Questions Nos. 1 to 6, inclusive, answered orally.

National Broadband Plan

Questions Nos. 8 to 13, inclusive, answered orally.

Questions (7, 30)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

7. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the status of the national broadband plan tender process; when all homes and business in County Donegal will have access to high-speed broadband; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41061/18]

View answer

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

30. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the status of the commitment to provide high-speed broadband to each house and business in County Donegal; the deadline for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41060/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 7 and 30 together.

As I have previously informed the House, my Department has recently received the submission of a final tender from the bidder in the National Broadband Plan procurement process. This is a significant milestone and brings Ireland a step closer to realising the ambitious goals of the NBP, which is to bring a high speed broadband connection to every premises in the country.

The procurement process to appoint a bidder for the State intervention network is now at the final stage. Evaluation of the final tender submission is ongoing and will be allowed the time required.  On conclusion of the evaluation, my Department will make a recommendation to me on whether to appoint the bidder as preferred bidder and I will bring the matter to Government for decision.  

There are just over 101,000 premises in Co Donegal.  Commercial operators are providing, or have indicated plans to provide high speed broadband to approximately 61,600 of these premises.  eir has plans to deliver access to high speed broadband to a further 5,000 premises in Donegal as part of  its ongoing rural fibre deployment.

The remaining approximately 34,400 premises, some 33% of all premises in Donegal, will be included in the network to be built under the National Broadband Plan State led intervention.

This Government has set the bar high through its ambitious National Broadband Plan. Commercial operators have reacted to Government setting out its aim that every premises in Ireland would have access to a high speed broadband network. When this Government came into office in 2016, only 48% of premises in Donegal had access to a high speed broadband service. Today, 61% of premises in Donegal have access to a high speed broadband service and this is set to increase in the months ahead.

The Government’s objective for the NBP are being realised through a combination of commercial investment and the State intervention. The commitment by Government has acted as a catalyst in encouraging very significant investment by commercial operators in deployment of high speed broadband networks.

In addition to the eir rural fibre deployment, other commercial operators are investing significantly in rolling out high speed broadband infrastructure throughout Ireland. For example, SIRO has committed €450 million to providing fibre broadband to 500,000 regional homes and businesses in 51 towns across Ireland, including in County Donegal. SIRO currently offers high speed broadband services in Letterkenny and has plans for  Ballybofey, Ballyshannon, Buncrana, Bundoran and Donegal Town.

Questions Nos. 8 to 13, inclusive, answered orally.

Energy Resources

Questions (14)

John Curran

Question:

14. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the immediate steps he is taking to ensure Ireland takes responsibility for its own energy supply; the increases there have been in the generation and supply of wind energy, solar PV energy, locally sourced biomass and biogas in each of the years 2015 to 2017 and to date in 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41059/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

The 2009 EU Renewable Energy Directive sets Ireland a legally binding target of meeting 16% of our energy requirements from renewable sources by 2020, Ireland is committed to achieving this target through meeting 40% of electricity demand, 12% of heat and 10% of transport from renewable sources of energy. Despite starting from the fifth lowest level of renewable energy sources in our energy  mix in the 2005 reference year, very considerable progress has been made with the SEAI’s most recent projections indicating  an outturn in the range of 90% of the target likely to be achieved. In terms of the Electricity component of the overall target, latest data from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) indicate that 30.1% of our electricity came from renewable sources in 2017.  

Electricity production from wind energy has increased to the point that it accounted for 84% of the renewable electricity generated in 2017. The following table sets out the contributions from the different renewable energy sources in the period referred to in the Question. 

Renewables Electricity %

2015

2016

2017

Hydro (normalised)

2.5

2.5

2.4

Wind (normalised)

21.3

22.0

25.2

Biomass

1

1.6

1.8

Landfill Gas

0.6

0.6

0.5

Biogas

0.1

0.1

0.1

Solar

0.01

0.01

0.04

Renewables Electricity (overall)

25.2

26.8

30.1

Provisional figures for 2018 up to the end of August show that wind generation has increased by 6.6% while overall electricity demand increased by 2.4%.  Electricity generated from biomass accounted for 6% of renewable electricity in 2017. Approximately 14% of the biomass used for electricity generation in 2017 was imported.

The Government has also adopted a range of policy measures and schemes to incentivise the use of renewable energy including the Renewable Energy Feed-In-Tariff (REFIT) schemes.  In addition, the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS), approved by Government in July, is designed to assist Ireland in meeting its renewable energy contributions out to 2030. It is expected that the first renewable electricity auctions will take place under the RESS in 2019.

I also launched a Support Scheme for Renewable Heat (SSRH) this year, which is open to all non-domestic heat users not operating in the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). The purpose of the scheme is to reduce the use of fossil fuels within the heating sector.  

Moreover, the Government has committed significant funding to support electric vehicles through the National Development Plan which includes an allocation of €200 million for the period 2018-2027. This year, there has been 1,686 new electric vehicles sold, which represents a 135% increase on the same point in 2017.

In April 2018, in order to provide certainty to obligated parties, a policy statement on the Biofuel Obligation Scheme was published. This policy statement set out an increase in the obligation to 10% from 1 January 2019, which has already been given effect to by way of a Statutory Instrument, and to 11% from 1 January 2020.

