Wednesday, 1 June 2022
Circular Economy, Waste Management (Amendment) and Minerals Development (Amendment) Bill 2022: Report and Final Stages
I move amendment No. 1:
In page 6, between lines 21 and 22, to insert the following: ""Just transition" means a transition that ensures the economic, environmental and social consequences of the ecological transformation of economies and societies are managed in ways that maximise opportunities of decent work for all, reduce inequalities, promote social justice, and support industries, workers and communities negatively affected, in accordance with nationally defined priorities, and based on effective social dialogue;".
Amendment No. 1, in the name of my party colleague, Deputy Whitmore, provides a much-needed definition of just transition. Amendment No. 17 proposes a requirement "to facilitate and support initiatives undertaken by communities or organisations which promote the principles of a just transition and climate justice".
It is regrettable that we do not yet have a definition of just transition in our legislation. Without a legal definition, it is difficult to see how we can achieve a fair and just transition as we move towards a zero-carbon economy, or how we can hold the Government of the day to account for its climate actions. To put it simply, a just transition is a movement towards a new, greener, sustainable economy that is achieved in as fair and inclusive a way as possible for everyone concerned, particularly those most vulnerable to the transition to a zero-carbon economy and those most vulnerable to climate change itself.
The idea of a circular economy in the current economic context is positive, but we must be cognisant of, and focused on, how this new economy will treat people, particularly the most vulnerable in our society. It is a question of whether we include them or view them as passive actors during the course of the transition. We have a chance to adopt a more holistic transitional approach for people in poverty or with a disability, recognising the opportunity to drive social change along with climate action.
Deputy Whitmore attempted to secure a legal definition of just transition throughout the course of the debate on the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021 and by way of her own legislation, which she introduced last year. She also proposed to include the definition on Committee Stage of this Bill but, again, it was rejected by the Government. We can no longer separate the environment from how we live. We cannot separate it from every single element that impacts us, including food costs, fuel costs and travel. Our response must be cross-cutting and the legislation and policies we develop must take into account all of those other aspects.
I thank Deputies Whitmore and Cairns for bringing forward these amendments, which I support. They are consistent with attempts made by the Opposition at various stages, including in the debate on the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021 and on earlier Stages of this Bill, to enshrine the principles of just transition in legislation in Ireland. We look towards other jurisdictions - Scotland, for example - where this has been done. It makes a difference because it enshrines a commitment in this regard in law. It means that all of the policy that stems from the important legislation in this area must be in line with those principles.
In recent weeks, we had statements in the House on a just transition. One can see there is a really narrow focus from the Government on particular geographical areas and particular cohorts. In fact, a commitment to just transition needs to permeate absolutely everything we do in terms of climate change. Today's report from the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, refers specifically to the need for implementation and action. Much of the resistance to climate action is because of the unjust and unfair way in which it is being imposed and delivered. People are not being given the opportunity to see the benefits of, and everything that is positive about, essential climate action.
It speaks volumes that there is such resistance to amendments like these linked ones that have been put forward by Deputy Cairns. I hope the Minister will support them. However, if past performance is any indication, there will be opposition to them. I question where that opposition comes from. If we are serious about delivering on the targets that have been set and agreed on so widely, then the definition of the principles of just transition, in the broadest possible sense, is fundamental to the real-world delivery of those targets. We must ensure people on the front line, in such sectors as the fossil fuel industry, are protected. However, it is necessary for everybody to make a transition. For every decision we make, we need to think in terms of just transition, equity and ensuring the policy decisions that are made do not drive people into poverty, including fuel poverty, or further into poverty. It is fair enough if measures taken reduce some people's wealth but they should not drive people into poverty or further into poverty. Unfortunately, that is what is happening with some of the measures we have seen from the Government. I support these amendments.
I speak in favour of Deputy Whitmore's amendments. The Minister will verbally agree that the idea of a just transition is not an optional extra but must be central to everything we do on climate action and the environment. On Committee Stage, however, he stated that a definition of just transition was not agreed for the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021 and it would not be appropriate to include it in this Bill either. That is a mistake and it speaks to a fundamental misunderstanding of the central role of a just transition in achieving the changes we need. If a measure to achieve a circular economy or a policy aimed at cutting emissions does not fit a clear description of a just transition, then it simply will not succeed.
We cannot say to workers or to communities that rely on work or rely on services in aviation, plastics, agriculture, energy or any of the many sectors that must change radically that this is what we are going to do without giving them a clear vision of how this future will be better for everyone. I feel we have failed the Bord na Móna workers in this regard and we are failing households currently in energy poverty. Unless just transition is embedded into the very core of the policies and the laws of the State, these plans will fail. I urge the Minister to accept Deputy Whitmore's amendments.
