Home > Seanad Éireann debate. Regulation of Lobbying (Amendment) Bill 2022: Committee Stage.

[Oireachtas] Seanad Éireann debate. Regulation of Lobbying (Amendment) Bill 2022: Committee Stage. (27 Apr 2023)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/seanad...

Senator Lynn Boylan. To tackle the climate emergency and ensure that climate policy is conducted entirely in the public interest, we must cut the fossil fuel interests out of our politics. We have done this with the tobacco industry. We accepted that there is nothing positive to come from the tobacco industry. We accept that in the climate emergency we need to decarbonise our economies and that we need to reach our 2030 and 2050 targets. 

In practical terms, this amendment seeks to draw up a code of conduct for fossil fuel lobbyists and the people they lobby. Under this code of conduct, only designated public officials would be able to interact with fossil fuel lobbyists when it was necessary to effectively regulate the industry and to promote the transition to a fossil fuel-free economy. It would also only be at the request of the designated officials. If an official in the Department or a Minister needs to talk to the fossil fuel industry about regulation or about how we are going to decarbonise our economy, then that would still be allowed. What we must not have, is them proactively engaging and lobbying Ministers and officials to prolong that transition. 

The code would also prohibit fossil fuel lobbyists from participating in public institutions or expert and advisory bodies, and from organising events on government premises such as in Leinster House. I have given the example of such an event in the audiovisual visual room here in Leinster House only a few months ago. 

Some critics might say that this goes too far and that what we actually need is greater transparency, but as I have said the issue of transparency in the fossil fuel industry is the same as with the tobacco industry. We all know that we need to get off fossil fuels, and therefore I believe we need to go much further than just having transparency. From recent exposés, which included Irish MEPs, we have also seen that the fossil fuel industry was able to find a way around the rules no matter how high the bar was set with regard to transparency. I do not believe it is enough to protect the public interest. We need to effectively bring an end to the revolving doors and to fossil fuel lobbyists having access to officials and Ministers….. 

Deputy Ossian Smyth: Senator Boylan has stated that the issue is the same as with the tobacco industry and draws a parallel between them. Of course, there are tobacco lobbyists as well and there is not a specific code of conduct for tobacco lobbyists, for people selling cars, for people selling food that is carcinogenic, for people selling alcohol or for people promoting the legalisation of currently illicit drugs. I am not sure how the parallel is exactly the same; we have managed, greatly through regulation, to reduce tobacco consumption. It is a policy success and I would like to see that reflected in our attempts to reduce fossil fuel consumption as well. 

Senator Lynn Boylan: I remind the Minister of State that there is the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, and there are limits on the tobacco industry lobbying. Meetings with the tobacco industry are not allowed regarding the promotion of the product. That is exactly the reason I am making the point; we have accepted that there are certain industries that we are moving away from and that we need to have special rules around. It is the same as fossil fuel advertisement bans, and that is why the environmental NGOs are calling for those as well. These are sectors where we are running out of time. 

We have transparency in respect of fossil fuel companies at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC and at the Committee of the Parties, COP every year, and we have seen the impact those fossil fuel companies have on watering down the measures that are needed to address the climate crisis. I am afraid that I do not accept that currently, the legislation sufficiently covers the fossil fuel industry. This is a huge opportunity for the Minister of State to set Ireland out and to show that we are serious about decarbonising our society, and that we will only engage with the fossil fuel industry when it is essential in terms of regulation of that industry. 

Deputy Ossian Smyth: I thank Senator Boylan. I was not aware that there are separate rules for the lobbying of the tobacco industry, so I thank her for telling me that. I will consider that, and if the Senator wants to introduce amendments on Report Stage, I will consider them on the basis of that.

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