Climate Change Policy

Ceisteanna (195)

Patricia Ryan

Ceist:

195. Deputy Patricia Ryan asked the Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications if a new general obligation on every organ of the State will be implemented to perform functions compatible with the objective of the UNFCCC and the aims of the Paris Agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26975/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

Ireland's engagement with its EU and international partners takes place through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Paris Agreement. Ireland engages in negotiations through its membership of the European Union. In this regard, the EU aims to be climate-neutral by 2050. The European Commission recently presented its plan to reduce EU greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels. It is intended that both the 2030 and 2050 targets will be enshrined in the EU Climate Law. As Minister for Climate Action, I will lead on delivering our shared commitment in the Programme for Government to achieve an average 7% per annum reduction in overall greenhouse gas emissions from 2021 to 2030, and to achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

The 2050 target will be set in in the Climate Action (Amendment) Bill, which will be introduced in the Dáil in early October. The Climate Action (Amendment) Bill will build on the existing Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015, and provide for a significantly strengthened statutory framework for governance of the climate challenge. The Bill will ensure delivery of successive Climate Action Plans and Long-Term Climate Action Strategies, supported by a system of carbon budgeting and sectoral targets with appropriate oversight by Government, the Oireachtas, and a strengthened Climate Change Advisory Council. The proposed Bill will define how five-year carbon budgets will be set, with every sector contributing, ensuring we continue to work to achieve a broad political and societal consensus on a Just Transition to a sustainable future for all communities. The 2015 Act provides for a voluntary contribution to be made from Local Government on climate action; the proposed Bill will establish a clear requirement on Local Authorities to develop and publish Climate Action Plans.

My Department is reviewing the suite of actions recommended and required of the public sector to be a leader in addressing climate change. To this end, we are preparing a strategy for a cohesive approach to management, delivery and engagement across the Public Sector Framework for Climate Action. This approach will seek to ensure that the changes made and actions recommended under the Climate Action Plan and in the Programme for Government deliver impact under the targets committed to, support long term change, and are operational across the system.

The actions we are taking should be demonstrably linked to delivering the targets committed to. They should primarily focus on delivering and underpinning the 50% decarbonisation target by 2030 for the public sector. In this context, Government is addressing the issue of ensuring that the climate impact of all policy matters being taken to Government is considered. This will ensure that Climate Action becomes embedded across all levels of Government activities.

Climate Change Policy

Ceisteanna (196)

Patricia Ryan

Ceist:

196. Deputy Patricia Ryan asked the Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications his plans in view of the Supreme Court decision to quash the Climate Mitigation Plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26976/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

The Supreme Court found that the National Mitigation Plan failed to comply with the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015 because it did not set out how the national transition objective of decarbonising Irish society was to be achieved. The scientific consensus is clear, we must cut CO2 emissions in half by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050 to ensure we protect our planet and our country from the most severe impacts of global warming. I welcome the judgement of the Court.

Since the 2017 National Mitigation Plan was published, the previous Government produced the 2019 Climate Action Plan which is designed to fully deliver Ireland’s 2030 emissions reduction target of 30%. This Government is now committed to an average 7% per annum reduction in overall greenhouse gas emissions from 2021 to 2030, equivalent to a 51% reduction over the decade and to achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

A key aspect of delivering upon this commitment will be setting our 2050 target in law through the Climate Action Bill, which will be published shortly. The Bill will define how five-year carbon budgets will be set, and every sector must contribute towards meeting this target by implementing policy measures. The Programme for Government also recognises that the strategies to deliver these emissions reductions will require genuine consultation, detailed planning, organisation and adequate mechanisms for funding and incentives, and to this end allows for annual updating of the Climate Action Plan.

I will work with colleagues across government to develop a new Climate Action Plan in 2021, prioritising initiatives in every sector to bring about the significant change needed to build a sustainable future for all.