In July, my Department published a National Policy Statement on Electricity Interconnection designed to enhance security of supply in Ireland. Work is underway on a proposed 700MW HVDC electricity interconnector between Ireland and France and the Greenlink Interconnector which is a 500MW HVDC interconnector between Wexford and Pembroke in Wales.

Finally, the SEAI has indicated that the use of renewables in electricity generation in 2017 avoided €276 million in fossil fuel imports.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Questions (15)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

15. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if a carbon tax on agriculture in line with Citizens' Assembly recommendations, with a credit scheme for farmers that utilise lands for the planting of forestry or gift lands to Coillte, has been considered; if similar ideas have been put forward by his Department; his views on the impact of agriculture on global warming and the relevantly low levels of forestry here compared to other European states; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41212/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

In its third report, How the State can make Ireland a leader in tackling climate change, the Citizens’ Assembly recommended the introduction of a tax on emissions from agriculture together with rewards for farmers that undertake land management that delivers enhanced carbon sequestration benefits. In addition, the Assembly also recommended that the State should review and revise regulations and supports for land use diversification for example in relation to supports for planting forests in accordance with best environmental practice and encouraging organic farming.

The report of the Citizens’ Assembly was submitted to the Houses of the Oireachtas in April of this year, and the Houses subsequently established the Joint Committee on Climate Action to further consider the recommendations and report by the end of January 2019.

In the context of the consideration of each of the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly it is now a matter for the Joint Committee to consider whether and how each recommendation might be taken up by Government.

In this context, the Committee is engaging with each Government Department, at Secretary General level, on their respective policies in place and position in response to the Citizens’ Assembly. In relation to the specific recommendations referred to, the Deputy will be aware that matters relating to taxation policy are the responsibility of the Minister for Finance and matters relating to forestry policy are for the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

In relation to the overall role that forestry has to play in the achievement of Ireland’s long-term decarbonisation objectives, the National Policy Position sets out a long-term objective for Ireland’s agriculture and land use sector entailing an approach to carbon neutrality which does not compromise capacity for sustainable food production. Further analysis is now under way, led by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, to consider how this objective can be further articulated and the long-term implications for its achievement. Notwithstanding this ongoing work, I consider it absolutely essential that the State continues to support sustained high rates of annual afforestation into the future to secure the long-term sequestration benefits of forestry in support of the National Policy Position for 2050.

Ireland’s National Policy Position is also in line with the Paris Agreement, which recognises the importance of land use activities in mitigation efforts by Parties, including the need to address emissions associated with agricultural activities and deforestation and the role that can be played by the sector in contributing to sequestration of greenhouse gases. The implications of the Paris Agreement objectives for the land use sector will be the subject of a special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, to be published in 2019, which will address sustainable land management, food security and greenhouse gas emissions from the land use sector.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Questions (16)

Eamon Ryan

Question:

16. Deputy Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if Ireland is supporting proposals for the EU to commit, in the context of forthcoming COP24 in Katowice, to increasing the commitments in its nationally determined contribution to bring it in line with the 1.5°C target in the Paris Agreement. [41106/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

I am fully cognisant of the urgent, global challenge of climate change and its effects, particularly those experienced in the developing countries. The publication on Monday of the IPCC Special Report on the Impacts of Global Warming of 1.5C highlights in stark terms the urgency of managing our global trajectory of emissions. The scale and complexity of this challenge demands a coordinated approach at both national and international levels. Ireland is committed to concerted multilateral action to tackle climate change through the Paris Agreement and to working with our EU and global partners in achieving the objectives of the Agreement. The Paris Agreement, which entered into force in November 2016, aims to hold the global average temperature increase to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels, and to pursue efforts to limit this increase to 1.5 °C.

The Agreement is designed to meet this objective through Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) submitted by all parties to the Agreement. Ireland will contribute via the NDC submitted by the EU on behalf of its Member States, and which commits the EU to a 40% reduction in EU-wide emissions by 2030 compared to 1990. In this context, the EU has undertaken to reduce emissions in sectors covered by the Emissions Trading System (ETS)  by 43%, and has agreed binding annual targets for each Member State for those emissions falling outside the ETS. Ireland’s target under this Regulation will be for a 30% reduction on 2005 levels of emissions by 2030.

Ireland's National Mitigation Plan, published in 2017, sets out the policy measures required in order to manage Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions at a level appropriate for making progress towards our long-term national transition objective, as set out in the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015, as well as to take into account our EU and international obligations. Although this first Plan does not provide a complete roadmap to achieve our national transition objective to 2050, it begins the process of development of medium- to long-term options to ensure that we are well positioned to take the necessary actions in the next and future decades. Building on the National Mitigation Plan, the publication in February 2018 of the National Development Plan, will lead to a significant step change in funding available for climate action over the next decade. Almost €22 billion will be directed, between Exchequer and non-Exchequer resources, to addressing the transition to a low-carbon and climate resilient society. In addition, the NDP allocated a further €8.6 billion for investments in sustainable mobility.

It is important to note that the National Mitigation Plan is a living document that will be updated as ongoing analysis, dialogue and technological innovation generate more and more cost-effective sectoral mitigation options. In accordance with the framework provided by the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015, the Government must prepare and submit to the Oireachtas an Annual Transition Statement. This Statement also serves as a progress report on the implementation of the National Mitigation Plan.

