Dairy Sector

Ceisteanna (159)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

159. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which he remains satisfied regarding the future of the dairy industry, notwithstanding Brexit, and in view of the need for diversification into new product areas in order to broaden market opportunities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5920/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

In 2017, Ireland exported dairy products, including dairy powders to 147 countries totalling over €4.6 billion worth of produce, an increase of over 17% compared to 2016, representing high-quality value-added produce. CSO estimates of dairy exports in the January-November 2018 period (latest available) show that they increased by 2.8% in volume compared to 2017.

Irish dairy products have a highly rated and hard earned reputation in terms of quality, safety and sustainability, and this gives them a competitive edge in markets over the world.

The pursuit and development of new markets for Irish dairy exports is of course an ongoing and central component of the strategic development of the dairy sector, as evidenced by the objectives set out for the industry in Food Wise 2025. Food Wise 2025 outlines the potential for growth in dairy exports to new and emerging markets, particularly in Asia, Africa, the Americas and the Gulf region.

The long-term fundamentals of the global dairy market are strong, with growing global demand projected from fast developing countries with increasing middle classes and more westernised diets. Whilst significant challenges have continued throughout recent years, in particular price volatility, there is confidence that the Irish and EU dairy sector is well placed to gain from the opportunity presented by expanding global demand.

Both business and retail customers for Irish dairy products will continue to demand that the Irish dairy industry operates to the highest standards of food safety, environmental sustainability and animal welfare. In addition to the high standards by which Irish dairy farmers operate, we need to credibly verify these standards to the satisfaction of our international customers. Programmes such as Origin Green and the Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme, the Dairy Sustainability Ireland Initiative as well as environmental schemes under the Rural Development Programme demonstrate our collective commitment to environmental sustainability.

My Department and I, in conjunction with other stakeholders, including the Irish dairy companies and agencies such as Bord Bia, will continue to play a key role in building the market opportunities for Irish dairy, for example through trade missions, inward and outward technical visits and inspections, and other trade facilitation and promotional activities.

Tillage Sector

Ceisteanna (160)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

160. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which profitability in the cereal industry remains positive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5921/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Tillage is an integral component of our Agrifood industry, making a significant contribution to overall agricultural output. Crops including horticulture, contribute approximately €700m annually to agricultural output at farm gate prices.

The cereals sector is a major contributor of high quality grain to the feed industry, provides grain for the food and drinks industry and a key source of seed production. Cereals are therefore a significant stakeholder in our agrifood industry from a supply/food safety and sustainability viewpoint and an efficient and viable tillage sector in Ireland is vital.

I acknowledge that cereal production has experienced difficult challenges in recent times. In relation to cereal markets, Ireland accounts for approximately 1% of EU production, however grain prices are affected by global market price shifts and particularly events such as last summer’s drought. It is not possible to predict the price of grain for the 2019 harvest at this early stage.

My Department continues to provide significant supports to the sector. In 2017, I introduced the €150m Agriculture Cashflow Support Loan Scheme including the tillage and horticulture sectors. As a further support, the Tillage Capital Investment Scheme under TAMS II covers specific areas of investment with over €7.3 million distributed to tillage farmers to date. Early last year I announced that the EU Protein Aid Scheme was extended for 2018, resulting in over €2.8m being paid to growers to date.

In August 2018 I announced a €2.75 million fodder production incentive measure for tillage farmers to encourage growers to participate in the fodder market. I am pleased to say that there was very positive engagement from growers with over 19,600ha of catch crops grown.

My Department also provides a high quality official crop seed certification scheme to the industry, in addition to an extensive national crop variety evaluation programme, which provides invaluable information to growers on the latest varieties available.

The agrifood sector is exploring the development of novel markets for cereal products seeking to improve competitiveness and sustainability with Irish malting barley demand increasing with growth in demand for Irish whiskey.

I am committed to this important sector which plays a key role in the development of the wider agrifood industry.

