Questions Nos. 1 to 10, inclusive, answered orally.

Questions Nos. 11 to 47, inclusive, resubmitted.

Questions Nos. 48 to 54, inclusive, answered orally.

Medical Waste Disposal

Questions Nos. 56 to 60, inclusive, answered orally.

Questions (55)

John Curran

Question:

55. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the progress made with the relevant agencies and stakeholders to deliver the annual support of €75 for the disposal of medical incontinence wear for vulnerable persons to help meet the average annual cost of disposing of domestic waste; when he expects this support to be implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21514/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

My Department has engaged with relevant stakeholders, including representative organisations and public bodies, in an effort to see how best to provide the support to the target group. These bodies have also examined how health professionals and community welfare officers could assist the scheme. It should be noted however that none of the options around verification are straightforward, and we must be cognisant of data minimisation where sensitive personal medical information is involved. It is disappointing that it has not yet been possible to implement a support measure. It is important for all those involved, including the representative organisations, that the support goes to the correct people and that the scheme is not dependent on applications that cannot be verified.

A number of models of delivery have been explored, but challenges arose in all options. Significant personal data concerns, under the new GDPR arrangements, were raised in one case. High administration costs and procurement issues were also identified that would have been problematic in terms of getting the balance right between the prevention of fraudulent claims and the delivery of the scheme in a cost effective manner. Unfortunately, the absence of a database of persons who are in receipt of incontinence products from the HSE, which could be used to verify persons who are medically incontinent, has impacted on the delivery of a cost effective scheme.

Notwithstanding the complex issues at play, which are understandable given the sensitive nature of the medical data in question, I would like assure the Deputy that I continue to be committed to address this issue. My Department is calling the stakeholders together on 13 June to discuss the matter further and a number of possible solutions to deliver this scheme.

Questions Nos. 56 to 60, inclusive, answered orally.

Climate Change Policy

Questions No. 62 answered orally.

Questions (61)

John Curran

Question:

61. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his goals and targets to meet emissions targets for 2030 in view of the climate emergency that has been declared on an annual basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21515/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

The declaration of a climate and biodiversity emergency by the Dáil on 9 May underlines the importance of the work currently underway to develop a new All of Government Climate Plan. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C, published last October, confirmed that the international community has a limited window for real action to reduce emissions to ensure that current and future generations can live sustainably in a low-carbon and climate-resilient world. In response to this challenge, the All of Government Climate Plan will set out how this Government 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. It will have a strong focus on implementation, including clear timelines and steps needed to achieve each action.

The Plan will lead to a significant step-up in policy ambition and delivery, to ensure that we at least meet our 2030 targets and get on a clear pathway to meeting our 2050 objectives. It will be updated every year and will also be informed by the recommendations contained in the report of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Climate Action.

The goals and targets will be informed by analysis of the most cost-effective choices available to reach our 2030 targets. By articulating a decarbonisation ambition range for each sector, the framework provided by the Plan will enable each sector to identify and put in place the most appropriate policy tools to deliver this stated ambition in order for Ireland to meet its 2030 targets.

I intend that the Plan will be published over the coming weeks.

Questions No. 62 answered orally.

Citizens Assembly

Questions (63)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

63. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans for implementing the outstanding recommendations from the Citizens' Assembly. [14251/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

As part of the Programme for Partnership Government the Government committed to appoint a Citizens’ Assembly to examine a number of key challenges for Ireland including the Eight Amendment of the constitution and how the State can make Ireland a leader in climate change. As in the former case this has been followed by the establishment of a Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action to consider its recommendations. The Citizens’ Assembly did very valuable work as has the Committee who held many hours of hearings under the chairpersonship of Hildegarde Naughton.

I was very pleased to participate in the debate in this House on 8 May in which the report of the Committee was unanimously endorsed and a climate and biodiversity emergency was declared.

This has provided a very solid foundation on which to build an ambitious all of government action plan for which I have been given responsibility by cabinet.

This plan will consider the detailed recommendations of the all Party Committee and of the Citizens Assembly which proceeded it.

