Questions Nos. 1 to 4, inclusive, answered orally.

National Broadband Plan Administration

Question No. 6 answered orally.

Ceisteanna (5)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

5. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the qualification and requalification process required for bidders and-or component parties to a bidding consortium for the national broadband plan; if component parties and-or bidding consortia were required to requalify each time the structure of the consortium changed; the process involved in such requalification; the timeline for such requalification; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3605/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The formal procurement for the NBP State intervention was launched with the publication of the Pre-qualification Questionnaire, or PQQ, and Project Information Memorandum (PIM) in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU). The PQQ assisted the Department in evaluating the eligibility, economic and financial standing and technical and professional capability of each bidder to provide the services required under the NBP. Only those bidders that could demonstrate they had the necessary economic and financial standing, together with the required technical and professional capability, were allowed to participate in the procurement process.

The procurement documentation issued to all bidders at the beginning of the process set out a mechanism for the Department to assess and approve or reject changes to the membership of any of the bidders, as would be appropriate in a procurement of this scale and duration.

As part of the assessment of a change, any bidder in the process was required to demonstrate that it continued to meet the economic and financial standing, and technical and professional capability, set out in the original rigorous pre-qualification criteria. The Department could not have approved a change in Bidder composition unless it met those criteria. The criteria were designed to ensure that Bidders who passed had the ability from a financial robustness and technical ability, to build, operate and maintain the NBP network.

The bidder which submitted its Final Tender to the Department met these relevant thresholds, as did the other bidders invited to participate in the process.

My Department has received a final tender submission from the bidder and I intend to bring a recommendation to Government regarding this submission in the coming weeks.

Question No. 6 answered orally.

Ministerial Meetings

Questions Nos. 8 to 14, inclusive, answered orally.

Ceisteanna (7)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

7. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the meetings he has held with the Taoiseach on the national broadband plan. [3374/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The National Broadband Plan aims to ensure access to a future proofed, high speed broadband service to every premises in Ireland. The plan involves a mix of commercial investment and a State-led intervention. It has acted as a catalyst in encouraging a significant level of investment in high-speed broadband infrastructure by commercial operators and is a key priority for Government. As Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, I have had a number of conversations with the Taoiseach and other members of Government on the areas within my remit, including the National Broadband Plan. These meetings have included discussions on the progress of the ongoing procurement process to appoint a company to deploy the State Led Intervention network.

The NBP has also been the subject of formal Government consideration at key milestones in the procurement. Notably, the Government approved the launch of procurement in December 2015. Government also approved the proposed ownership model in July 2016. In addition, Government was provided with updates to the process for their information, such as the Commitment Agreement signed between the Department and eir in April 2017 to provide access to high speed broadband to 300,000 premises mostly in rural Ireland.

The bidder for the State led intervention procurement process submitted its final tender in September 2018. My Department's assessment of this bid is now progressed to its concluding stages. My priority is to bring the process to a fair and impartial conclusion as quickly as possible and it is intended to bring a recommendation to Government in the coming weeks.

Questions Nos. 8 to 14, inclusive, answered orally.

North-South Interconnector

Ceisteanna (15, 20)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

15. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the status of the North-South Interconnector project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3405/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

20. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the status of the North-South Interconnector. [3248/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 15 and 20 together.

The North South Interconnector project will provide a second high-capacity electricity interconnector between the two transmission systems of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Following a rigorous planning process which included an eleven week oral hearing, the section of the project in Ireland was granted planning permission by An Bord Pleanála in December 2016. This decision was subsequently appealed to the Supreme Court and judgement is expected in the coming weeks.

The section of the project in Northern Ireland was also granted planning permission. A Judicial Review of this decision was commenced in Northern Ireland and I understand that this is expected to conclude later this year.

Following motions passed in Dáil and Seanad Éireann in early 2017 calling for further independent examination of the project, two studies were commissioned by my predecessor and were published on 2 October 2018 following consideration by Government. The study conducted by an International Expert Commission determined that from a techno-economic point of view, an Alternating Current overhead line is the most beneficial way of meeting the need for enhanced power transfer capability between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

There are currently a number of on-going procurements in relation to the project being undertaken and managed by ESB Networks, such as tower design. However no critical procurement contracts such as construction will be concluded until all legal proceedings are resolved. The earliest possible date for construction is early 2020.