Artisan Food Sector

Ceisteanna (161)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

161. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the degree to which opportunities continue to exist for the artisan food sector; the degree to which the industry has grown over the past five years; his expectations for the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5922/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Artisan and speciality food businesses can have a significant impact on local rural economies and their importance is acknowledged in the Food Wise 2025 strategy. Growth prospects for the sector are positive overall, driven by increased consumer interest in the provenance of food, environmental concerns, health and a desire to support the local economy.

The Small Business food sector is segmented into Artisan, Established, Startups and In-Growth types. Approximately 500 food companies with a turnover of €100,000 to €3.5m are registered with Bord Bia for supports and services. These owner managed businesses produce high-end products with a strong focus on the domestic market.

A range of supports for this particular sector are available from my Department and relevant State agencies, including Bord Bia, Teagasc and Local Enterprise Offices, including marketing assistance, specialised training, capacity building and promotion supports.

Earlier this year, my colleague Minister Ring and I launched the ‘LEADER Food Initiative’ for the artisan/small food and beverage businesses, which provides for funding of up to €15 million up to 2020, from my Department, through the Rural Development Programme (RDP). This funding is being delivered using the LEADER methodology. It supports new and existing artisan, micro and small food producers to address emerging challenges through investment in areas such as capital equipment, market development, competitiveness and innovation.

Fishing Industry

Ceisteanna (162)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

162. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which fishing remains a viable option for fishing dependent families nationally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5923/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) provides the framework for the long term conservation and sustainability of fish stocks around our shores and is designed to ensure the long term sustainability of fishing in Ireland and throughout EU waters. The CFP utilises the best scientific advice as a key determinant in setting annual fishing quotas. Key features of this policy include setting Total Allowable Catches (TACs) and quotas to deliver maximum sustainable yield (MSY) by 2015, where possible, and in all cases by 2020 as well as a discards ban (Landing Obligation) to be phased in over the period 2015 to 2019.

Setting fishing levels on the basis of Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) is an essential aspect of the policy. Fishing opportunities are agreed on an annual basis at the EU Fisheries Council of Ministers on the basis of a proposal produced by the European Commission that is informed by the best available scientific advice. The Common Fisheries Policy specifically calls for the progressive restoration and maintenance of populations of fish stocks above biomass levels capable of producing MSY. To achieve this, the FMSY exploitation rate shall be achieved for all stocks by 2020 at the latest. This should ultimately lead to healthy fish stocks, higher quotas for both Irish and EU fishermen and lead to more sustainable fishing patterns.

Scientific information on the state of the fisheries exploited by the Irish fleet is compiled by the Marine Institute and is published in the Stock Book each year. The most recent Stock Book, 2018, contains 74 stocks that are subject to the scientific advice of the Marine Institute. From the 74 stocks, 32 are assessed as being sustainably fished in 2018. This number has grown every year since 2013. This in turn leads to the number of stocks being over fished declining from 22 in 2014 to 16 in 2018.

The 2018 December Fisheries Council, at which quotas for 2019 were agreed showed a rebuilding of many stocks. I was pleased that the scientific advice supported large increases in a number of stocks of importance such as Haddock (+20%), Hake (+28%) and Megrims (+47%) in the Celtic Sea. The overall increase of 30% in whitefish quota will provide improved fishing opportunities for whitefish fishermen all around our coasts. This shows that the many years of intensive, industry led conservation measures are paying off.

At the same time that the sustainability of our fish stocks is improving year on year, we are facing considerable uncertainty for our fishing industry arising from Brexit. Like all sectors a ‘no deal outcome would be the worst possible result for fisheries but I remain optimistic, while preparing for all eventualities, that such an outcome can be averted.

Provided we can successfully navigate the potential difficulties arising from Brexit, in cooperation with our EU27 partners, I am confident that we will be able to ensure the continued economic viability of our fishing fleet and fish processors, thereby supporting the families and communities that depend on a vibrant fishing industry.

Agricultural Production Costs

Ceisteanna (163)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

163. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the degree to which the costs of farm inputs such as fertilisers are monitored; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5924/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

My Department continually monitors the cost of farm production inputs using data available from national and international sources. Official statistics on farm inputs are compiled by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) and these are available in various publications and on their website.