I anticipate that the Minister will reject the amendment, but I do not understand why. When the Minister was in opposition, he and I served on the joint committee arising from the Citizens' Assembly in respect of climate action. The Minister was very strong in his rhetoric on the whole issue of just transition. If I recall correctly, the Green Party produced a Bill on the principle of the just transition. We are all broadly in agreement and we need to insert the principles in legislation. The amendment before us is a sound amendment in what it seeks to achieve. Deputy O'Rourke already referred to the Scottish example which has been well signalled. I do not see why we could not follow suit or at least seek to have this principle inserted across a plethora of legislation which is going through this House. It should be embedded firmly across legislation in a way that ensures we are acting appropriately in respect of climate action. I see no reason the House should reject an amendment of this nature. It seems to be eminently sensible.
I am very glad to be here for Report Stage of the Circular Economy, Waste Management (Amendment) and Minerals Development (Amendment) Bill. I commend the Members, the Minister of State, Deputy Ossian Smyth, and the officials on the processing of the Bill to date. There has been a lot of listening and amending. Today I will be introducing a series of amendments based on many of the suggestions coming from the Opposition. I can give examples of that good collaboration. Deputy Whitmore raised the need for consultation in the drafting of a circular economy strategy, particularly relating to people with disability and stitching poverty impact assessment into everything we do with circular economy legislation. I regard that as a very good and pertinent example of amending legislation to take a social justice perspective into account.
I will not be accepting the amendment. I do not believe that this is the place for us to focus on or set the definition of a just transition. We had this discussion at length in the development of the climate law and we will do so again later this year. We are working on the introduction of a statutory just transition commission office. I had meetings this week with the Just Transition Alliance and with a range of different actors asking very detailed questions as to how we define that word "fair". That is the right place to define a just transition commission or a just transition approach in its own right. I do not believe this is the appropriate place and I do not think it would strengthen or add to the legislation. On this occasion, I am afraid I cannot accept the amendments.
Forgive me if I misunderstood the Minister. I would have thought that this is the most appropriate place in which to promulgate ideas such as our proposed amendment. All too often we do not give ourselves enough credit for discussing deeply issues such as this. Many of us, including the Minister, have sought to embed this in legislation. We now have a golden opportunity in this legislation to do that. While I accept it is important to coalesce with those who are outside this House, it is also important to take the views of people within this House seriously.
I think the right place for that is in the legislative vehicle, which is the statutory just transition commission office. That is where we will really do that properly, effectively and well. I look forward to that later in the year.
Ivana Bacik, Richard Boyd Barrett, Martin Browne, Pat Buckley, Holly Cairns, Seán Canney, Matt Carthy, Sorca Clarke, Catherine Connolly, Rose Conway-Walsh, Réada Cronin, Seán Crowe, David Cullinane, Pa Daly, Pearse Doherty, Paul Donnelly, Dessie Ellis, Mairead Farrell, Kathleen Funchion, Gary Gannon, Thomas Gould, Michael Healy-Rae, Brendan Howlin, Alan Kelly, Martin Kenny, Claire Kerrane, Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, Denise Mitchell, Imelda Munster, Catherine Murphy, Paul Murphy, Johnny Mythen, Gerald Nash, Cian O'Callaghan, Richard O'Donoghue, Louise O'Reilly, Darren O'Rourke, Eoin Ó Broin, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, Ruairi Ó Murchú, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Maurice Quinlivan, Patricia Ryan, Matt Shanahan, Seán Sherlock, Róisín Shortall, Bríd Smith, Duncan Smith, Brian Stanley, Pauline Tully, Mark Ward.
Colm Brophy, Richard Bruton, Colm Burke, Mary Butler, Jackie Cahill, Dara Calleary, Ciarán Cannon, Joe Carey, Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, Jack Chambers, Niall Collins, Barry Cowen, Michael Creed, Cathal Crowe, Cormac Devlin, Alan Dillon, Stephen Donnelly, Francis Noel Duffy, Bernard Durkan, Alan Farrell, Frank Feighan, Joe Flaherty, Charles Flanagan, Seán Fleming, Norma Foley, Brendan Griffin, Seán Haughey, Martin Heydon, Emer Higgins, Heather Humphreys, Paul Kehoe, James Lawless, Brian Leddin, Josepha Madigan, Catherine Martin, Micheál Martin, Steven Matthews, Paul McAuliffe, Michael McGrath, John McGuinness, Joe McHugh, Aindrias Moynihan, Michael Moynihan, Jennifer Murnane O'Connor, Hildegarde Naughton, Malcolm Noonan, Darragh O'Brien, Joe O'Brien, Jim O'Callaghan, Willie O'Dea, Kieran O'Donnell, Fergus O'Dowd, Roderic O'Gorman, Christopher O'Sullivan, Pádraig O'Sullivan, Marc Ó Cathasaigh, Éamon Ó Cuív, John Paul Phelan, Anne Rabbitte, Neale Richmond, Michael Ring, Eamon Ryan, Brendan Smith, Niamh Smyth, David Stanton, Robert Troy.
