Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Tuesday, 26 April 2022

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action

New Retrofitting Plan and the Built Environment: Discussion

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Dublin Bay North, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

It is music to my ears to hear Dr. Kinnane say we should start with the not-so-deep measures, such as heat controls, draught-stopping and all of those things that are very impactful. Under the retrofitting plan, we would still have 1.5 million homes untouched. These are certainly low-hanging fruit from that point of view.

On the issue of management of the whole process, we have a circular economy Bill, on which we have made a report. One of the central things we recommended was that the circular economy should be reported in tandem with the climate action plan and that should be overseen by the Taoiseach. It is not that we have not considered the leadership issue of circularity, which goes well beyond just the inventory of carbon emissions and embraces the embodied issue. We have made that recommendation.

I have two short questions. Forgive me if I have missed it but how do we get public procurement to move more rapidly in this direction? I was surprised to hear the EU’s taxonomy is only for private investment. Surely we should start by making sure what we control ourselves complies with taxonomies and life cycle thinking and so on. It is certainly not my impression it does at the moment. It would be interesting to hear the European experience and how public procurement has changed to reflect this.

The other question is also looking at the European experience.

How can we create a market for these more carbon-sensitive approaches, either recovered material from demolition or elsewhere or for products with a lower carbon content? Is it through the carbon pricing, the carbon tax, if you like? Is that the common method or are there other methods to stimulate the market for these better products from a life cycle point of view?

Comments

Abby Semple
Posted on 2 May 2022 11:39 am (Report this comment)

Public procurement needs to take account of embodied emissions in construction materials, demolition etc. Under the Programme for Government and CAP, there is a commitment for all procurement using public funds to include green criteria by 2023. The EPA published detailed guidance and criteria for green public procurement (GPP) in 2021, based on relevant EU legislation and standards and best environmental practice. The criteria are based on life-cycle assessment so include embodied, operational and end-of-life emissions as well as other impacts on biodiversity etc. BUT there is currently no legislation in Ireland mandating the use of these criteria or requiring a life-cycle approach to procurement of buildings or other infrastructure. Likewise there is no requirement to use public procurement to ensure skills development (e.g. through apprenticeships, training clauses) in the sector. There is no getting around it: GPP adds to the complexity of procurement and the fear is that this will delay the delivery of housing or other needs. We need to get it right - by building the skills both on the part of procurement officers and within the industry to address the true environmental impact of building. There are many tools and resources available for this, including some excellent ones produced by the Irish Green Building Council, EPA, SEAI and European Commission. But it is still mainly optional for central and local government, and there is a lack of incentives to develop projects to the highest green standards. https://www.epa.ie/publications/circular-economy/resources/g...
https://www.epa.ie/news-releases/news-releases-2022/epa-repo...

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