1033. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the priorities for the forthcoming meeting of the parties to the Aarhus Convention. [34824/17]
Vol. 958 No. 2
1033. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the priorities for the forthcoming meeting of the parties to the Aarhus Convention. [34824/17]
The Meeting of the Parties to the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (the "Aarhus Convention") will take place in Budva, Montenegro from 11 to 13 September 2017. My Department will be represented at the meeting.
There is a broad agenda for the three day conference, which can be accessed at the following link: www.aarhusmontenegro.me/.
The agenda includes discussions on matters such as the use of electronic information tools to facilitate access to environmental information, the promotion of the Convention, and the development of a new work programme under the Convention for 2018 to 2021, as well as a review of the current work programme. There will also be consideration of findings and recommendations of the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee. In this context, in particular, officials of my Department have been engaged with fellow EU Parties to the Convention in recent months, principally through its participation in the Working Party on International Environment Issues, with a view to developing a common EU position on certain agenda items of common interest to EU Member States.
The main priority for Ireland will be to seek to ensure that awareness and implementation of the three pillars of the Aarhus Convention by all parties is ultimately enhanced by the discussions and decisions that will take place at the Meeting of the Parties.
1034. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the provisions in place and the further provisions anticipated regarding wind energy and solar energy developments to ensure that where such developments are sited on peatlands, including degraded peatlands, they form part of a strategy to minimise total carbon emissions from the relevant peatlands, noting that in the absence of action to ensure this is done, the degraded peatlands could emit more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere than the renewable energy development would save. [34826/17]
Decisions regarding the location of renewable energy developments are a commercial decision for developers, subject to the planning system. I, as Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, have no function in these decisions.
In assessing any proposed development, it is a matter for the planning authorities, taking account of Government policy, national and EU legislation, to assess the likely impacts of proposed developments on the environment.
1035. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to bring to the European Council the proposal that Ireland should, as a result of our anticipated failure to meet our 2020 greenhouse gas emissions target for the non-traded sector, have a higher target in subsequent years than we would have if we meet our target; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that this is placing Ireland as a problem country for European climate policy; and the steps he will take to meet our climate targets (details supplied). [34827/17]
I refer to the reply to Question No. 640 of 11 July 2017. The Paris Agreement, which entered into force in November 2016, aims to limit global average temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, with an ambition of 1.5 degrees Celsius. The Agreement is designed to meet this objective through Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) submitted by all parties to the agreement. In this regard, the European Union submitted an NDC committing to a reduction of at least 40% in EU-wide emissions by 2030 compared with 1990 levels, which will be met through reductions of 43% in the Emission Trading System (ETS) and 30% in the non-ETS sector compared with 2005 levels.
Ireland will contribute to the Paris Agreement via the NDC tabled by the EU on behalf of its Member States. The specific details of Ireland's contribution to the overall 30% reduction in the non-ETS sector, as well as the contributions to be made by other Member States, is currently being negotiated between the EU and its Member States in the context of the European Commission's Effort Sharing Regulation (ESR) Proposal which was published in July 2016. Targets have been proposed for Member States based on GDP per capita and the cost-effectiveness of domestic emissions reductions within individual Member States, with the starting point based on average emissions over the period 2016 to 2018. In the case of Ireland a target of 39% has been proposed, which has been adjusted downwards to 30% to reflect the cost-effectiveness of measures within the Irish economy.
The Commission proposal recognises different Member States' circumstances and the need to provide flexibility to reduce emissions as cost-effectively as possible in the context of the overall EU target. Ireland has been actively engaged in negotiations in the Council of Ministers, and is working to ensure that these core principles are maintained in the final outcome to the negotiations. At the Environment Council meeting of Monday 19 June, my EU counterparts and I reviewed progress to date and emphasised the need to prioritise a successful conclusion to these negotiations which retains a high environmental ambition for the EU, but provides each Member State the capacity to contribute to that ambition in a cost-effective and fair manner.
The incoming Estonian Presidency has indicated a desire to reach agreement in the Council, allowing negotiations with the European Parliament to commence during its term.
1036. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he will provide the detail of the submission made by his Department to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform regarding the mid-term capital review to ensure that the review results in a capital investment programme consistent with Ireland's EU level targets for 2020, proposed targets for 2030, the obligations of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 201,5 including the national transition objective and the Paris Agreement. [34828/17]
Ireland has an emissions reduction target for each year between 2013 and 2020 under the 2009 EU Effort Sharing Decision. For the year 2020 itself, the target set for Ireland is that emissions should be 20% below their level in 2005. This will be Ireland’s contribution to the overall EU objective to reduce its emissions by the order of 20% by 2020 compared to 1990 levels. Ireland’s target is jointly the most demanding 2020 reduction target allocated to EU Member States under this 2009 Decision, which is shared only with Denmark and Luxembourg.