We will resume on amendment No. 2 in the name of the Minister. Amendments Nos. 2 to 4, inclusive and No. 9 are related and may be discussed together. Amendment No. 3 is a physical alternative to amendment No.2.
I move amendment No. 2:
In page 7, to delete lines 19 to 27 and substitute the following: “ “circular economy” means an economic model and the policies and practices which give effect to that model in which—(a) production and distribution processes in respect of goods, products and materials are designed so as to minimise the consumption of raw materials associated with the production and use of those goods, products and materials,
(b) the delivery of services is designed so as to reduce the consumption of raw materials,
(c) goods, products and materials are kept in use for as long as possible thereby further reducing the consumption of raw materials and impacts harmful to the environment,
(d) the maximum economic value is extracted from goods, products, and materials by the persons using them, and
(e) goods, products and materials are recovered and regenerated at the end of their useful life;”.
This is an example of what I referred to earlier whereby we have introduced amendments that take into account some of the views and ideas of Members opposite and Government backbench Members who had some very useful suggestions on how we could strengthen the Bill. Amendments Nos. 2 and 9 significantly strengthen the definition of a "circular economy" to broaden the concept to include design and the role of design in both production and distribution processes and in the delivery of services, not just manufactured goods, in a circular economy. Amendment No. 2 provides that in a circular economy the production and distribution processes and the delivery of services are designed to minimise and reduce the consumption of raw materials.
Regarding amendment No. 3, I am of the view that amendment No. 2 better gives effect to the intention of Deputy Bríd Smith's amendment so I cannot accept it. Amendment No. 4 would further amend the definition and while I understand the intention behind it and fully agree with the concept of producer responsibility, that is better achieved by the extension of producer responsibility schemes than by the proposed amendment to the definition, and, therefore, I cannot accept amendment No. 4.
Amendment No. 9 expands the definition of "single-use packaging". Currently the definition relates to packaging conceived, designed or placed on the market in respect of the holding of food products. With the simple deletion of the three words "to hold food", we are taking the views expressed during the Committee Stage debate and expanding the definition. That is a very useful and welcome extension that came out of the Committee Stage debate and I thank Deputy Bruton, in particular, for his work on that.
I hope the House agrees with my proposals.
I acknowledge the changes the Minister is making. In committee we did quite a bit of work on the circular economy and there is no doubt that a lot of the gains of the circular economy will be achieved by rethinking the design of markets, products and services. It is very important that the Minister has acknowledged that. I might have gone a bit further to acknowledge the way we need to look at things differently. I will give a brief example in the motoring area. There is no doubt that if we moved gradually from selling vehicles as products, to be idle 95% of the time, towards seeing them more as services, there would be huge reductions in our use of materials and in our need for parking spaces. It would really transform, in a circular way, the environmental impact of our travel. I know that is a long way down the track but it is concepts like these that the circular economy needs to trigger.
As the Minister rolls this out, I do not believe that the EPA, as a fairly specialist agency, has the bandwidth to develop the programmes across a range of sectors that will realise the full potential of the circular economy. It is a great agency. It is very good at data collection and research but we need much wider political reach if we are drive the sort of change that is necessary. The Minister needs to reflect on whether the agency is sufficient to develop the programmes necessary. It needs a wider political remit. In my view, it should be integrated into climate action planning, which has a much broader approach in the way it develops actions to be executed.
We would like to acknowledge that the Minister has made significant changes and we welcome that. It is a stronger and wider definition than the first draft. However, we still have concerns and would like to see the actual responsibility placed on manufacturers and producers. The current wording seems to suggest that the same practices, that is, the unsustainable use of materials and so on, can continue, with an emphasis solely on efficiency and usage. We think it needs to be wider and to signal the end of the possibility that anyone can continue to make profits from the old way of doing business, which has been, to use the economic jargon, an externality of costs to society. We welcome the changes but we still think the language remains vague and open to get-out clauses.
I ask the Minister to explain again why he has removed the words "to hold food". What is the logic in removing this? Is this a sop to the lobbying that we have had from the industry? It is absolutely essential to specifically identify what single-use plastic products are overwhelmingly used for here. If the Minister's aim is to widen the scope of the definition, why not add to the uses as opposed to removing the specific use of "to hold food"? I ask him to explain his thinking on that.
I also acknowledge the changes the Minister and the Minister of State have made on foot of the Committee Stage debate. They have taken on board some of what the Opposition and some Government Members said during that debate. That said, there is an opportunity to go further and I share concerns that it does not adequately capture the potential of the circular economy. At the moment, perversely, the limited plastics recycling facilities that we have on the island cannot source plastics from this State because it is more profitable to export them elsewhere. We must consider also the carbon footprint associated with that.
