Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Thursday, 7 October 2021
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action
General Scheme of the Circular Economy Bill 2021: Discussion
Mr. Leslie Carberry:
I am happy to do so. I thank Deputy Bruton for those questions and remarks. I thank the Deputy as well for the support for the importance of the circular economy.
There would be very little that the Department would disagree with in what the Deputy has said in terms of the idea of targets, responsibilities, adaptation, deliverables, etc. Our view is that there is a step before that, given where we are in terms of the circular economy today, which is tackling awareness and understanding of the circular economy across all sectors. We felt that what was first needed was a high-level strategic document which would demystify what the circular economy is, how it can apply, what its benefits can be to sectors and, essentially, put in place a single policy target which is about significantly improving our circularity rate versus our EU peers.
The current version of the strategy - we can make this clear but I hope this was the message that went through when it was launched for consultation - was always intended to be a short-term document with a lifespan of less than two years. When we convene the interdepartmental groups which will implement the strategy and the circular economy advisory groups which will take in broader stakeholders, we will be looking at identifying specific targets, sectoral roadmaps and actions that can be taken to support those targets identifying responsibilities that will go into the second version of the strategy, which will then be a statutory document. We felt that getting an overarching policy document was important. That seems to have been the international experience. The countries that are doing really well, such as The Netherlands, have that overarching single-point-of-reference document for their circular economy policy and then build in those targets and other measures where there is a common understanding.
In terms of budgets the environmental levies, which we can talk about and which I assume will be talked about at some stage, are not intended to be revenue-raising measures. They are intended to modify people's behaviours to more sustainable choices but, in common with the plastic bag levy and the landfill levy, initially, in their lifespan, there will be revenue generated. That revenue will be routed through the circular economy fund to support circular economy initiatives and support the strategy.
Finally, in terms of the connection to the climate plan, the Climate Action Plan 2020 treats the circular economy as a cross-cutting issue that will affect all sectors of the economy and there are actions related to the circular economy that will be in the climate action plan. I would assume every year, when that plan is updated, you will see an increasing number of specific circular economy actions.