timeframe that had been in place prior to that. We must set an example more like a business example to Parliament and to the country as whole that this and the other House get things done in a much speedier fashion. The 24-month timeframe is far too long; it should be 12 months.
The proposed amendment seeks to shorten the timeframe for the production of the first statutory national adaptation framework from 24 months after enactment of the Bill to just 12 months following the enactment. As with the national mitigation plan, I appreciate the motivation behind the amendment. However, as I have already outlined in regard to the national plan, the national adaptation framework will be a very complex document which will prescribe the sectors for which sector adaptation plans must be developed and considerable preparatory work will be required in this respect. Moreover, the draft framework will be subject to statutory public consultation procedures and, as a consequence, I believe that 24 months is the correct timeframe to be allowed for the development of the framework.
I note what the Senator said regarding the Taoiseach's comments. I agree with the Taoiseach that the timescale is very important in this respect, but we must also be realistic and allow adequate time for the public consultation and the preparatory work to be completed. I note, and it is important to note and stress, that the 24 months as prescribed in the Bill is the maximum period. If it is possible to produce it sooner we will do so and my Department has already begun work on the framework and is working with the key Departments and agencies in this respect. Therefore, I cannot accept the amendment.
I wish the Minister of State well. I share the Taoiseach's sense of urgency when he spoke in New York and I hope that this will be the maximum time. As with the earlier amendment and the absence of quantification, this could be put on the long finger. I do not wish to press the amendment but the Minister of State has communicated to the House the urgency that surrounds this issue.
I move amendment No. 11:
In page 12, line 6, after “relevant” to insert “written”.
This amendment refers to advice and I have suggested that the word "relevant" is followed by "written". To publish or not was discussed at the Committee Stage. If the advice is written then there is a record. The Minister of State has pointed out that there could be delays in publication and the example was given of international journal publication which is a difficult and complex process.
The amendment is proposed because of what became evident during the banking inquiry. Many people said they saw the crisis coming and that they advised accordingly, yet Mr. Nyberg, Mr. Regling and Mr. Watson and others could not find any record of this advice. Members may recall precedents in the past where one Minister for Health was told something in a lift in the Gresham Hotel. Policy making needs to happen on a much sounder basis. Nods and winks are not good enough and this is why the advice should be written down. If one believes there to be a problem, or no problem, then it should be written down so the Minister in question has a record. Matters have become too informal.
When the report on the banking inquiry is published it will show that this kind of informal "shrugging of the shoulders" way of deciding policy and saying after the event, "Of course I told them that", without a record of the advice which was given to the Minister, was prevalent throughout the banking inquiry. Everybody was wise after the event and excused themselves on the basis that the advice they gave was verbal and not written down. Ministers will have protection if advice is written. This amendment takes account of the response by the Minister at the last Stage. Advice must be put onto a much more scientific basis than some recent examples suggest.
I second the amendment. "A verbal agreement is not worth the paper it is written on" is a quote attributed to Samuel Goldwyn. Anybody can say that they gave advice. I am sure that these financial people did give advice, I do not doubt their word, but when there is no written record it is very difficult to follow that. When one speaks of publication, again, one cannot publish a verbal exchange. There is no method of publishing that. The use of the word publication implies written advice.
I fully support Senator Barrett's amendment and what Senator Norris has said. Senator Barrett refers to the example of what happened in the banking inquiry where people did not seem to remember advice or did not mention it because the advice was not written down. This proves it is essential that it becomes written down.
This proposed amendment seeks to insert the word "written", as Senators have outlined, before the phrase "scientific or technical advice". Advice is one item that must be considered when the Government and the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government perform their functions in respect of the national adaptation frameworks and sectorial adaptation plans. I appreciate that the intent behind the amendment is to guard against actions being performed on the basis of word of mouth. However, the amendment would preclude valuable information being transmitted by means of spoken discourse or presentations. The three Senators who have spoken to the amendment are academics, lecturers and business people who are wizards with words. They have given presentations over many years. It must be appreciated that the phrase "scientific or technical advice" is a broad concept and it includes valuable learning which may not be, or may not yet be, in written form. It is important because it is likely that the audience for such information will be non-expert in the fields of climate change. Limiting the advice to a formal written setting may preclude or exclude some sectors, citizens or people in the sharing or transmission of valuable information. Therefore, I cannot accept this amendment.
The Minister of State refers to valuable scientific advice that is not yet written. I do not know what this is. The present Minister of State is unlikely to have to have to refer to me for advice, nevertheless, Ministers should ask for advice to be written down. How can they act on advice that is not written and the person offering the advice will not write it down for some reason? This theme ran all through the banking inquiry. If the issue is removed from banking, and this is a general point for my parliamentary colleagues, it becomes about the need to bring the practice of public administration into a 21st century framework. It has far wider implications than what happened to the State when it received a bill for €64 billion from the banks. People should be required to keep a record.