National Broadband Plan

Ceisteanna (197)

Cormac Devlin

Ceist:

197. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications if he will provide an update on the provision of fibre broadband under the national broadband plan to Glasthule village in County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26998/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

Glasthule Village, County Dublin is located in the BLUE area on the NBP High Speed Broadband Map which is available on my Department's website at www.broadband.gov.ie. BLUE areas are not included in the State intervention area covered by the National Broadband Plan as commercial operators are already providing high speed broadband or have indicated future plans to do so. My Department defines high speed broadband as a connection with minimum speeds of 30Mbps download and 6Mbps upload. The activities of commercial operators delivering high speed broadband within BLUE areas are not planned or funded by the State and my Department has no statutory authority to intervene in that regard.There may be a choice of operators offering this service in the area referred to and further information in this regard is available at www.comreg.ie/compare/#/services.

National Broadband Plan

Question No. 199 answered with Question No. 188.

Ceisteanna (198)

Cormac Devlin

Ceist:

198. Deputy Cormac Devlin asked the Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications if he will provide an update on the provision of fibre broadband under the national broadband plan for Adelaide Street, Dún Laoghaire, County Dublin (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26999/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

Adelaide Street, Dún Laoghaire, County Dublin is located in the BLUE area on the NBP High Speed Broadband Map which is available on my Department's website at www.broadband.gov.ie. BLUE areas were not included in the State intervention area covered by the National Broadband Plan as commercial operators were either providing high speed broadband or had indicated future plans to do so. My Department defines high speed broadband as a connection with minimum speeds of 30Mbps download and 6Mbps upload. The activities of commercial operators delivering high speed broadband within BLUE areas are not planned or funded by the State and my Department has no statutory authority to intervene in that regard.

As it has been highlighted that high speed broadband is not being provided to some premises on Adelaide Street, enquiries have been made to eir, to determine why this is the case. On receipt of a reply from eir, an update will be sent to the Deputy.

Question No. 199 answered with Question No. 188.

Ministerial Advisers

Ceisteanna (200)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

200. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications if a schedule of advisers and special advisers appointed and-or recruited by him since his appointment will be provided; the roles and responsibilities attributed to each; and the salary for each appointee in tabular form. [27066/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

The appointment to my Department of three Special Advisers was approved by Government on 22 September.  The Advisors will also provide advice to me on matters relating to the Department of Transport. These appointments are in the process of being formalised with the issuing of Contracts of Employment to the appointees. In line with the Instructions to Personnel Officer - Ministerial Appointments to the 33rd Dáil, recently published by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, the salary of each of the three advisers will be on the Principal Officer scale and their Contracts of Employment will be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas and forwarded to the Department of Public Expenditure & Reform. The details in relation to the appointment of the Special Advisers will then be published by the Department of Public Expenditure & Reform on the gove.ie website. I understand this process will be completed once all Special Advisers have been appointed.

Electric Vehicles

Ceisteanna (201)

Aindrias Moynihan

Ceist:

201. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications the number of new public EV charging points for which funding was requested; the number approved; the number of upgraded public EV charging points for which funding was requested; the number approved in the past year by each local authority in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27076/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

The Public Charge Point Scheme has been in place since September 2019 to provide funding to local authorities for the development of on-street public chargers. The primary focus of this scheme is to provide support for the installation of infrastructure which will facilitate owners of EVs, who do not have access to a private parking space but rely on parking their vehicles in public places near their homes, to charge their EVs.

My Department, via the SEAI, currently provides a grant of up to €5,000 to support the installation of these charge points. Since the launch of the scheme, the SEAI has received requests from twelve local authorities for applications under the scheme with two completed applications, (Louth County Council and Dublin City Council), currently being assessed for approval, to install a total of 24 charge points within their respective jurisdictions. In addition, the four Dublin local authorities are examining their approach for a network of charging infrastructure in the metropolitan area.

While Covid has introduced significant delays with respect to progressing supports under the scheme I expect interest in the scheme to intensify as we continue on into the recovery phase of the pandemic. Local Government has been to the forefront in recent times in addressing the climate challenge and the sector will have a key role to play in helping to decarbonise our national fleet through facilitating the provision of EV charging infrastructure in appropriate locations at both the local and regional level. 