My Department's Annual Review and Outlook collates a range of available farm data, including the costs of farm inputs, and the most recent publication showed a decrease in the price of fertiliser in 2017 compared with 2016 figures. Farm output, input costs and margins also receive detailed examination each year by Teagasc in their Annual Review and Outlook.

In December 2018 the CSO released its Advance Estimate of Output, Input and Income in Agriculture for 2018. Total intermediate consumption in agriculture was up by 11.2% in 2018 versus 2017, increasing from €5,252.7m to €5,842.4m. A price increase combined with a volume increase of 7.3% resulted in an overall increase in expenditure on fertilisers in 2018, by €59.7m to €572.7m.

In addition, the CSO issue monthly Agricultural Price Indices outlining the changes in output and input indices for a range of agricultural products. Their January release covering the period up to November 2018 indicated that the index of agricultural inputs increased by 6.7% over the previous year, with fertilisers increasing by 9.9% on November 2017 prices.

Food Safety Standards Regulation

Ceisteanna (164)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

164. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which he remains satisfied regarding the reliability of labelling and traceability structures throughout the food industry, with particular reference to imports from third countries; the average number of checks or tests carried out in 2018; the way in which this compares with previous years; the number of cases detected which indicate a failure to meet the required standards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5925/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Food products placed on the marketplace are covered by a range of legislation designed to ensure that products supplied to consumers are of the highest safety standards. My Department plays a part in the enforcement of this legislation along with other Government departments and State Agencies such as the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) and the Health Service Executive. The FSAI is the body responsible for enforcement of regulations governing traceability, labelling and provision of food information to customers. Regulation (EC) No. 178 of 2002 sets out the general principles and requirements of EU food law.

The import of products of animal origin from third countries is governed by a comprehensive and robust legislative framework laid down at EU level, controlled by Member States in the first instance, and audited by the European Commission’s Directorate General for Health and Food Safety, to ensure compliance with all of the relevant food safety standards. The legislation imposes health and supervisory requirements designed to ensure that imported products meet standards equivalent to those required for production and trade between Member States. Border Inspection Posts are operated by my Department. Import control procedures on products of animal and fish origin are highly prescriptive and strictly audited by the Directorate to ensure compliance. Inspection reports are published on the Directorate General for Health and Food Safety’s website.

My Department also has a permanent veterinary presence at all of its approved slaughter plants. Controls at plants only engaged in secondary processing are carried out at a frequency based on an annual risk assessment. An annual audit of imported products is carried out in each Department-approved plant, including checks on physical identity, labelling and documentary checks.

Extra veterinary checks are carried out on selected consignments of foods imported into DAFM-approved establishments from other EU Member States or from Third Countries outside the EU. These checks include, physical checks of product condition, checks of accompanying documentation and checks of labelling and health markings.

I am satisfied that the controls and checks in place and enforced by my Department which included 186 annual meat labelling audits and 149 traceability audits in 2018, ensure that Irish consumers are protected and correctly informed when they purchase and consume food products.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has service contracts in place with the official agencies performing official controls, to verify compliance with the extensive requirements of food labelling legislation, in these establishments. The FSAI reports in detail on the number of inspections and checks carried out, and non-compliance findings.

Food Prices

Ceisteanna (165)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

165. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the details of the finalisation of the unfair trading practices directive at EU level; his plans to transpose the directive; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5926/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The European Parliament and the Council reached a final agreement, ad referendum, on the text of a Directive, which was presented to the Special Committee on Agriculture (SCA) on 14th January, in relation to Unfair Trading Practices in business-to-business relationships in the food supply chain.

Currently, Member States are being asked to review the text one final time, in order to provide linguistic comments only. The next meeting will take place in Brussels on 19th February 2019, after which, a final text will be produced and presented by the Presidency to the SCA for approval. It will then be presented to the European Parliament to be agreed in Plenary session.

Once approved by the European Parliament, the Directive must be transposed into national legislation by Member States within 24 months.

My colleague the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation and I have agreed to establish a joint Working Group to progress the transposition of the Directive, having regard to implications for the existing Grocery Goods Undertakings Regulations 2016, which fall under the remit of her Department.