It is ludicrous that it is circular but far from the spirit of what circular could mean and should mean. This needs to be addressed. I do not believe this captures it sufficiently.
With regard to Deputy Bruton's points, I was talking to the officials in advance of coming into the Chamber and we agreed we are probably going to have a series of legislative moves on the circular economy. This would just be a first piece of legislation. The legislation is so significant and wide in its scope that it will require further iterations, as we learn by doing and, as later amendments will show when we see how they are being delivered, we can start to measure and set targets to give real further precision, further legal enforcement powers or regulatory powers to support the development.
The example picked by the Deputy is a very good one. I absolutely agree with him. Even in the past year or two there has been an evolution of thinking, for example, on the motor vehicles issue and the recognition it is not just about decarbonisation. If we all switched to just electric vehicles, there are real supply limits in cobalt, lithium, rare earths, steel and all of the other metal and rare earth metals that are required in cars. I absolutely agree with Deputy Bruton and I do not believe it would be that far distant, and it is already happening, when we will really need to accelerate that sort of shared-use economy in travel and transport as a service. I absolutely accept that as an example of wider and other further products. I believe, however, that we are right to get this legislation through. This amendment significantly broadens and steers us towards systems thinking, design thinking, and concept around how we provide services, as well as the manufacturing of goods. I take the Deputy's point.
The EPA is one actor in the circular economy but we see this as a whole-of-government strategy. It cannot just be the EPA. In my mind one could include, for example, a number of different agencies, including Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland and others.
On the removal of "to hold food", I wish to reassure Deputy Bríd Smith that it is with a view to expanding. If I was to try to list every single potential product, it would be impossible and might not be fully inclusive. By removing the words "to hold food" and leaving it open, it is widening as much as possible the definition of products, where it applies.
I move amendment No. 4:
In page 7, between lines 27 and 28, to insert the following:“(d) and where the manufacturer or producer of the goods, products and materials concerned is held accountable and financially liable for the costs associated with their recovery and regeneration;”
I move amendment No. 5:
In page 8, between lines 4 and 5, to insert the following:“ “National Biodiversity Action Plan” means the National Biodiversity Action Plan 2017-2021 published by the Government on 5 October 2017 or any document published by the Government which amends or replaces that plan;”.
We are introducing this series of amendments to take into account the views of the Members across the Oireachtas Select Committee on Environment and Climate Action on Committee Stage. We committed to consider the issues raised around a consultation on the strategy, and these amendments arise as a result of that consideration.
Amendments were also accepted on Committee Stage from Deputy Whitmore, adding the national biodiversity action plan, the national disability inclusion strategy and the roadmap for social inclusion, which I mentioned earlier as an example of how this Bill is being amended.
Amendments Nos. 5, 6 and 8 are consequential amendments and provide for definitions of these documents in section 6. Amendment No. 6 inserts the national biodiversity action plan into the list of documents that must be taken into account in the drafting of the strategy. Deputy Christopher O'Sullivan asked for that on Committee Stage and I thank him for raising the issue. We are fully committed to the greater delivery of anaerobic digestion across all sectors and this amendment will help this to play a part in our future economy. Amendment No. 7 is a consequential amendment that provides for the definition of the national biodiversity action plan in section 6.
Amendment No. 10 arises out of contributions by Deputy Whitmore on Committee Stage, which were further examined in advance of Report Stage. It places a mandatory obligation on the Minister to consult bodies representing "economically or socially disadvantaged persons or persons who have a disability" in relation to the proposed circular economy strategy. It also places a statutory obligation on the Minister to ensure a poverty impact assessment has been carried out by the Minister in the context of the strategy. This is a very important addition. It ensures communities will be fully considered during the drafting of the circular economy strategy. It gives effect to the objectives of the amendments introduced by Deputy Whitmore on Committee Stage, having been through the legislative wringer to make sure the drafting office is happy they integrate into the Bill. I thank Deputy Whitmore for her contribution in this regard, which has strengthened the Bill again.
On amendments Nos. 5, 6 and 8, I am delighted to see the Minister has accepted some of Deputy Whitmore's amendments, including reference to various important national strategies such as the national biodiversity strategy, the national disability inclusion strategy, and the roadmap for social inclusion. This will help ensure the Bill is poverty-proofed and conscious of disability matters.
It is further welcome to see the inclusion of the Government amendment No. 10, which will ensure the Minister will engage with individuals representing economically or socially disadvantaged persons or persons who have a disability. It also refers to a poverty impact assessment that must be carried out by the Minister in respect of the circular economy strategy.
People at risk of poverty or people with disabilities must be treated as active participants in the new economy rather than being relegated to inactive participants, as they currently are with the linear economic model we have today. Without proper consultation on climate action policies, we risk increasing poverty and further disadvantaging people with disabilities. It is important their voices and concerns should feed into policy processes at initial stages. Consultation should be active, early and thorough to make people feel they have been involved, to give the best possible results and to make the best possible policies.
