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Minister Naughten remarks on Establishment of Special Joint Committee on Climate Action: Motion

I move: That, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders–

(a) a Special Committee (hereinafter referred to as 'the Committee') is hereby appointed, to be joined with a Special Committee to be appointed by Seanad Éireann, to form the Joint Committee on Climate Action to– (i) consider the Third Report and Recommendations of the Citizens' Assembly entitled 'How the State can make Ireland a Leader in tackling Climate Change';

(ii) consider how these Recommendations might inform the further implementation of Ireland's National Mitigation Plan as well as the development of Ireland's draft Integrated National Energy and Climate Plan in the context of the Regulation on the Governance of the Energy Union (COM 2016/759), taking into account the recently published National Development Plan;

(iii) generally assess the state of play in relation to the Sectoral Adaptation Plans (SAPs) of relevant Government Departments as required under the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015 and as set out under the National Adaptation Framework (NAF) and, in this context, to engage with the Secretaries General of these relevant Government Departments in relation to proposed adaptation measures to be included in such plans taking into account the recently published National Development Plan;

(iv) engage with the Secretaries General of relevant Government Departments to determine whether they have also set out sectoral mitigation measures which could inform further implementation of the National Mitigation Plan and the preparation of Ireland's draft Integrated National Energy and Climate Plan taking into account the recently published National Development Plan; and

(v) consider such other related matters and engage with such other relevant stakeholders as the Committee sees fit;

and to report to both Houses of the Oireachtas in accordance with paragraph (g);(b) the Committee shall not exceed sixteen members of Dáil Éireann as follows:(i) five members appointed by the Government;

(ii) four members appointed by Fianna Fáil;

(iii) two members appointed by Sinn Féin; and

(iv) one member each appointed by the Labour Party, the Solidarity–People Before Profit (Sol–PBP), Independents 4 Change, the Rural Independent Group, and the Social Democrats–Green Party Group;(c) the Ceann Comhairle shall announce the names of the members appointed under paragraph (b) for the information of the Dáil on the first sitting day following their appointment;

(d) the quorum of the Joint Committee shall be eight, at least one of whom shall be a member of the Dáil, and one a member of the Seanad;

(e) the Joint Committee shall elect one of its members to be Chairman;

(f) the Joint Committee shall have the powers defined in Standing Order 85(1), (2), (3), (4), (5), (7), (8) and (9); and

(g) the Joint Committee shall report its conclusions and recommendations to both Houses of the Oireachtas not later than 31st January, 2019.

 

I wish to share one minute of my time with Deputy Hildegarde Naughton, the Chair of the committee. The Ceann Comhairle might indicate when there is one minute remaining.

 

The Citizens' Assembly published its final report on how the State can make Ireland a leader in tackling climate change, on 18 April 2018. The report builds on the conclusions of the Citizens' Assembly following two weekends of deliberation on the energy, transport and agriculture sectors, international best practice and existing national policies and activities. A total of 17 recommendations are detailed in the report. This is comprised of 13 recommendations reached by majority vote from the Citizens' Assembly ballot paper voting and four ancillary recommendations compiled from further submissions made by members via a member reflective exercise response facility for the assembly. The terms of reference of the special committee take into account the recommendations of the Citizens' Assembly and the committee will play an important role in informing the preparation of Ireland's draft national energy and climate plan, which the Department is currently preparing. The terms of reference also include the national development plan. The Government means to do mean business when it comes to taking strong action on climate change. I was very pleased recently to launch the climate action priority of Project Ireland 2040 with An Taoiseach and a number of my Cabinet colleagues. Over the next decade we will spend €22 billion on climate-focused investments. That represents a huge leap forward in our approach, both in the scale of our ambition and the funding we are making available as a Government to meet the challenges. In fact, €1 in every €5 to be spent by the State and State companies in capital investment over the next decade will have a climate-related focus. That is not just significant on a European scale but on a global scale.

 

We also expect to invest €4,000 million in energy efficiency upgrades of buildings and within the next 200 months, dirty fossil fuels will be taken out of our heating systems, including homes. That will be an achievement of global significance given the fact that 37% of homes are in rural areas. We will have dirty fossil fuels taken out of electricity generation by 2030. Over the next decade our ambition is to increase production of electricity from renewable sources to 55% by 2030, which would be a phenomenal feat, in light of the fact that we have such an isolated electricity grid.

 

In terms of regulatory measures, the national development plan commits the Government to no new non-zero emission cars to be sold in Ireland post 2030. In effect, there will be a ban on tailpipes on new cars from 2030. We will become the first EU country to do so. It is intended that no NCT certificate will be issued for non-zero emission cars post-2045. That is one of the most ambitious commitments on zero emissions on passenger cars in the entire EU. There will also be a transition to a low emission urban bus fleet, including electric buses, with no diesel-only buses purchased from 1 July 2019. The low-carbon, climate resilient transition ahead will require a societal transformation.

