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'I find that quite insulting': Smith hits out at govt over opposition of Climate Emergency Bill

Bríd Smith TD was speaking before the Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment.

People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith
People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith
Image: Sam Boal via RollingNews.ie

PEOPLE BEFORE PROFIT TD Bríd Smith has hit out at the government for opposing the party’s Climate Emergency Bill. 

In a statement earlier today, Smith said that Ireland could be a beacon to the world if the Dáil were to pass her bill which would ban the issuing of further licences for fossil fuel extraction. 

The Bill was due to be before a select committee in the Dáil tomorrow, however, it has been held up after the government requested that it needs a “money message”. 

A money message constitutes the “recommendation from government signed by the Taoiseach” required under Article 17.2 of the Constitution. For Private Members’ Bills involving incidental public expenditure, a money message is required for it to proceed to Committee stage. 

“For this Bill to pass it would take a mass movement of everyone who understands that we have to stop drilling for more fossil fuels,” Smith said. 

Last month, Ireland became the second country in the world to declare a climate and biodiversity emergency. 

Committee

Speaking before the Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Minister of State for Rural Affairs and Natural Resources Seán Canney outlined some “policy implications” of the Bill. 

Canney noted that as part of its role in meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement, Ireland has a target of a 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. He said that there “still will be a need for some oil and particularly gas out to 2050″. 

“If we know and accept that we need some oil and gas during the transition to a low-carbon economy, then there are several clear benefits of using indigenous sources over imported sources,” Canney said. 

a Minister of State for Rural Affairs and Natural Resources Seán Canney (centre) speaking before today's Committee Source: Oireachtas TV

Canney said it has “a less harmful impact on the environment, as energy does not have to be moved over long distances, the State will get a tax return, which is up to 55% in the case of the most recent licencing terms, and there can be obvious energy security benefits as seen by the Kinsale and Corrib gas fields”.

He also noted that the All-of-Government Climate Plan will be shortly finalised and will outline how it “intends to make Ireland climate resilient across our entire society”. 

“This will involve setting climate goals in all key sectors, including electricity, agriculture, transport, industry, buildings, waste and the public sector,” Canney said. 

Money message

The Ceann Comhairle has determined that a money message is required for the Bill to progress, Canney noted. 

“On 8 May 2019, I wrote to the Ceann Comhairle detailing my concerns regarding the financial implications of the Bill and requested further consideration of a money message,” Canney said. 

He outlined what he said could be “financial implications” from the Bill: 

There would also be financial implications in that it would be necessary to prepare for a likely legal challenge from existing licence holders were this Bill to be passed.
Other financial implications which are difficult to assess at this point, are the likely compensation to licence holders.
There is also the lost potential revenue to the State in the form of direct tax revenue, which could be used to fund the energy transition and taxes arising from economic activity associated with development.

Reaction

Hitting back at Canney during this afternoon’s Committee, Smith said she finds it “quite shocking that even at this late stage, having being given three opportunities of lengthy debates on this Bill”, that these concerns were being raised.

“I find that quite insulting and shocking,” Smith said.

I don’t take it personally, I find it insulting to the movement out there, to the thousands of children who went on strike and to the movement out there who daily are mobilising and organising to try and get this government to do something meaningful in terms of dealing with the global corporations who inflict the greatest damage on the planet.

Turning to look at the potential financial implications surrounding the Bill, Smith said “there’s very, very little of public money that would be due to paid out to these companies and by comparison to the sort of wastage that this government and others engage in” the Bill would do “not just the people of this country a favour but the planet and the fight for climate action a huge favour”.

I find it unbelievable that you think this bill should have a money message.

Concluding his opening statement, Canney reiterated the government’s stance and outline that it has “indicated that it is opposed to this Bill because it does not reduce Ireland’s emission, it does not encourage renewable energy and it makes Ireland more dependent on energy imports”.

Today’s Committee came as Extinction Rebellion activists protested outside the Dáil over the government’s work on climate action. 

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