The latest projections of greenhouse gas emissions by the Environmental Protection Agency indicate that emissions from those sectors of the economy covered by Ireland's 2020 targets could be between 4% and 6% below 2005 levels by 2020. The projected shortfall to our targets in 2020 reflects 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.
Ireland’s first statutory National Mitigation Plan, which I expect to publish shortly, will set out what Ireland is doing, and is planning to do, to further the national transition objective as set out in the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act, 2015. This first Plan will not provide a complete roadmap to achieve the national transition objective to 2050, but it will begin 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 National Mitigation Plan has been prepared, having regard to the provisions set out in the 2015 Act, in close collaboration with all relevant Government Departments and, in particular, with the Departments of Transport, Tourism and Sport; Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government; and Agriculture, Food and the Marine. As well as being supported by a range of technical, economic and environmental inputs, the National Mitigation Plan has also been informed by the submissions received during a public consultation in March and April 2017. The Plan will become a living document accessible on my Department's website, and will be updated on an on-going basis as analysis, dialogue and technological innovation generate further cost-effective sectoral mitigation options.
The National Mitigation Plan presents detailed information on the costs and emissions reduction potential for measures already in place, and measures under consideration, within the responsibility of my own Department as well as those within the remit of the relevant sectoral Departments.
While responsibility for the mid-term capital review is a matter for the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, and this review is ongoing, I have advised the Government, arising from the analysis presented in the National Mitigation Plan, of the scale of the required investments in the years ahead in order to reduce Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions. I and other Ministers will continue to engage with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform in the context of the mid-term capital review with a view to ensuring that the investment requirements arising from Ireland’s climate action policy objectives are appropriately reflected in the outcome of the review.
1037. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the position Ireland is taking on the Commission's proposal that accounting for wetland management be optional for the 2030 climate target, the analysis that has been taken to inform that position and if it is consistent with the commitments to peatland rewetting and restoration in the national peatlands strategy. [34829/17]
I refer to the replies to Question 1298 of 2 May 2017 and to Questions 229 and 230 of 10 May 2017.
Under the Paris Agreement, the EU has committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% by 2030, compared with 1990 levels. Negotiations on how this should translate into efforts by individual Member States are ongoing.
As I have previously outlined, the option for Member States to account for wetland management in the context of these proposals reflects the absence of global experience in the tracking and reporting of climate mitigation measures associated with wetlands. Ireland presently accounts for mitigation action associated with wetlands falling within currently-reported land types and continues to carry out research which will support the understanding of carbon stock changes associated with peatlands and agricultural soils. This will feed into the development of a more robust inventory and underpin future accounting for mitigation action associated with wetlands. I envisage that work on this will be taken forward in the context of the National Mitigation Plan.
1038. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if Ireland will support the findings and recommendations of the Aarhus Convention compliance committee (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34834/17]
I note the findings and recommendations adopted by the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee on 19 June 2017, with regard to communications ACCC/C/2013/91 and ACCC/C/2013/92, concerning compliance by the United Kingdom and Germany with their obligations under the Aarhus Convention in relation to public participation in the transboundary environmental impact assessment procedure for two nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point in the United Kingdom. The findings and recommendations were concluded in accordance with defined procedures and international law under the Aarhus Convention and, as part of that process, parties concerned are entitled to submit comments on the draft findings and to challenge issues of fact. Ireland is not a party to these proceedings and does not have a role in affirming or disputing the findings of the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee.
Officials from my Department will attend the next Meeting of the Parties of the Aarhus Convention in September.
1040. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment further to Parliamentary Question No. 1779 of 20 June 2017 the number of former TDs that applied for board positions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34855/17]
In accordance with the Guidelines on Appointments to State Boards, expressions of interest for such appointments are made through the dedicated website www.stateboards.ie which operates under the auspices of the Public Appointments Service.
All applications submitted to the Public Appointments Service are confidential and used only for the purpose of assessing suitability against the specified criteria.
1041. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to provide information and clarity to persons living with chronic pain regarding the introduction of the preliminary drug testing measures under the Road Traffic Act 2016; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34843/17]
Since the introduction of prelimary testing of drivers for drugs last April, there has been some misreporting of what is involved, which has caused unnecessary worry to some people.
I made clear on the launch of these measures that people should always take their medication as needed. At the same time, if that medication causes side-effects which might impair their driving, they should not drive until the effects have passed.
