Agriculture Scheme Eligibility

Ceisteanna (187)

Michael Healy-Rae

Ceist:

187. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if a matter (details supplied) regarding the sale of cattle will be addressed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49493/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The Beef Exceptional Aid Measure (BEAM) has provided temporary exceptional adjustment aid to farmers in the beef sector in Ireland subject to the conditions set out in EU Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/1132.

BEAM is funded by a combination of EU aid and Exchequer support, provided in light of the difficult circumstances that Irish beef farmers have been facing as a result of the market volatility and uncertainty. Over 34,500 farmers had applied for BEAM at its closing date of 20 September, representing potential commitments of almost €78 million.

Terms and conditions of the scheme are available on my Department's website: 

https://www.agriculture.gov.ie/media/migration/farmingschemesandpayments/beefexceptionalaidmeasure/BEAMCommissionNotificationSubmitted120919.pdf  

The following is specified under the terms and conditions of the scheme in relation to the issue raised in respect to mart sales:

"9.2 - Where an animal ... has been presented for slaughter by an agent or by a dealer within 30 days of purchase, including those purchased in the mart, payment may issue to the immediate previous herdowner or in respect of the previous eligible herdnumber, where that herdowner is an applicant. "

Therefore, selling an eligible animal through a mart for slaughter within 30 days does not present any barrier for access to the scheme.

Genetically Modified Organisms

Ceisteanna (188)

Noel Grealish

Ceist:

188. Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his views on the use of genetically modified organisms, pesticides and palm oil; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49517/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

As the Deputy will be aware, the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment (supported by the Environmental Protection Agency) is responsible for the authorisation of GM crops for cultivation, while my Department regulates its use, once authorised. 

In 2018, the Government approved the transposition of Directive 2015/412 which will enable, though not compel, Ireland to opt out of cultivation of GMO crops approved for cultivation elsewhere in the EU. There are no approved GM crops cultivated in Ireland currently.

My Department only authorises pesticides on the basis of robust scientific evidence indicating high levels of protection for human and animal health and the environment. In addition, plant protection products and their users are subject to further regulation under the Sustainable Use of Pesticides Directive which incorporate requirements on training, sprayer testing, disposals, integrated pest management and use reduction around vulnerable areas and vulnerable groups.

In relation to palm oil, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) is the competent authority for the implementation of legislation governing GM food and the Department of Health is responsible for policy in this area. As the competent authority, the FSAI ensures that only EU-authorised GM foods are allowed on the market and that they are labelled appropriately.

I can assure the Deputy that the Government keeps Ireland's GMO cultivation policy under ongoing review, particularly in light of scientific developments in this rapidly evolving sector.

Departmental Expenditure

Ceisteanna (189)

Barry Cowen

Ceist:

189. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the amount spent by his Department and each agency under the aegis of his Department on the National Ploughing Championships in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019, by online advertising, offline advertising, promotional material, wages, photography, stand rental and other costs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49532/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The National Ploughing Championships is a very significant event in the farming calendar and provide my Department with the opportunity to interact on a face-to-face basis with the farming community.

For the duration of the event, my Department operates a fully resourced office on site. Farmers are able to have direct access to specialist staff, with access to relevant IT systems, who can answer any queries or resolve issues they may have.

There are a number of costs associated with my Department having a fully functioning, professional presence at the Championships.  The total costs for each of the years 2016 to 2019 are set out in the attached table. The main cost relates to the supply, build, fit-out and dismantling of a marquee. That marquee, in each of the years up to and including 2018, was supplied on the basis of a public tendering process carried out by the Department.  For 2019, the Department was part of a centralised purchasing process overseen by the Government Information Service and the Office of Public Works. There are no additional costs for wages because DAFM staff are assigned from their usual work locations in order to provide service directly to the farmers on site.  Overtime and travel and subsistence is paid at normal Civil Service rates.  