In this regard it should be noted that my Department is working closely with a number of key stakeholders, including Local Government, on developing a strategy to ensure electric vehicle charging infrastructure stays ahead of demand. This includes developing appropriate guidance for local authorities in line with the Programme for Government and will ensure we can continue to expand our national charging network through the relevant SEAI supports for on street chargers.   

The Government is fully committed to supporting this programme and the other supports it has made available for the roll out of EVs so as to ensure we meet  our ambitious commitments as set out in the Programme for Government and the Climate Action Plan.

In this regard, €10 million has been committed from the Climate Action Fund to promote the charging network and this has leveraged a further €10 million investment from ESB. This intervention alone will result in:

• 90 additional high power chargers (150kW), each capable of charging two vehicles

• 52 additional fast chargers (50kW), which may replace existing 22 kW standard chargers

• 264 replacement standard chargers (22kW) with more modern technology and with each consisting of two charge points

Since the delivery stage of the project commenced in October 2019, 159 22kW chargers, each with two charge points, have been replaced bringing the total number of these chargers nationally to 318. Three multi charger sites have also been delivered, while the programme to upgrade 22kW chargers to 50kW has already commenced with 10 installations now in place. More information on these upgrades can be found at https://esb.ie/ecars/our-network/high-power-charging-hubs.

Combined with an effective public charging network, Ireland's home charging policy will help sustain and service the expected growth of electric vehicles on Irish roads. Charging while at home accounts for around 80% of electric vehicle charging in Ireland and it is best practice, internationally, to promote home charging as the most common and cheapest form of charging. To support home charging, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), on behalf of my Department, administers an EV Home Charger Grant of up to €600 towards the purchase and installation of an EV home charger unit.

Energy Efficiency

Ceisteanna (202)

Darren O'Rourke

Ceist:

202. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications his plans to restore the grant available to persons to upgrade their boiler within residential homes. [27138/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

My Department funds a number of grant schemes to support homeowners to improve the energy efficiency of their properties. These are administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). Since 2000, over 440,000 homeowners have upgraded their homes with support from these schemes.  This has resulted in warmer, healthier and more comfortable homes that are easier to heat and light.

The Better Energy Homes Scheme provides grant incentives to homeowners to improve the energy efficiency of their homes. The 2020 budget allocation for this scheme is €21 million.  Grants for domestic fossil fuel boiler replacement are not available under the Scheme and there are no plans for the reintroduction of such supports. Given the need to decarbonise our homes, grants are instead focused on renewable heating systems such as heat pumps and solar thermal.

Heat pumps are an attractive and extremely efficient alternative to fossil fuel heating systems such as oil, gas, solid fuel and electric home heating systems. Furthermore, heat pumps are very economical to run offering lower energy costs to homeowners as well as reduced carbon emissions.

The Programme for Government and the Climate Action Plan set ambitious targets for the number and depth of residential retrofits to be completed by 2030. The targets are to retrofit 500,000 homes to a Building Energy Rating of B2 and to install 400,000 heat pumps in existing buildings over the next 10 years.

The July Stimulus commits to increasing the SEAI budget by €100 million in 2021. This additional funding will be focused on community retrofit schemes, retrofit schemes supporting those in energy poverty as well as other initiatives to support the achievement of our retrofit targets.  The funding supported the first call for projects under the new National Homes Retrofit Scheme which was launched last week (25 September).  This scheme is suitable for one-stop-shops, residential service providers, employers, financial institutions, Approved Housing Bodies and local authorities.  Details are available at: www.seai.ie.  

Additional detail on other new and expanded schemes will be announced in the coming weeks.

Electricity Supply Board

Ceisteanna (203)

Darren O'Rourke

Ceist:

203. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications if he has spoken formally to the CEO of ESB Networks in the past two months; and if so, the issues discussed. [27139/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

I met with the CEO of ESB Group on 3 September last and the discussions covered a wide range of issues relevant to my Ministerial portfolio including onshore and offshore renewable energy, market developments, microgeneration, retrofitting, the Midlands Transition and Covid-19 impacts.  