During the debate on Committee Stage the Government did not want the term "publication" included because scientific journals were too slow. Now it does not want advice even written on the back of an envelope. No record at all will exist. Policy making and policy making for the environment must be taken much more seriously than that. One of the lessons from the collapse of the State and in having to go to the IMF is the failure to reform the permanent government. The Oireachtas has failed in its role in this regard. The ways in which decisions are made have not been reformed and we are still condoning advice in which the adviser is not willing to write it down. Are we to speculate that the adviser has not got enough confidence to put it in writing? Or is he or she a cute hoor who is escaping or avoiding responsibility and landing the Minister in trouble by deliberately not writing it down and afterwards saying, "I told the Minister that"? I believe that Ministers deserve better than people who previously did not want to rely on academic journals and who now do not want to write the advice down. Writing is an old skill which should be within the realm of Government advisers and administrators. It is almost Neanderthal that people would refuse to write something down.
It explains many of the difficulties into which the State fell. There is a fear that someone would find information in the archive that person X was against the bank bailout but person Y offered verbal advice which prevailed. Given that in our modern society some governments expended 55% or 60% of GDP to take corrective action, it becomes clear that not writing anything down is a recipe for problems. Unfortunately, this is the last Stage of the Bill but if any other legislation comes before the House which contains a clause like this then Members ought to be alerted to it. If advice is not written down it lets the permanent government off the hook far too lightly. It should have been reformed long before now.
The Senators have outlined their concerns well but it is important that there is a realistic approach to this legislation. There will be deep engagement at many levels in society for the development of the various plans and adaptation frameworks. These engagements will happen at different levels of the sectors, people, industry and agriculture. The advice can be presented or discussed at the consultative forums, including workshops and presentations. If the word "written" is included in the legislation it could block many of these opportunities. It is not a case of either or; it is important to note that both oral and written advice will be accepted. It is extreme to expect that every single discussion, presentation or word of advice should be written.A realistic approach needs to be adopted where we can encourage and incentivise as much engagement as possible from the various sectors and from citizens who may not be experts in the climate change field. I have always believed that we need to be less bureaucratic in some respects and should speak in layman's language when we want to engage ordinary people and reach our targets for carbon emissions. We need to be as accessible as possible and less bureaucratic. I accept the good intention behind the amendment but it is too extreme and, therefore, I will be opposing it.
I wish to make one observation. Many people involved in farming wish they had written things down and they might have a lot more answers and would not have had to set up Con Lucey's committee to figure what on earth is going on. We must reform administration and change the way business is done. The way of operating which obtains is just not good enough in this day and age. I will not press the amendment because this matter is bigger than the environment, it is what is wrong with Ireland in so many ways. I will not take my anger out on one Minister of State who broadly agrees with me. If, however, we were debating with the Taoiseach a motion on the reform of the wider public service, then what I have proposed would have to be accepted, namely, that this way of doing business - whether in the farming sector or elsewhere - cannot be allowed to continue. Writing is a skill that was invented many thousands of years ago and some people have to grow up and start to use it and stop hiding behind this section.
I move amendment No. 12:
In page 13, lines 4 and 5, to delete "(other than ordinary members to whom subsection (2)applies)".
This amendment deals with the composition of the council. There was serious disappointment in environmental circles that representatives from public bodies - Sustainable Energy Ireland, the director general of the EPA, the director of Teagasc and the director of the Economic and Social Research Institute - were initially due to be involved. I return to the finding made by the banking inquiry to the effect that people on the public payroll never become contrarians - they do not participate in the debate and they operate in controlled lines of thinking. That is the disappointment I have there. The other disappointment - I say it against my own profession - is that there will be too many economists on the body. We need the expertise in the area. Amendment No. 12 seeks to delete the words "other than ordinary members to whom subsection (2) applies". Subsection (4)(a) would then read "In nominating the chairperson and the ordinary members [other than the ordinary members whom I have just mentioned] of the Advisory Council, the Minister shall have regard to the range of qualifications, expertise and experience necessary for the proper and effective performance of the functions of the Advisory Council." I think it was wrong to put people from the four public bodies on the council in the first instance. I am of the view that their qualifications, expertise and experience should also be taken into account. I have doubts that they will be able to contribute to the effective performance of the functions of the advisory council. When the members of the council were nominated, there was much surprise that people who are well known for their involvement with environmental matters were not nominated. The other criticism is that there are too many economists on it and too many people from the bureaucracies. We will not get radical thinking from our bureaucracies. That is another lesson we have learned from the banking inquiry.
I wish to refer to the director of Teagasc, the Irish Agriculture and Food Development Authority. Teagasc is going to be committed against this. The amount of gases emitted from the backsides of cows, for example, is an enormous problem. It may seem rather ludicrous but it is an enormous problem and agriculture generates a huge amount of carbon emissions. Teagasc is not going to be on the side of cutting back on emissions, it is going to argue for the greatest possible margin. I do not know the director of Teagasc and I have no direct animus against anybody who works for the authority. However, Teagasc has a professional responsibility to safeguard the agricultural and food development aspects of industry and it will do that. In view of the fact that I do not think they will be particularly friendly towards a purely environmental approach, I agree completely with Senator Barrett.
