Thursday, 15 July 2021
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
I thank the Deputies for raising this issue. The Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications has no legal function in respect of An Taisce. The Department provides An Taisce with funding for a variety of initiatives, including the National Spring Clean, Irish Business Against Litter, national anti-litter league and green schools programme. All payments made to An Taisce are in line with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform circular 13/2014 regarding the management of grant funding provided from public money.
Grant funding is paid on the basis of vouched expenditure only. An Taisce is required to provide supporting invoices stating that its claims relate to activities and services appropriate to the grant scheme objectives. The An Taisce green schools initiative, which Deputy Mattie McGrath outlined, is a whole-school programme and awards scheme comprising seven steps. It takes a thematic approach to environmental education. Key themes include litter and waste, energy, water, travel and biodiversity. Approximately 4,000 primary, secondary and special schools in Ireland are participating in the programme. This programme has been operating in Ireland since 1997 and is operated by the environmental education unit of An Taisce in partnership with local authorities and is supported by a number of Government Departments and agencies as well as corporate funders. The programme covers a wide range of thematic areas and impact measurements indicate substantial positive changes in knowledge, behaviour and opinion leadership among the participants. There are also substantial direct and indirect cost savings for schools in respect of waste, energy, water, and transport fuel with an associated reduction in greenhouse gases.
The national spring clean is Ireland's largest anti-litter initiative and has been operating since 1999. The programme encourages and supports individuals and groups across society to take part in their own clean-up events. In 2020, the national spring clean took place without incident during a pandemic. The number of events in 2020 was 5,413 and approximately 2,900 tonnes of litter was collected. In 2021, the national spring clean progressed under level 5 restrictions. Family or household bubble groups held their own clean-up within a 5 km radius of their homes. As the level of restrictions is lifted, the spring clean will be able to expand its scope and carry on through the summer and into autumn
The estimated allocation to An Taisce for 2021 is in line with the 2020 allocation of €675,000. Final details on payments in 2021 will not be available until the end of the year.