 

The Citizens' Assembly demonstrates that individual citizens can produce very clear recommendations when provided with an opportunity to reflect and consider in detail a specific societal change. It also underlines for me that Ireland will not achieve its climate objectives through Government action alone and engagement with wider society on an ongoing basis will be vital. Last Saturday week, I hosted the first regional gathering under the national dialogue on climate action to involve individual citizens and communities in the process of shaping Ireland's low-carbon transition. These meetings are the first step of engagement with communities across the country. The establishment by the joint Houses of this special committee is an important milestone for the Oireachtas. I and my officials look forward to working with the committee on its work programme.

 

I know some people referenced the CAN Europe report. It would be worth their while if they read it because there is no reference to the investment that has been outlined in the national development plan. This is significant. Despite the fact that nobody in this House wants to acknowledge it, the fact is that one in every five euro in capital investment this Government will spend over the next decade will have a climate focus. That is significant. It is significant in European and global terms. Yes, we have a lot of work to do but we will be the first country in Europe to introduce a ban on smoky coal from September 2018. We will spend €4 billion on energy efficiency upgrades. In the next 200 months, we will take dirty fossil fuels out of our heating systems. That is no mean achievement either. We will extend to every home in this country that is affected by fuel poverty the warmth and well-being pilot scheme that was rolled out over the past two years, and we will do so through the fuel allowance, the domiciliary care allowance by the end of this year, and the carer's allowance. Every one of those families will be able to have a deep retrofit of their home carried out free of charge. This is a real practical example of what we are doing and it does show leadership. We will be the first country in Europe to ban the sale of new fossil fuel cars from 2030.

 

It is a bit cheeky for people to say we are not taking leadership roles when we clearly are taking them and are putting the cash and funding in place. CAN Europe has been critical of us and has argued that we are not looking for enough ambition at European level. Last Monday, I pushed the Commission hard with regard to CO2 standards for cars. The Commissioner was looking for a 30% reduction in CO2 emissions over the next decade. I think this is far short of where it should be. It should be a minimum of 50%. CAN Europe or any of the other environmentalists did not say that the Irish Government was right to do that because they seem just to focus on it when it is on the agenda of the big member states rather than when small member states want assistance to help reach their targets.

 

We are going to ban the burning of coal in Moneypoint by 2025 and peat at the latest by 2030. Our national broadband plan will have a significant impact on transport emissions in rural areas. We want to become a global leader in terms of food waste and introduce district heating in tandem with that. Bord na Móna BioEnergy has been set up. We are looking at developing a new biomass industry in this country. The support scheme for renewable heat will operate this year. Before the summer, I will bring to Government a paper on the renewable electricity support scheme to approve a microgeneration scheme for domestic users. We have brought in user charges relating to waste, a new recycling regime for tyres, the beef data and genomics scheme and the smart farming initiative. We have the smartest grids globally. Global energy experts are now coming to Ireland to see what we are doing so we have ambition. Can we be more ambitious? Absolutely, but it must be a practical ambition that we can implement.

 

We are setting targets in that regard. I look forward to working with and engaging with the committee on this.

 

It would have been nice to at least have acknowledgement of what we are doing. Within the past 100 weeks, things have changed, and changed significantly. I accept that things could have been done better in the past and that if they had been, we would not be in the position we are in today. Let us start by leading from here on. Let us start by making sure we get as close as possible to our 2020 targets to put us on a proper trajectory towards 2030.

 

In response to Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan, this is the argument I was making to my colleagues at European level. It does not make sense for Ireland to pay penalties from 2021 when we should be using that money to invest in reaching our 2030 targets. We did not seek to alter our 2030 target. What we did was put a proper trajectory in place.

 

In response to Deputy Danny Healy-Rae and his perspective on climate, the measures we are talking about need to be taken anyway. The economy is far too dependent on imported fossil fuels and we need to become self-sufficient in regard to energy. Renewable energy for our economy is the right way to go.

 

With regard to farming, we can do far better by managing our grasslands better. The smart farming initiative we are rolling out across the country will see a reduction in overall emissions by 10% and increased profitability for every single farmer. For that reason, if for no other, it should be done. Broadband will also have a dramatic impact on the opportunities across rural Ireland as well as having an impact on climate.

 

There are huge co-benefits which result from putting the investment in place, benefits that will disproportionately benefit people in rural Ireland above all others. Let us all start working together in a constructive way to put a practical, implementable and ambitious plan in place.

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