It makes sense that the Minister of State should accept Senator Barrett's amendment because the phrase "In nominating the chairperson and the ordinary members (other than ordinary members to whom subsection (2) applies) ... " does not seem to make sense. We should have the best advice. We should have those we want on the advisory council. Subsection (4)(a) seems to exclude them and provides that they cannot be on board. I believe the amendment is worthy of acceptance.
Those seeking appointment as director generals must come before Oireachtas committees for ratification. It is up to members of this House and the Lower House, to ensure that the competencies of candidates are well judged before they are appointed. They should not be appointed now. This is in line with new legislation enacted by the Government. Heretofore, one could be appointed to head up an agency depending on who one knew rather than what one knew. That has changed and it is a reflection on us if we put people in place who are not competent. Candidates appear before Oireachtas committees to have their ability judged. There is time to shout "Halt" before they are put in place. When they have been appointed, however, it is too late.
I understand, from the debate on Committee Stage, that the intent behind the amendment is for the complete removal of the ex officiomembers from the climate change advisory council, an issue to which Members referred to earlier. Such a course of action would not be in our best interests because it would remove the hugely valuable insights that the advisory council would have into the realities and the practicalities of policy implementation here in Ireland. The advisory council has already been established on a non-statutory basis and is operational and working on its various tasks. For the information of the House there is a total of 11 members, four of whom are operating on an ex officiobasis. Seven members of the advisory council, which is the majority, are totally independent. There are already have many environmental experts on the council. The four relevant organisations to which Senators have referred - the Environmental Protection Agency, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, Teagasc and the Economic and Social Research Institute - between them have a wealth of talent, expertise and corporate infrastructure available to them in order to allow them to lend assistance to the council, as and when required, and, in particular, where relevant research is concerned. Foregoing this support around the main table would, I believe, do a disservice to the requirements and demands of the low carbon transition agenda.
Senator Norris referred to agriculture and the Teagasc representative specifically. To be fair, Teagasc has been to the forefront in Irish agriculture in developing new innovations and new technologies in farm practices to reduce carbon emissions. It is important to note that. An interesting fact is that methane from cows comes from their burps rather than their flatulence or farts, as the Senator may have suggested.
One of the items of evidence at the banking inquiry was that when the Department of Finance did not like what John FitzGerald, chairman of the Economic and Social Research Institute, the director is now ex officio on the advisory council, wrote about the Irish economy it telephoned him to complain and John named him nervous Nellie. We asked the Minister, Deputy Michael Noonan, if he ever heard of nervous Nellie in his Department. That is how Departments see the quangos which they fund in the budgets and they will try to interfere. That is the track record and, again, that is a culture of public administration which the banking inquiry shows will have to be rooted out. If any of these bodies depends on a Department for its budget, there will be a person who will control it. In that context, the ventriloquists will not have left the scene.That is the reality we have had to face up to. The idea that these four people will be independent does not tally with what we found in the inquiry.
I do not wish to press the amendment. The dangers are there in the precedent set by the Department of Finance. The Department of Finance did not regard the ESRI as an independent organisation, but a body to complain to if it did not like what they were doing.
I move amendment No 13:
In page 15, between lines 8 and 9, to insert the following:“(c) consult with learned bodies such as the Royal Irish Academy, the Royal Dublin Society, departments of environmental science in institutions of higher education, An Taisce, Friends of the Earth, the Mary Robinson Foundation and other environmental organisations.”.
My amendment proposes to add a new subsection (c) so that the advisory council will consult with learned bodies. Given that the advisory body, by public statement of environmentalists is overloaded with economists, my concern is about the four ex officiomembers, where the academic community in environmental science has been ignored. Could we at least at the consultations stage ensure that the advisory council should consult people who have raised our consciousness about this and have worked so hard in the field?
The composition of the advisory body was unrepresentative. I would prefer the environmental bodies to be on the main council but if not, at least let us talk to them and not have them marginalised and excluded. The Royal Irish Academy has a record in this field, which has not been recognised in the composition of the advisory council. The Royal Dublin Society is one of the oldest scientific learned societies in the world and has an environmental science department. I have heard a significant level of negative comment about the fact that well known people who have been campaigning, researching and publishing in this field have been ignored by the Department. That is wrong. In a recent edition of Kerry's Eye, the Kerry County Manager praises An Taisce for the role it plays in protecting the environment of our most scenic of counties. Many people regard such bodies as Friends of the Earth and the Mary Robinson Foundation as a nuisance but I do not regard them as a nuisance.
This is not an internal matter for bureaucrats to deliberate. Society as a whole is concerned and should have been involved. I admire what environmentalists have done in this country, but a lot of it has been an uphill struggle. Let us include them in the legislation. The more people we talk to the better. We have examples of this in Northern Ireland. What Morgan Kelly had to say about banking was ignored and look what happened. Let us include all the bodies I have mentioned in my amendment and let us listen to them.
The Minister of State has been generous in tabling amendments that involve the Seanad but the bodies I have enumerated in this amendment are a valuable part of our democracy and should not have been overlooked. Let us remedy that now by accepting my amendment.
I second the amendment. The reason that this amendment is so easy to accept is because of the words "such as". It does not force the advisory council to act because as the amendment states, it should "consult with learned bodies such as" and then goes on to list them. It does not limit the consultations but it gives the council an opportunity to do that. It is worthy of acceptance.
