It is good to discuss in the Chamber the climate action plan. We are also discussing other matters, those being the recent UN meeting and the national development plan, NDP. The national climate plan and the NDP are inextricably linked and our climate action depends on them working in harmony. Our ability to face down climate change depends on all of our plans and organs of government working in harmony to address the seriousness of the issue.
I am not the first Deputy to mention the August IPCC report and what it described as a code red for humanity. For many, hearing those words engenders a great deal of fear and insecurity, but we need to face that fear and use it to drive action and change. We are already 1.1oC warmer than pre-industrial times. Without significant change, we are heading towards much worse. All parts of the world will see considerable impacts from this – drought, extreme heat, flooding and extreme weather events. All of these are happening now.
When facing the impact of climate change – the severe weather, droughts and the challenge to biodiversity, including extinctions and the collapse of our food supplies, all of which is deeply terrifying – the word “shared” must be our priority and focus. We must ensure the climate action plan underlines the just transition so that no one is left behind. It is essential the burdens borne in reaching our targets are fair and that every group is making an appropriate level of effort. Otherwise, and as Deputy Whitmore stated, we will lose the political and civic consensus that has been built around how serious this situation is. We need to focus on climate justice and ensure no worker or community is left behind as we take the action that is urgently needed to create a better, safer and more sustainable future. Climate change does not affect everyone equally. Climate change and poverty are inextricably linked. Low-income communities and countries are often the first to be impacted and are the ones with the least resources to cope with the changes. This fact must be reflected in the NDP and the climate action plan. We must ensure the actions we take – the Minister has been working on this basis – are progressive and support low-income communities so that they have the resources to cope with the changes that are coming down the tracks.
Thankfully, many of the policies that can and will be effective in reducing the impacts of climate change are also effective in reducing poverty and promoting economic growth. We need to focus on energy poverty. The NDP and the climate action plan must find ways of identifying and improving current energy poverty schemes to target those most in need.
That helps us to do both, that is, address energy poverty and address climate change. This allows us to improve the resilience of communities, taking measures to protect those who are most vulnerable to the risks associated with the severe weather events that climate change has already brought and will only get worse. Even if we are to act, they will get worse and we are on a dangerous precipice.
We cannot make Ireland a leader on climate change without a just transition and without these progressive policies. In doing so, we can build a cleaner, more sustainable and secure future for all of us. That progressive nature of the need for climate action needs to be, and I have no doubt will be, foremost in the Minister’s mind in drafting the climate action plan. We need to see that from every Cabinet Minister in terms of the national development plan. In every plan we make we need to factor in how we are to address these challenges.