As regards the twelve State Bodies under the aegis of my Department, the information requested is an operational matter for the State Bodies themselves.  I have therefore referred the Deputy’s question to the Agencies and have requested that a response should issue within 10 days.

DAFM National Ploughing Championships Costs 2016 to 2019

Costs

2016

2017

2018

2019

Marquee (design, build, fit-out out and dismantling)

€56,759

€103,084

€119,492

€159,495

Comms (WIFI / Broadband / Network) *

N/A

N/A

N/A

€6,642

Payment to NPA (Tickets/Site Fees) **

€24,686

€26,507

€26,658

€12,868

Promotion and Advertising

€1,460

€5,441

€5,285

€5,571

Totals

€82,905

€135,032

€151,435

€184,576

*Comms costs were included as part of the marquee/fit-out contracts for 2016 - 2018

**2019 Payment to National Ploughing Association was for tickets only as site fees were, as part of the GIS/OPW procurement process, included in the overall ‘marquee’ costs

Afforestation Programme

Ceisteanna (190)

Jackie Cahill

Ceist:

190. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the state aid rules in place with respect to grant aid for an agency (details supplied) to afforest land; the EU regulations in place and state ceilings set; if the matter has been raised at EU level; and the process involved to have the matter reviewed. [49553/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

State aid is the term that refers to forms of public assistance, using taxpayer-funded resources, given to undertakings (public and private) on a discretionary basis, with the potential to distort competition and affect trade between member states of the European Union. The principles governing State aid are enshrined in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, mainly in Articles 107-109.  These provisions provide for a general prohibition on the use of State aid, subject to certain exceptions, the interpretation of which are largely the preserve of the European Commission, subject to the jurisprudence of the European Courts.

However, if an EU Member State has identified an area of market failure and feels that it is justified to provide an incentive effect in the form of State aid in a particular area, Member States must notify the Commission of proposed State aid in advance and seek the Commission’s advance approval before the aid can be paid.  There are a few exceptions to the notification requirement, namely:

- If the measure falls within the General De Minimis Regulation which allows overall aid of less   than 200,000 euros over 3 fiscal years.

- Agricultural de minimis aid to farmers of less than 20,000 euros over 3 fiscal years.

- Measures which are covered under a pre-existing approved Irish Scheme. 

- Measures falling within the General Block Exemption Regulation.

State Aid approval was requested and received from the European Commission for the Forestry Programme 2014-2020 in 2014. The Forestry Programme is 100% State aid funded and is therefore required to fully comply with all relevant State Aid Guidelines, notably European Union Guidelines for State aid in the agricultural and forestry sectors and in rural areas 2014 to 2020 (2014/C 204/01), issued by the European Commission and applicable to the 2014-2020 programming period.

My Department's Afforestation Scheme is part of the Forestry Programme. In accordance with the relevant State aid provisions, the scheme terms & conditions set out that a fixed afforestation grant towards the costs, subject to the maximum laid down in the scheme documents, will be available to private land-holders, companies or public entities. Aid for the afforestation of state owned lands may be granted but only if the body managing such land is a private body or a municipality. Land owned and managed by public entities will not be eligible for payment of premiums.

It is expected that the European Commission will issue new State aid Guidelines for the next programming period (2021-2027). The first step of the consultation on the new State aid rules with the Member States has been initiated by the European Commission earlier this year and my Department is participating in this process.  In consideration of the new national afforestation targets, all aspects of how forestry is grant aided will be under review during the coming years in preparation for the next Forestry Programme. 

Afforestation Programme

Ceisteanna (191)

Jackie Cahill

Ceist:

191. Deputy Jackie Cahill asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if the carbon sequestration potential has been examined of all designated land including hen harrier designated land with respect to permitting some planting on such land. [49554/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Forests can make an important contribution to climate action through the sequestration and storage of carbon dioxide and by supplying sustainable and renewable materials that support the decarbonisation of our economy.