Food Industry Development

Ceisteanna (166)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

166. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the objectives of the recently launched organic food strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5927/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The Strategy for the development of the Organic Food Sector which was launched by my colleague Minister of State Andrew Doyle recognises the opportunities that exist for the Irish Organic Food Sector and provides clear direction for the development of the Sector up to 2025. It aligns the strategic growth plans of the Organic Sector with the broader Foodwise 2025 Strategy for Irish food and drink.

The overall strategic objective is to develop a consumer led viable Organic Food Sector in Ireland enhancing the sustainability credentials of Irish food which will produce a wide range of organic products to meet increasing domestic and export market opportunities. To this end, this Strategy sets measurable strategic objectives for each sub-sector and incorporates actions considered essential to further support the industry’s development and achieve growth targets.

A public consultation process provided an opportunity for all interested parties to contribute to the development of the new strategic plan. The public consultation process combined with an Organic Processing Survey ensured that stakeholders had their views considered, before the finalisation of the Strategy.

Minister of State Doyle is currently in the process of establishing an Implementation Group to ensure we deliver on the actions within the new Strategy. It is anticipated that this group, which will comprise of organic sector stakeholders, will hold an initial meeting in the very near future to drive this Strategy and ensure that the Irish Organic Food Sector realises its full potential in the coming years.

Data Protection

Ceisteanna (167)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

167. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the way in which a person (details supplied) obtained a private telephone number; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5928/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) is committed to the protection of all personal data under its control and is cognisant of the obligations placed on it, not only by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) but also the 2018 Data Protection Act and the Law Enforcement Directive. My Department has a dedicated Data Protection Unit in place since November 2015, which has been promoting Data Protection and GDPR awareness since its inception. This Unit actively informs all staff of their obligations under GDPR, utilising our internal communications systems, circulating easy read guides, FAQs, updates via email, poster campaigns, targeted Data Protection seminars and training courses.

My Department is aware equally of its responsibilities arising from the Animal Health and Welfare legislation.

The person named was recently the subject of a regulatory herd test under the Animal Health and Welfare (Bovine Tuberculosis) Regulation SI 58/2015. The results of this test meant that it was necessary for my Department to withdraw the freedom to trade status from the herd of the person named. A Department official in seeking to contact the person named to inform him of this finding, identified that the number recorded on the Department’s Corporate Customer System was no longer in use by the person named. Disease control is a paramount responsibility of Department veterinary officials and therefore the official concerned deemed it essential, in this instance, to obtain the most up to date contact details of the person named to ensure the prevention of any unnecessary spread of disease.

The official, mindful of data protection requirements, ensured that no personal data passed from my Department to the third party from whom the number was obtained. Advice sought from the Irish Data Protection Commission confirmed this was acceptable in the circumstances as set out above. The details were used only in this instance.

The Data Protection Officer of my department has written to the named person, outlining the steps taken by the Department official in this incident and informing the person named that it would be advisable for him to update his contact information with my Department.

Forestry Sector

Ceisteanna (168)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

168. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the reason carbon credits from tree plantations are being taken from persons (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5936/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Kyoto Protocol and related EU legislation, Ireland is obliged to report and account greenhouse gas changes in our forests. The State is operating in the same manner as other EU Member States in this regard.

Forest related projects in Ireland cannot be used to generate credits within the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, the regulatory carbon market in the European Union. Farmers that are interested in planting trees can receive a grant and annual premium under the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s Forestry Programme, one of the goals of which is to increase the long term storage of carbon in our forests and wood products. The benefits of planting for individual farmers are enjoyed through the generous grants and premium available, as well as from the value of the crop, which are tax free.

Departmental Staff Data

Ceisteanna (169)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

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

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Litter Pollution

Ceisteanna (170)

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

170. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to allocate additional funding to Limerick City and County Council to tackle litter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5818/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Littering is first and foremost a matter of individual responsibility and compliance with the law. The primary remit of my Department in relation to littering is to provide the legislative framework, which is then managed and enforced principally by the Local Authorities. The latest figures available from my Department’s National Litter Pollution Monitoring System, a system designed to monitor the extent, severity and composition of litter nationally, demonstrate that the litter situation is generally continuing to improve across the country. It is vital that communities, businesses and Local Authorities in towns all across Ireland, work together to manage waste properly and to combat litter.