With regard to food poverty, we must be cognisant of affordability in the context of the rising cost of living. It is important we bring along everyone in line with just transition principles as we transition to a zero-carbon economy and that those most vulnerable to that transition would be included, consulted and, where possible, protected.
I welcome the bona fides of the Minister in bringing forward these amendments as a genuine attempt to deal with the issues therein.
On the issue of persons who are seeking to reduce their waste, especially people who have particular needs, for instance, with incontinence, in 2017 there was a Government decision on the need to introduce a waste waiver in that regard. We have not seen this yet. It was the subject of an amendment here. If we are serious about ensuring we include everybody, I believe it would be appropriate for this Bill to deal with that issue also.
In bringing forward further legislation, which the Minister said he intends to do as things change, I ask that we would give due recognition to people who require waivers and who have no way of reducing their waste because of medical issues. I ask that we recognise those people and that consideration be given to the introduction of the waste waiver. It was a Government decision of 2017. I should know whether Government decisions fall when the mandate falls. I do not think they do but I will be guided by the Ceann Comhairle. It was a Government decision regardless of who was in government. I hope this could be revisited. I am certainly trying to put it into the mind of the Minister. There are people who would have reasonably expected a scheme for waiving fees for some household waste collection services for the benefit of households where, by reason of medical illness or disability, including an illness or disability that gives rise to the need for incontinence wear, a disproportionate amount of household waste is presented for collection.
The purpose of such a waiver would be to give recognition to those people and transpose the Government decision into legislation.
I support Deputy Sherlock's attempt to get a waiver for vulnerable people. Once upon a time, there was a waiver for vulnerable and elderly people and people who lived on the poverty incomes of social protection. Those who remember the days of opposition to bin charges will recall that they were opposed precisely on this basis. If charges were brought in and the private sector was competing for this service, these were the exact sorts of measures, aimed at helping the vulnerable and poorest in our society, that would be removed by private companies. That is what happened. The companies abandoned those sorts of measures when they could in order to enhance their profits. I fully support Deputy Sherlock's proposal.
I acknowledge the Minister and the Minister of State, Deputy Ossian Smyth, for their inclusion of these amendments, which were discussed on Committee Stage. This is a long-standing issue with regard to supports for people with medical-associated additional waste needs. It is very unfair and is one of those things that frustrates people. It affects a small number of people, is cruel and needs to be resolved. Looking at parliamentary questions, this issue comes up across the political spectrum. Everybody seems to agree on it but nothing changes. Now is an opportune time to do something about it and I support Deputy Sherlock's call in that regard.
In June 2017, the previous Government introduced an intended waiver from the flat-rate charges for waste collection. The Department of Social Protection and a range of agencies, including the National Waste Collection Permit Office, the Office of the Data Protection Commission and others, have been looking at how it could be implemented but they have run into difficulties. I am told there are issues due to the absence of a detailed list of persons in receipt of free incontinence wear from the HSE and GDPR, because it involves the gathering and sharing of information. There are other complications around that. We all know the introduction of GDPR legislation has had unintended consequences for the targeting, identifying or sharing of information about particular categories. We will not stop looking for this measure. I hear what Deputy O'Rourke and others are saying. There is broad agreement that we would like this to happen. In a similar area, we are trying to identify houses with high electricity use because they use a lot of medical devices in order to target them for particular supports. This cannot be impossible. We will use this debate to further things. I do not have an amendment before me and I will not amend the legislation but we will redouble efforts to implement that 2017 decision.
I move amendment No. 6:
In page 8, between lines 7 and 8, to insert the following: ““National Disability Inclusion Strategy” means the National Disability Inclusion Strategy 2017-2021 published by the Government on 14 July 2017 or any document published by the Government which amends or replaces that strategy;”.
I move amendment No. 7:
In page 8, between lines 12 and 13, to insert the following: ““National Policy Statement on the Bioeconomy” means the National Policy Statement on the Bioeconomy published by the Government on 12 March 2018 or any document published by the Government which amends or replaces that statement;”.
I move amendment No. 8:
In page 8, after line 40, to insert the following: ““Roadmap for Social Inclusion” means the Roadmap for Social Inclusion 2020-2025 published by the Government on 14 January 2020 or any document published by the Government which amends or replaces that roadmap;”.
I move amendment No. 10:
In page 10, to delete lines 9 to 11 and substitute the following: “(3) Before the Minister submits a circular economy strategy to the Government for their approval under this section, he or she shall—(a) consult with—(i) members of the public in such manner as he or she considers appropriate,in relation to the proposed strategy, and
(ii) such bodies, as he or she considers appropriate, representing economically or socially disadvantaged persons or persons who have a disability, and
(iii) such other persons, if any, as he or she considers appropriate,
(b) ensure that a poverty impact assessment has been carried out by the Minister in respect of the strategy.”.
