Climate Action Bill adopted in the Dáil by majority of 129 votes to 10

All political parties backed legislation, as 10 independents oppose

Eamon Ryan said it was time to put the Bill into place ‘to set a high bar’ and to begin its implementation. File photograph Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

Eamon Ryan said it was time to put the Bill into place ‘to set a high bar’ and to begin its implementation. File photograph Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

 

Landmark and controversial climate action legislation has been passed in the Dáil by an overwhelming majority of 129 votes to 10 after a final rancorous four-hour debate.

The legislation now goes to the Seanad.

All political parties supported the passage of the legislation despite misgivings and just 10 Independent TDs opposed it including five Rural Independents, three Regional Independents and two members of the Independent Group.

Independent Denis Naughten said he would not oppose passage of the Bill “even though it contains a number of flaws” but would introduce amending legislation in the autumn to require Dáil approval of sectoral emission targets.

It would also require separate treatment for methane gas emissions in the agricultural sector, which he said was in line with the advice of the Climate Change Advisory Council.

The Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill sets ambitious targets to reach carbon neutrality by 2050 with a reduction of 51 per cent in carbon emissions overall by 2030 compared to 2018 figures.

It will involve an average annual reduction of 7 per cent. The Bill also provides statutory authority for the Climate Change Advisory Council, which will have a powerful role in overseeing the implementation of targets.

Before the final Dáil debate on the Bill farmers demonstrated in Dublin in protest against the Bill, which they said took no account of the reductions they had already made to carbon emissions and did not make allowances for methane gas from cattle.

Minister for Climate Action and Environment Eamon Ryan insisted that climate justice was at the heart of the legislation. He said “no one will be talked down to and no one will be ignored and that applies to farmers”.

But People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith said “just transition” was referenced only once in the legislation and would be applied “in so far as is practicable” which she said did not represent just transition.

Ms Smith earlier introduced legislation to prevent the development of any more data centres because 51 per cent carbon emission reduction would not be met with the “corporate rush for data centres”.

Sinn Féin’s Darren O’Rourke expressed disappointment that none of the 231 amendments introduced by the Opposition at committee stage were accepted but “the Minister also failed to bring forward any of his own amendments” based on what he had said at the hearings.

The Minister said he would not accept any amendments because “they don’t strengthen the Bill further. That’s not to disrespect any Deputy.”

A number of Independent TDs said there was a need for further debate on the legislation but Mr Ryan said they had been debating this legislation since October with over 80 hours of discussion including pre-legislative scrutiny, second-stage and committee-stage debate.

It was time, he said, to put it into place “to set a high bar” and to begin its implementation.

Independent TD Sean Canney said the legislation is “frightening farmers” for whom there is no relief even though they are number one in the EU for climate-efficient milk production and number five for beef production.

Independent Laois Offaly TD Carol Nolan who was among a number of TDs calling for supports for workers in the Midlands hit out at what she said was hypocrisy from the Minister.

The Green Party in the programme for Government committed to making sure that 8,000 hectares of forestry are planted annually but this was not happening. “You’re not meeting your own targets yet you’re punishing ordinary farmers and workers. This is totally hypocritical,” she said.