The plan will set goals for all key sectors including electricity, agriculture, transport, industry, buildings, waste management, and the public sector.

It will have a strong focus on implementation including clear timelines and the steps needed to achieve each action.

EU Directives

Questions (64)

Alan Farrell

Question:

64. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the status of efforts to reduce single use plastics with reference to the new EU directive on the impact of certain plastic products; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21481/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

The European Commission’s Directive on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment, commonly referred to as the Single Use Plastics Directive, contains ambitious targets which have been successfully negotiated between the European Parliament and Member States. The finalised Directive will be formally adopted shortly and has to be transposed by Member States within two years at which stage it becomes law.

I have asked my officials to start work on the preparatory measures, legal and otherwise, needed to act on the implementation of the Directive when enacted. The Single Use Plastics Directive incorporates a wide range of measures. These include consumption reduction targets, product design, extended producer responsibilities, collection obligations, awareness raising measures, as well as the banning of some products, which will all have to be implemented between 2021 and 2030.

In addition, in advance of the publication of this Directive and with a view to showing leadership in dealing with this difficult waste stream, the Government decided that Government Departments would not purchase single-use plastic cups, cutlery and drinking straws from 1 January 2019. This decision was extended to all public bodies and commercial state agencies under the aegis of Ministers with effect from 1 April 2019.

Illegal Dumping

Questions (65)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

65. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the actions he is taking to assist county councils deal with incidents of illegal dumping and fly tipping; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21718/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

My Department has introduced a number of measures to strengthen efforts to improve waste enforcement generally and target illegal dumping. These include:

- An annual waste enforcement grant of €7.4 million to support the recruitment and retention of 150 local authority waste enforcement personnel across the country;

- The establishment of the Waste Enforcement Regional Lead Authorities;

- The establishment of a National Waste Enforcement Steering Committee which facilitates more co-ordinated multi agency operations taking place on a regional basis.

In addition, my Department has developed the Anti-Dumping Initiative to work in partnership with local authorities and community organisations in identifying high risk or problem areas, developing appropriate enforcement responses and carrying out clean-up operations.

I recently announced funding of €3 million for the 2019 Anti-Dumping Initiative, an increase of 50% on last year, to support communities around the country to continue to tackle illegal dumping. Innovation, surveillance using drones, special collections for awkward items like mattresses, spreading awareness among young people and recognising the work of volunteers will play a role in this year’s campaign.

There will be a special emphasis on targeting dumping blackspots and illegal operators. Since 2017, the Anti-Dumping Initiative has supported the removal of some 5,000 tonnes of illegal waste from some of the country’s most notorious fly tipping black-spots and approximately 50% of this year’s funding will go towards continuing to tackle this problem.

Renewable Energy Incentives

Questions (66)

Peter Fitzpatrick

Question:

66. Deputy Peter Fitzpatrick asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to put in place a payment for solar electricity in order that households and communities receive payment for the power they feed into the grid. [21788/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

I have recently set out a new ambition for Ireland, of reaching 70% renewable electricity by 2030, and details on how this will be delivered will be contained in the soon to be launched All of Government Climate Action Plan. The Plan will set out the necessary policy measures to help meet our 2030 target and will put Ireland on a clear pathway to meeting our 2050 objectives. This will require both public and private investment, and large societal shifts in technology, attitude and behaviour. It will also involve a shift in which renewable technologies we support and a shift towards a more distributed generation system, including community participation and a focus on the energy ‘prosumer’. The Plan will include a roadmap for how we enable micro generation, with a particular emphasis on self-consumption, as this is where the value of electricity produced by micro generators is of most value, both for the consumer, in terms of reduced electricity costs, and for the grid in terms of reduced fossil fuel imports.

In July 2018, my Department launched a new micro-generation scheme to support domestic customers who install solar photovoltaic panels in their homes. The pilot scheme, which is administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, will be subject to a review in the coming months at which time the costs of installation will be assessed and further opportunities to broaden this scheme to other groups and other technologies will be explored. Potential future phases of support for micro-generation in Ireland may include a tariff, as we align with the ambition of the recast Renewable Energy Directive which recognises the rights, entitlements and obligations of renewable self-consumers.

