As I stated in reply to Question No. 171 of 22 May 2019, my Department currently has a total of 66 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. The 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 the ESRI, UCC, UCD and EnvEcon.
I am leading the finalisation of a Government Climate Plan which will set out the actions Ireland needs to take to reach our targets. The Plan will set goals for all key sectors including electricity, agriculture, transport, industry, buildings, waste management, and the public sector. I intend to seek Government approval to publish the Plan shortly.
The Plan will lead to a significant step-up in policy ambition and delivery, to ensure that we at least meet our 2030 targets and get on a clear pathway to meeting our 2050 objectives. It will be updated every year, and will also be informed by the recommendations contained in the report of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Climate Action.
The goals and targets will be informed by analysis of the most cost-effective choices available to reach our 2030 targets. By articulating sectoral decarbonisation ambition ranges, the framework provided by the Plan will enable each sector to identify and put in place the most appropriate policy tools to deliver this stated ambition in order for Ireland to meet its 2030 targets.