I am required, under the 2015 Act, to bring forward a new National Mitigation Plan at least once every five years. The latest date by which this must happen is, therefore, July 2022. I propose to initiate shortly the process of updating the current Plan in order to facilitate the detailed policy design required to realise the high-level of ambition articulated in the National Development Plan as well as to develop further cost-effective policy options to address Ireland's targets under the Effort Sharing Regulation. This process will also be informed by Ireland’s National Energy and Climate Plan, and by a new long-term low emissions strategy, both of which Ireland must prepare and finalise by the end of 2019 under the EU Clean Energy Package. I intend that the long-term strategy will further elaborate sectoral pathways for Ireland to meet its long-term decarbonisation objectives to 2050, as set out in the National Policy Position.

In line with the decision of the European Council of October 2014 on the EU's overall commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, Ireland has fully supported this level of ambition in recent negotiations to reform the EU ETS and to put in place Member State targets for non-ETS sectors under the EU Effort Sharing regulation. In addition, Ireland has also supported the high ambition for the proposals under the EU Clean Energy Package, while seeking to ensure that individual requirements on EU Member States would be fair, affordable and technically achievable.

Ireland also continues to support high ambition in ongoing negotiations at EU level in relation to emissions standards for both Light- and Heavy Duty Vehicles. I consider it essential that the EU seek the maximum possible ambition within these proposals which will contribute to enabling EU Member States, through strong, effective EU regulation, to meeting their respective targets for 2030.

Collectively, high ambition in all of the EU’s sectoral policies and targets for 2030 may enable the EU to achieve emissions reductions in excess of those already committed to by EU Heads of State and Government.

Energy Efficiency

Questions (17)

Catherine Martin

Question:

17. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the way in which he plans to meet the target of 45,000 deep retrofits per annum by 2021. [41104/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

The National Development Plan 2018 -2027 recognises that improving the energy efficiency of the built environment is a central plank of Ireland’s action on climate change. Energy efficiency will also realise benefits for air quality, health, social inclusion, business competitiveness and better public services, all of which will make a real and positive impact on people’s lives. Exchequer investment of €4 billion, along with taxation and regulatory measures, are provided for under the NDP to drive the step change in energy performance in the residential sector.

Currently Government is funding just under 30,000 home energy efficiency upgrades per annum to an average BER of C. The NDP ambition is to increase grant supported energy efficient renovations to circa 45,000 to a BER of B from 2021.

A number of actions which are outlined in the National Mitigation Plan and Long Term Renovation Strategy are already underway to achieve these levels of retrofit and promote deep retrofit of buildings across all building types and tenure. Those actions which relate specifically to homes are as follows:

- The Better Energy Homes Scheme provides grant aid to homeowners who wish to improve the energy performance of their home. Fixed grants are provided towards the cost of a range of measures such as insulation, heating controls and solar thermal technology. I recently expanded this scheme to support the transition away from fossil fuels, and achieve greater energy savings and emissions reductions, by providing a grant for heat pumps and increasing the funding for external insulation.

- The Better Energy Warmer Homes scheme delivers a range of energy efficiency measures free of charge to low income households vulnerable to energy poverty. I recently announced the expansion of the scheme to include internal and external wall insulation in order to increase the number of people that can receive upgrades and increase the energy savings and emissions reductions the scheme can achieve by enabling fuel switching.

- The Better Energy Communities scheme allows groups of buildings to apply for funding to improve their energy efficiency. This scheme has resulted in innovative approaches to renovation being developed, while also contributing to the overall reduction of energy usage and emissions from our building stock.

To build on what has been achieved through these schemes, and understand how we make the step change necessary to achieve the NDP ambition, we already gathering the real world evidence through two flagship projects, both of which follow international best practice:

- The Deep Retrofit Pilot Scheme, which began in 2017 and will conclude at the end of 2019, is investigating how to create a scalable offering for the deep retrofit of Ireland’s housing stock to an A3 Building Energy Rating (BER), while building consumer demand and contractor capacity for deep retrofit. Under the scheme Government is funding up to 50% of the total capital and project management costs for homes that achieve an A3 Building Energy Rating post retrofit. This will inform a model that can make deep retrofit available to individual homeowners on a larger scale post 2020, and critically will help Ireland move away from fossil fuels to clean renewable heating systems, such as solar and heat pumps.

- The Warmth and Wellbeing Pilot Scheme, funded by my Department, is a joint policy initiative with the Department of Health, and is operated by SEAI and the HSE. It began in 2016 and this first phase will conclude at the end of this year. It is measuring the health and wellbeing impacts associated with improved energy efficiency. Not only is this evidence needed to make a robust business case for further public investment, it is critical for how we communicate the benefits of climate action. Increasing public understanding of the multiple benefits of energy efficiency is critical to motivate people to invest in, and make their contribution to, action on climate change.