I agree it would be extraordinary if the learned bodies that are listed in the amendment were excluded from the debate. The bodies listed are very significant. The Royal Irish Academy is the premier meeting group of Irish intellectuals, the Royal Dublin Society has been involved in environmental and agricultural issues since its inception in the early 18th century. What is the role of the departments of environmental science in institutions of higher education is it is not to be available to act as consultants to the Government in addition to teaching their students? An Taisce has a very clear record, but Friends of the Earth were the instigators and sponsors of the legislation. That is where it came from. We propose to exclude the very body that led to this legislation.
I remember when similar legislation was brought forward by Senator Ivana Bacik. I remember when the Bill sponsored by Friends of the Earth went through all-party committees of both Houses. The Mary Robinson Foundation was set up to look at environmental and global climate change issues. Mary Robinson was a very distinguished former Member of this House, Reid professor of criminal law and has gone on to distinguish herself further in international life. Of course the Mary Robinson Foundation should be consulted. That is such an obvious conclusion that perhaps it was an oversight to exclude it.
I do not see that any great damage could be done to the Bill by including this amendment. It could only be strengthened. It include in the legislation the very people who are centrally concerned about this issue. I urge the Minister of State to accept the amendment.
It is important to have robust and constructive debate and that is what always occurs in this House. However, let me make it categorically clear to Senator Norris that the Government is the sponsor of this Bill.
The members of the Government parties are very proud-----
Senator Norris should do the honourable thing and acknowledge that at the very least.
I acknowledge the role of the various bodies such as Friends of the Earth and so many other NGOs that have made a valuable contribution in terms of contributing to this legislation. I want to make it clear to the House that the Government is the sponsor of the Bill.
The proposed amendment seeks to place as one of its functions an explicit onus on the Climate Change Advisory Council to consult with various prescribed learned bodies and environmental organisations. It is important to note that the advisory council is independent and will consult with all stakeholders. I want to make it clear that it is not a question of ignoring or excluding any person or body. I would hate the impression to be given that any body would be excluded. It is factually not correct. In any event, under section 11 (2) there is already provision for the council to engage with all interested bodies, including the organisations and the categories listed and referred to help them in their work. Of course, there will also be opportunities for these stakeholders and others to engage in the development of the mitigation and adaptation policy measures during the statutory public consultation processes already envisaged in the Bill. I acknowledge their contribution to the climate change debate and the valuable work they have done but I am sure they will ensure that their voices are heard - and will be heard loudly - in terms of the development of these plans. The amendment is unnecessary and for those reasons I cannot accept it.
I know perfectly well that legislation is produced by Government, I did not come down in the last shower. However, the Minister of State cannot deny that it was provoked by the Friends of the Earth to act. I think I am correct in saying they produced the first legislation in this area. They were primarily responsible for pushing this agenda, so it is disingenuous for the Minister of State to say that the Government produced the legislation. Of course governments produce legislation. That is their function. Friends of the Earth cannot produce legislation and ram it through this House. Any idiot can see that.
I thank the Minister of State. The list of bodies, which everybody in the House agrees is distinguished and have played a major role, has another characteristic in common in that they were not included in the advisory council. Somebody has already decided that they are second class citizens.The people who make up these bodies and others in the scientific and environmental science communities were left out of the loop the last time. They have expressed the view to me that there are too many economists included and they are disappointed there is no representation for environmentalists among the four ex officiomembers. I must disclaim responsibility by pointing out that I did not nominate any of those economists. The people about whom I am talking are the ones who made most of the running on these matters and they have already been bypassed on one occasion. I would have preferred to see them being represented on the main body, but, in the absence of such appointments, they should at least be consulted. An error was made in not making provision for their participation and it should be acknowledged. We all should be man or woman enough to say it was a mistake and that the people who did most of the running should be involved.
Having said that, I do not propose to press the amendment because there seems to be a good measure of agreement from the Minister of State with our intent. He would not run a Department without having all of these very fine people in his confidence, no more than I would. The balance was wrong from day one and the amendment seeks to rectify this. I welcome the Minister of State's response.
I move amendment No. 14:
In page 15, to delete lines 12 to 19.
During the debate in the Dáil, the argument was made that the climate change advisory council should have the same degree of independence as the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council, IFAC, which advises the Minister for Finance on economic matters. As I said on Committee Stage, the relationship between the Minister, Deputy Michael Noonan, and Professor John McHale, chairman of IFAC, is perfectly normal. They do not always have to agree and there is an exchange of advice on both sides to which it always worth attending. The independence of IFAC and the diversity of advice it affords are welcome in the economic sphere and something the Government facilitated willingly in accordance with views expressed by the troika.
The lines we are proposing to delete by way of this amendment provide that the advisory council will be dependent for its secretarial and administrative services on the Environmental Protection Agency. We are arguing that the council should be completely independent rather than having to rely on the EPA for a couple of rooms and a few secretarial and administrative assistants. After all, the council may have to comment from time to time on the work of the agency. The requirement for checks and balances would be better served if these provisions were omitted from the Bill.