I move amendment No. 11:
In page 10, between lines 19 and 20, to insert the following: “(d) the National Policy Statement on the Bioeconomy, including as it relates to technologies such as anaerobic digestion;”.
I move amendment No. 12:
In page 10, to delete lines 28 to 33 and substitute the following: “(6) (a) For the purposes of the development of the circular economy, the circular economy strategy—(i) shall set out targets, in accordance with paragraph (b), in respect of each of the following sectors of the economy:(b) The targets to be set out in respect of a sector of the economy under paragraph (a)(i)or (ii)shall include any or all of the following as the Minister considers appropriate for the sector concerned:(I) construction;(ii) may set out targets, in accordance with paragraph (b), in relation to such sectors of the economy other than those referred to in subparagraph (i), if any, as the Minister considers appropriate, and
(VI) electronic equipment,
(iii) shall promote the use of criteria relating to the circular economy in public procurement.(i) reductions in material resource consumption and the use of non-recyclable materials;(c) The Minister shall consult with such other Minister of the Government, if any, as he or she considers appropriate in relation to the targets to be set out in the strategy.
(ii) increases in the use of re-usable products and materials;
(iii) increased levels of repair and re-use of products and materials;
(iv) improved maintenance and optimised use of goods, products and materials.
(d) The Minister shall, in relation to those sectors of the economy in respect of which targets have been set out in the strategy in accordance with this subsection, promote the entering into by participants in those sectors, on a voluntary basis, of sectoral agreements in respect of those targets.”.
I thank Deputy Bruton. These amendments come out of some of the proposals he made on Committee Stage. They will place a mandatory obligation on the Minister to set targets in the circular economy strategy. The word used is "shall" not "may", meaning it is mandatory. It is appropriate to specify individual sectors in respect of which mandatory reporting targets should be set with regard to public procurement and promoting voluntary sectoral agreements for the targets set under the strategy. This strengthens and broadens the Bill in a way that is appropriate.
Amendment No. 12 amends section 7 to provide that the Minister must set sector-specific targets in the strategy, must promote the use of circular economy criteria in public procurement and must promote voluntary sectoral agreements for targets. I thank Deputy Bruton for his contribution to these amendments, as well as the other Deputies who contributed to the debate on the issue.
Amendment No. 14 provides for a consequential amendment to section 7(7) as a result of the changes outlined to section 7(6). As amendment No. 12 already provides for mandatory targets, amendment No. 13 is not necessary and therefore I will not be accepting it.
I warmly welcome these changes. The Minister has been very responsive to the discussions we had on Committee Stage. It is important that we recognise that every sector is different and each one needs to start to think fundamentally about the way it does its business. In order to achieve prosperous and competitive enterprises in ten, 15 or 20 years, sectors must start to meet targets. They may do so voluntarily in the first place, as the Minister recognises would be valuable, but over time there will be greater pressure on them to meet targets. It is important that we start to do this. I urge, and have urged, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment to play a role in identifying the sectors within his remit where there are opportunities to make our sectors more competitive, prosperous and environmentally sustainable. The same is true of housing and the construction sector. I welcome the approach the Minister is taking. I hope there will be whole-of-government support for that approach and that sectoral leaders will recognise that this is giving them the opportunity to get their house in order, with the support of the Government and with targets they can help shape.
I too welcome this amendment. It sets out a very clear strategy. I will speak very briefly about electronic equipment. The Minister will be aware of the "right to repair" movement, which is gathering a head of steam globally. This applies to all of us and our personal consumption, particularly of electronic goods and white goods such as smartphones. The concept of built-in obsolescence is becoming quite painful for consumers. It is annoying that we cannot have recourse to repair for a product we have purchased. The Minister will say we do not want to move ahead of EU law in relation to harmonisation rules. I anticipate his reply and I appreciate that dynamic but we should take due cognisance of this movement around the right to repair.
On this small little island, we are sitting on mountains of electronic detritus. It is the same detritus that 20 years ago we would have sought to repair, for example, a toaster, dishwasher or phone. People are sick to the back teeth of this built-in obsolescence and having to replace goods annually or biannually. It is just not good enough. If we can be the first country in the world to move head of the European Union, we should be that radical and ambitious. If we can instil within circular economy legislation this concept of the right to repair, allowing independent businesses to repair products made by the likes of Apple, Samsung and so on, we should seek to embrace that.
I hope that concept will be instilled within the subsection that deals specifically with electronic equipment.
I think that relates to amendment No. 24, tabled by Deputy Bacik, which effectively makes the same point. When we come to that amendment, I will say the same thing as I am saying now, which the Deputy predicted I would say. This is a European competence. I do not disagree on the issue but we have to work within a European context and the wider and larger mechanism by which we can set standards. That is where we need that legislation. I do not think it fits into this Bill.
