Speaking on the Bill O’Reilly said “for the first time in the history of the State targets will actually be put into law. It is a momentous time for us, not just in the Green Party, but across government and across the whole of society”.
O’Reilly went on to say “When I was in school, we learnt about greenhouse gas emissions, and what products we should or should not be buying in order to fix the problem, which even then seemed insurmountable. That’s decades ago, now, and still emissions rise. Five years after the Paris Agreement and still emissions rise (with slight reductions along the way). What is going wrong? It seems clear that a comprehensive plan that does not rely on individuals to step up to the plate alone, but forces governments to step up with them, is what is required”.
She continued “for decades, now the climate crisis has been seen as being about building better consumers – we should be cajoled and persuaded to buy better things, but the topic of which food and which consumer goods help and which hinder climate recovery is complicated. It’s often about balancing and diversifying land use. And the reality is, especially in this country, many people just do not have all the options available to them – public and active transport, support in implementing energy efficiency, or indeed the money to make a switch. That’s where this Bill comes in and that’s where political leadership comes in.
“When we in the Green Party went into coalition negotiations an average reduction of 7% a year in emissions was the biggest factor in persuading me to go into government. And when you actually look at how to do that, which we are currently doing on the Committee, it is clear that there are choices but only by putting that reduction into law do you really ensure that everyone is serious about that ambitious target. This Bill is the key to locking that reduction in”.
O’Reilly went on to add “let me tell everyone, and I’ve heard some amount of rubbish being spouted about more time being needed, getting this Bill to the floor of this house has been a mammoth task. There were times when I worried that we’d be out of government before it got it over the line. Many people, including politicians underestimate what goes in to producing a Bill like this. There’s a negotiation before going in to government, there are negotiations after going in to government with coalition partners, there are hours and weeks of work by advisors and researchers, there’s legal advice, in this case there was the longest period of pre-legislative scrutiny by elected TDs and Senators ever – months of scrutiny.
“I sit on the Climate Action Committee which carried out that work, chaired by my colleague Deputy Leddin, along with Senators Dooley, Higgins, McGahon and Boylan from this house and I would like to commend all 14 members of that committee. We heard from national and international witnesses in climate law, and we spent week after week, day after day drafting and redrafting a report, with our recommendations. I put in many myself and stuck to my guns to get them over the line and compromised when we couldn’t reach agreement. Then the Bill had to be redrafted based on those 78 recommendations and 68 of our recommendations were included either in part or fully. Again, legal advice was sought, and a Bill went to the Dáil, went back to the Climate Action committee and now on to us here in the Upper House. And it will be another couple of weeks before it comes out of the Seanad. We thought it would be done and dusted by Christmas. But I think that the careful scrutiny worked well for this Bill and let me explain why, because it is so important to go together in to a sustainable climate neutral future, to allay fears, to put in place supports and to consider action from everyone’s perspective. We need climate and intergenerational justice. We have been learning about emissions and what we can do as individuals for decades, but unless we have a system that is changed and people to buy in to that system and feel supported with money in the right place, with transport and energy systems that back up that action, then we will have decades more of relative inaction, of some of us trying our best and feeling frustrated that others do not share our concern. That’s not the way to save the planet. I have been committed and stubborn when it comes to pushing for recommendations, including pushing for a 51% reduction by 2030 to be included in the Bill, but more than anything else I believe that action is needed now, and that action has to take on board those who are worried about their jobs and their futures, but that action has to start NOW”.
O’Reilly continued “I believe the strength of this government, but more particularly of this Bill is that it is one of the most ambitious pieces of Climate legislation in the world, and yet, and yet, it has overwhelming support from public representatives that represent diverse interests across the State. We have to bring people with us to a Green future and that is what this Bill does.
“Climate action and action on biodiversity can support small farmers in the West of Ireland because it means putting money in to supporting small farmers for the work they do to protect the land. For too long farmers have feared that their designation in high nature valued land went against them, put them at a disadvantage. The recognition that biodiversity and climate action are essential and laid down in law means that those farmers must be supported in the work that they do”.
O’Reilly concluded “I believe that the actions we can take for climate are actually the actions that will make everyone’s lives better. We need to prepare rural Ireland for a future based on climate action. Small farmers in the West of Ireland have been let down, I believe, by the actions that have been taken, but they can benefit from the kind of supports that we put in place.
“170 schools today announced that they will be given funding in order to ensure that they have active transport at their doorstep. These actions are the things that will make the difference for us and will build on this Bill”.