Climate Change Adaptation Plans

Question No. 17 answered orally.

Question No. 18 answered with Question No. 10.

Ceisteanna (16, 65)

Tony McLoughlin

Ceist:

16. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the role which projects announced under the climate action fund will play in supporting decarbonisation in the agricultural sector. [3185/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Clare Daly

Ceist:

65. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if his consultation with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine officials regarding the Government’s response to climate change include discussions on transitioning focus from meat and dairy farming to more environmentally sustainable farming. [3303/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 16 and 65 together.

On 28 November 2018, I announced the seven successful projects from the first Call for Applications under the Climate Action Fund. The projects span a range of sectors including agriculture, transport, district heating, and public lighting.

In the Agriculture sector, Gas Networks Ireland will be supported to deliver a facility that will allow renewable gas produced from the anaerobic digestion of wastes, including agriculture wastes such as slurry, to be injected into the national gas grid. The project will also support the use of this renewable gas in the transport sector through the development of two compressed natural gas fuelling stations and grant support for 74 vehicles.

Having completed that assessment stage, the seven projects must now undergo the project validation process. The validation process will include more detailed examination of the projects, agreement of project outputs and payment timelines.

The scope, structure and timeframe of future calls for applications have not yet been determined. To assist development of future calls, my Department plans to hold a workshop with all those who applied under the first call. This workshop, which will be held this month, will provide the opportunity to provide feedback to applicants and also to inform the next call.

In July 2018 a new pilot scheme to support micro generation was introduced, initially targeting domestic self-consumption through a grant scheme for solar PV installation and battery storage. A review of the pilot scheme will inform potential future phases of support for micro generation including broadening the scheme to include other groups and other technologies. As I outlined in the Dáil on 27 November last, in response to the Micro Generation Support Scheme Bill, I am supportive in principle of providing a route to market for citizens and communities to generate their own renewable energy and receive a fair and efficient price for doing so. This very much aligns with Ireland's energy policy as set out in the Energy White Paper 2015 and wider EU energy policy goals.

My Department is working closely with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in relation to the preparation of a new All of Government Plan to Address Climate Disruption, emphasising the need for agriculture to make a significant and positive contribution to climate mitigation. These discussions have focused on existing, scaled-up and new measures to cover regulatory enhancement, targeted supports, capital supports, and afforestation and wood mobilisation. As well as carbon abatement and sequestration, measures that result in energy displacement (i.e. substituting fossil fuels with renewable energy and renewable materials) have also been a focus of discussions. Reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) post-2020, which will likely incentivise particular farming practices and processes, will clearly play a significant role in determining the overall shape and configuration of the Irish agri-food sector in the next decade, and the European Commission's current CAP proposals - which place a welcome focus on sustainability criteria, including carbon emissions -- will play a critical role in the transition to more environmentally sustainable farming processes and activities.

Question No. 17 answered orally.
Question No. 18 answered with Question No. 10.

Energy Schemes

Question No. 20 answered with Question No. 15.

Ceisteanna (19)

Aindrias Moynihan

Ceist:

19. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the measures he will take to ensure a greater uptake in SEAI grants in County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3402/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The energy efficiency grants administered by the SEAI are funded by my Department. Grants are available to homeowners for insulation, heating controls, heat pumps and solar thermal hot water heating systems. Grants are also available for solar PV systems, electric vehicles and electric vehicle charging. Grants are also available for businesses to improve their energy efficiency. The majority of the home energy grants are available to homeowners whose properties were built before 2006. Since the introduction of these grants nearly 400,000 homes across the country have received an energy efficiency upgrade, representing nearly one home in five across the country. Grants are administered through a range of schemes:

- The Better Energy Homes scheme provides a financial incentive, typically covering 30% of the cost of works, to private homeowners who wish to improve the energy performance of their homes.