I support Senator Sean D. Barrett's amendment for the reasons he has given. I note, moreover, that the subsection in question provides that the agency shall "provide the Advisory Council with such services of a secretarial and administrative nature as is appropriate". Who decides what is appropriate? Will the advisory council be able to say it wants X number of secretaries, or will the EPA be able to decide it is hard pressed in terms of staff and the council must do all that work itself? Senator Sean D. Barrett's amendment is valuable and I ask the Minister of State to take it on board.
The proposed amendment would remove from the EPA the function of providing what are essentially back-office, administrative support services to the climate change advisory council. If the proposal were to be accepted, there still would be a requirement to provide such services and supports which, presumably, would mean establishing the advisory council as a body corporate with its own back-office staff and resources and all that goes with it. That is unnecessary. In the first instance, it would be contrary to the Government's policy of reducing the number of public sector agencies in the interests of reducing administrative costs and consolidating back-office services. In addition, it would represent an inefficient use of available resources, given that the EPA can provide those back-office services at a fraction of the cost of establishing a new agency.
I assure the Senators there is no cynical intent. What we have set out is purely in the interests of efficiency and administrative ease. There is no fear of encroachment on the work of the advisory council by the agency, as the former is explicitly guaranteed its independence under section 11(3) of the Bill. Moreover, the advisory council has been established on a non-statutory basis pending enactment of the legislation, with the EPA already providing its support services. In fact, these arrangements are operating very well in terms of facilitating the core work of the council. Therefore, I do not propose to accept the amendment.
That is a high-risk strategy in terms of capture and it is what is wrong with a lot of Irish public administration, namely, that independent agencies are captured by their parent bodies. If this is done in-house and it is reliant on the EPA's secretarial and administrative systems, the council will not have the independence we would like to see. Modern public administration should be addressing that danger, but perhaps capture is the goal. The Minister of State has said there is nothing cynical or sinister about it, but it may be that it ensures the advisory council will never be an independent body like the IFAC. As I said, it is a high-risk strategy. I do not know how much money was at stake, but I would prefer if we had the independence which is so badly needed in this area. Given my earlier point about the composition of the board and the Minister of State's unwillingness to accept our proposal to involve outside bodies, the latter may not have very much confidence in the council which will effectively be a minor part of an existing body. I will not press the amendment, but the provision does have serious implications for governance.
I move amendment No. 15:
In page 16, line 20, to delete "Minister" and substitute "Oireachtas".
The Minister of State has accommodated, by way of the amendments he accepted, an enhanced role for the Seanad and the Oireachtas as a whole in the debate on these issues. Will he also allow, as we propose in the amendments, for the Oireachtas to take advice from the advisory council? Why should the Minister be the only beneficiary of such advice? Let us all be involved in this important environmental role.
I second the amendment. The Bill provides that the functions of the advisory council shall be to advise and make recommendations to the Minister. It does not give the opportunity for the council to make recommendations to anybody else. The Oireachtas deserves to be able to avail of that expertise, which would greatly improve our ability to make decisions. Both amendments are worthy of support.
The amendments propose that the climate change advisory council should advise, make recommendations and submit its annual report to the Oireachtas rather than the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government. As the latter is responsible under the Bill for putting together both the national mitigation plan and the national adaptation framework, it is appropriate that the advisory council advise and submit its annual reports to him or her rather than to the Oireachtas as a whole. However, the advisory council's annual reports will be published for all to see and if Members want to comment on or debate them, such engagement will be welcome. There will be full transparency in respect of the reports. The amendments, therefore, are unnecessary and we do not propose to support them.
An exclusion is specified in the Bill, as it stands. If our amendments were accepted, the Minister, as a Member of the Oireachtas, would continue to receive all the reports. Long may that continue.Environmental matters are everyone's concern and not a private matter for the Minister. I hope he will share the information with all Members of the Oireachtas as widely and as generously as possible, as is his nature. What is wrong with the other 165 Members of the Dáil and 60 Members of the Seanad that the advisory council would not send the reports to them as well? I do not wish to press the amendment but rather explain why we tabled it. Nothing excludes the Minister but the other 225 people around Leinster House should be involved given the environment affects so many people.
I move amendment No. 17:
In page 17, line 35, to delete “Not more than 30 days” and substitute “Simultaneously on”.
This amendment refers to the publication of reports. The section provides that not more than 30 days after submitting an annual report to the Minister, the advisory council shall publish the annual report by such means as the agency may advise. If the report is being submitted to the Minister, why not just publish it? What is the purpose of delaying it for 30 days. It will lead to leaked reports, keyhole journalism and mischievous behaviour of one kind or another. Let us all know what is happening to the environment. I do not know why the Minister needs to know it 30 days before everyone else. It should be published simultaneously.
I second the amendment. It seems to make sense. This refers back to the same topic about which I spoke earlier, which is the question of speed, alacrity and getting things done quickly. I do not understand a delay of 30 days.