Last year government approved the High Level Design of the new Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) which will provide pathways for communities to participate in and benefit from renewable electricity generation.

Climate Change Policy

Questions (67, 81, 85)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

67. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the three most important actions he plans to take to address the issue of climate change and carbon reduction, including development of the alternative energy sector, incentivising the transport sector and to change to renewable fuels; the extent to which the domestic transport sector can be influential in this; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21742/19]

View answer

Catherine Connolly

Question:

81. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the timeframe for implementation of the report of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Climate Action, Climate Change: A Cross-Party Consensus for Action; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21786/19]

View answer

Timmy Dooley

Question:

85. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the actions he plans to take following the declaration of a climate and biodiversity emergency. [21780/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 67, 81 and 85 together.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C, published last October, confirmed that the international community has a limited window for real action to reduce emissions to ensure that current and future generations can live sustainably in a low-carbon and climate-resilient world.

The decision of the Dail to declare, on Thursday 9 May, a climate and biodiversity emergency in the context of endorsing the report of the Joint Committee on Climate Action is a significant statement. It underlines the importance that all Parties in the Dail attach to taking urgent action on climate.

In response to this challenge, the All of Government Climate Plan will set out how this Government intends to make Ireland a leader in responding to climate change by driving the delivery of policies to reduce emissions in all key sectors, including electricity, agriculture, transport, industry, buildings, and the public sector. The Plan will have a strong focus on implementation, including clear timelines and steps needed to achieve each action.

It will lead to a significant step-up in policy ambition and delivery, to ensure that we at least meet our 2030 targets and get on a clear pathway to meeting our 2050 objectives.

I have welcomed the publication of the report of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Climate Action, and acknowledge the important work of the members and chair of the Committee in preparing this milestone report in relation to Ireland’s climate policy. This report builds on the strong foundation provided by the work of the Citizens’ Assembly in 2018.

The final report of the Committee contains a detailed set of recommendations addressing polices and measures across a range of Government Departments and agencies, including in relation to the alternative energy and transport sectors. The recommendations are now being taken up by the Government in the context of the All of Government Climate Plan.

I intend that the All of Government Plan will be published over the coming weeks.

Bituminous Fuel Ban

Questions (68)

James Browne

Question:

68. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the position regarding the introduction of a nationwide ban on smoky fuels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21342/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

The ban on the marketing, sale and distribution of bituminous coal, or ‘the smoky coal ban’ as it is commonly known, was first introduced in Dublin in 1990, and subsequently extended to our major cities. Following a public consultation process, it was further extended in 2012, and now applies in 26 urban areas nationwide. The ban has proved very effective in reducing particulate matter and sulphur dioxide levels and has had the effect of significantly improving public health. Research indicates, for example, that the ban has resulted in over 350 fewer annual deaths in Dublin alone. I am disappointed that a number of coal firms have indicated that they would challenge the decision of two former Ministers to expand the smoky coal ban nationwide. Banning the use of smoky coal would have a positive impact on air quality and public health, particularly in built up areas. I am working with the Attorney General to finalise a legally robust plan which will improve air quality by reducing particulate matter in the air. High levels of particulate matter arise from a number of sources, including the burning of smoky coal.

I have also asked the EPA for a report on air quality in areas not currently covered by the smoky coal ban. This will provide important evidence which can assist in the development of this legally robust plan.

Pending the completion of this work I am aware of the need to provide clarity now to the public and to the trade to enable them adequately plan for purchases of stock for the 2019/20 heating season. I can confirm therefore that the current ban on bituminous coal will not be extended nationwide for the 2019/20 heating season.

