Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Questions (169)

Micheál Martin


169. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if there are climate change experts in his Department. [5682/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

My Department currently has a total of 69 staff assigned to climate and related energy policy functions, across eight separate divisions. This staff complement has significant experience in developing and implementing climate and energy policy at international, EU, national, regional and local levels. In addition to its own staff, the Department also has access to scientific and technical advice in agencies under its aegis to assist it in delivering the Government’s climate policy objectives. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the competent authority in Ireland for the preparation and annual publication of official inventories and projections of greenhouse gas emissions, and for reporting this data to the European Union and to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The Oireachtas receives a summary of the most recent inventory and projections prepared by the EPA each year in the Annual Transition Statement, which I am required to prepare and submit in accordance with the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015.

The EPA also provides a range of expert scientific and technical advice on climate change to the Government. The EPA supports the Department in representing Ireland at relevant meetings of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The EPA also undertakes a number of climate-related research and awareness activities, including the provision of support for the delivery of activities under the National Dialogue on Climate Action. The EPA also produces, in accordance with its statutory mandate, a quadrennial State of the Environment Report which provides an integrated assessment of the overall quality of Ireland's environment, the pressures being placed on it and the societal responses to current and emerging environmental issues. The last such report was published in 2016, includes a specific focus on climate change, and is available from the EPA’s website.

The Department is also supported in the delivery of its policy objectives for the decarbonisation of the energy sector by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). In addition to the delivery of a range of programmes and schemes on behalf of the Department, the functions of SEAI include the preparation of national energy statistics and projections. SEAI also undertakes national energy modelling functions, informed inter alia by data collected from the various schemes and programmes that it administers.

SEAI had a total of 91 staff as at the end of December 2018. EPA had a total of 410 staff at that time. While it is difficult to fully disaggregate the number of EPA staff working on climate issues, the EPA estimate this at 32.

The work of both EPA and SEAI inform, in turn, the wider work of the Technical Research and Modelling (TRAM) Group, which provides the overall framework for the provision of technical capacity to Government Departments for climate action policy development and implementation.

TRAM was established on foot of a Government Decision in 2015 and its membership comprises technical experts from relevant Government Departments and Agencies. In addition, representatives of externally contracted bodies providing modelling and analytical support may participate in TRAM meetings. To date, these services have been provided by ESRI, UCC, UCD and EnvEcon. TRAM is chaired at Assistant Secretary level in my Department and reports to the Climate Action High Level Steering Group, which is chaired at ministerial level.

TRAM performs a number of functions in support of climate, air and energy policy development processes for this Department and for a number of other Government Departments and Agencies:

- implementation of a rolling work programme of technical analysis and research required, inter alia, in order to further the process of identifying the most cost effective transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy in the context of climate, air and energy policy;

- provision of a clearing house for the development of climate, air and energy policy in other related technical areas such as the EU ETS, air quality, and the application of fiscal instruments;

- acting as a focal point for technical information flow between relevant Government Departments and Agencies on issues of a technical and economic nature; and

- providing a resource for the engagement of the necessary external expertise to undertake the modelling, analysis and research required.

The climate-related work of the Department is also supported by the climate information platform, Climate Ireland, which comprises a website and other resources to assist with climate adaptation planning in Ireland. Climate Ireland was originally developed under the EPA research programme on Climate Change and the EPA currently manages the operational platform with expert support from six staff members in the Centre for Marine and Renewable Energy (MaREI), based in UCC. The platform provides decision makers with a one stop repository of climate specific information, data and knowledge to support planning for the impacts and consequences of climate change and supports the Department through their work with the key sectors in preparing sectorial adaptation plans as required under the National Adaptation Framework. The Climate Ireland team also play a pivotal role in helping to build capacity and knowledge of climate related matters across all the sectors including Local Government and it is fully intended that Climate Ireland will continue to function as a long-term operational support for climate action in Ireland.