- The Better Energy Warmer Homes scheme provides a range of energy efficiency measures free of charge to low income households vulnerable to energy poverty who meet the defined eligibility criteria.

- The Deep Retrofit Pilot Programme is available to homeowners who want to upgrade their house to an A BER while availing of grant support of up to 50%. 4 homeowners in Cork availed of this grant in 2018.

- The Better Energy Communities scheme supports energy efficiency upgrades to mixed projects of homes, community facilities and businesses in a local community. This scheme provided funding of €20m in 2018 to 37 projects across the country, upgrading 1,189 homes and 454 community buildings. In 2018 12 of these projects included homes and community buildings in County Cork.

- The Sustainable Energy Communities scheme supports and funds communities to build capacity and develop plans to upgrade the energy efficiency of their local area. 24 communities in Co Cork are signed up to the network.

In 2018 €5,251,691 was invested in improving the efficiency of homes in Co Cork. This was an increase of almost €1.7m on the investment made in 2017 in Co Cork, reflecting the increased investment overall by Government in energy efficiency. Fewer homes were upgraded however, reflecting the shift to deeper, more expensive measures that also result in more carbon savings.

A number of actions are already underway to encourage investment in energy efficiency and further uptake of home energy grants by homeowners across the country. For example, the Better Energy Homes Scheme was expanded in 2018 to support the transition away from fossil fuels, and achieve greater energy savings and emissions reductions, by introducing a new grant for heat pumps and increasing the grant amount available for all other measures. In addition, the Better Energy Warmer Homes was also expanded in 2018 to include internal and external wall insulation which allows more people to avail of the scheme and also increases the energy savings and emissions reductions from the investment made. More information can be found on the website of the SEAI.

Question No. 20 answered with Question No. 15.

Environmental Policy

Ceisteanna (21, 52)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

21. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the actions he will undertake by the end of 2019 to curb single use plastic goods; the measurable targets for each quarter of 2019 in relation to same; the discussions he is having with other Departments in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3140/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Tom Neville

Ceist:

52. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the steps he is taking to reduce or end the use of single use plastics in State bodies; and the steps he will take generally to reduce the use of plastics and increase the rate of plastic recycling. [3184/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 21 and 52 together.

On 3 January, the Government decided that Government Departments would no longer purchase, directly or indirectly, single use plastic beverage cups, cutlery or straws. From 1 March 2019, this policy will also apply to all public bodies.

The Government Decision also requires Departments to publish Resource Efficiency Action Plans to improve how public bodies manage water, energy and material resources. Each public body must report to its respective Minister by end-November on the measures it is taking. My department is currently rolling out supports for public bodies to ensure their compliance with the Government Decision.

The decision on single use plastic items pre-empts a more wide-ranging EU legislative proposal, which is expected to be agreed shortly. The draft EU Directive proposes to target the 10 most prevalent single use plastic items found in Europe's marine environment, as well as lost and abandoned fishing gear. The proposed Directive includes:

- banning certain single use plastic products;

- introducing national consumption reduction targets for other single use plastics; and,

- obliging single use plastic producers to fund waste management and litter clean ups.

Increasing public awareness plays a major role in reducing use of single use plastics and plastics generally. With support from my Department, the Regional Waste Management Offices have designed the website www.mywaste.ie to provide consumers with a single information resource on managing household waste with particular focus on the importance of waste prevention and recycling.

My Department is also working closely with Repak on this issue. Repak members can sign up to a pledge to reduce plastic packaging waste by:

- minimising avoidable single use packaging and promoting reuse where possible; and

- supporting plastic recycling targets of 50% of all plastic packaging by 2025 and 55% of all plastic packaging by 2030.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Ceisteanna (22)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

22. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the way in which Ireland's climate goals and ambition to be a world leader on climate change can be helped by potential approval for drilling off the coast for oil or gas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3307/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The challenge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is well understood by Government and is reflected in national climate action and energy policy which seeks to balance the competing aspects of sustainability, competitiveness and security of supply. Ireland will, within the EU and UN climate frameworks, pursue and achieve a transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient and environmentally sustainable economy, underpinned by a secure and competitive energy supply in the period to 2050.In recognition of this challenge, Minister Bruton is currently preparing an All of Government Plan which will set out the actions that must be taken to make Ireland a leader in responding to climate change. It will have a strong focus on implementation, including clear timelines and steps needed to achieve each action, assigning clear lines of responsibility for delivery. This Plan will develop new initiatives across electricity, transport, heat, agriculture and other relevant sectors, building on the previous actions taken by Government, including in the National Mitigation Plan and the National Development Plan, and is to be completed early this year. The Government has made a clear commitment and plan to decarbonise as outlined in both the National Mitigation Plan and the Energy White Paper “Ireland's Transition to a Low Carbon Energy Future 2015-2030”. Prohibition of exploration for petroleum will do nothing to decrease greenhouse gas emissions and will make Ireland 100% dependent on imports for our fossil fuel needs in the future, when we know that Ireland’s indigenous production at Corrib will decline and Kinsale is approaching its end of life. 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 Russia and the Middle East, while Europe plays a leading role globally in the transition to a low carbon future.

Legislative Process

Ceisteanna (23)

Aindrias Moynihan

Ceist:

23. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his views on the expediting of the Planning and Development (Rapid Broadband) Bill 2017, through the Houses of the Oireachtas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3401/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The National Broadband Plan aims to provide access to high speed broadband to all premises in Ireland, regardless of location, via a combination of commercial investment and a State intervention. I understand that the Bill referred to in the Question was initiated in 2017. The scheduling of debate on the Bill is a matter for the Dail.

Building Energy Rating Administration

Ceisteanna (24)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

24. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to extend the funding available for retrofitting of homes in order to reduce the energy usage needed in the housing stock thus reducing CO2 emissions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3311/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Funding for residential energy efficiency programmes is provided from within the overall capital funding envelope of €142m for the Energy Programme in the 2019 Revised Estimates for Public Services. I have allocated €85m to the residential retrofit schemes this year. The National Development Plan demonstrates the Government’s commitment to meeting Ireland’s infrastructure and investment needs over the next ten years, to 2027. The Plan indicates resourcing of €21.8bn for climate and low carbon related actions of which €3bn is for funding residential energy efficiency schemes.

My Department funds the Deep Retrofit Pilot Programme, which is administered by the SEAI. The Programme is investigating the challenges and opportunities of Deep Retrofit, including how to fund it. New Building Regulations will require at least a B2 rating to be achieved where major renovations take place and the NDP commits to upgrading 45,000 homes per year to a B2 rating.

The Deep Retrofit Programme is providing insight on the potential costs of upgrading the building stock, as a greater range of building archetypes are upgraded under the scheme. Development of economies of scale in the market though the aggregation required by the programme will also inform cost.

What is clear is that the Exchequer will not be able to fund the scale of deep retrofit that needs to happen in order for Ireland to meet its climate targets. Alternative financing options, including using EU financial instruments to lower the interest rates for loans for energy efficiency works, have to be a part of Ireland’s strategy to decarbonise our buildings.

Climate Change Adaptation Plans

Ceisteanna (25)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

25. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he is in receipt of local adaptation plans under the national climate change adaptation framework from all local authorities; and if his attention has been drawn to the proposals by local authorities. [3373/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Ireland’s first statutory National Adaptation Framework (NAF), published in January 2018, sets out the context to ensure local authorities, regions and key sectors can assess the key risks and vulnerabilities of climate change, implement climate resilience actions and ensure climate adaptation considerations are mainstreamed into policy making. In January 2018, my Department also entered into a funding commitment of €10m over 5 years to establish four Climate Action Regional Offices. This recognises the significant obligation which has been placed on local government to develop and implement its own climate action measures – both in terms of mitigation and adaptation.

A key work item for the Climate Action Regional Offices in 2019 will be to support the local authorities within their region to develop their local adaptation strategies and ensure they align with national adaptation priorities. The development and approval of the strategies themselves will however be the responsibility of each individual local authority.