National Broadband Plan

Questions (69)

Timmy Dooley

Question:

69. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the role of companies (details supplied) in the national broadband plan. [21779/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

Tetrad Corporation and McCourt Global LLC. were the two companies that Granahan McCourt relied on to demonstrate its economic and financial capacity for the purposes of the pre- qualification process (PQQ) of the National Broadband Plan procurement process. The requirements for relying on the resources of other entities, are set out in the Project Information Memorandum including at section 10.2 and the Pre-Qualification Questionnaire. Both of these documents have been published. Tetrad Corporation and McCourt Global LLC. provided letters of support as part of that process. Tetrad Corporation and McCourt Global LLC. were assessed individually at PQQ in relation to capacity to meet the financial and economic standing criteria and both passed. This meant that either company was capable of meeting the required criteria without the other.

Tetrad Corporation and McCourt Global both reiterated their support at Final Tender but Tetrad Corporation also provided a commitment letter in relation to the equity required for the project.

This means that Tetrad Corporation has committed to invest in the Project with Granahan McCourt (Dublin) Ireland.

National Broadband Plan Implementation

Questions (70)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

70. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the extent to which the provision of broadband in all areas nationally is progressing; if he anticipates the provision of services to the blank spaces between services within a reasonable time with particular reference to the recently announced national broadband plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21741/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

The National Broadband Plan (NBP) aims to ensure that every home, school and business in Ireland has access to high speed broadband. This is being achieved through a combination of commercial investment across the country, and a State intervention in those areas where commercial operators acting alone are unlikely to invest. The NBP has been a catalyst in encouraging investment by the telecoms sector. In 2012, less than 700,000, or 30% of Irish premises had access to high speed broadband. Today, 74% of the 2.4 million premises in Ireland can access high speed broadband. The NBP State intervention is the subject of the procurement process to engage a company to build, operate and maintain the NBP State intervention network over a 25 year period. The intervention area comprises approximately 540,000 premises and includes 1.1 million people. Following rigorous evaluation by the Department, I recently brought a recommendation to Government to confer Preferred Bidder status on Granahan McCourt, the remaining bidder in the NBP procurement process and Government agreed to this at its meeting on 7 May.

The Government decision means that it is intended to award the State Intervention contract to National Broadband Ireland, subject to the contract close, including the finalisation of financial and legal documents. Deployment of the NBP State Intervention network will commence shortly after that.

The Bidder has indicated that the NBP State intervention will take an estimated 7 years from the beginning of deployment.

In the first year of this roll out, the Bidder will deploy approximately 300 Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) across all counties. It is anticipated that between 7 and 23 BCPs will be deployed in each county. BCPs will provide a community based high speed broadband service, enhancing online participation and allowing for the establishment of digital work hubs in these locations. A deployment plan will be made available by the bidder once the contract is signed. The Bidder is aiming to pass 133,000 premises by end of the second year of the overall deployment, with 70-100,000 passed each year thereafter until roll out is completed.

Broadband Service Speeds

Questions (71)

Tony McLoughlin

Question:

71. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the role the broadband connection points will have in the provision of high speed broadband during year one of the national broadband plan State intervention deployment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21483/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

My Department recognised the need to roll out high speed broadband as quickly as possible. When my Department conducted its mapping exercise in 2014 the consultation documents listed some examples of potential connection points in local communities. This principle was incorporated into the procurement process. These key locations in rural communities will be connected with high speed broadband in year one of the NBP State intervention deployment while waiting for the wider deployment to reach their area. These locations are called Broadband Connection Points (BCPs).There will be approximately 300 nationwide. It is anticipated that between 7 and 23 BCPs will be deployed in each county, to provide a community-based high speed broadband service in year one of the National Broadband Plan State intervention deployment. BCPs will facilitate enhanced online participation and allow for the establishment of digital work hubs in these locations.

All BCPs will also provide free Wi-Fi access to communities. Some locations will also have additional facilities, such as hot-desking. The BCPs should also be used as hubs to support local economic and social initiatives and will form an important element of the local digital strategy developed by local authorities to increase adoption and usage of digital technologies by businesses and communities throughout Ireland.