On this occasion I disagree with my colleagues because it seems to me that it is appropriate for a Minister to have possession of the report so he or she can consider it and prepare a response to any keyhole journalism or anything like it. I have no difficulty with the provision. A period of 30 days does not seem to me to be a particularly long time. Ministers have specific responsibilities and an onerous burden. To let a Minister have sight of the report first is good parliamentary practice. I have no problem with it whatever. The Minister of State will probably now accept the amendment.
Senator Norris will be glad to know I agree with his position and I thank him for his support. We debated this amendment at length on Committee Stage during which I outlined the Government position. I am happy to clarify it again for the House. The 30 day timeframe is to provide an opportunity for the annual report to be seen by the Government before it is published. I hasten to add that there is no provision for the Government to seek to alter or amend the annual report in any way. As Senator Norris stated, the 30 day timeframe is merely to afford the Government of the day the courtesy and time to consider the report. A maximum 30 day wait for a comprehensive publication, which it will be, could not be said to constitute any undue or untoward delay. The annual report will be published in full by the advisory council and without any interference whatsoever by Government. The amendment is unnecessary and we will not be supporting it.
I move amendment No. 18:
In page 17, lines 36 and 37, to delete “by such means as the Agency may advise”.
The section provides that the advisory council shall publish the annual report by such means as the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, shall advise. As I recall the debate on the last occasion, there was mention that there might be advice to publish it in the two official languages and other such advice. We got a categoric guarantee that the advice would not include advice on content. Why, therefore, is this section necessary at all? The advisory council's first chairman, Professor John FitzGerald of the ESRI, has been publishing reviews of the economy for the past three or four decades. He does not need this advice. I am afraid the advice might spill over into content and undermine the independence of the agency. It seems almost patronising to tell a body how to publish its report, in particular when its chairman has a strong record of publishing reports. The provision could provide the basis in future times for interfering with content.
Amendments Nos. 18 and 25 call for the complete removal of the reference to the EPA on decisions on the means of publication of the annual and periodic review reports. As outlined in respect of amendment No. 14, the current texts reflect the fact that the EPA will just provide back office support to the climate change advisory council. It is, therefore, best placed to offer advice on the best means of publication, whether it be in hard copy, online or a combination of both. The current text refers only to the means of publication and does not relate to the content of the annual and periodic review reports. It concerns the facilitation of publication so that the reports can reach as wide and as deep an audience as possible using the expertise of the EPA. That is all that is involved. It will not in any way interfere with the content of the annual or periodic review reports. We will not be accepting the amendment.
The provision undermines the independence of the agency. Trying to get distance between regulatory bodies and the bodies they are supposed to be regulating has proven extremely difficult in Ireland. For example, CIE should have no say at all in the operations of the National Transport Authority, which administers the budget for transport in a wider context. Observations on how to publish the report would be utterly irrelevant. There will be a person involved who has plenty of experience in publishing reports. The EPA will have to adjust to an independent body publishing the reports in its best professional judgment. I regret the section remains but I will not push the amendment. However, if we are really serious about independence, what the EPA thinks of the manner in which the advisory council publishes its reports should be utterly irrelevant. It should not be done in-house or by the EPA's secretariat or management. I do not believe in Chinese walls. I believe in separate institutions, which we should have had here.
I move amendment No. 20:
In page 18, line 2, after “day” to insert “and every 12 months thereafter”.
Section 13 of the Act provides that the advisory council shall not later than 18 months after the establishment day conduct a review. I would like that to be 12 months. We asked for it to be six months on Committee Stage. We have to know if it is working. I am sure there will be plenty of speeches in Paris at the end of the month and I hope the Minister of State will be there representing us but, to quote the Taoiseach again, this is an urgent problem. Why can it not be done in 12 months?
The proposed amendment calls for the climate change advisory council to conduct a periodic review every 12 months after its initial review. I cannot see any reason such a provision should be included in the Bill when section 12 already provides for the advisory council to conduct an annual review and report thereon every 12 months. Accordingly, having a parallel periodic review process would serve no additional function and would merely add a substantial burden on the council and its secretariat. Therefore, we will not support the amendment.
I move amendment No. 22:
In page 18, line 32, to delete “30 days” and substitute “10 days”.
The purpose of this amendment is to speed up the completion of the report and its submission to the Minister. It could be done quicker.
Ten days seems to be a remarkably short time to produce a report. I would not like to be faced with that. Thirty days is pretty speedy and I would leave it at that. One would get a rushed report in ten days and it might not be as good as one produced in 30 days. Even 30 days is even pushing it. I am sorry to disagree with my learned colleagues.
I move amendment No. 23:
In page 18, line 36, to delete “as soon as may be” and substitute “not later than 10 days”.
The purpose of this amendment is to quantify the time involved. I accept the Minister of State’s wish to have these matters dealt with speedily but the term “as soon as maybe” does not mean anything and is rather loose.
In support of that, although ten days is quite a short amount of time, without particularising it or making it definite, the term “as soon as maybe” is like “come day, go day”, “blue moons” and all that kind of stuff. It could be any time at all. It is unacceptably vague and poor legislative draftsmanship. I agree with the principle and spirit of the amendment because it is not satisfactory to have a phrase as vague as “as soon as maybe” in this section. I strongly support Senator Barrett on this matter. Even the ten days in that instance is not about the preparation of a report but about its submission. I am happy to accept the amendment to “ten days”. However, the term as “as soon as maybe” is like “come day, go day, every day is whiskey day.” It is all nonsense.