The Government's Climate Action Plan 2019 recognises this key role which afforestation has to play in climate change mitigation particularly through carbon sequestration.  Under current rules, agreed as part of the EU Effort Sharing Regulation, forestry can contribute some 2 million tonnes of CO2 per annum of carbon towards Ireland’s emissions targets under the next climate mitigation period 2021-2030.

Planting achieved under successive afforestation programmes will be the basis for this emissions reductions figure.  The Climate Action Plan now sets a target of an average of 8,000 hectares of new planting per year.  While this will mostly yield benefits in the longer term post-2030, it will also contribute to our 2030 target through carbon sequestration.  

Issues concerning the designation of Special Protection Areas (or SPAs) and the setting of conservation objectives are a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. As previously outlined by Minister Madigan, the issue of afforestation within SPAs important to breeding hen harrier, is an ongoing issue and a previous protocol on the issue was discontinued as the European Commission considered it non-compliant with the EU Birds Directive.

The Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht has prepared a draft Hen Harrier Threat Response Plan in co-operation with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, and with my own Department. The draft Threat Response Plan must also undergo public consultation.

Regarding the issuing of afforestation licences, the Deputy will be aware that, under the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011, any Minister considering a plan or project in a SPA or a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) shall give consent for such a plan or project only after having determined that the plan or project shall not adversely affect the integrity of any SPA or SAC.  In addition, under the European Union guidelines for State aid in the agricultural and forestry sectors and in rural areas, within SPAs and SACs, only afforestation consistent with the management objectives of the Natura sites concerned, and agreed with the Member State’s authority in charge of implementing Natura 2000 (in Ireland’s case, the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht), shall be allowed.

Fish Landings

Ceisteanna (192)

Martin Ferris

Ceist:

192. Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the amount of the Celtic Sea herring landed in Irish ports by Irish boats in each of the years 2014 to 2018 and to date in 2019 that was processed for human consumption versus processed for fishmeal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49563/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The data requested by the Deputy is held by the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) and I have referred the query to them for direct reply to the Deputy. 

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Ceisteanna (193)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

193. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the measures he plans to implement to reward farmers for farming carbon on blanket bogs or peaty soils under grassland in private ownership in the near future in order that Ireland can avail of land, land-use change, and forestry flexibilities from 2021 in view of the annual carbon losses from peatlands which in total amount to more emissions than from the entire transport sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49603/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

My Department recognises wetlands and peat soils as an important carbon pool in the Irish landscape. Reducing emissions by water table manipulation has the potential to significantly reduce GHG emissions from these soils and is a means to positively contribute to our climate change mitigation ambitions. This is an important part of Agriculture's contribution to the emission reductions and is set out in the All of Government Climate Action Plan, released in June 2019, as highlighted in the targets set for the Agriculture, Forestry and Land-use sector.

In this respect, the Climate Action Plan sets out a target of at least 40,000 ha of reduced management intensity of grasslands on drained organic soils to 2030.   This will contribute 4.4 Mt CO2 eq cumulative abatement of the overall target of 26.8 Mt CO2 eq abatement through Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry actions over the period 2021 to 2030. The removal of carbon from the atmosphere through measures such as afforestation and the reduced management of peatlands are extremely important contributions towards achieving our national climate targets.

Action 132 of the Climate Action Plan demonstrates the necessary steps we must take to reach these targets and includes the identification of carbon rich soils currently under agricultural management as well as the actions required to reduce carbon losses and improve sequestration from them. My Department has been assigned €3 million to carry out relevant research in respect of carbon removal, which will include at its forefront peatland management measures. My Department will engage with farmers as to how to implement and understand the best management practices for better management of peatlands and their carbon rich soils.

Nitrates Action Programme

Ceisteanna (194)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

194. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the status of the continuation of the agricultural catchments programme; and the funding for the programme in 2019 and 2020 and each year of the programme in the years ahead. [49680/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The Agricultural Catchments Programme, which has been in place since 2008, is an intensive monitoring programme used to evaluate the impact of Ireland's Nitrates Action Programme (NAP) and the Nitrates derogation which are implemented under the Nitrates Directive.