In recognition of the challenges presented by littering, my Department encourages a multi-facetted approach, incorporating public awareness and education as well as effective enforcement. In this context, my Department supports a number of national anti-litter initiatives including the Anti-Litter Awareness Grant Scheme, the National Spring Clean, the Projected Uplands and Rural Environments (PURE) Project, the Green Schools Programme, the Irish Business Against Litter (IBAL) Anti-Litter League, as well as negotiated agreements with the banking and chewing gum industries.

The Department funds these initiatives through the Environment Fund, for which the 2019 allocations are currently under consideration. These initiatives empower those in our communities to tackle the challenges littering creates across our country.

Waste Management

Ceisteanna (171)

Jackie Cahill

Ceist:

171. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the details of the collection of the farm plastics collection levy; the amount collected; the reason only one organisation receives the full levy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5872/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Under the Waste Management (Farm Plastics) Regulations, 2001, all companies that place farm film products on the Irish market are obliged to either: 1. operate a deposit and refund scheme, collect, or arrange to collect, free of charge the farm plastics from their customers and register and report to their Local Authority; or,

2. participate in an approved farm plastics recycling scheme.

There are currently no producers of farm films and plastics registered with Local Authorities.

Irish Farm Film Producers Group (IFFPG) is approved by me to operate a compliance scheme for the recovery of farm plastics waste. IFFPG is a not for profit body, which is primarily funded by its producer membership.

IFFPG collected a total of 26,739 tonnes of farm plastics waste (silage wrap and sheeting wastes) in 2017 and their members paid a recycling levy of €110 per tonne for farm plastics that they placed on the market in Ireland.

EU Directives

Ceisteanna (172, 173)

Eoin Ó Broin

Ceist:

172. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he or his predecessor supported the 90% separate collection target by 2025 for plastic beverage bottles contained in Article 9 of the single-use plastics directive at European Council meetings. [5879/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Eoin Ó Broin

Ceist:

173. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the amendments tabled at European Council meetings on the proposal for a directive on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment regarding Article 9 of the single-use plastics directive. [5880/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 172 and 173 together.

Ireland has fully supported the ambition of 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 from the outset, including the 90% collection target contained in Article 9. Ireland tabled no amendments to Article 9 of the Proposal for a Directive.

Statutory Instruments

Ceisteanna (174)

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

174. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the assessment carried out before signing SI No. 4 of 2019 European Union (Environmental Impact Assessment) (Peat Extraction) Regulations 2019, of the impact of the regulations on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from peatlands in line with the national peatlands strategy. [5883/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The government are committed to making Ireland a leader in responding to climate change. Transitioning to low carbon fuel sources is crucial to achieving that ambition. These new Peat Regulations will ensure that, for the first time, all commercial peat extraction in sites over 30 hectares will now be subject to licensing by the EPA, which will include a mandatory Environmental Impact Assessment.

Under the old rules, EPA licensing was only required for peat extraction on sites of larger than 50 hectares. Sites that were under 50 hectares were subject to a different regime i.e. planning permission through the local authority and an environmental impact assessment carried out where required, rather than a mandatory requirement as provided for under the new EPA licensing regime.

Because of the EPA’s new role as the single licensing authority for all sites over 30 hectares, it is no longer necessary for local authorities to have a role through the planning system.

The EPA has built up significant expertise in this area and will be well placed to act as the single authority overseeing environmental impact assessment and licensing of these sites.

The publication of these regulations will meet the requirements of Action 19 of the National Peatlands Strategy published in 2016 which stated that: The existing legal framework relating to the regulation of peat extraction in terms of planning, environmental protection and habitats protection will be reviewed, and recommendations developed to bring about a clearer, proportionate and enforceable system of regulation that also ensures compliance with appropriate EU environmental legislation and to ensure best practice in peat extraction operations. As also stated in this Strategy, research on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from peatlands is on-going.

The publication of these Regulations do not alter Bord na Móna’s plans to wind down the production of peat over the next decade in line with their recently launched “Brown to Green” strategy.

