Landmark legislation designed to reduce Ireland's carbon emissions is "fully fit for purpose", Minister for Climate Action Eamon Ryan has insisted.
After a comprehensive 129 to 10 Dáil vote in favour of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill, Mr Ryan told the Seanad it ensures Ireland’s efforts are “front-loaded” to have carbon neutrality by 2050.
The legislation aims to bring emissions 51 per cent below where they stood in 2018 by the end of this decade.
“This commitment is one of the most ambitious of any developed country, but it is appropriate for us to set that high-level goal because there will be opportunities for our country as well as challenges,” Mr Ryan said.
Introducing the Bill in the Seanad, the Minister insisted that the Bill “strikes the right balance between ambition on our clear climate targets and obligations” and “also ensures our transition is managed in a way that is just, fair and leaves no one behind”.
Independent Senator David Norris said 200,000 acres of Brazilian rain forest are burned each day.
“This is 150 acres lost every minute of every day, which is 78 million acres destroyed every year. Why is the European Union still buying this Brazilian beef? We have farmers and beef producers in this country.”
Independent Senator Michael McDowell said “what Ireland does one way or the other, apart from moral example, is probably infinitesimally insignificant”.
Warning that it was “not just a matter of a purist ideological approach”, he said the response had to be pragmatic.
He said “we must temper our ambitions in climate change with the actual economic consequences for our society”, adding that “in one afternoon China would do more to affect CO2 emissions with its coal-fired power stations than we would do in five years”.
However, NUI Senator Alice Mary Higgins told him that while China is well above the average in global emissions per capita at 7.38 tonnes per person, Ireland is even higher at 8.32 tonnes per person. By comparison, she said Malawi "has 0.11 tonnes per person".
“It is important, in response to the idea that we are small and cannot make a difference, to state we have a huge responsibility and relevance and we certainly need to do more.”
Labour Senator Ivana Bacik cited Ireland’s poor ranking in global terms at 39th out of 60 states this year in the climate change performance index, making the country’s reputation as a “laggard” appropriate.
Sinn Féin Senator Lynn Boylan said the strategy to build more data centres was at odds with the State’s climate goals.
“At a time when we are supposed to be reducing emissions, the data centres of tech giants will add at least 1.5 million tonnes of CO2 to our carbon emissions in the coming decade,” she said.
“According to EirGrid, all of the new demand for electricity over the next 10 years will come from data centres, not electric cars or increases in population.”
Fine Gael Senator Seán Kyne said data centres were hugely important.
“We are living in an age where data and information has transformed our lives from education to health to transport and business. That data has to be stored and managed,” he said.
“Our climate is suited to that task and we have massive potential for growing our renewable energy resources. Data centres are required to store data created by all of us and must happen within the EU.”
Fianna Fáil Senator Malcolm Byrne said farmers and landowners should be allowed to own the carbon credits.
“Let farmers be able to trade the carbon credits that they can generate from their land and allow them to offset it against their other activities or, indeed, within the wider economy,” he said.
The debate on the Bill continues.