The Programme is funded by my Department and has been delivered by Teagasc since its inception. I recently announced the continuation and enhancement of the Agricultural Catchments Programme from 2020 to 2023.  Funding allocated for Phase 4 of the Programme is €2.5 million annually, while funding for 2019 is €1.6 million.

Phase 4 is an expansion on the previous phases and will include the collection of data on greenhouse gases emissions, ammonia emissions and soil carbon sequestration as well as extending the current baseline monitoring of water quality.  This will aid my Department achieve our targets under the Climate Action Plan while, at the same time, continue the monitoring of water quality required under the Nitrates regulations.

Live Exports

Ceisteanna (195)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

195. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the steps being taken to increase lairage capacity at Cherbourg. [49681/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Live exports are a critical part of Ireland’s livestock industry.  They play a significant role in stimulating price competition and providing an alternative market outlet for farmers. My Department facilitates this trade, recognising its importance to the agri-food sector, while placing a strong emphasis at all times on the welfare of all animals being transported.

In 2018, total live exports of cattle, including calves, increased by over 30% compared to 2017, to 246,000 head. This growth trend has continued into 2019, with live exports already totalling 266,000 up until the week ending the 19th of October, 2019. This is up from 221,000 for the same period in 2018 – a 20% increase.

Officials from my Department are in on-going communication with Irish exporters with regard to the need for co-operative management between each other to ensure that the lairage capacity at Cherbourg is optimised. I have urged the live export sector to consider developing an additional lairage in Cherbourg or engaging with the owners of existing facilities to explore the potential for additional capacity. This has proved possible – as evidenced by the French authorities approving an increase of the holding capacity of the Qualivia lairage in Cherbourg earlier this year. My Department worked closely with the French authorities in this matter. The move provided for additional daily capacity for 400 calves.

I met with the exporters in September to discuss and review existing export procedures, including lairage facilities in Cherbourg. Officials from my Department have had continued regular engagement with them.

I am aware that industry stakeholders the IFA, ICOS and ICMSA recently visited Cherbourg with a view to addressing the issue of lairage capacity ahead of Spring 2020. My Department will continue to liaise with stakeholders  on the matter.

Common Agricultural Policy Negotiations

Ceisteanna (196)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

196. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the position taken by Ireland regarding the Finnish Presidency proposal that countries spend at least 30% of CAP funds post 2020 on climate and environment measures; and if he is considering carrying out an impact analysis of the proposals to compare them to the EU Commission proposals in 2018 by which a country would have to spend 40% of CAP funding on climate measures and the environment. [49682/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The new legislative proposals for the Common Agricultural Policy 2021-2027 outline a greater environmental ambition post-2020 and recognise the role the agriculture sector has to play in helping Member States achieve their environmental and climate change targets.

I firmly endorse the principle that there must be a high level of environmental ambition in the CAP post-2020.

The Finnish Presidency recently proposed a single common percentage to be applied by Member States for environmental actions across both Pillars. However, this proposal did not include any suggested percentage. I believe the details of the proposal will have to be developed further before we come to any definitive conclusions. I am, of course, ready to explore all possible options when examining these proposals and look forward to engaging with the Presidency and my European colleagues further on this matter.

Corrib Gas Field

Ceisteanna (197)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

197. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he will address matters (details supplied) relating to the Corrib gas project and related infrastructure. [49471/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The consents granted in respect of the Corrib gas field and the terms and details of these consents are published on my Departments website. The Corrib gas field is also under permit from other bodies, including the Commission for Regulation of Utilities and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Third party access to upstream gas pipelines is covered in the Gas Act 1976, as amended, which transposes the requirements of EU Directive 2009/73/EC relating to common rules for the internal market in natural gas. As part of the Petroleum Lease granted to the Lessees of the Corrib gas field, it is the responsibility of the Lessees to decommission the facilities after cessation of production.