Climate Change Adaptation Plans

Ceisteanna (175, 176)

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

175. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from peatlands he anticipates over the lifetime of the national mitigation plan, the national energy and climate plan and the all-of-government plan on climate disruption. [5884/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

176. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the data available on the marginal abatement costs of reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from peatlands; and the volume of emission reductions possible at each cost level. [5885/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 175 and 176 together.

The government are committed to making Ireland a leader in responding to climate change. I am currently developing an all of government plan, with actions across all areas such as heat, electricity, transport and agriculture according to strict timelines.

Transitioning to low carbon fuel sources is crucial to achieving our ambition.

The EPA reports projected emissions and removals from Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry as required under the EU Monitoring Mechanism Regulation on the basis of forecasted activity data (land use statistics) - see here:

http://cdr.eionet.europa.eu/ie/eu/mmr/.

The forecasted land use statistics for wetlands take into account the National Peatlands Strategy.

The EPA does not publish land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) emissions projections in its annual projections report as these sources are not currently in the scope in Ireland’s non-ETS targets for 2020 under the EU Effort Sharing Decision.

The EPA expects to update the scope of its national emissions projections reporting in future as LULUCF emissions come in scope for compliance with national non-ETS targets under the EU Effort Sharing Regulation for 2021-2030, with the wetlands category to be subject to mandatory reporting and accounting from 2026. In preparation for this, the EPA is currently scoping the development of a national land-use map so as to derive a more accurate picture of both the extent and management of wetlands and the implications of future mandatory reporting of emissions and removals from wetlands in the context of Ireland’s EU obligations.

Future reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from wetlands and the volume of emission reductions will depend on the actions outlined in the all of government plan which is still being developed. As such, this information is not currently available but will be reported in the usual way by the EPA.

Better Energy Homes Scheme Administration

Ceisteanna (177)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

177. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the steps which can be taken to assist a business (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5949/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The Better Energy Homes Scheme is administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) on behalf of my Department. As Minister I have no function in relation to registration of Contractors. SEAI administers and maintains a list of contractors who are registered to undertake works under the Better Energy Homes Scheme. Each registered contractor is required to undertake all works for which grant support is payable in accordance with the technical specifications of the scheme, demonstrate their tax compliance and insurance cover and cooperate with the scheme’s Quality Assurance (QA) programme.

The terms and conditions of the Better Energy Homes Scheme are in place to ensure the transparent administration of public monies. Achieving this requires that the processes and systems are clear and efficient and operate in a manner which is fair to all parties. SEAI has a responsibility to apply a prudent, practical and appropriate approach to the governance of the disbursement of the public funds. SEAI must also ensure that Contractors adhere to, and fully comply with the Code of Practice which can be found on their websitewww.seai.ie/resources/publications/Code-of-practice-technical-Specification.pdf. Details on the SEAI’s disciplinary procedure and appeals process is also available on their website: www.seai.ie/resources/publications/Better-Energy-Homes-QADP.pdf.

Better Energy Homes Scheme Eligibility

Ceisteanna (178)

Joan Collins

Ceist:

178. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if a review (details supplied) has taken place; if so, the decision in this regard; and if not, when the review will take place. [5961/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The Better Energy Warmer Homes scheme is funded by my Department and administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). The scheme delivers a range of energy efficiency measures free of charge to low income households vulnerable to energy poverty. To date over 135,000 homes have received free upgrades under the scheme, leaving the occupants better able to afford to heat their homes to an adequate level. The aim of the scheme is to deliver a range of energy efficiency measures in a way which represents the best possible use of Exchequer funding, focusing eligibility to those in receipt of certain payments from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, such as the Fuel Allowance, and limiting each home to one visit for an energy efficiency upgrade. Last year, the scheme was expanded. Subject to survey by SEAI and assessment of potential for improved energy performance, the scheme can, in certain circumstances, include internal or external wall insulation. This will permit the upgrade of more property types such as homes with solid walls, and also increase the energy savings and emissions reductions that the scheme can achieve and will also enable future fuel switching.