Under the National Adaptation Framework, each local authority is required to develop a local adaptation strategy in line with “Local Authority Adaptation Strategy Development Guidelines” which were published by Minister of State Canney on 1 December 2018. Local authorities have been set a deadline for the completion of local strategies of 30 September 2019.

My Department will monitor progress on the development of local adaptation strategies via the National Adaptation Steering Committee, the Climate Action High Level Steering Group as well as through the various governance structures established for the Climate Action Regional Offices.

Recycling Data

Ceisteanna (26)

Joe Carey

Ceist:

26. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if progress is being made in increasing the proportion of bottles being recycled; and if he will set a new target for bottle recycling. [3188/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The EPA is the competent authority for the collation of national waste statistics and it reports annually on our performance against Ireland's recycling and recovery targets set out in the EU Packaging and Waste Packaging Directive. However, there are currently no specific targets set for plastic bottles within the Directive and, therefore, data relating to plastic bottles is compiled within data for all other plastic packaging items. The European Commission's “Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment”, which is expected to be agreed shortly at European level, contains a number of specific proposals relating to plastic bottles, including measures to ensure that all plastic bottles have tethered lids and that from 2030 all Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) bottles contain at least 30% recycled plastic. The proposal also sets specific targets for the separate collection and recycling of plastic bottles and states that, by 2025, Member States shall take the necessary measures to collect 77% of plastic bottles separately for recycling, with that figure rising to 90% by 2029. My Department is currently assessing how best to meet these new targets with a number of options under consideration, including a national study into the impact of potentially introducing a Deposit and Return Scheme.

With regard to glass bottles, statistics relating specifically to glass bottles are not collated. However, glass recycling in Ireland is currently at 88%, well ahead of the current EU target of 60%, which is due to increase to 70% by 2025 and 75% by 2030.

North-South Interconnector

Ceisteanna (27)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

27. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the outcome of recent discussions he has had with EirGrid in relation to the concerns of communities in counties Monaghan, Cavan and Meath in relation to the proposal to have the transmission cables for the proposed North-South Interconnector overground; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3406/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The North South Interconnector project will provide a second high-capacity electricity interconnector between the two transmission systems of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Following a rigorous planning process which included an eleven week oral hearing, the section of the project in Ireland was granted planning permission by An Bord Pleanála in December 2016. This decision was subsequently appealed to the Supreme Court and judgement is expected in the coming weeks. The section of the project in Northern Ireland was also granted planning permission. A Judicial Review of this decision was commenced in Northern Ireland and I understand that this is expected to conclude later this year.

Following motions passed in Dáil and Seanad Éireann in early 2017 calling for further independent examination of the project, two studies were commissioned by my predecessor and were published on 2 October 2018 following consideration by Government. The study conducted by an International Expert Commission determined that from a techno-economic point of view, an Alternating Current overhead line is the most beneficial way of meeting the need for enhanced power transfer capability between Ireland and Northern Ireland.This is consistent with previous studies on the matter.

I understand that EirGrid are continuing with landowner and community engagement programmes in areas of Meath, Cavan and Monaghan in order to address the concerns of the local communities, including the deployment of Agricultural and Community Liaison Officers on the ground.

There are currently a number of on-going procurements in relation to the project being undertaken and managed by ESB Networks, such as tower design. However no critical procurement contracts such as construction will be concluded until all legal proceedings have been resolved.

National Broadband Plan Implementation

Ceisteanna (28)

Bobby Aylward

Ceist:

28. Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the timeline for the commencement of works on the ground under the national broadband plan; the measures contained within same to ensure rapid roll out of broadband services for rural areas, rural communities and regional towns; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3148/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The National Broadband Plan (NBP) aims to ensure high speed broadband access to all premises in Ireland, regardless of location. This is being achieved via a combination of commercial investment and a State led intervention. The NBP has been a catalyst in encouraging investment by the telecoms sector. In 2012, less than 700,000, or 30% of all 2.3 million Irish premises had access to high speed broadband. When this Government came into office, this had risen to 52%. Today, 74% of premises can access high speed broadband.