Any application received for working of petroleum must be submitted in accordance with the Petroleum and Other Minerals Development Act, 1960, as amended. The requirement in respect of Environmental Impact Assessment are set out in this Act. Other pertinent legislation includes the Gas Act 1976, as amended and the Continental Shelf Act 1968, as amended. Further legislation may be relevant depending on the characteristics of any particular application.

Energy Efficiency

Ceisteanna (198)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

198. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if a company (details supplied) has commenced the upgrade of its domestic meters to smart meters; if so, if it is by agreement with the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities; the alternative meters available to customers who have been informed that their meters are old and need replacing in cases in which the customer does not wish to have a smart meter installed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49497/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Smart meters are the next generation of electricity and gas meters and will replace older mechanical meters. The installation of smart meters is a key enabler for the energy transition to a decarbonised system.

The Commission for the Regulation of Utilities (CRU) is the competent authority for delivery of the Smart Meter Upgrade. ESB Networks are responsible for rolling out smart electricity meters and Gas Networks Ireland (GNI) will be responsible for rolling out smart gas meters.

The Smart Meter Upgrade is a meter replacement programme. When the programme completes in Ireland in 2024, it will result in the upgrade of over 2 million meters to modern, smart-ready technology. The electricity smart meter installation commenced in September 2019 and it is expected that some 20,000 meters will be installed by the end of 2019. Already over 9,000 smart electricity meters have been installed.

GNI has an on going domestic meter replacement programme and currently replaces older meters with smart ready ones.

Gas Networks Ireland apply due diligence with regards to gas meters over 20 years old and install a replacement meter. Like all equipment, meters for measuring gas or electricity use require replacement over time and as older brands and models cease to be available, newer technology enables improvements in services and greater efficiencies in meter reading. The maintenance of gas meters is an operational matter for GNI, a commercial state body under the aegis of the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, which operates the gas distribution network.

The smart ready meters have no radio communication features and emit no radio signal. However, a customer who does not want an upgraded meter will be able to decline to have this new meter installed.

Waste Management

Ceisteanna (199)

Noel Grealish

Ceist:

199. Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the status of progress and the anticipated completion and publication of a cost-benefit analysis for a deposit return scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49516/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The government is determined to reduce the excessive use of plastics.

As a first step, the purchase of single use plastics has been banned throughout the public service. We are determined to increase recycling of plastics from 37% now to 55% in the coming years and, along with other EU member states, to phase out non-recyclable plastics entirely.

A Deposit and Return Scheme is one option proposed for EU member states to consider as a means of increasing the collection of plastic beverage containers and achieve the new 90% target for this waste stream identified in the Single Use Plastic Directive.

In January this year I commissioned a study to examine how Ireland can deliver a 90% collection target for single use beverage containers, including plastic bottles. This study will also examine the possibility of introducing a Deposit and Return Scheme and how this might operate in an Irish context. The introduction of an initiative such as a Deposit and Return Scheme needs to be fully understood and the costs and impacts identified to enable evidence-based decision making in this matter.

A first draft of the study has been received and is currently being reviewed.

Departmental Expenditure

Ceisteanna (200)

Barry Cowen

Ceist:

200. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the amount spent by his Department and each agency under the aegis of his Department on the National Ploughing Championships in each of the years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019, by online advertising, offline advertising, promotional material, wages, photography, stand rental and other costs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49535/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

My Department, along with a number of other government departments, has an annual presence at the National Ploughing Championships. The Department’s attendance at the Ploughing Championships is an important means to engage with the public as it enables citizens to meet representatives from the Department and our various agencies on issues such as rural connectivity, soil and geological profiling of land, sustainability initiatives, energy efficiency grants and schemes, and initiatives to support small businesses and enhance digital literacy and use in communities.