While it is necessary to tailor offerings for the different circumstances of householders, the common goal of these actions is to drive the step change we need in energy performance, skills, capacity and investment, and understand how we build demand, grow the supply chain and offer attractive financing to leverage public investment and empower citizens to act on climate change.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Questions (18)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

18. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the extent to which Ireland's commitments to climate action and carbon reduction as per international agreements remain likely to be on time; the extent to which corrective measures may be necessary; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41204/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

The 2009 Effort Sharing Decision (ESD) 406/2009/EC established binding annual greenhouse gas emissions targets for EU Member States for the period 2013 to 2020. These targets concern emissions from most sectors not included in the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), such as transport, buildings, agriculture and waste. For the year 2020 itself, the target set for Ireland is that emissions should be 20% below their value in 2005. This is jointly the most demanding 2020 reduction target allocated under the ESD, and one shared only by Denmark and Luxembourg.

The latest projections of greenhouse gas emissions, published by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in May 2018, indicate that emissions from those sectors of the economy covered by the ESD could be between 0% and 1% below 2005 levels by 2020. While this is very disappointing, it is not surprising given the recent pace of economic growth, with increases in emissions from the agriculture and transport sectors in particular. The projected shortfall to our targets is further exacerbated by both the constrained investment capacity over the past decade due to the economic crisis, and the extremely challenging nature of the target itself. In fact, it is now accepted that Ireland’s 2020 target was not consistent with what would be achievable on an EU wide cost-effective basis.

The ESD includes a number of flexibility mechanisms to enable Member States to meet their annual emissions targets. Using banked emissions allocations from the period to 2015, Ireland is projected to comply with its emissions reduction targets in each of the years 2013 to 2017. However, cumulative emissions are projected to exceed annual targets for 2018, 2019 and 2020, which will result in a requirement to purchase additional allowances.  While this purchasing requirement is not, at this stage, expected to be significant, further analysis is ongoing to quantify the likely costs involved, in light of the final amount and price of allowances required.

In parallel, I am putting in place a number of additional measures to seek to close the gap to compliance with Ireland’s targets under both the Effort Sharing Decision and the Renewable Energy Directive.

In relation to biofuels, in May of this year, I signed an order increasing the obligation rate of fuel suppliers from the current level of 8% by volume to a level of 10% by volume which will come into effect from 1 January 2019. I intend to further increase this obligation to 11% by volume from 1 January 2020 and also carry out a public consultation next year in relation to further increases in the post-2020 period. 

In order to promote further penetration of electric vehicles, I have secured Government support to expand the range of measures in place drive the electrification of transport, adding home charger support, Benefit in kind enhancement, toll reduction and support to the taxi/hackney sector.

I opened the first phase of the Support Scheme for Renewable Heat for applications on 12 September.  This phase provides a grant of up to 30% of the installation cost of a heat pump system in non-domestic applications. 

I launched the first call for applications for the Climate Action Fund on 9 July. This is one of four funds established under the National Development Plan 2018-2027 as part of Project Ireland 2040 and it will have an allocation of at least €500 million over the period to 2027.

I secured Government approval in July for the high level design of the new Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS). The new Scheme has been designed to deliver Ireland’s contribution towards an EU-wide renewable energy target of 32% out to 2030, within a competitive auction-based, cost effective framework. The first RESS auction will deliver ‘shovel ready’ projects, reducing the gap to 2020 and assisting in the early delivery for our trajectory to 2030.

For 2030, the recently agreed EU Effort Sharing Regulation (ESR) sets out binding annual greenhouse gas emission targets for each Member State for the period 2021 to 2030. Ireland’s target under this Regulation will be for a 30% reduction in 2005 levels of emissions by 2030. This is where we must now focus our efforts to ensure that at the absolute very least we meet our 2030 target.

To achieve this 2030 target, Ireland may need to avail of flexibility options built into the ESR agreement, including provision to transfer allowances from the ETS to the non-ETS sector and provision to take account of emissions credits attributable to land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) activities.

Television Licence Fee Collection

Questions (19)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

19. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the reason there is a 15% evasion rate in relation to the television licence fee. [41227/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

I am very much aware of the challenges that face the existing TV Licence system, including the current unacceptable levels of evasion.  While the rate has fallen from 15.3% at the end of 2013 to the current rate of 14.1%, it is still very high.  In light of changes in technology and viewing habits, I accept that the current system needs to be reformed.

Having said that, despite its limitations, it's important that I make sure that the current system works as an effective collection mechanism. In that context, my Department has been working with An Post and RTÉ on an ongoing basis so that all steps are being taken to ensure the system is working as effectively as possible. Measures such as marketing campaigns, more evening and weekend inspections and appointment of additional temporary inspectors are just some of the initiatives that have been utilised to enhance sales and improve compliance rates.

As the Deputy will be aware, I obtained Government approval last year to draft a number of legislative amendments to the Broadcasting Act 2009, including amendments for the tendering of TV Licence fee collection.

The proposed amendments were considered under Pre-Legislative Scrutiny by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Climate Action & Environment and I received their report on March 8th. The Bill is currently being drafted by Parliamentary Counsel and is included as a priority on the Government's Legislative Programme.

As the Deputy is also aware, I requested the Committee to examine the longer term issue of the future funding of public service media and the Committee published their report at the end of November 2017.