I have not had any formal discussions with the Managing Director of ESB Networks in recent months.

Waste Management

Ceisteanna (204)

Michael Moynihan

Ceist:

204. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications when a bin waiver scheme for persons with additional medical needs will be introduced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27332/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 154 of 22nd September 2020. 

Departmental Staff

Ceisteanna (205)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

205. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications the number of requests on hand from his Department and from State agencies under the aegis of his Department for approval to increase staff levels; the number of public and civil servants in total involved in these requests; the method by which decisions are made on the requests; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26474/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Environment)

There are currently requests on hand from three agencies under the aegis of my Department for 208 additional public service staff.  These requests are being evaluated by my Department in consultation with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

The staffing levels in my Department are kept under ongoing review in the context of workforce planning.

Sanction to increase pay budgets must be granted by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Ceisteanna (206)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

206. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Transport the sector specific supports in place and or the plans to introduce support services for the airline sector. [26312/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

My Department is monitoring the financial impact of COVID-19 on the Irish aviation sector on an ongoing basis, in consultation with all key stakeholders and relevant Government Departments.

The Government has put in place a range of supports for businesses, including those in aviation. The supports include the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme, which will now run to April 2021, alleviation of commercial rates, tax clawback, and liquidity support available through the ISIF Pandemic Stabilisation and Recovery Fund.

It remains open to airlines to engage directly with the relevant agencies concerned with a view to drawing down such supports. The amount of any funding sought by each airline would be a commercial matter for the airlines concerned.

The report of the Aviation Recovery Taskforce contains a number of recommendations relating to the provision of further support to the sector including through stimulus funding to aid recovery, and these recommendations are being considered, as appropriate, in the context of the ongoing work to manage the impact of COVID-19 on aviation and the wider economy.

The Government recently decided that it would broadly support the European Commission's proposed common approach to travel restrictions and movement within the EU.

Road Tolls

Ceisteanna (207, 208, 209)

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

207. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Transport the amount paid by motorists to date at the toll bridges between junctions five and six and between junctions nine and ten on the M3. [27087/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

208. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Transport when the M3 motorway tolls will cease to remain in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27088/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

209. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Transport the profit the State has made from the toll bridges between junctions five and six and between junctions nine and ten on the M3. [27089/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 207 to 209, inclusive, together.

As Minister for Transport I have responsibility for overall policy and to secure funding in relation to the national roads programme. Under the Roads Acts 1993-2015, the operation and management of individual national roads is a matter for Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), in conjunction with the local authorities concerned.

Matters relating to the day-to-day operations regarding national roads, including toll roads and the establishment of a system of tolls, are within the remit of TII. More specifically, the statutory power to levy tolls, to make toll bye-laws and to enter into agreements with private investors are vested in TII under Part V of the Roads Act 1993 (as amended).

Noting the above position, I have referred your questions to TII for a direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 working days.

Road Traffic Offences

Ceisteanna (210)

Patrick Costello

Ceist:

210. Deputy Patrick Costello asked the Minister for Transport the number of successful prosecutions there have been of drivers that have struck railway bridges and level crossings in 2018, 2019 and to date in 2020, by year of the incident including the offence which was prosecuted and the sentences handed down. [27119/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

As the Minister for Transport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport. However, I am not involved in the day-to-day operations of public transport.

The issue raised is a matter for Iarnród Éireann and I have forwarded the Deputy's question to the company for direct reply.

Please advise my private office if you do not receive a response within ten working days.

Road Traffic Offences

Ceisteanna (211)

Patrick Costello

Ceist:

211. Deputy Patrick Costello asked the Minister for Transport the number of successful prosecutions there have been of drivers that have struck LUAS trams in 2018, 2019 and to date in 2020, by year of the incident including the offence which was prosecuted and the sentences that were handed down. [27120/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

As Minister for Transport I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport.