I am happy to clarify the Government position’s on these amendments. Both amendments relate to the timeframe within which the periodic review reports are to be submitted to the Government by the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government and the timeframe within which they are to be published by the climate change advisory council. Both timeframes are related, as it is intended in the Bill to provide the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, in practice, with a window of just 30 days within which a periodic review report could be submitted to the Government before the report is actually published. In reality, the Minister may have to consult with other colleagues in Government to collate responses before putting a report to the Cabinet, meaning it cannot be too specific.
I hasten to add that there is no intention or provision for the Government to seek to alter or amend the periodic review report. The 30-day timeframe is merely to afford a courtesy to the Government. A maximum 30-day wait for publication cannot be said to constitute any undue or any untoward delay. Therefore, we will not accept the amendments.
I move amendment No. 31:
In page 21, line 8, to delete “may” and substitute “shall”.
This has arisen in other legislation where the word "may" is used when the intention of the House is to use the word "shall". As drafted, section 14(6)(b) states, “the Minister may, in any year, present to Dáil Éireann an annual sectorial adaptation transition statement”. The term used should be “shall” if the term “may” means discretion. Again, the Minister of State has been impressing on us all afternoon that these are serious duties which are not discretionary. I know the Minister of State wishes to discharge them and I hope all successors will too. However, it should be “shall present to Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann an annual sectorial adaptation transition statement”.
I thank the Leader and the House for extending the time to facilitate further debate on this important and historic legislation.
In respect of adaptation, this section is carefully worded so as to make it optional as to which Ministers with specific sectorial adaptation responsibilities will be required to present annual sectorial adaptation transition statements to the Oireachtas. In any given year, the choice of such Ministers will be determined at the request of the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government.The reasoning behind this option rather than providing for mandatory qualification is that responsibility for adaptation matters is spread over so many areas of government and to such different degrees that it would not be advisable to require every such Minister to present a statement to the Oireachtas every year. Section 14(6) is merely a technical saver to cover a situation where the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government is responsible for sectoral adaptation matters. In such a scenario it would not make sense for the Minister to request himself or herself to present a sectoral adaptation transition statement. Accordingly, the section leaves it up to the Minister to decide whether he or she should deliver a sectoral adaptation transition statement in the same way as it is up to him or her to determine which other Ministers should deliver statements.
I hope I have not served to further confuse matters in this somewhat complicated textual situation, but I cannot accept the amendments. Therefore, I ask that they be withdrawn.
If I was the Minister with responsibility for tackling the problem of smoky chimneys, I might think this measure was discretionary and that I did not have to answer anything the Minister of State, Deputy Paudie Coffey, had requested because it is stated in the legislation that I "may" submit a report. However, a Minister with responsibility for tackling that problem should have to come - no doubt the Minister of State would wish this to happen - to explain what his or her Department was doing. We cannot allow Departments to opt out on the basis that the word "may" is included in the legislation. I hope the Minister of State's Cabinet colleagues would always comply with his request in this field, even if the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government receives many presentations. As the Minister of State said, it appears that most Ministers are responsible for environmental degradation in one form or another, but that does not let them off the hook or allow them to state that as they are not the major culprits, they should not make a presentation. The environment is important enough to require any Minister with responsibilities, whether for transport, tackling the problem of smoky chimneys or agriculture, to come to explain what is happening. This is urgent. It will take a co-ordinated effort to stop the temperature from warming up by 2 degrees Celsius by 2020.
I am happy to second the amendment. I am particularly alert to any change because of the problem of smoky chimneys. It would worry me if we were to have that problem. If this proposal would enable us to remove it, then I support it.
We have all acknowledged and identified that climate change and reducing carbon emissions are among the most significant challenges facing not only Irish society but also global society. I have no doubt that Ministers will be held accountable and responsible, as they should be, before both Houses of the Oireachtas. However, the amendment is unnecessary as it would only tie the hands of a particular Minister. There are many Ministers across the various sectors involved who are responsible and I have no doubt that they will be giving this matter the highest of priority because issues will be identified in the national frameworks and national adaptation plans. Ministers will be accountable to the Oireachtas because these frameworks and plans will be laid before both Houses. I am sure strong voices will be heard from all sides of the Houses to invite Ministers to come before us to evaluate progress and ensure we are meeting the challenges.
Professor John Sweeney, emeritus professor of geography in Maynooth, stated: "The most likely outcome from Paris is, therefore, an agreement that will be marketed as a political triumph, but falls short of the radical change of hearts and minds necessary to protect the world from 2oC warming over the next four decades." Therefore, no Minister should be able to take solace from the inclusion of the word "may" in the legislation; there are no opt-outs in this context. As the Minister of State has defined it, I will not push the amendment to a vote. I would, however, like definites to be included in legislation; rather than including the word "may", we should use the word "shall". Sometimes I think it is an attempt by people to evade responsibility in subsequent inquiries. Let us take on this responsibility in all legislation and impose definite obligations, such that adherence to them could be subsequently checked, rather than have a Minister say legislation includes the word "may", that the matter is discretionary and that he or she did not bother doing anything. That is not the way to do business.