Following consideration of the recommendations made in that report, Government approval was received in July 2018 to establish a Working Group on the Future Funding of Public Service Broadcasting.  The Working Group will examine a number of options to support future funding and the reform of television licence collection and it is intended that it will report to me in Quarter 1 2019.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Questions (20)

Mick Wallace

Question:

20. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his views on the Environmental Protection Agency's figures from May 2018 that emissions from those sectors of the economy covered by the 2009 effort-sharing decision could be between 0% and 1% below 2005 levels by 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41176/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

The extent of the challenge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, in line with our EU and international commitments, is well understood by the Government, as reflected in the National Policy Position on Climate Action and Low Carbon Development, published in April 2014, and now underpinned by the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015 which was enacted in December 2015.  The National Policy Position provides a high-level policy direction for the adoption and implementation by Government of plans to enable the State to move to a low carbon economy by 2050.

The 2009 Effort Sharing Decision (ESD) 406/2009/EC established binding annual greenhouse gas emissions targets for EU Member States for the period 2013 to 2020. These targets concern emissions from most sectors not included in the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), such as transport, buildings, agriculture and waste. For the year 2020 itself, the target set for Ireland is that emissions should be 20% below their value in 2005. This is jointly the most demanding 2020 reduction target allocated under the ESD, and one shared only by Denmark and Luxembourg. 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) produces national greenhouse gas emission projections on an annual basis. These projections are compiled to meet EU reporting obligations and to inform national policy development. The preparation of EPA projections is a collaborative process with input from a range of State bodies and Government Departments.

The latest projections of greenhouse gas emissions, published by the EPA in May 2018, indicate that emissions from those sectors of the economy covered by the ESD could be between 0% and 1% below 2005 levels by 2020.

While this is very disappointing, it is not surprising given the recent pace of economic growth, with increases in emissions from the agriculture and transport sectors in particular. The projected shortfall to our targets is further exacerbated by both the constrained investment capacity over the past decade due to the economic crisis, and the extremely challenging nature of the target itself. In fact, it is now accepted that Ireland’s 2020 target was not consistent with what would be achievable on an EU wide cost-effective basis.

The ESD includes a number of flexibility mechanisms to enable Member States to meet their annual emissions targets. Using banked emissions allocations from the period to 2015, Ireland is projected to comply with its emissions reduction targets in each of the years 2013 to 2017. However, cumulative emissions are projected to exceed annual targets for 2018, 2019 and 2020, which will result in a requirement to purchase additional allowances.  While this purchasing requirement is not, at this stage, expected to be significant, further analysis is ongoing to quantify the likely costs involved, in light of the final amount and price of allowances required.

Ireland's first statutory National Mitigation Plan, which I published in July last year, provides a framework to guide investment decisions by Government in domestic measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The purpose of the Plan is to specify the policy measures required in order to manage Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions at a level appropriate for making progress towards our long-term national transition objective as set out in the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015, as well as to take into account existing EU and international obligations on the State in relation to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The Plan is a living document that will be updated as ongoing analysis, dialogue and technological innovation generate more and more cost-effective sectoral mitigation options.

Building on these strategies, the publication in February of the National Development Plan, reaffirms the Government’s commitment to transitioning Ireland to a low carbon, climate resilient economy and society. It will lead to a significant step change in funding available for climate action over the next decade. This funding commitment provides a clear opportunity for significant up-scaling in our investments to deliver deep emissions reductions in the coming decade and to further develop and implement the National Mitigation Plan and National Adaptation Framework. Reflecting the strong commitment of Government on this issue, almost €22 billion will be directed, between Exchequer and non-Exchequer resources, to addressing the transition to a low-carbon and climate resilient society. In addition, the National Development Plan allocated a further €8.6 billion for investments in sustainable mobility. This means that well over €1 in €5 spent under the National Development Plan will be on climate mitigation, and this capital investment will enable us to deliver a significant reduction in our greenhouse gas emissions over the period to 2030.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Questions (21)

Clare Daly

Question:

21. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the steps he will take to address the concerns highlighted in the most recent report from the Climate Action Change Advisory Council indicating that carbon emissions are increasing instead of decreasing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41063/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

As has been highlighted by the Climate Change Advisory Council in its 2018 Annual Review, published on 25 July, meeting Ireland's EU targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and 2030 will be extremely challenging.

For 2030, the recently agreed EU Effort Sharing Regulation sets out binding annual greenhouse gas emission targets for each Member State for the period 2021 to 2030. Ireland’s target under this Regulation will be for a 30% reduction in 2005 levels of emissions by 2030. This is where we must now focus our efforts to ensure that, at the absolute very least, we meet our 2030 target.

To meet these targets, Ireland's first statutory National Mitigation Plan, which I published in July last year, provides a framework to guide investment decisions by Government in domestic measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This Plan very explicitly defined the scale of the challenge Ireland faces in decarbonising its economy and acknowledged that it was a first step and not a complete roadmap to achieve the national transition objective to 2050. Rather it began the process of development of medium- to long-term options to ensure that we are well positioned to take the necessary actions in the next and future decades. The Plan is a ‘living document’ which is being implemented and updated on an ongoing basis.

Building on these strategies, the publication in February of the National Development Plan, reaffirms the Government’s commitment to transitioning Ireland to a low carbon, climate resilient economy and society. It will lead to a significant step change in funding available for climate action over the next decade. This funding commitment provides a clear opportunity for significant up-scaling in our investments to deliver deep emissions reductions in the coming decade and to further develop and implement the National Mitigation Plan and National Adaptation Framework. Reflecting the strong commitment of Government on this issue, almost €22 billion will be directed, between Exchequer and non-Exchequer resources, to addressing the transition to a low-carbon and climate resilient society. This means that well over €1 in €5 spent under the National Development Plan will be on climate mitigation, and this capital investment will enable us to deliver a significant reduction in our greenhouse gas emissions over the period to 2030.