The procurement process to appoint a bidder for the State intervention network is now at the final stage. My priority is to bring the procurement process to a fair and impartial conclusion as quickly as possible and I will bring a recommendation to Government in this regard in the coming weeks.

With regard to the completion of the build of infrastructure, should a contract be awarded and signed, deployment will commence at the earliest possible opportunity, with activity across all counties in the first year of deployment. Deployment is likely to take several years.

For those premises currently awaiting access to high speed broadband, practical initiatives will continue to be addressed through the work of the Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce to address obstacles and improve connectivity in respect of existing and future mobile phone and broadband services.

Under this Taskforce, engagement between telecommunications operators and local authorities through the Broadband Officers is continuing. These Broadband Officers are acting as single points of contact in local authorities for their communities. The appointment of these officers is already reaping rewards in terms of ensuring a much greater degree of consistency in engagements.

National Broadband Plan

Ceisteanna (29)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

29. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment when the decision on the awarding of the national broadband plan will be decided; the estimated cost of the plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3309/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The National Broadband Plan (NBP) aims to ensure high speed broadband access (minimum 30 megabits per second) to all premises in Ireland, regardless of location. This is being achieved via a combination of commercial investment and a State led intervention. Commercial operators have invested over €2.75 billion in upgrading and modernising their networks over the past 5 years, bringing high speed broadband to thousands of homes across Ireland on a commercial basis. In 012, less than 700,000, or 30% of all 2.3 million Irish premises had access to high speed broadband. When this Government came into office, this had risen to 52%. Today, 74% of premises can access high speed broadband.

The level of subsidy required to bring high speed broadband services to the premises in the NBP State intervention area will be determined through the procurement process. A final tender submission from the remaining bidder has been received by my Department. My priority is to bring the procurement process to a fair and impartial conclusion as quickly as possible and I will bring a recommendation to Government in the coming weeks.

As the Deputy will appreciate, I am not in a position to discuss cost at this point.

Recycling Policy

Ceisteanna (30, 46)

Peter Burke

Ceist:

30. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to increase the level of plastic recycling and to reduce the use of non-recyclable plastics in particular. [3175/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pat Deering

Ceist:

46. Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the steps being taken to end the use of non-recyclable plastics. [3182/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 30 and 46 together.

Increasing the level of plastic recycling and ultimately eliminating the use of non-recyclable plastics is a priority for me.

I recently secured Government approval to prohibit Government Departments and State Agencies from purchasing non-recyclable single use plastic cups and cutlery in offices. This is an initial step. To that end, I am working on the implementation of the European Strategy for Plastics in the Circular Economy, which was published in January 2018 by the European Commission. This strategy focuses on plastic production and use and sets a goal of ensuring all plastic placed on the EU market will be recyclable by 2030.

One of the first key legislative proposals to emerge on foot of the EU Plastics Strategy is the “Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment”. The proposed Directive was published by the European Commission on 28 May 2018. This draft legislation proposes new EU-wide rules to target the 10 most prevalent single-use plastic products found on Europe's beaches and seas, as well as lost and abandoned fishing gear.

The proposed Directive includes:

- bans on certain single-use plastic products;

- obligations on Member States to reduce the use of certain single-use plastics and for the collection of others; and

- obligations on producers of single-use plastic items to cover the costs of waste management and clean up through the establishment of extended producer responsibility schemes.

Ireland has worked closely with other Member States and the EU Commission in progressing this Directive. I expect it to be finalised shortly and I am committed to transposing it into Irish law at the earliest possible date.

