Dáil debates

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Ceisteanna - Questions

National Risk Assessment

4:15 pm

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Dublin West, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I propose to take Questions Nos. 6 and 7 together.

As previously indicated, the national risk assessment is an annual exercise, which aims to ensure a broad-based and inclusive debate on the strategic risks facing the country. It focuses on the identification of risks and is not intended to replicate or displace the detailed risk management and mitigation that happens across Departments and agencies in respect of individual risks.

As in previous years, my Department, working with a cross-departmental steering group, prepared the initial draft of this year’s report. The draft also reflects feedback from the open policy debate in April where representatives from business, media, research and education institutions, civil society groups and the public sector were invited to discuss a draft list of risks. Following approval by the Government on 22 May, the draft was laid before the Oireachtas and published for public consultation. The draft report is published and available to read on my Department’s website. The public consultation period closed last week.

The draft report includes some new risks this year, including the impact of social media on public debate and the risk of overheating the economy. Existing risks have also evolved. For example, the risks arising from Brexit have developed significantly and remain prominent. Other risks include international uncertainties around tax and trade, increasing expectations for higher public expenditure, infrastructure constraints, housing supply and affordability problems which persist. As in previous years, risks around climate change and the need for a secure and diverse energy supply present significant challenges for Ireland. They do so in terms of achieving national and international targets, mitigating our emissions and adapting to the effects of a changing climate. The cost of delayed action is discussed as a major factor in this risk.

While biodiversity is not listed as a separate risk in its own right, the potential impact of climate change on our ecosystems is recognised in the climate change section of the draft report. In particular, this section highlights the potential of climate change to cause changes in the distribution and time of lifecycle events of plant and animal species on land and in the oceans. Actions to tackle climate change will help maintain the integrity of our ecosystems and, therefore, ensure the natural biodiversity present in these ecosystems is protected. The draft report also highlights the need to invest in new economic opportunities in the bioeconomy, which recognises environmental sustainability, including biodiversity, as a core principle.

Finally, the report also notes the need to decouple economic growth from adding to environmental pressures such as climate change and declining biodiversity. Following the conclusion of the public consultation stage last week, the list of strategic risks and the 2018 report will be finalised and published in July. The purpose of the consultation is to encourage debate on strategic risks, and the views of Oireachtas Members are a welcome input to that discussion.

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