Thursday, 27 June 2019

Ceisteanna (4)

Jan O'Sullivan


4. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation her plans to take the actions identified in the recently published Climate Action Plan 2019 required to be taken by her Department and in which it is a key stakeholder; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27290/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Oral answers (9 contributions) (Ceist ar Business)

I join others in congratulating Deputy Kelleher on becoming a Member of the European Parliament. It is interesting that he is going to be an MEP for almost everyone in the Chamber, apart from the Acting Chairman and the Minister, Deputy Humphreys. The rest of us are all in the constituency of Ireland South and look forward to working with him.

My question relates to the climate action plan, an important Government plan in which we all want to participate. However, there are specific actions identified in the document on which the Minister's Department leads or in which it is a key stakeholder. Therefore, I want to find out what it is doing about them.

I thank the Deputy for raising this issue. I welcomed the publication last week of the Climate Action Plan 2019. The plan was published following intensive engagement between my officials and officials from the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment on the actions proposed for delivery by enterprise and my Department. I also met the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment during the development of the plan, under which the enterprise sector is being tasked with reducing greenhouse gas, GHG, emissions by between 10% and 15% by 2030. Enterprises will also contribute to the more ambitious targets for buildings by reducing their emissions by 20% to 25% by 2030 and transport which will be reduced by 45% to 50% by 2030 through actions to improve their building energy performance and replace their fleets with electric vehicles over time.

My Department and its agencies are fully committed to the implementation of the actions identified in the plan. We have been given lead or key stakeholder responsibility for several actions in the plan ranging from engagement with the food and cement sectors, supporting increased abatement and undertaking a review of the current offerings by the enterprise agencies with a view to promoting environmental supports to a larger cohort of client companies.

While many enterprises will face challenges in adjusting to more sustainable processes and business models the transition towards more sustainable enterprise will promote resilience and innovation in Ireland's indigenous companies. The plan closely aligns with many of the objectives announced as part of the future jobs Ireland framework, which is being delivered across Government and is led by my Department and the Department of the Taoiseach. In particular, the Department is overseeing the transition to a low-carbon economy pillar of the framework. Future jobs Ireland is a medium-term framework that, as it is developed over time, aims to complement the relevant objectives in the climate action plan.

I thank Minister. I will allow her back in to finish.

Several of the actions are for 2019. Most of the actions the Department is leading on are for 2019 or 2020. I have a question on one action in particular. Action 41 aims to promote climate consideration in business operations through the work of the corporate social responsibility stakeholder forum. Is it convened regularly? Is it likely to be convened in the near future? One function of the plan is to encourage businesses to implement resource efficiencies and the Department is leading on that. When these initiatives start to happen is a matter of urgency. IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland fall under the remit of the Department. They are leading on integrating decarbonisation objectives. I am keen to get a sense of what specific actions are being taken to make these happen as quickly as possible.

I am keen to hear a response from the Minister on one point about buildings. If I travel along the quays in Dublin, I see vast numbers of lights on in large commercial buildings. They seem to be left on all night. Many of these are occupied by banks, which are not under the remit of the Department. People who are around there in the winter time can see it. It may be a simple question, but is there some way the Minister or the Government can tell them to turn off their lights?

This morning I launched the corporate social responsibility check for 2019, Towards Responsible Business: Ireland's National Plan on Corporate Social Responsibility 2017-2020. There is a major focus on climate change now and how companies can embrace it. It is also attractive for companies that have a good corporate social responsibility set-up because. These companies find that people who want to work with them want to be assured that the company is committed to the environment. They want assurance that the company they are going to work with has a positive environmental record. We find that businesses want to know that other businesses with which they do business have a good environmental record.

We had a good launch earlier in Smock Alley Theatre. There was a gathering from across the sectors, including representatives from private industry, State agencies and the various people who are involved in corporate social responsibility. I expect we will hear more about it. Companies that have engaged in corporate social responsibility are more profitable and it is better for them. That is becoming clearer as well.

I am hesitant about interrupting but I have to keep the show going. I know Members are all trying to make their points. We will go back to Deputy O'Sullivan for a final minute.

The Acting Chairman does not interrupt; he intervenes.

I will bring this back to my local area. People coming into Limerick will see a nice wind turbine belonging to Vistakon, a division of Johnson & Johnson. That is an example of an international company that has supplied its own energy through a sustainable model. Are there other examples where the Minister will encourage that? Cork Harbour is another example. Clusters of wind turbines can be seen. I assume they are connected to businesses there. This is one area where the Minister could encourage something that would be useful.

Many of the companies I visit are conscious of their carbon footprint and are continually taking measures to improve. The Deputy about Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland. They have committed to upgrading their environmental offerings and to helping companies make the transition. The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland provides the excellence in energy efficiency design programme for retrofitting and energy efficiency. Science Foundation Ireland has a strong focus on cutting edge research on climate change. We have been funding that sector as well. This is good for everyone.

I am happy that we will play our part in helping companies. There are challenges and there is no point in saying otherwise. It is a question of how we can work our way through those challenges. However, there are many opportunities in terms of what companies can do to provide new products and new ways of doing business.