Locations for the BCPs have been identified by local broadband officers and include schools, businesses, tourism locations, community centres and sports clubs.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Questions (72)

Mick Wallace

Question:

72. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if Ireland was approached in relation to the proposal put together by France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, Spain, Portugal and Luxembourg ahead of the informal EU Council meeting in Sibiu calling on the European Union to step up the fight against climate change and sign up to a European Commission plan to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050; if Ireland will join this call for increased action in view of the recent declaration of a climate emergency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21531/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

The adoption of the motion to endorse the report of the Joint Committee on Climate Action by the Dáil, including the declaration of a climate and biodiversity emergency, is a significant statement and underlines the importance of the work underway on our All of Government Climate Plan. The Government has welcomed the publication of the Joint Committee’s report, which is a milestone in the development of Ireland’s climate policy.

The report of the Joint Committee contains a detailed set of recommendations addressing polices and measures across a range of Government Departments and Agencies, which are now being considered in the context of the All of Government Climate Plan. This Plan will set out how this Government intends to significantly step up our response to climate change by driving the delivery of policies to reduce emissions in all key sectors, including electricity, agriculture, transport, industry, buildings, and the public sector. The Plan will have a strong focus on implementation, including clear timelines and steps needed to achieve each action. It will lead to a significant step-up in policy ambition and delivery, to ensure that we at least meet our 2030 targets and get on a clear pathway to meeting our 2050 objectives.

Ireland is a strong supporter of the commitment made by the EU under the Paris Agreement to reduce emissions by at least 40% by 2030, compared with 1990 levels.

The joint proposal referred to by the Deputy was circulated in advance of the informal EU summit in Siblu to all Member States who were invited to support it. While Ireland supports an ambitious long term climate strategy for the EU, discussions on the European Commission’s proposed strategy are still ongoing in the Council. Ireland looks forward to further discussion on the EU’s long-term climate ambitions in the context of the EU’s new Strategic Agenda which is expected to be considered at the European Council in June.

The engagement I am having in developing the All of Government Climate Plan will inform further engagement by the Government with its EU counterparts on how the EU can put in place an ambitious long-term climate strategy.

Bord na Móna

Questions (73)

Brian Stanley

Question:

73. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he has discussed with Bord na Móna plans to develop alternative energy sources into the future and to maintain job creation in respect of the decarbonisation of the environment and reaching emission reduction targets; and the progress made in relation to same. [21704/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

Bord na Móna intends to accelerate the move away from traditional peat businesses into renewables, resource recovery and new business opportunities to support sustainable employment and associated economic development in the Midlands. I have written to Commissioner Canete in the European Commission, who has responsibility for Energy and Climate Action, requesting the inclusion of the Midlands Region on the “Platform for Coal and Carbon Intensive Regions in Transition”. The main objectives of this Platform are to enable multi-stakeholder dialogue on policy frameworks for successful transformation of carbon-intensive regions, and to facilitate the development of strategies and projects in areas such as investment for structural transformation, growth and jobs. Once the Midlands Region is included on the Platform for Coal and Carbon Intensive Regions in Transition, it is expected that a team of European Commission and external experts would be assigned to assist the relevant State bodies with refining project ideas and implementation strategies, including feedback on relevant EU policies, programmes, funds and financing instruments. I expect the response from Commissioner Canete will be positive.

The All of Government Climate Plan will recognise, and seek to take advantage of, the economic opportunities that the low carbon transition presents for Ireland. The Plan will seek to build on and complement the approach of the Future Jobs Ireland strategy. This strategy sets out a series of complementary actions, including commissioning the National Economic and Social Council to develop policy recommendations for consideration by Government for the operation of Transition Teams to manage the impact of the economic transition on vulnerable workers and sectors.

National Broadband Plan

Questions (74)

Michael Moynihan

Question:

74. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he will report on his announcement on the national broadband plan on 7 May 2019. [20552/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

The purpose of the National Broadband Plan is to ensure that over 1.1 million of our citizens in rural Ireland have the same opportunity to participate in the digital society as citizens living in urban areas. The availability of ubiquitous high speed broadband will bring significant benefits in areas of e-Health, e-Education, smart farming, regional development and tourism. Under the National Broadband Plan (NBP), Ireland will become one of the first countries in the world to ensure that those in rural areas have the same digital opportunities as those in urban areas. The NBP will:

- Provide broadband to 540,000 homes, farms and businesses involving the laying of 146,000km of fibre

- Provide homes with high speeds of 150mbs per second increasing to 500mbs from year 10

- Ensure people in rural Ireland pay the same customer charges as people in urban Ireland

- Ensure a future proofed, high quality network, operated and maintained for 25 years.