Demand for the scheme is extremely high, reflecting the shift to deeper measures, and is impacted by longer delivery times associated with these type of works and the delivery capacity of SEAI’s contractor panel. The construction market is currently under pressure to deliver new homes as well.

The measures offered under the scheme are currently being reviewed again in light of new Building Regulations coming into force later this year. Any works carried out under the scheme will need to comply with the requirements set out under those regulations, while also taking account of the budget available to the scheme.

While homes that previously received works under the scheme are not currently eligible for a second visit, consideration will be given to revisiting these properties later in 2019, where feasible and appropriate.

Motor Insurance Coverage

Ceisteanna (179)

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

179. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the rationale for the green card for cross-Border workers that the insurance industry proposes issuing in the context of a no-deal Brexit; the reason he is of the view that this is either necessary or welcome; the locations such a device is needed by Irish workers and motorists that have to drive outside the European Union; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5795/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The Green Card is issued within the 48 countries covered by the Council of (Motor Insurance) Bureaux, and is a document whose production may be required to prove that insurance cover is in place for vehicles travelling between these countries, where alternative legislative provisions are not in place.

All EU Member States are party to this system, but the EU does not require production of a Green Card when travelling between Member States. However, the default position is that Green Cards are required for vehicles entering the EU from Third Countries, unless the EU Commission declares otherwise.

If the UK were to exit the EU without a deal, the default position would be that Green Cards would be required for EU-registered vehicles entering the UK and for UK-registered vehicles entering the EU. While the Government remains of the view that the best and only way to ensure an orderly withdrawal of the UK from the EU - including avoiding the necessity for Green Cards - is the ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement reached between the EU and the UK, the Government recognises that it is prudent to plan for the possibility of a 'no deal' exit.

The motor insurance industry is therefore behaving prudently in being prepared for the possibility that Green Cards will be required, even though this is not a desirable outcome. In line with the current expected Brexit date of 29th March 2019, insurers and insurance brokers have indicated that they will begin issuing Green Cards to policyholders from March if no agreement has been reached between the UK and the EU on Brexit or the process has not been further delayed. At that point anyone who plans on driving their Irish registered vehicle in Northern Ireland or Britain should contact their insurer or insurance broker one month in advance of their expected travel date to ensure they receive their Green Card in sufficient time.

Taxi Regulations

Ceisteanna (180)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

180. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will address issues in the taxi industry regarding individual owners of taxis who cannot sell or lease their licence out to a car which is not in their ownership (details supplied). [5929/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The regulation of the small public service vehicle (SPSV) industry is a matter for the National Transport Authority (NTA) under the provisions of the Taxi Regulation Act 2013.

At present, the transfer of SPSV licences is prohibited under section 14(1) of the 2013 Act which was commenced with effect from 6 April 2014. However, in the case of the death of a licence holder, section 15 of the same Act applies special provisions. In such circumstances, a SPSV licence may continue to be operated by a person who was nominated by the licence holder in advance of his or her death.

While I have no plans at present to adjust these provisions, the NTA is currently conducting a review of the SPSV sector which may help to inform future policy direction in this regard.

Given the role of the NTA as regulator, and in the context of its current review of SPSV policy, I have referred the Deputy's question to the Authority for direct reply. Please contact my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 working days.

Cycling Policy

Ceisteanna (181)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

181. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to promote cycling as a transport option in order to reduce carbon emissions from transport; the cost-benefit analysis undertaken with regard to increasing investment in cycling infrastructure; if cycling rather than driving reduces carbon emissions; if cycling facilities have a better cost-benefit to communities than driving infrastructure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5794/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

I can assure the Deputy that I am acutely aware of the importance of investing in improved cycling infrastructure and the benefits which can accrue from such investment in terms of increasing modal shift, alleviating congestion, lowering transport-related carbon emissions and, indeed, contributing toward the improved health of citizens generally.

Project Ireland 2040 provides an indicative allocation of €8.6billion toward National Strategic Outcome 4: Sustainable Mobility and outlines our intention to, among other things, deliver a comprehensive cycling and walking network in all our major cities.

