Our colleagues moved the motion to declare a climate emergency a couple of weeks ago based on the report of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Climate Action which, the Minister will agree, was a fine effort and one of the achievements of this 32nd Dáil. The question now is what the Government is going to do to implement it. Fine Gael has had eight years of budgets, following five or six years of budgets from Fianna Fáil and the Green Party, and absolutely nothing was done. How is the Government going to decarbonise transport, agriculture, energy and housing? What steps will the Government take to implement the 42 priority recommendations? For example, will the Minister be proposing legislation to the House to take any emergency measures?
At the end of last week and beginning of this week, I sent in lengthy submissions to both Dublin City Council’s and Fingal County Council’s Draft Climate Change Action Plans 2019-2024. I ensured that I included important areas such as transport (including improved cycling infrastructure), waste management and flood resilience. The public consultation is open until Monday, the 25th of March and can be done online at the following web address: https://dublinclimatechange.codema.ie/make-a-submission/.
I heard the Minister’s earlier reply on the climate change performance index. Of course, Ireland performed badly. We were 48th out of 56 countries. A third of our emissions are from transport.
The amount the Minister has provided in the national development plan for green transport or environmentally friendly transport is €8.6 million. We were supposed to have an all-of-government plan from the new Minister for the Environment, Planning and Local Government. Could the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport tell us what he is doing about this area, specifically in respect of transport?
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?
The Minister will be aware that a few weeks ago the Zoological Society of London published the Living Planet Report 2018, which shows that the animal populations on the planet have reduced by approximately 60% since 1970. This is being talked about as the sixth mass extinction. The World Wildlife Fund is asking that we would begin to treat this matter in the same way as we do climate change by putting in place an agreement similar to the Paris Agreement in regard to animals and biodiversity.
We have all noticed over the past year or two a major number of planning applications for solar power arrays, particularly in counties Wicklow and Limerick and in Fingal in north County Dublin. What is the current level of proposed solar array power generation? How does the Minister see it fitting into the renewable energy strategy? He announced photovoltaic, PV, grants for households in respect of solar microgeneration on rooftops and so on a couple of months ago. What are the targets in that area? Why is the Minister loath to allow the microgenerators, which is all of us, to access the grid?
I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute briefly on this important topic of plastic and packaging pollution. Just yesterday I received a reply to a parliamentary question I raised on the Minister’s plans to introduce a recycling deposit scheme for plastic containers following the example of the UK and EU member states. It was disappointing, of course, that he told me that the 2014 review of the producer responsibility initiative model in Ireland did not recommend the introduction of a recycling deposit and refund scheme. I welcome, however, the Minister’s reply that following Deputy Ryan’s recent Private Member’s Bill the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment has been asked to examine “the implementation issues, the likely costs and the effectiveness of a proposed deposit and refund scheme in Ireland”. When will this examination be completed? Can we aim for budget 2019?
I am sharing my time with Deputies Connolly and Pringle. I am delighted to be able to speak briefly on this motion on the preservation of seaweed harvesting rights, brought forward in the name of my Independents 4 Change colleagues Deputies Pringle and Connolly. I congratulate them on this very timely and important motion. My colleagues are calling for a national strategy at last for the promotion of the sustainable development of our seaweed sector, ensuring that traditional seaweed harvesters are protected. They want to stimulate job creation among rural, coastal and island communities and have the Government undertake an economic analysis of the sector. Above all, they want the sector to be regulated in a fair and sustainable way.
I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute on the Energy Bill 2016, which has its origins in an earlier Energy (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill. I have long called for the reform of the Commission for Energy Regulation, CER, but I am strongly opposed to the inclusion of water in the CER’s remit and believe the additional powers being given to it, while welcome, may do little to improve competition in the energy sector. In recent Dáil terms I have been an outspoken critic of the weakness of the CER and its lack of action over many years on price transparency and market concentration in energy. The renaming of the CER as the Commission for Regulation of Utilities, CRU, provided for in this Bill, seems just an administrative step purely due to the inclusion of the regulation of water services in its remit.
Today, in his speech in Dáil Éireann on the Energy Bill 2016, Deputy Broughan was critical of the mere administrative changes to the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) and of course the inclusion of water in its remit. Deputy Broughan says that this inclusion and the fact that the Fine Gael / Fianna Fáil administration has strongly retained the Irish Water company model shows despite their protestations that those parties both have future plans to privatise Ireland’s domestic and commercial water supplies.