The NBP has been a catalyst in encouraging investment by the telecoms sector. In 2012, less than 700,000, or 30% of all 2.4 million Irish premises had access to high speed broadband. Today, 74% of premises can access high speed broadband.

The State intervention is the subject of the procurement process to engage a company to build, operate and maintain the network in the intervention area. I recently brought a recommendation to Government to confer Preferred Bidder status on Granahan McCourt, the remaining bidder in the NBP procurement process and Government agreed to this. The company established to deliver the NBP is called National Broadband Ireland (NBI)

The Government Decision of 7 May 2019 means that it is intended to award the State Intervention contract to NBI. This award is subject to the contract close, including finalisation of financial and legal documents. Deployment of the NBP State Intervention network will commence shortly after that.

In the first year of roll out, the Bidder will deploy approximately 300 Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) across all counties. It is anticipated that between 7 and 23 BCPs will be deployed in each county. BCPs will provide a community based high speed broadband service, enhancing online participation and allowing for the establishment of digital work hubs in these locations. The Bidder is aiming to pass 133,000 premises by the end of the second year, with 70-100,000 passed each year thereafter until roll out is completed.

Climate Change Policy

Questions (75)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

75. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to support the Petroleum and Other Minerals Development (Amendment) (Climate Emergency Measures) Bill 2018 to cease issuing licences for fossil fuel extraction in view of the declaration by Dáil Éireann of a climate emergency and that an end to fossil fuel extraction is a central demand of the climate change movement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21790/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

The declaration of a climate and biodiversity emergency by Dáil Éireann and the decision of the House to endorse the report of the Joint Committee on Climate Action was supported by the Government. The Government has welcomed the publication of the Joint Committee’s report, which should be seen as a milestone in the development of Ireland’s climate policy.

The Government is responding with urgency by putting in place an ambitious all of Government plan, with actions across every sector which will deliver verifiable reductions in our emissions, and with clear responsibility for delivery.

Both the Citizen's Assembly and the Joint Committee on Climate Action did not recommend an end to exploration for Ireland's natural resources. In a European context, the UK, Norway, and Denmark, as well as Ireland, continue to explore and produce natural gas and oil to help meet a part of Europe’s future energy needs, and reduce Europe's energy imports from outside the EU, while Europe plays a leading role globally in the transition to a low carbon future.

The Government does not support the Petroleum and Other Minerals Development (Amendment) (Climate Emergency Measures) Bill 2018 as it will not reduce our emissions or help us meet our targets. Furthermore, the Bill fails to take account of our energy security. Beyond the Corrib gas field, which is already in decline and the soon to be depleted Kinsale gas, the Bill will make it mandatory for us to import all our oil and gas needs in the future as we transition to a low-carbon economy. This at a time where the EU’s import dependency is increasing, reaching 70% for natural gas and 87% for petroleum and petroleum products. It should also be noted that Ireland already has low energy self-sufficiency and a relatively isolated island electricity grid.

Online Safety

Questions (76)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

76. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the composition and function of the National Advisory Council for Online Safety; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21706/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

As part of the Action Plan for Online Safety, the Government established the National Advisory Council for Online Safety in September 2018. The Council has 20 members and is chaired by Minister of State Seán Canney. The membership of the Council is drawn from children's and parents' organisations, government agencies, online platforms and industry representatives, and experts on online safety issues. This recognises the importance of a multi-stakeholder approach in dealing with online safety issues. The Department of Communications, Climate Action & Environment provides the Secretariat to the Council

The Council's role is as follows:

- To provide advice to Government on online safety issues,

- To identify emerging issues where Government intervention might be needed,

- To help in the creation of clear and easy to understand online safety guidance materials for all internet users, and,

- To examine national and international research and communicate key findings to Government, stakeholders and the wider public.