Delivery of this network will be assisted through the funding to be provided over the period 2018 to 2021 which is summarised below:

- €110 million specifically dedicated to cycling and walking infrastructure in our major urban areas;

- €135 million for sustainable urban transport measures;

- €750 million approximately towards the BusConnects programme in Dublin which will include the delivery of around 200 kilometres of segregated cycling lanes, where possible; and

- €53 million to support the development of new Greenways.

In addition to the above, Government has also made additional money available for cycling projects through both the Urban and Rural Regeneration and Development Funds which form part of Project Ireland 2040.

Expenditure of public money is of course subject to the requirements of the Public Spending Code which sets out the appraisals required dependent upon the level of expenditure envisaged in the case of individual projects.

The measures I have outlined above, form part of our transition to a low-carbon and climate resilient society as outlined in National Strategic Outcome 8 of Project Ireland 2040. It goes without saying that cycling as a mode of transport is environmentally friendly and increasing its mode share is of course an ambition of Government and in that regard I welcome the increasing popularity of cycling as a mode of transport.

I am delighted to say that the increased levels of funding Government is making available in 2019 will facilitate the commencement of construction of a number of significant cycling projects in both the Greater Dublin Area and beyond, which will be of great benefit to all once completed and will encourage more people to choose cycling as their preferred mode of transport.

Taxi Regulations

Ceisteanna (182)

Imelda Munster

Ceist:

182. Deputy Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport further to Parliamentary Question No. 236 of 30 January 2019, his plans to introduce a service (details supplied) in either rural or urban areas in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5815/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The Deputy refers to a specific company, which is licensed as a dispatch operator in Ireland.

In Ireland, carrying passengers in a car for a payment is regulated under the Taxi Regulation Act 2013 . That Act provides for regulating the small public service vehicle (SPSV) industry including taxis, hackneys and other similar activities. The Act requires the holding of an SPSV licence for the vehicle and also one for the driver, in order to carry passengers for hire or reward. The regulatory regime places no quantitative restriction on the number of licences in place.

The regulatory regime requires drivers to be Garda vetted, to have demonstrated knowledge both of industry standards and of the areas in which they will be working, to have a vehicle meets specific safety standards, to have appropriate insurance in place, and to operate to an appropriate standard of service, within a pricing system.

The focus of the regulatory regime is to protect the consumer and to help personal safety. These are important objectives and central to how the SPSV industry is operated and regulated. Within this context, there is also a need to evolve and be open to new technologies and innovation. In this regard, there is now widespread use of technology in the SPSV industry, and such innovations are of benefit to both consumers and operators.

As regards the rural areas, the Deputy will be aware that the NTA has responsibility for providing integrated local and rural transport. This includes responsibility for the Rural Transport Programme which now operates under the "Local Link" brand. The number of services has been expanded in recent years and spending on the programme has increased substantially also. In recent months, the NTA has been conducting a pilot scheme to test evening and night-time services as part of the Rural Transport Programme. This pilot was recently extended and future arrangements will be informed by an evaluation of its experience.

Road Improvement Schemes

Ceisteanna (183)

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

183. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if funding will be made available to local councils to improve road conditions and road safety outside schools; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5829/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads is the statutory responsibility of each local authority, in accordance with the provisions of Section 13 of the Roads Act 1993. Works on those roads are funded from local authorities' own resources supplemented by State road grants, where applicable. Arising from the arrangements in place in relation to Local Property Tax receipts the four Dublin Councils became self funding for regional and local roads under the main road grant categories with effect from 2015.

Where local authorities are eligible for grants, the Department invites applications each year from local authorities for safety improvement schemes. Under this programme it is open to local authorities to seek funding for works which can assist in reducing vehicle speeds and improve road safety. Funding can also be sought under the Specific and Strategic Grant Programmes for larger scale safety projects and it is also open to local authorities to use Discretionary Grant funds for safety measures.

As regards schools located on national roads, as Minister I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme. My Department allocates the national capital roads programme budget to Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) to manage and deliver (in accordance with the Roads Acts 1993-2015) the planning, design, and construction of all national roads developments, in conjunction with the local authorities concerned.

Noting the above position, I have, therefore, referred the question to TII for a direct reply to you in relation to national roads. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 working days.