DÁIL PQ WITH MINISTER FOR PUBLIC EXPENDITURE ON CLIMATE CHANGE

  1. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the funding available to Departments for tackling climate change; if his Department is receiving requests for additional expenditure in this regard; if so, the Departments and the amount, respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48841/18]

The Minister of State knows about the targets we have for 2020 for carbon emissions, which we are dismally failing to reach. We have a new Minister announcing an all of Government action plan, which is presumably concerned with the actions that will be taken by each Department. What impact will that have on spending in 2019 and will there be supplementary budgets? We have had eight supplementary budgets already and I have a parliamentary question down on that but it is not an oral question. Will it mean additional supplementary budgets for each of the Departments so that this all of Government plan is covered?

Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Deputy Patrick O’Donovan)

I apologise on behalf of the Minister for Finance and Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Donohoe. He has to go to the Seanad for the Finance Bill.

Policy responsibility for tackling climate change is a matter for the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment in the first instance. However, a sustained whole of Government approach will be required to enable Ireland’s transition to a low carbon, climate resilient and environmentally sustainable economy by 2050. The Minister, together with his Departments, is committed to playing his part in this transition.

The funding available to Departments is determined through the annual budgetary and estimates process. Each Department makes proposals on a range of measures they would like to implement in the coming year and climate action measures are embedded within the proposals from those Departments covering sectors of the economy responsible for greenhouse gas emissions. It is therefore a matter for those individual Departments to identify the amount which is being spent on climate action from within their own spending envelopes.

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has committed, under action point 12 of the national mitigation plan, to develop proposals for identifying, monitoring and reporting of climate related expenditure through the Exchequer. As a first step, this year’s Revised Estimates Volume, REV, will tag climate related expenditure in a separate section of that report.

Ireland has also joined the OECD Paris collaborative on green budgeting. The Minister’s objective and that of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in joining this initiative is to integrate environmental and climate outcome based reporting into our annual budgetary processes. This will be an iterative process but Ireland’s participation in the Paris collaborative will lead to more transparency on the level and effectiveness of Ireland’s climate expenditure.

In addition to funding made available to Departments for tackling climate change through the annual budgetary and Estimates process, the national development plan and Project Ireland 2040 also provide significant increased levels of funding for climate action related measures. Project Ireland 2040 commits a record level of investment for climate change initiatives over the next decade, with €21.8 billion specifically allocated for national strategic outcome 8 – transition to a low carbon and climate resilient society, and I understand some of that announcement will be made later in the week.

A number of the other national strategic outcomes in the national development plan are also directly relevant to delivering on our climate action goals – €14.5 billion is allocated to ensure compact smart growth and a further €8.6 billion is allocated for investment in environmentally sustainable public transport while €8.8 billion is allocated for the sustainable management of water and other environmental resources.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan

The senior Minister had an opportunity in the budget to deliver some type of a green budget and now we are talking about a whole of Government action plan for which the Minister does not seem to have any funding and if he is to get funding for it, it will have to be approved by this House. Our Parliamentary Budget Office, in one of its many excellent reports, has reported on climate change. There is grave concern that we have missed our targets in 2016 and 2017 and we will miss the target for this year. It appears we could be facing fines ranging from €65 million to €130 million per percent of the 2020 target that we miss. The Minister of State’s Department has quantified this, in general, as a possible fine of €600 million, which is an astonishing figure of a fine we could face in 2020. The report, to which I referred, shows we are ranked second last among the EU nations in our mitigation plan’s performance.

The Government seems to have done almost nothing by comparison with countries like Sweden and many of our other European partners to address this. The Government had an opportunity to address this in the area of transport in budget 2019 but it did not want to know about it. It has not taken any of the steps set out in regard to agriculture or aviation. The Government will be handing the new Government that will be formed following the next general election a fierce problem to address in terms of climate action.

Deputy Patrick O’Donovan

With due respect, whether there will be a general election is not relevant to the question.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan

The Minister of State might not be here then.

Deputy Patrick O’Donovan

None of us might be here so the Deputy should not pre-empt the decisions of the good people of Dublin Bay North. Regarding what the Government has done in the budget, every element of Government expenditure in every Department has come in on foot of a bilateral relationship – the Deputy might consider it unfortunate that the senior Minister is not here – and the policies are whole of government policies. There is green budgeting already incorporated into this year’s budget. The Deputy need only consider the continuation of the vehicle registration tax VRT relief for hybrid cars, the decision of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport to continue investing in green buses whereby the bus fleet that will be bought by the State under Project Ireland 2040 will be of a green nature, and our commitments to phasing out Moneypoint and the extraction of peat. Those are all issues that will be transformative in reducing our overall emissions of carbon dioxide.

Regarding agriculture, and I had a discussion on this with another Deputy representing an urban area over the weekend, the farming community and the agricultural sector are playing a huge part already in making Ireland far greener. The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in its bilateral relationships with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in which I am the junior Minister – I know the Deputy regrets that the senior Minister is not here replying to him – have climate action mitigation measures in place.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan

I represent an urban constituency but I come from a rural part of Dublin and I know many of these issues going back to my childhood. The reality is that the Government had an opportunity in budget 2019 to set out what it would do. Why did we not have the whole of Government action plan then, with specific tasks for each Department? The Departments would then come back to the Minister with respect to those tasks and he could quantify the type of funding that would be necessary. If a cost benefit analysis of this is done and we were to take the actions we need to take, it would be far cheaper than the European Commission asking us to pay €500 million or €600 million, an amount that would fund an extraordinary level of developments in health, housing or whatever. The Minister has a very poor record on this matter in government. I am a member of the Committee on Budgetary Oversight. We need to have ex ante assessments done of what the Minister wants each Department to achieve next year. That is the reality. The Minister, Deputy Bruton, has moved into the Department with responsibility for climate action and suddenly he announced this plan but we want to see it fleshed out and to identify from where the money is coming.

Deputy Patrick O’Donovan

The Deputy is getting very parochial all of a sudden regarding Dublin Bay North and whether we have a very poor or a very good record in government. The Taoiseach outlined this here last week. The climate action agenda is not just a Government agenda. A challenge has been laid down, even to Deputies like Deputy Broughan. How much will he charge the people per tonne of carbon? Deputy Eamon Ryan challenged the leaders of the Fianna Fáil Party, the Labour Party and Sinn Féin. I do not know whether he challenged the Deputy’s leader on how much he would charge per tonne of carbon.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan

We lead ourselves.

Deputy Patrick O’Donovan

This is a whole of society issue in the same way as the water issue was, and we know how that wound up. There are many stories to be told about that and we will rue that day yet. However, there is a whole—–

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan

Does the Minister of State want to bring back water charges?

Deputy Patrick O’Donovan

The Deputy claims to know a great deal about rural Ireland. There are people in my constituency, Deputy Broughan’s constituency and Deputy Cowen’s constituency who are paying for water. We are not adverse to it at all.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Patrick O’Donovan

I am laying down the same challenge to Deputy Broughan as the Taoiseach did. How much would he charge per tonne of carbon? Let us put his figure on the table and quantify it. Let us put the Government’s figure on the table. Let us put everybody’s figure on the table. We should take a whole-of-Government and a whole-of-society approach to this issue rather than kicking it around because the Minister responsible happens to represent Dublin Bay North.