Notwithstanding this, I am required, under the 2015 Act, to bring forward a new National Mitigation Plan at least once every five years. The latest date by which this must happen is, therefore, July 2022.  I propose to initiate shortly the process of updating the current Plan in order to facilitate the detailed policy design required to realise the high-level of ambition articulated in the National Development Plan as well as to develop further cost-effective policy options to address Ireland's targets under the Effort Sharing Regulation. This process will also be informed by Ireland’s National Energy and Climate Plan, and by a new long-term low emissions strategy, both of which Ireland must prepare and finalise by the end of 2019 under the EU Clean Energy Package. I intend that the long-term strategy will further elaborate sectoral pathways for Ireland to meet its long-term decarbonisation objectives to 2050, as set out in the National Policy Position.

I propose also to respond formally to the recommendations set out in the Council’s 2018 Annual Review in the context of the 2018 Annual Transition Statement, which I expect to be in a position to lay before the Houses of the Oireachtas in the coming weeks.

National Broadband Plan

Questions (22)

Bríd Smith

Question:

22. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment when the procurement team will announce its decision on the remaining bid for the national broadband plan, NBP; the way in which this procurement process can have competitive tension with just one bidder; if it remains open to the team to reject this bid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41215/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

On 18 September 2018, my Department received the Final Tender submission from the bidder in the State led intervention.  My Department's procurement team is now evaluating the bidder’s detailed submission.

The procurement process for the National Broadband Plan has of necessity been a complex and lengthy process. It had the benefit of competing bidders from the outset of the procurement process and until after the Detailed Solutions stage, following which eir withdrew from the process.

Evaluation of the final tender submission is ongoing and will be allowed the time required.  On conclusion of the evaluation, my Department will make a recommendation to me on whether to appoint the bidder as preferred bidder and I will bring the matter to Government for decision.  

Inland Fisheries

Questions (23)

Peter Burke

Question:

23. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the status of the establishment of an eel hardship fund; when this fund will be issued; the amount that will be allocated; the time period in which eligible applicants will be paid; the qualifying criteria for the scheme; if all licence holders will be paid a fee; if the ESB has provided resources for such a fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41108/18]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

Ireland’s Eel Management Plan (EMP), including the closure of commercial fishing, was approved, in 2009, by the European Commission under EU Regulation 1100/2007. Fishing for eel was by way of public licence and therefore the issue of compensation does not arise. However, both Minister Naughten and I have secured Exchequer funding for a support measure for former licensed fishermen.

Officials have engaged with the European Commission in relation to Ireland's proposals to fund a support scheme for former eel fishermen and the Department has received written advice from the Revenue Commissioners regarding the tax treatment of any payments under such a scheme.

It is intended that the scheme will be open to former fishermen who held an Inland Fisheries Ireland eel fishing licence or a permit from ESB in the period prior to the closure under the EU Regulation of 2007. Officials have also worked with IFI and ESB to verify catch records declared by fishermen.

I expect that an announcement of the scheme, including qualifying criteria and other conditions and a timeframe for prospective payments, will be made shortly.

Online Safety

Questions (24)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

24. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment when the office of the digital safety commissioner will be established; and if he has been lobbied by social media companies that seek to prevent the establishment of such an office. [41229/18]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

The Law Reform Commission Report on Harmful Communications and Digital Safety, published in 2016 recommended, inter alia, the establishment of an Office of the Digital Safety Commissioner of Ireland.

As the Deputy is aware, in February the Government did not oppose the passage at second stage of a Private Members Bill by Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire which seeks to establish an Office of the Digital Safety Commissioner. This Bill, the Digital Safety Commissioner Bill 2017, has been referred to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment by the Oireachtas.

The Action Plan for Online Safety was launched by the Taoiseach on 11 July and contains 25 actions to be implemented by the six sponsor Departments over the next 12-18 months. These actions cover a range of activities relevant to the proposed Office of the Digital Safety Commissioner, including education and awareness raising, communicating with the public, and oversight and consultative structures. Action 18 of the plan commits the Government to working with the Joint Oireachtas Committee in relation to Deputy Ó Laoghaire's Bill.

In light of this commitment, I will be appearing before the Committee on 25 October 2018 to discuss the Bill and the issues it raises including possible jurisdictional and legal issues.

I have met representatives of online platforms and have had broad ranging discussions on various aspects of online safety with them.

I am aware that a number of the larger online platforms have publicly expressed concerns regarding how the Digital Safety Commissioner Bill 2017 is drafted. For example in their appearance before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment on 1 August 2018, representatives of Facebook gave the committee an overview of the issues which they have identified in the text of the Bill.  However, online platforms have also indicated that they indeed recognise the positive aspects of such an Office.