The issue raised is a matter for Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) in conjunction with the Luas operator Transdev and I have forwarded the Deputy's question to TII for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a response within ten working days.

Public Transport

Ceisteanna (212)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

212. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Transport his plans for the public transport providers in view of the fact that services will be operating on reduced capacity for the short to medium term. [26314/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

Over the course of the COVID-19 crisis, my Department has been working closely with the National Transport Authority (NTA) to ensure public transport services continue and to enable the provision of public transport services in line with the Government Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business. Throughout, the NTA has been engaging directly with the public transport operators in both the public service obligation (PSO) and the commercial parts of the sector.

As the Deputy may be aware, since Phase 2 of the Re-opening Roadmap commenced on 8 June last, Dublin Bus has reverted to a full timetable with some limited exceptions at peak times where demand has remained low on certain routes. Bus Éireann and Go-Ahead Ireland PSO bus services returned to a full time-table on the same date and Iarnród Éireann returned to a full time-table on 31 August.

The Government's new "Living with Covid" Plan sets out capacity guidance for public transport at each of the 5 risk levels identified in the new Plan. At current levels of risk, public transport operators are restricted to having only 50% of their passenger-carrying capacity on vehicles. The Plan provides guidance for the public about using public transport at the different risk levels, including that wearing face coverings is mandatory, and encouraging use of off-peak services and sustainable active travel alternative options where feasible. Importantly, the continued guidance under the Plan on working from home where possible and the restricted level of opening of social, leisure and other facilities has reduced the demand for public transport well below normal levels.

The NTA will continue to work with public transport operators to monitor demand against capacity and where issues arise and where spare fleet and drivers are available, additional services will be provided.

The Government is financially supporting the continued provision of public transport services over the course of this very difficult year where demand collapsed, and where capacity is now restricted for public health reasons, this support takes the form of a substantial funding increase to keep PSO services running, and also the introduction of a new, temporary financial support for commercial public transport operators.

Public Transport

Ceisteanna (213)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

213. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Transport if he has met with all public transport providers in relation to funding and service level agreements since he became Minister. [26315/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The award of Public Service Obligation (PSO) contracts and the allocation of PSO funding to public transport operators falls under the independent statutory remit of the National Transport Authority (NTA), which has direct responsibility for this area. It is the NTA that has contractual arrangements in place with all transport operators providing PSO services and decides on the individual allocations to each company.

Since my appointment as Minister for Transport, I have already met formally with the Chair and CEO of Bus Éireann, and I plan to meet formally with the other public transport companies under my remit over the coming weeks. My Department is in regular contact with these companies, and has kept me informed on key issues related to them since my appointment.

Driver Licences

Ceisteanna (214)

Thomas Gould

Ceist:

214. Deputy Thomas Gould asked the Minister for Transport if a provision will be made for the renewal of driver licences online for persons over 70 years of age with no pre-existing medical conditions in view of the advice for them to reduce contacts. [26327/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

As part of the measures put forward to cater for issues arising from the Covid-19 pandemic, regulations were introduced to provide for the removal of the requirement for persons over 70 years of age, who do not have an identified or specified illness, to provide a medical report when applying for or renewing a driving licence beginning on the 20 March and ending on 31 December 2020.

The current driving licence online application system does not allow applications that require supporting documentation.  Although the requirement to submit a medical report has been removed for those over 70 years of age, the online system has not yet been amended to accommodate this change.

The Road Safety Authority (RSA) is continuing work to expand the online facility to accommodate all driving licence and learner permit application types.

Those who are over 70 and who are renewing a one year licence, can do so by post. Further information on the process can be had by emailing info@ndls.ie 

I would like to reassure the Deputy that the National Driver Licence Service (NDLS) centres have been assessed and procedures have been put in place to align with the Government's Return to Work Safely Protocols.  Appropriate signage, sanitation and handwashing, and social distancing measures such as reduced seating in waiting areas and customer touchpoint cleansing have been introduced.  Customers are accompanied into and out of centres and are required to adhere to necessary health and safety guidelines.