The total cost of the Department’s presence at the Ploughing Championships is as follows:

2016: €6,240 (The Department had one division represented at the Ploughing Championships viz Geological Survey Ireland)

2017: €144,483.21

2018: €138,305.25

2019: €124,563.81.

These figures include advertising and promotional material, design, build, event support and break-down/removal of the marquee itself as well as all built items within it, all stands, audio-visual equipment, backdrop design and printing, kitchen and toilet facilities, electrical set-up, AV and marquee staffing (including project management and construction) and maintenance in the lead-up to and throughout the event. The figures also include event passes, buses and transport as well as onsite services such as waste, cleaning and security.

Staff, where their presence was required in terms of management and support across all Departmental exhibits, were paid as they would be for their normal working day. Travel, subsistence and overtime, where necessary, was paid in line with the agreed rates.

The information requested in relation to the agencies under the aegis of my Department is an operational matter for each agency. The Department will request the relevant bodies to reply directly to the Deputy with the information requested in respect of their organisations.

Public Service Obligation Levy

Ceisteanna (201)

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

201. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if an increased amount of PSO levy will be allocated to Bord na Móna to increase it in line with a greater use of biomass in the Edenderry power plant. [49577/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The support scheme for use of biomass in electricity generation, the Renewable Electricity Feed-In Tariff (REFIT 3), runs until 2030, with support payments made through the Public Service Obligation (PSO) levy. The Bord na Móna-owned plant at Edenderry was allocated support for fuelling the plants with up to 30% biomass.

As Bord na Móna currently co-fires the Edenderry plant with 30% biomass, it is at its maximum support under the REFIT 3 scheme. The REFIT3 Scheme has been closed since December 2015.

Energy Policy Review

Ceisteanna (202)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

202. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the scope and terms of reference of the proposed energy security review; the way in which this will be carried out; the person or body which will carry out the review; the timeline for same; if the review will consider questions of intergenerational and global climate justice; the way in which he will ensure that no conflict of interest ensues between stakeholders, regulators and policy makers in determining the energy interests of Ireland in the context of the climate emergency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49604/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The major review into Ireland's energy security and sustainability, which I have initiated, will:

- Consider the optimal actions that need to be taken, in reaching 70% renewable electricity, to ensure Ireland's electricity system is backed up in a secure, safe and sustainable way.

- Assess the role of gas during the transition, as the lowest CO2 emitting fossil fuel, and consider how and from where it is sourced.

- Review the role that other technologies can play in the transition, including battery storage, pumped storage, the role of interconnection (both gas and electricity) and the possibilities for hydrogen and Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS).

- Consider what the roadmap for renewable electricity looks like in the period from 2030 to achieving carbon neutrality in 2050

I have written to the Chairpersons of EirGrid, ESB, Bord na Móna, Ervia and CRU to seek their input into the review.

My Department regularly engages with State Agencies and other stakeholders as part of the normal process of feeding into policy development and formulation.

The review, which will be completed during 2020, will be carried out by an independent body following a public procurement exercise.

The full terms of reference of the review have not yet been finalised. However, it is not intended that this particular review will cover questions of intergenerational and global climate justice. I expect to finalise the terms of reference early in the new year. It is intended that the primary focus will be on both the achievement of our decarbonisation goals and maintaining energy sustainability and security.

National Broadband Plan

Question No. 206 answered with Question No. 51.

Ceisteanna (203, 204, 205)

Barry Cowen

Ceist:

203. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if a company (details supplied) has undergone a prequalification assessment; the way in which the company became involved in the national broadband plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49610/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Barry Cowen

Ceist:

204. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the capital which will be provided by the owners of a company (details supplied) for the roll-out of the national broadband plan; the amount being provided by a company (details supplied); the amount being provided by companies (details supplied), respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49611/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Barry Cowen

Ceist:

205. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the person or body responsible for providing extra capital to a company (details supplied) if the roll-out of the national broadband plan is not successful; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49612/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 203 to 205, inclusive, together.