The first meeting of the Council took place on 4 October, 2018. Meetings have since been held in November 2018, January 2019 and May 2019. The Council intends to continue meeting on a quarterly basis.

The Council published its first progress report on 5 February 2019 to coincide with Safer Internet Day.

The membership of the Council, the minutes of its meetings and its recent progress report are available on the website of the Department of Communications, Climate Action & Environment.

Broadband Service Charges

Questions (77)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

77. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the amount of initial capital expenditure required to connect a premises and-or dwelling under the national broadband plan; the way in which this cost was estimated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21656/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

The average capital cost of connecting a premises is estimated to be in the range of €500 to €1,500 (ex VAT). The capital cost will vary, depending on a number of factors, for example, distance from the road, whether or not there is existing infrastructure in place, the condition of any existing infrastructure and other local factors. It is only when detailed surveying of the individual premises is completed that the actual cost of connecting a premises will be known. Under the terms of the National Broadband Plan contract, regardless of the cost to connect an individual home or business, the capital expenditure paid to NBI will be subject to a cap.

Climate Change Policy

Questions (78)

Mick Wallace

Question:

78. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he will consider moving forward the date that Moneypoint is to stop coal burning operations in view of the recognition that Ireland is in a climate emergency in addition to the reports of human rights abuses, population displacement and environmental destruction associated with the mine in which the majority of coal is sourced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21532/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

It is settled policy that electricity generation from coal will cease no later than 2025. This position has been set out in a number of policy documents, including the National Mitigation Plan and the National Development Plan 2018-2027. The 2016 Programme for Government included a commitment to identify the most suitable replacement low-carbon generation technology as soon as possible. The ESB has confirmed that coal-fired generation at Moneypoint will cease no later than 2025. The production, sourcing and buying of fuel is an operational matter for the board and management of ESB and is not one in which the Minister has a statutory function. The Department is advised that, as part of ESB’s commitment to use responsibly sourced coal, ESB joined Bettercoal in 2014. Bettercoal was established by a group of major coal buyers, including utilities, rather than the coal mining industry. Its mission is to promote continuous improvement in the mining and sourcing of coal for the benefit of all the people impacted by the industry – including workers and their communities. It carries out its assessments using key principles. These are Legal Compliance, Policies and Systems, Business Ethics (both disclosure/transparency and fraud/corruption), Human Rights, Workers Rights, Community Engagement, Environment, Pollution Prevention and Biodiversity.

National Broadband Plan

Questions (79)

Joe Carey

Question:

79. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the steps being taken as part of the national broadband plan to ensure that the broadband network is future proofed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21479/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

The purpose of the National Broadband Plan is to ensure that over 1.1 million of our citizens in rural Ireland have the same opportunity to participate in the digital society as citizens living in urban areas. The availability of ubiquitous high speed broadband will bring significant benefits in areas of e-Health, e-Education, smart farming, regional development and tourism. The National Broadband Plan procurement process was technology neutral, as required under State Aid Guidelines for Broadband. This means it did not specify a preferred technology. However, all bidders in the process proposed fibre as the best solution. Fibre can meet the requirements set out in the NBP but also can be upgraded for additional capacity over time at low additional cost to network operators.

The basic product that will be offered on the State intervention network will be 150 megabits per second (Mbps), which is comparable to fibre networks in urban areas. The network is designed with a roadmap to upgrade the services over 25 years, including upgrades to increase residential speeds to 300Mbps by Year 6 of the contract and 500Mbps by year 10. This ensures the network is future proofed to meet requirements in years to come. A product of 1 Gigabit per second is also available to businesses and any residential homes that may require it.

Fibre can deliver up to 10 Gigabit per second speed with no major upgrades required, ensuring that the solution is future proofed and has a low running cost, making it an extremely efficient solution. Other broadband technologies such as 4G, 5G or fixed wireless, may be deployed to connect premises in limited circumstances where fibre is not cost-effective - for example for extremely remote or difficult to connect homes.