Mining Industry

Questions (25)

Timmy Dooley

Question:

25. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the status of the monitoring and actions to be taken to address the opening of a sinkhole at Magheracloone, County Monaghan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41210/18]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

A land subsidence incident in the grounds of the Magheracloone GAA club was reported on Monday morning, 24th September, affecting lands above the disused underground gypsum mine at Drumgossatt, Co. Monaghan.  An investigation team engaged by the company, incorporating mining engineers from the UK, arrived at the site to assess the situation and determine the scale and cause of the subsidence and the risk of further events occurring in the area.

My Department’s senior geologists and I visited the site on Tuesday 25th September. 

Since the subsidence occurred, my officials have been liaising with the relevant regulatory authorities, i.e., Monaghan County Council and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the company on an ongoing basis and have continued to monitor the situation closely.

Both current underground mining operations at Drummond in Co. Monaghan and Tara Mines in Navan, Co. Meath, as well as the recently closed mines at Galmoy and Lisheen, are subject to environmental monitoring, including subsidence monitoring. Operations at the disused Drumgossatt underground gypsum mine ceased in 1989. Subsidence monitoring has been undertaken at this site by Gyproc, the former mining operator, for well over a decade.  Gyproc also undertake subsidence monitoring at their nearby current mine (Drummond).

The cause of the collapse is the subject of a detailed investigation by Gyproc and its external mining consultants (SRK). The precise actions to be implemented, including future subsidence monitoring, will be informed by the findings of this report. In the interim, the Department continues to engage closely with Monaghan County Council, the EPA and the operator.

Post Office Network

Questions (26)

Brian Stanley

Question:

26. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment further to the announced closure of 159 post offices and the ongoing review process for these post offices, the policy he has developed in terms of making progress towards changes in services available through the post office network or broadening services to maintain a viable network of post offices and maintain an efficient postal delivery service. [41190/18]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

As Minister, I am responsible for the postal sector including the governance of An Post which is a commercial State company with a mandate to deliver a postal delivery service and a viable post office network. I am acutely conscious of the value placed by communities in both rural and urban areas on services provided by post offices and I am fully committed to ensuring that a sustainable post office network is available to all our citizens for the medium and for the long term.

As a result of various actions taken by Government in the last two years, An Post has been able to construct and begin implementing a strategic plan for a sustainable future. There is widespread acceptance that the post office network requires modernisation to build, to maintain and to protect a service that meetings the needs of communities across the country. As part of its strategic plan, An Post is implementing a renewed vision for the post office network which centres on the availability of new services in a modernised, revitalised network. Such services include a better range of Government services, financial services and e-commerce services for shoppers and small businesses. Investment of €50 million in the network, which is equivalent to €45,000 per post office, is about getting communities to use the enhanced services in their local post office.

As part of its strategy for modernising the post office network, An Post has established a dedicated business unit within An Post, An Post Retail.  Additional services that An Post propose to introduce through the network include a better range of Government services, financial services and e-commerce services for shoppers and small businesses. There is already a rapid expansion of banking services happening with the Smart Current Account and enhanced foreign exchange facilities. Post offices will have credit card services and will be able to provide loans to small business and personal loans. A new partnership between Avantcard and An Post will also see personal loan services available in every post office across the country and the creation of new jobs. An Post is committed to ensuring that our post offices will be equipped with the range of services that will attract and retain footfall but these measures are meaningless unless the public use the services provided. Key to the survival of this renewed network is the willingness of all citizens to use it.

Government business is the backbone of the network. In April this year the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection renewed her Department’s contract with An Post to provide pensions, child benefit and other social welfare payments at post offices.

While Government policy is to offer Government services online, there will always be a segment of the population that is not comfortable or proficient accessing online tools or services. The post office network is the obvious choice as an 'offline gateway' for citizens with its nationwide network and existing strong relationship with offline citizens. Government funding of €80,000 has been allocated to roll out a pilot scheme for Digital Assist, which I launched last week, which will see 10 post offices equipped to help citizens with online Government transactions.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Questions (27)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

27. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his views on the introduction of multi-year whole economy carbon budgets as a useful tool to tackle climate change and adhere to targets as has been introduced in the UK; if he has brought this or similar proposals to Cabinet; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41211/18]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

The regulation of greenhouse gas emissions in Ireland is determined through two different mechanisms.

Emissions from power generation and large industrial installations are regulated by the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS), which imposes an overall emissions target at EU level rather than Member State level.

Emissions from other sectors of the economy, including agriculture, transport, buildings, waste, and other industrial sectors are subject to targets at Member State level. The 2009 Effort Sharing Decision (ESD) 406/2009/EC established binding annual greenhouse gas emissions targets for EU Member States for the period 2013 to 2020 for these non-ETS sectors. For the year 2020 itself, the target set for Ireland is that emissions should be 20% below their levels in 2005.

For the period to 2030, the recently agreed EU Effort Sharing Regulation (ESR) sets out binding annual emission targets for each Member State for the period 2021 to 2030. Ireland’s target under this Regulation will require a 30% reduction in 2005 levels of emissions by 2030.

Both the Effort Sharing Decision and Effort Sharing Regulation incorporate a number of mechanisms that provide some flexibility to Member States in the achievement of their annual targets. These include provisions to bank or to carry forward allowances from earlier or future years or to purchase allowances from other Member States. These mechanisms are essential to take account of inter-annual fluctuations in greenhouse gas emissions, notwithstanding the objective to reduce overall emissions over time.