I move amendment No. 15:
In page 11, to delete lines 3 to 5 and substitute the following: “(8) The Minister shall publish, on a website maintained by or on behalf of the Minister or the Government—(a) the circular economy strategy approved by the Government under this section, and
(b) on an annual basis, a report prepared by or on behalf of the Minister on the implementation of the strategy and the progress made in relation to—(i) reaching the targets set out in the strategy in accordance with subsection (6), and
(ii) the taking of the actions set out in the strategy in accordance with subsection (7).”.
This too will be a significant strengthening of the legislation to allow for an annual review and for the publication thereof, which was not provided for in the Bill as drafted. The amendment arises from amendments tabled on Committee Stage. It is a fairly simple provision whereby the Minister will have to prepare a report annually on the implementation of the strategy, the progress made to reaching the targets and the taking of the actions set out in the strategy. The strategy will have to be updated fully at least every three years, so it will be important that excessive resources do not get caught up in an ongoing cycle of reviews at the expense of making progress on the actions. It provides for proportionate reviews of progress on the strategy.
Amendment No. 16 seeks to achieve the same objective. I will press my amendment, inspired by the debate on Committee Stage.
I tabled amendment No. 16. Again, in general terms, I welcome the Government's amendment and will withdraw my amendment. We sought an annual review as a way of evaluating the outcomes and progress and we hope the Minister's wording will achieve this.
I welcome the amendment, given the review will be integral if we are to have a successful programme. I again urge that the reporting under this be integrated with the climate reporting, which is overseen by the Department of the Taoiseach. This would give an additional impetus to not only the reporting process but also meeting the targets set out for the reporting.
I refer the Minister back to the approach in section 10, whereby the measures to be adopted under the circular economy are to be developed by the EPA. The sole element of force in the EPA's armoury seems to be the furnishing of a copy of its programme to other public bodies, but I think there is a weakness there. If the EPA comes up with good actions and it is merely furnishing a copy of its programme outlining them, that could involve just sending an email. The agency does not have sufficient bandwidth, nor is that a sufficiently effective tool even if it did. If the Government is coming back with legislation, we need to find a better way of developing the actions that will achieve these targets, using a broader range of expertise and putting obligations on Departments and Ministers, as the Government has done in developing some of these targets. We should be forcing the process of adopting circular thinking into every Department of State and not have it hived off in the EPA sending emails, perhaps forlornly, to other public bodies.
I suppose I will have to defend the EPA given, if no more than anything else, I have just come from a national dialogue public event with the agency. It was a hybrid event with hundreds of people from throughout the country. Nevertheless, I take the Deputy's point. Public consultation, with openness and transparency, has to be the watchword for all our agencies and we will look to strengthen that further.
I move amendment No. 16:
In page 11, to delete lines 3 to 5 and substitute the following: “(8) The Minister shall prepare a review on an annual basis, to evaluate outcomes against stated deliverables of the circular economy strategy, including any relevant data on progress, barriers to progress and recommendations on adjustment of the circular economy strategy or other measures, including financial measures, to address any such barriers or shortfalls as may be identified by the review.
(9) The circular economy strategy approved by the Government, and annual reviews referred to in subsection (8), shall be made available to the public by publication on a website maintained by or on behalf of the Minister or the Government.”.
I move amendment No. 17:
In page 13, between lines 6 and 7, to insert the following: “(o) to facilitate and support initiatives undertaken by communities or organisations which promote the principles of a just transition and climate justice;”.
I move amendment No. 18:
In page 20, after line 41, to insert the following: “(e) food contact materials in which perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have been used;”.
We wanted there to be included in this section a specific ban on a range of products such as single-use cups, plastic bags and so on because recent research, particularly from the US, has shown that food contact with the chemical substances used in these products is very dangerous. Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, PFAS, are a class of man-made chemicals widely used in products ranging from non-stick pans to make-up and firefighting foams, and they have come under increased scrutiny globally in response to science linking PFAS exposure to health problems including liver damage, cancer and birth development disorder. They have been dubbed "forever chemicals" because they are not broken down in the environment. We think it is important in the Bill to take account of the health implications, rather than just the climate implications, of a circular economy.
I will support both amendments regarding PFAS for the reasons outlined by Deputy Smith. I welcome the fact the Minister has brought forward amendment No. 19 on foot of discussions on Committee Stage. We raised previously the prospect of taking an initiative such as that which was taken in France. The Department indicated there were considerations in the Irish market that differed from those in the French market, such as longer supply chains, but I welcome the commitment to preparing a report and assessing the prospect and how such a change might be implemented in an Irish context.
I share the concern in this area and recognise that under any regulatory impact assessment approach, there has to be a reasonable consultation, an assessment of the facts and an opportunity for people to plan and change their method of production. Even so, it seems we have a problem with certain materials being used routinely in the Irish supply chain. Some of them are simply not recyclable, while PFAS have more toxic elements to them. We should be able to move fairly swiftly to removing such elements and that is an important part of this process.