My Department considered other technologies than fibre and agreed with the national and international expertise in this area that a fibre-based solution was the most economical way to address all premises with a future-proofed solution over the 25 years of the contract, ensuring there is no need for a further State investment in the short term to replace an obsolete technology.

National Broadband Plan

Question No. 81 answered with Question No. 67.

Questions (80)

Brian Stanley

Question:

80. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the way in which the State subsidy towards the national broadband plan is structured over the course of the 25 year contract; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21702/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

The overall estimated total cost of the National Broadband Plan State intervention is approximately €5 Billion over 25 years, not including VAT. This covers not only the cost of building the network as would be the case in other procurements, but also to operate and maintain the network over 25 years. The maximum possible cost to the state will be €3 Billion over 25 years. This includes €545m for conditional and contingent subsidy and includes €354m in VAT, which will be paid to the Revenue Commissioners as subsidy is spent. Subsidy will not be paid to the company, National Broadband Ireland, until the milestones set down in the contract have been achieved and there are a comprehensive set of protections and legally binding obligations set out in the Contract which include a suite of key performance indicators to ensure the service is maintained appropriately.

The subsidy is capped as a maximum figure and National Broadband Ireland bears all risk beyond that provided for within the subsidy allowed. This includes, for example, the cost of materials, labour and lower than expected take up.

The subsidy is divided into:

- deployment subsidy which is paid retrospectively on a milestone basis in respect of the successful deployment of the pass network

- connection subsidy which is paid when connections have been made by NBI

- conditional and contingent subsidy which is a capped amount that can only be drawn down in certain specified circumstances where it was not possible for the bidder to quantify accurately as part of the final tender submission such as extreme weather events.

The controls set out in the NBP contract will play a key role in ensuring that costs are minimised and deliverables are met.

Question No. 81 answered with Question No. 67.

National Broadband Plan

Questions (82, 83)

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

82. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if a company (details supplied) has the ability to sell the business and assets of the national broadband plan after full deployment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21716/19]

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Brian Stanley

Question:

83. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the authority he has to control the future ownership of the national broadband network; and the consequences for a company (details supplied) in the event of a sale. [21703/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 82 and 83 together.

The change in ownership restrictions in place in relation to the NBP are consistent with normal practice in major infrastructure projects. National Broadband Ireland is obliged to seek the written consent of the Minister prior to the occurrence of a Change in Ownership of NBI that occurs at any time from the commencement of the contract up until one year after the completion of deployment. After the one year anniversary of the completion of deployment, the shares of NBI can be sold without Ministerial consent but not to Unsuitable Third Parties. Unsuitable Third Parties include excluded parties specifically set out in EU procurement regulations, parties involved in the arms trade, parties who have been convicted of a criminal offence related to business, parties who have failed to comply with tax rules and parties whose activities pose a threat to national security. Also, if any shareholder has a contingent commitment to make a loan or equity or capital contribution to NBI, NBI is required, until that commitment has been delivered, to seek the written consent of the Minister to a Change in Ownership which results in the shareholder ceasing to have Control (i.e. a 30% shareholding or equivalent level of control) of NBI.NBI is obliged to notify the Minister of any Change in Ownership throughout the life of the Contract and there are provisions in the Contract in relation to clawback payments in the event of a sale of NBI prior to contract year 10. If a Change in Ownership occurs, NBI (in new ownership) will continue to be bound by the NBP Contract. The Minister can terminate the NBP Contract and take ownership of NBI if there is an un-remedied change in ownership of NBI in breach of the NBP Contract. The Minister will also have a priority (1st ranking) security over the shares in NBI. This creates a practical inhibitor on the shareholder disposing of those shares without the Minister being satisfied that the disposal is consistent with the Contract. The Minister will also have priority (1st ranking) security over the Assets of NBI throughout the term of the NBP Contract. This means in practical terms that any material fixed Assets which NBI requires to perform the NBP Contract cannot be sold without the Minister’s consent.