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question 1 on today's order which dealt comprehensively with these matters.

In addition to the €220m in equity and working capital which NBI has committed to invest in the project, NBI bears the risk of having to provide additional equity injections over the life of the project, should this be required, as the State subsidy is capped.

Question No. 206 answered with Question No. 51.

Data Centres

Ceisteanna (207)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

207. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if his Department has estimated the significant levels of electricity required by data centres by the end of 2019; his plans to power the expected further increase in power required by these facilities by 2025; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49615/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Government policy in relation to the Role of Data Centres in Ireland's Enterprise Strategy is primarily a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation in the first instance. The Government Statement on the role of data centres in Ireland's Enterprise Strategy, 2018 recognises that a plan-led approach is needed to develop a range of measures to promote regional options for data centre investment, minimising the need for additional grid infrastructure.

While data centres have until recent time accounted for less than 2% of Ireland’s total electricity demand, EirGrid, in their Generation Capacity Statement 2019-2028, project that demand from data centres could account for 29% of all demand by 2028. EirGrid, in its capacity as the transmission system operator, continually model and forecast the predicted future growth of electricity demand in their published analysis such as Tomorrow's Energy Scenarios, which is available on their website at www.eirgrid.com

While data centres consume very large amounts of energy they have a flat, predictable demand profile meaning that they use the same amount of electricity day and night and therefore require a range of generation technologies to meet their demand. Significant increases in volumes of generation capacity, including from renewable energy sources, will be required to meet Ireland’s electrification objectives and demand from heat pumps, electric vehicles and data centres. The Climate Action Plan sets out a number of actions to ensure that data centres are accommodated in a sustainable manner.

Corporate power purchasing of renewable energy by large energy users will also be critical to supplying data centre demand as will ensuring that large demand connections are regionally balanced to minimise grid reinforcements and the costs to consumers.

Electric Vehicles

Ceisteanna (208)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

208. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the number of electrically propelled vehicles in use throughout public transport or the State sector; the progress in recent years in this regard; his expectation for the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49643/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

My Department does not record the number of electric vehicles in use by state bodies. The public transport sector falls within the policy remit of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport.

Climate Change Policy

Ceisteanna (209)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

209. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the extent to which his climate change energy polices compare with applicable policies in other EU states with particular reference to greenhouse gas reduction and the phasing out of fossil fuels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49644/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The European Environment Agency produces an annual report which provides an assessment of the progress of the EU and individual Member States towards their climate and energy targets. The latest report “Trends and Projections in Europe 2019” is based on official statistics on energy and greenhouse gas emissions reported by Member States up to and including 2017. The report can be found here: https://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/trends-and-projections-in-europe-1.

The 2009 Effort Sharing Decision 406/2009/EC (ESD) set binding annual emissions targets for Member States for the period 2013-2020 for sectors outside the EU Emissions Trading System. According to the latest EEA report, ten Member States (Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta and Poland) are projected to miss their 2020 ESD target.

The ESD allows Member States to meet their targets by means of unused emissions allowances from earlier years, or through purchasing allowances from other Member States, or on international markets. Ireland expects to make use of these flexibilities to comply with the ESD.

Climate Action Plan

Ceisteanna (210, 218)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

210. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the extent to which he expects climate change policies to appeal to individual householders and businesses in the context of the reduction of greenhouse gases; if he can ensure sufficient uptake to achieve the result; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49645/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

218. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the extent to which the action plan for climate change is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and 2050; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49668/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 210 and 218 together.

The Climate Action Plan, which I launched in June, sets out the comprehensive suite of actions to ensure Ireland can meet the 2030 climate commitments putting us on a trajectory to be net zero by 2050. Broader Government policy, including carbon pricing, and grant supports offered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, will play an important role in driving the changes required to reduce greenhouse gases at individual and business levels.