Climate Change Policy

Ceisteanna (31, 40, 59, 245)

Catherine Connolly

Ceist:

31. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the climate mitigation policy developments on foot of the 2019 climate change performance index which ranked Ireland as the worst performing country in Europe for action on climate change for a second consecutive year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3398/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Tom Neville

Ceist:

40. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the steps he is taking to respond to climate disruption; and the steps he is taking to develop an all of government plan. [3183/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Alan Farrell

Ceist:

59. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his views on whether enough is being done by Ireland to tackle climate disruption; if sectoral targets will be set to reduce emissions; and his plans to tackle climate disruption. [3173/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

245. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the extent to which he continues to liaise with other Departments with a view to co-ordinating efforts to reduce emissions in line with international agreements and to protect industry and agriculture in view of the availability of measures to do so while still meeting the targets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3667/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 31, 40, 59 and 245 together.

l have recently received a mandate from Government to develop on the All of Government Plan to bring about a step change in our climate ambition over the next decade, and beyond. I intend that this new Plan will set out the actions which must be taken to make Ireland a leader in responding to climate change. It will have a strong focus on implementation, including actions with timelines and steps needed to achieve each action, assigning clear lines of responsibility for delivery. I am currently working with my colleagues in Government to prepare proposals for inclusion in the new Plan. The setting of appropriate targets to drive ambition within relevant sectors is a key focus of my work to develop the Plan.

To inform the development of the Plan, I hosted a High Level Consultative Forum on Friday 18 January. This forum was attended by almost 200 people, and included representatives from all of the key sectors responsible for greenhouse gas emissions in Ireland as well as a strong representation from civil society.

I intend that actions to deliver the significant investment priorities identified for funding through the National Development Plan will be included in the new Plan, as well as additional actions that will look to taxation, regulation and behavioural change measures to further enhance Ireland’s climate mitigation policies. I intend that the Plan will also recognise, and seek to take advantage of, the economic opportunities that the low carbon transition presents for Ireland.

The Plan will build on existing policy and will be organised around six themes that focus action across Government in all sectors of the economy that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions:

- regulatory framework;

- adoption of known technologies;

- addressing market failure;

- driving change in business models;

- the public sector leading by example; and

- engaging with citizens and communities.

In developing this Plan, I am also looking forward to receiving shortly the final report and recommendations of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action which has, over the last number of months, been considering the report of the Citizens Assembly in relation to climate change.

Waste Management

Ceisteanna (32, 34)

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

32. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if consideration has been given to examining the franchise model for household waste collection to replace the side by side competition model. [3355/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

34. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the status of the development of an independent waste regulator; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3368/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 32 and 34 together.

A review of "A Resource Opportunity - Waste Management Policy in Ireland " will be initiated in 2019. This review process will take account of a number of initiatives, such as the European Circular Economy waste and plastics legislation framework and the reports from the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission and the Price Monitoring Group. This process will inform the development of future national waste management policy, including our environmental goals, regulatory and market structures, and policy instruments and tools.

Illegal Dumping

Question No. 34 answered with Question No. 32.

Ceisteanna (33)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

33. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the status of the steps he is taking to help county councils deal with incidents of illegal dumping and fly tipping; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3407/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Illegal dumping is a matter of individual responsibility and compliance with the law. While enforcement action in this area is a matter for local authorities, my Department encourages a multi-facetted approach to tackling the problem, incorporating enforcement, public awareness and education and, as such, provides funding to support the activities of the Waste Enforcement Regional Lead Authorities of approximately €1 million per annum and of the network of local authority waste enforcement officers of approximately €7.4 million per annum. A 2019 anti-dumping initiative will be introduced to work in partnership with local authorities in identifying high risk or problem areas, developing appropriate enforcement responses and carrying out clean-up operations. Since 2017, funding of €3.3 million has been made available which has supported over 400 projects across all 31 local authority areas, remediating black spots and equipping local authority enforcement officers with the latest technologies available to support SMART enforcement of our waste laws.

The National Waste Enforcement Steering Committee has identified dealing with sites containing illegally deposited waste as a national waste enforcement priority for 2019. Accordingly, my Department has instructed local authorities to detect such sites and to initiate appropriate enforcement responses. I am prepared to provide assistance both in terms of enforcement costs and site solutions to local authorities who identify and address these sites in 2019.

In recognition of the particular difficulties border counties have experienced in dealing with diesel laundering waste dumping, my Department continues to reimburse the clean-up costs associated with this criminal activity.

Question No. 34 answered with Question No. 32.