It has long been an offence under legislation to drive or be in charge of a mechanically propelled vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicant to such an extent as to be incapable of controlling the vehicle. 'An intoxicant' in this case is any substance which would impair driving, whether legal or not, prescribed or not. There has been no change to this offence under the new drug driving legislation introduced this year.
The provisions of the Road Traffic Act 2016 which came into effect in April create a new offence of being over a specified limit for three drugs, cannabis, cocaine, and heroin. These limits work exactly like the existing limits for alcohol.
An Garda Síochána may now conduct preliminary tests of oral fluid from drivers for drugs at the roadside or in a garda station. These tests, like the existing roadside breath tests, are 'preliminary', which means that they are not used as evidence in court, but to assist Gardaí in forming an opinion as to whether a person has taken drugs.
The drug tests can detect cannabis, cocaine, opiates, and benzodiazepines. People taking prescription painkillers which are opiate-based, and people taking benzodiazepines, have no reason to be concerned provided that their driving is not actually impaired.
1042. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the expenditure by the Dublin Airport Authority on preparations for, submissions to and ancillary activities in respect of the oral hearings held by An Bord Pleanála in September and October 2006 regarding the plan for a new runway at Dublin Airport. [33591/17]
The daa has statutory responsibility to manage, operate and develop Dublin Airport, including the North Runway Project. I have therefore forwarded your question to daa for their attention and direct reply to you. If you do not receive a reply within 10 working days please contact my private office.
1043. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the reason the plans for the M20 Cork to Limerick motorway were withdrawn in 2012; the effect of this withdrawal on the overall estimated timeframe for this project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33893/17]
As Minister for Transport I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme. The construction, improvement and maintenance of individual national roads is a statutory matter for the Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) under the Roads Acts 1993 to 2007 in conjunction with the local authorities concerned.
My understanding is that the reason for the decision to withdraw the M20 project from An Bord Pleanála (ABP) during the financial crisis was that, had ABP approved the project, this would have triggered a substantial financial commitment arising from the requirement to purchase land for the project within a limited timeframe. Given the financial circumstances at the time, this cost would have had to be incurred without the reasonable prospect of the project proceeding to construction stage quickly.
As the Deputy is aware, the Capital Plan published in September 2015 outlined proposed transport investment priorities to 2022. While the transport element of the Capital Plan did provide for some targeted investment in a number of new projects in the Munster region, it was not possible to include the M20 in the Capital Plan as the scale of investment required to deliver it was not affordable.
I am conscious of the potential regional development benefits of an upgrade of the Cork to Limerick link and in this regard I agreed to TII spending €1 million to undertake some early activity surveys/studies. I will review the scope for progressing the project further once the Capital Plan Review is completed.
1044. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the amount spent by his Department in 2016 on external consultants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33902/17]
The information requested by the Deputy is available on my Departments website at the following link External Services. The information is updated every 6 months. It is currently being collated for the period January 2017 to June 2017 and will be published as soon as this process is complete.
1045. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the position regarding the reopening of the Dunleer railway station in County Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34002/17]
As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding of public transport. The operation of the rail network and stations on the network are a matter for Iarnród Éireann in the first instance.
Iarnród Éireann remains in a challenging position financially and has limited resources of its own available to fund new projects. The company has not made any proposal to my Department regarding Dunleer railway station and the reopening of the station is not included in the public transport projects under the Government's current Capital Plan.
The first priority under the Capital Plan is to ensure the maintenance of our existing transport infrastructure at steady state levels so that it remains safe and fit for purpose. In view of the current constraints on funding, the priority for the heavy rail network under the Plan is to improve efficiency and maintain safety standards, rather than expanding the network, opening new stations or re-opening existing stations.
1046. Deputy Margaret Murphy O'Mahony asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the way his Department is improving services and increasing supports for persons with disabilities during 2017. [34039/17]
My Department is involved in improving supports and services for persons with disabilities in the areas under its remit through a number of strategies. Transport Access for All, my Department's Sectoral Plan under the Disability Act 2005, guides policy in relation to access to transport services for persons with disabilities. My Department is also involved in the Government's broader approach to disability, the National Disability Strategy, and has committed to a number of actions under this strategy.
Accessibility features are built into all new public transport infrastructure projects and vehicles from the design stage and new systems such as the Luas are fully accessible. In addition, 100% of the Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann city fleets are wheelchair accessible, as well as approximately 80% of the Bus Éireann coach fleet.
With regard to existing infrastructure, there is an ongoing Accessibility Grants Programme to upgrade public transport infrastructure and facilities to help improve transport accessibility across the country. The programme is managed by the National Transport Authority (NTA) on behalf of my Department.