I am also confident that informed citizens will play a crucial role in the choices that they make in regard to climate action. The Climate Action Plan, therefore, addresses the role of citizen engagement and community leadership. The related actions include enhancing the effectiveness of climate-related communications, network building, and developing deliberative capacity, including through the National Dialogue on Climate Change (NDCA).

Communications and engagement will be closely intertwined with policy changes to be delivered. It will rest on three key elements:

- persuasive, consistent and effective external-facing communications on climate change and the need for action, including specific details on what the state is doing and what individuals can do to contribute;

- engagement designed to empower communities, that builds on the Climate Action Regional Roadshows, and quickly leads to mobilisation, capacity building and local action, and

- efficient exchange of information within the civil and public service, including all relevant commercial semi-state companies, directly related to supporting the Government’s climate action objectives.

The overall objective of this approach is create a long- term process to communicate with citizens on the national objective of transitioning to a low carbon, climate resilient society and economy by 2050 in which every citizen has a role to play.

Engagements, on a regional and local basis have already taken place, with stakeholders in Athlone, Tralee and Kildare. I have also held a series of regional town hall meetings since the publication of the Climate Action Plan to gather views in relation to its implementation. In consultation with the EPA, I am currently developing a model for implementation of the next phase of the NDCA which will focus on local activation.

Engaging youth is key to the driving and encouraging future behavioural changes and I am communicating with that generation through a number of strands, including supports for climate related activity for Green Schools, and ECO-UNESCO. Government is also establishing a dedicated National Youth Council for Climate Action and Climate Justice. The Council will be established by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, in close partnership with my own Department. Furthermore, the Government, through the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, has allocated in Budget 2020 for a new special fund for youth action on climate justice to enhance channels for direct engagement between young people and decision makers across Government and beyond. The overall goal will be to assist young people to engage in enduring dialogue with decision-makers, and support initiatives which are both youth-led and respond to the issues raised by young people.

I also welcome the recent initiative of the Oireachtas to hold the Youth Assembly on 15 November. It is heartening to see the active engagement and mobilisation to the climate crisis which is, without doubt, the defining challenge of our generation. I thank the members of the Youth Assembly for their recommendations for action to stop climate breakdown which I am currently considering.

Climate Action Plan

Ceisteanna (211, 212)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

211. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the extent to which recognition is given to the fact that Ireland produces food to meet the need of more than 40 million persons under the most efficient production methods resulting in the lowest carbon level in Europe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49646/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

212. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the extent to which he remains satisfied that sufficient carbon reduction proposals are in place to meet national targets while at the same time protecting the agrifood sector here and the low carbon level in the sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49647/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 211 and 212 together.

The Climate Action Plan identifies the long-term challenge for the agriculture sector to meet the national policy objective, set out in the 2014 National Policy Position on Climate Action and Low Carbon Development, of an approach to carbon neutrality which does not compromise our capacity for sustainable food production. Ireland’s agriculture sector has strong green credentials and a positive international reputation in terms of carbon efficiency. However, given the contribution of agriculture to overall national greenhouse gas emissions, a shift in the sector is needed and achieving this objective will be a significant challenge facing Irish agriculture over the coming decades.

Significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions can be achieved through meeting the targets set out for the agriculture sector in the Climate Action Plan. To achieve these targets, the Plan sets out a range of actions to reduce emissions on farms, promote afforestation and diversification of land use, develop opportunities in the bio-economy and in the supply of substitutes for fossil fuels, promote better management of peatlands and soils, and develop clusters of best practice.

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has recently launched a public consultation on a draft National Climate and Air Roadmap for the Agriculture Sector to 2030 and Beyond. This consultation aims to address the issue of emission reduction targets while meeting the high ambitions of the Irish agriculture sector. It recognises the important role of the next Common Agricultural Policy, which is to have a strong climate ambition and will be implemented in Ireland through the development of a strategic plan for the period 2021 to 2027.