I move amendment No. 33:
In page 21, between lines 11 and 12, to insert the following:"(7) If the Government do not accept an assessment of the Climate Change Advisory Council, the Minister shall, within 2 months of being given a copy of the assessment, prepare and lay before both Houses of the Oireachtas a statement of the Government's reasons for not accepting it.".
This amendment is to be seen in a context of where the Government does not accept an assessment of the Climate Change Advisory Council. It provides that having received the assessment, the Minister should prepare and lay before both Houses of the Oireachtas a statement of the Government's reasons for not accepting it. This is the dialogue that is necessary. The IFAC model was mentioned in the other House. If in this context the Minister for Finance, Deputy Michael Noonan, has case A and Professor John McHale and his cohort have case B, that is the way the discussion should take place. There should be no attempt to try to hush it up; rather it should be stated the Government has formed a completely different view from that of the Climate Change Advisory Council, that it is putting its case before the public and that the court of public opinion will decide which is the best way to proceed.
I second the amendment which I am happy to support. It seems that there will soon be an occasion when the Government will not accept an assessment of the Climate Change Advisory Council; if so, the reasons for this should be the matter of an open discussion. I support the amendment on that basis. On that basis the Government's reasons should be laid before both Houses within two months of receiving the assessment.
In parliamentary terms, this is the most important amendment we have seen today. It may not be the most far-reaching in dealing with climate change but in terms of ensuring openness and accountability, it is crucial. Two months is perfectly adequate time for the Minister in which to provide a reason advice has not been taken. In the context of parliamentary procedures with which I have tangled with various Cathaoirligh during the years, we have had situations where proposals were rejected and no reason was given for their rejection. That is wrong. In a democracy an appropriate and rational reason, not some rubbish, should be given.
In terms of dialogue and understanding issues, it is important to know the arguments on both sides. It is a serious matter for the Government to reject advice from an advisory council that it has established. In these circumstances it is important that the Government's' position be made clear. If it rejects the advice of its own group, Parliament and the public are entitled to know the reasons which could be poor. The Government could resist something because industry would not make such a big profit and it had been lobbied by it and told not to touch it because it would affect its profits at the end of the year. That is not a good reason in dealing with climate change. In dealing with environmental issues it is not a particularly good reason. The people should be entitled to know the reason. Of course, the Government would not want them to know - it is obvious that it would not - because then it could be held to account and pilloried for rejecting advice on inappropriate grounds, but it is very much based on those inappropriate grounds that the public have a right to know.
The proposed amendment would make it obligatory on the Government to lay a statement before the Oireachtas outlining the reasons for not accepting an assessment of the Climate Change Advisory Council. As stated in section 11, the principal function of the Climate Change Advisory Council is to advise and make recommendations to the Government on the approval of a national mitigation plan, a national adaptation framework and sectoral adaptation plans. It is not clear to me that such advice and recommendations would constitute an assessment of anything. I am quite sure the council's advice and recommendations will feature very strongly for all to see in its annual review and periodic review reports. Therefore, I do not believe it is appropriate to require the Government to respond in the manner proposed because approving national and sectoral plans is quintessentially its executive function, which is important to note.
-----it is a body to proffer advice; it is not intended to be a decision making authority. It is not intended to replace the Government's role in this regard. The presumption in the amendment is that everything that the advisory council states should be agreed with and implemented.
That is not and cannot be the case. The Government of the day is democratically responsible and mandated to respond to such reports. It will be expected to respond to the advisory council's reports.It will also have to explain where its actions and analysis-----
The Government of the day will have to explain where its actions and analysis diverge from the council's advises. What better Chamber than this or the Lower House to analyse those responses? In effect that is where the robust debate, analysis and holding to account should take place. That will be open to this House.
I have no problem with the Government saying there is a mistake in an equation on page 42 or something like that, or it believes that the advise seriously exaggerates a certain problem. However, let us have the dialogue. Therefore, I will press the amendment.
- Sean Barrett
- Thomas Byrne
- Gerard Craughwell
- Mark Daly
- Fidelma Healy Eames
- Terry Leyden
- Paschal Mooney
- David Norris
- Darragh O'Brien
- Ned O'Sullivan
- Labhrás Ó Murchú
- Feargal Quinn
- Jim Walsh
- Diarmuid Wilson
I thank the Minister of State. I note there will be demonstrations on climate change worldwide on Sunday, with the Dublin demonstration taking place at 2 p.m. I hope the Paris conference succeeds but I wish the Irish Government had done more and that it did not balk at complying with regulations and so on. The Canadian Minister for Environment and Climate Change, Ms Catherine McKenna, whose father came from Dublin, will attend the Paris conference. Taking local government away from environment and climate change is something this State should consider. I am very thankful that the Minister of State accepted so many amendments but it is a very unsatisfactory way in which to make legislation regarding the environment as there are too many vested interests involved.