Funding is being provided to the NTA in 2017 for accessibility upgrade works at a number of rail stations, for accessible bus stops and bus stations, and for a Wheelchair Accessible Taxi Grant Scheme. Funding is also provided via the NTA for the Travel Assistance Scheme which is run by Dublin Bus. Under the scheme an assistant can accompany people who need help using public transport and to plan a journey on Dublin Bus, Luas and the DART.
My Department also provides funding to a number of non-governmental bodies in the area of sport for persons with disabilities, along with funding Local Sports Partnerships to employ Sports Inclusion Disability Officers.
1047. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the investment by his Department since March 2016 in County Louth and parts of east County Meath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34074/17]
Meath Co Council were awarded funding of €1,971,000 in July, 2016 to construct a greenway along the section of the Royal Canal within Meath.
Details of the regional and local road grant allocations and payments to Louth County Council and Meath County Council are outlined in the regional and local road grant allocation and payment booklets which are available in the Dáil Library. Details of the 2017 regional and local road grant allocations are also available in the Dáil library.
With regard to national roads, details of the allocations to Louth County Council and Meath County Council are available in the Dáil library. However, details of the actual drawdown of funding for these roads are a matter for Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII). Noting the above position, I have referred the Deputy's question to TII for direct reply.
In relation to the Sports Capital Programme, details of all allocations and payments on a county basis are available on my Department's website at www.dttas.ie.
The National Transport Authority (NTA) is responsible for the administration of the Sustainable Transport Measures Grants (STMG) Programme. This rolling programme of measures facilitates investment in various QBCs, cycling/walking, safety and traffic management projects throughout the seven local authority areas in the Greater Dublin Area, including Meath County Council.
Noting the NTA's responsibility for the STMG Programme, I have referred your question to the Authority for a more detailed reply in relation to the projects funded under the Programme for the period in question. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 working days.
The referred reply under Standing Order 42A was forwarded to the Deputy.
1048. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he has held meetings with a company (details supplied) since assuming office; and if so, the purpose of said meeting. [34109/17]
I met with representatives of the company in question on 30 June 2016 in my Department. They requested the meeting for the purpose of presenting to me the company's views on opportunities for the small public service vehicle sector in Ireland, including using new technology and their ideas on potential new business operating models.
1049. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to name Dublin Airport after former Taoiseach, Seán Lemass, in recognition of the outstanding contribution he made to economic development of Ireland. [34110/17]
I understand that the suggestion to rename Dublin Airport as Seán Lemass Airport has arisen a number of times in the past and that previous Ministers decided against such a change. I concur with my predecessors and can confirm that I have no plans currently to change the name of the principal gateway airport to Ireland.
1050. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the timeframe for publication of a new tourist strategy for the midlands in line with commitment in the programme for Government. [34111/17]
1111. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport whether he favours Ireland's lakelands initiative as a new regional tourism brand; if he will provide a detailed account of the funding that has been allocated by his Department to the development of this brand. [34807/17]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 1050 and 1111 together.
My Department's role in relation to tourism lies in the area of national tourism policy. It is not directly involved in the management or development of individual tourism projects. These are operational matters for the Board and Management of Fáilte Ireland and I do not have a direct role in relation to the development of branding strategies.
In the final quarter of 2016 and in line with the Programme for Government commitment to develop the 'Ireland's Lakelands' brand, Fáilte Ireland commissioned a Destination and Feasibility study to ascertain the potential growth and best mechanism to unlock those areas that lie between the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland's Ancient East. A consortium of Colliers, Red C and DKM was engaged to conduct the study. I am informed by Fáilte Ireland that the study is now complete and it has suggested a number of options to create a distinctive tourism brand for the midlands. The next step for Fáilte Ireland is to develop and test the available options. I understand that Fáilte Ireland has commenced this work and that engagement with local stakeholders is ongoing.
No funding has been allocated by my Department for this project to date. Any proposal to proceed with implementing a new regional brand will be subject to the outcome of the further analysis being undertaken by Fáilte Ireland and the availability of funding as part of the normal Estimates process.
1051. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the number of times he has met the EU Transport Commissioner since assuming office; and if he will report on the discussions which took place. [34112/17]
I met with Commissioner Bulc briefly at Transport Council on 7 June 2016 and again at Transport Council on 8 June 2017. At the latter meeting, I discussed issues relating to the European Commission's proposals on the aviation package and the mobility package, and also on the range of implications for Ireland arising from Brexit.
1052. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the number of times he has had to defer or cancel meetings with the EU Commissioner for transport since assuming office. [34113/17]
While I did not attend Transport Council in December 2016, I had the opportunity to meet with Commissioner Bulc while at the Transport Councils of 7 June 2016 and 8 June 2017. At the latter meeting, the Commissioner expressed an interest in visiting Ireland later this year.