A number of further mitigation options are built into the ESR for all Member States, including provision to transfer allowances from the ETS to the non-ETS sector and provision to take account of emissions credits attributable to land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) activities.

The latest available projections of greenhouse gas emissions, published by the EPA in May 2018, indicate that Ireland’s effective emissions budget for the 2021 to 2030 period for non-ETS sectors, arising from the ESR annual ceilings, will be 380.3 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent.

In light of the fact that key emitting sectors are already subject to effective carbon budgets, either at EU level or Member State level as set out above, I have no plans to introduce an alternative carbon budget along the lines described by the Deputy.

Environmental Policy

Questions (28)

Timmy Dooley

Question:

28. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the level of use of single use plastics in public buildings; the likely environmental impact of a ban in public buildings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41208/18]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

I am working closely with the European Commission and other EU Ministers for the Environment to agree a Directive that will give Member States the powers to take measures to reduce the impact of single use plastics on the environment. As the Deputy will be aware, all Member States, including Ireland, are prohibited from immediately banning single use plastic packaging, in accordance with the EU Packaging Directive. The proposed Directive will contain monitoring requirements for Member States for a range of single use plastic items, including cutlery and cups. This will be the first time that such data will be collected and monitored in order to assess the impact of reducing the consumption of and banning certain plastic items. However, in the meantime, it is my intention, in advance of the changes envisaged under the Single Use Plastics Directive being finalised, to bring a proposal to Government to ensure that single use plastics will not be used in Government Departments.

Alternative Energy Projects

Question No. 30 answered with Question No. 7.

Questions (29)

Brian Stanley

Question:

29. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his policy for the development of alternative energy sources to fossil fuels in respect of the decarbonisation of the environment and reaching emission reduction targets. [41193/18]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

The 2014 National Policy Position on Climate Action and Low Carbon Development sets out an ambitious long-term commitment to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in Ireland by at least 80% (compared to 1990 levels) by 2050 across the electricity generation, built environment and transport sectors; and in parallel, to pursue an approach to carbon neutrality in the agriculture and land-use sector, including forestry, which does not compromise capacity for sustainable food production.

Under the Paris Agreement, the EU has committed to a reduction of at least 40% in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, compared with 1990 levels, to be achieved by reductions in the Emission Trading System (ETS) sector of 43% and in the non-ETS sector of 30%. The EU Effort Sharing Regulation, which entered into force on 9 July 2018, sets out binding annual greenhouse gas emission targets for each Member State for the period 2021 to 2030. Ireland’s target under this Regulation will be for a 30% reduction in non-ETS emissions (compared to 2005 levels) by 2030, with a starting point of May 2019, based on average emissions over the period 2016 to 2018.

The latest projections of greenhouse gas emissions, published by the EPA in May 2018, indicate that emissions from those sectors of the economy covered by the 2009 Effort Sharing Decision could be between 0% and 1% below 2005 levels by 2020.

While this is very disappointing, it is not surprising given the recent pace of economic growth, with increases in emissions from the agriculture and transport sectors in particular. The projected shortfall to our targets is further exacerbated by both the constrained investment capacity over the past decade due to the economic crisis, and the extremely challenging nature of the target itself.

Ireland's National Mitigation Plan (NMP), published in 2017, provides a framework to guide investment decisions by Government in domestic measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Plan sets out the policy measures required in order to manage Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions at a level appropriate for making progress towards our long-term national transition objective, as set out in the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015, as well as to take into account our EU and international obligations. Although this first Plan does not provide a complete roadmap to achieve our national transition objective to 2050, it begins the process of development of medium- to long-term options to ensure that we are well positioned to take the necessary actions in the next and future decades. Building on the NMP, the publication in February 2018 of the National Development Plan (NDP), will lead to a significant step change in funding available for climate action over the next decade. Almost €22 billion will be directed, between Exchequer and non-Exchequer resources, to addressing the transition to a low-carbon and climate resilient society. In addition, the NDP allocated a further €8.6 billion for investments in sustainable mobility.

The 2015 Energy White Paper presents a long-term strategic vision that is intended to guide the direction of energy policy from now until 2030. The White Paper identifies the importance of diversifying Ireland's energy generation portfolio and largely decarbonising the energy sector by 2050 but also recognises that some fossil fuels will remain significant elements of Ireland’s energy supply in that transition period.

The 2009 EU Renewable Energy Directive sets Ireland a legally binding target of meeting 16% of our energy requirements from renewable sources by 2020.  Good progress has been made to date, but the target remains challenging, particularly in light of economic growth and a growing demand for energy.  Latest data from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) indicates that 10.6% of Ireland’s energy requirements in 2017 were met from renewable sources, with an expectation that Ireland will achieve a range of  potentially up to 90% by 2020. The SEAI has also estimated that the contribution of renewables avoided €276 million of fossil fuel imports in 2017.

The Government has also adopted a range of policy measures and schemes to incentivise the use of renewable energy including the Renewable Energy Feed-In-Tariff (REFIT) schemes.  In addition, my Department is developing the new Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS), which will be designed to assist Ireland in meeting its renewable energy contributions out to 2030; and the Support Scheme for Renewable Heat (SSRH), the purpose of which is to reduce the use of fossil fuels within the heating sector.

Question No. 30 answered with Question No. 7.