One issue raised since the discussion of our Committee Stage amendment related to the fear that when we bring in a levy on disposable cups, we will see the outcrop of pretend-disposable cups that, in fact, will be thrown away but that masquerade under the guise of being reusable. It would be interesting to hear from the Minister how an approach is going to be taken to ensure we will not fall victim to the law of unintended consequences, whereby when we identify certain categories of disposable cup and impose a levy, we will find a phoney alternative masquerading as reusable that will cause even greater environmental damage should it come into widespread use.
I agree with the concerns regarding PFAS materials but that is something we have to regulate and legislate for at a European level. We are actively involved in that and should be progressive and rigorous in directing the use of those materials away from potentially adverse environmental or health impacts. It is a matter for European regulations legislation, not national, so I cannot accept amendment No. 18.
I welcome the contributions of Deputies O'Rourke and Cronin on Committee Stage that inspired amendment No. 19. It is sensible and, again, strengthening. I think the Minister of State, Deputy Ossian Smyth, said on Committee Stage that a report would make a significant contribution so I welcome that Government amendment which came from a suggestion by Sinn Féin Deputies.
Turning to Deputy Bruton, there will obviously be complex details. The end of this year is the rough timeline for the latte levy and the change of the use, as well as the deposit refund scheme and those sort of measures, to come into place. On reviewing that, monitoring it and ensuring there are not abuses, one of the benefits of the approach we are taking was initiated by the Deputy when he was Minister, namely that there was a stakeholder approach behind the waste plan that involved industry, environmental organisations and other civil society elements as well as the Department. That is the best check against there being abuses or use of materials to try to get around this. That stakeholder approach and the ongoing work between industry, retailers, the Department and environmental NGOs is the best safeguard. It is hard to predict exactly what the Deputy is predicting but that stakeholder approach is the best way to address it.
I move amendment No. 19:
In page 21, between lines 19 and 20, to insert the following:“(7) The Minister shall, not later than 12 months after the coming into operation of this subsection, publish, on a website maintained by or on behalf of the Minister or the Government, a report prepared by or on behalf of the Minister examining how single-use packaging used in the sale of fruit and vegetables can be reduced.”.
I move amendment No. 20:
In page 21, between lines 26 and 27, to insert the following:“(2) Within the first national food waste prevention strategy, the Minister shall set annual food waste reduction targets, sector by sector, to reach the 50 per cent food waste reduction target by 2030, based on 2020 food waste figures.”.
This is similar to the amendments we have just made in section 6. In this case it provides for the national biodiversity action plan and the national disability inclusion strategy such that when it comes to the drafting of the national food waste prevention strategy, the consultation requirements under that are brought into line with those in the circular economy strategy. Again, they were tabled on Committee Stage by Deputy Whitmore and I thank her for that. It was indicated then we would accept it and reintroduce on Report Stage.
Amendment No. 23 provides for the publication of an annual report on the implementation of the national food waste prevention strategy. It is a slight redrafting of the position accepted at committee, the purpose of which is to provide for the publication of that report on a website. As this amendment provides for annual review and is in line with what was indicated would be accepted on Committee Stage, I do not accept it. However, amendment No. 22 gives effect to the intention of Deputy Bríd Smith's amendment.
I cannot accept amendment No. 20. The process is under way at EU level on setting targets to reduce food waste across Europe. These will take into account data to be reported from member states by the middle of this year for the reference year 2020. Subject to EU developments, it is expected the baseline year that links to the 2030 50% reduction target will be the reference year of 2020. Ireland's food waste dataset for 2020 will be reported by the EPA this summer and adoption of the legislative proposal on EU food waste reduction targets is foreseen in the second quarter of next year. The draft national food waste prevention roadmap recently made available for public consultation commits to setting interim targets following the establishment of the baseline and these will take into account developments at EU level. We must await the outcome from Europe to know what that baseline is and on that basis I cannot accept the amendment.
I move amendment No. 21:
In page 21, between lines 36 and 37, to insert the following:“(c) the National Biodiversity Action Plan;
(d) the National Policy Statement on the Bioeconomy;
(e) the National Disability Inclusion Strategy;
(f) the Roadmap for Social Inclusion;”.
I move amendment No. 22:
In page 22, between lines 1 and 2, to insert the following:“(4) The Minister shall prepare a review on an annual basis, to evaluate outcomes against stated deliverables of the national food waste prevention strategy, based on data collected from all food sectors and waste industry, and provide recommendations on the adjustment of the national food waste prevention strategy or other measures, including financial measures, to address any barriers or shortfalls as may be identified by the review.”.
I move amendment No. 23:
In page 22, line 4, to delete “and the Minister will report annually on the progress of the strategy.” and substitute the following:“and the Minister shall, on an annual basis, publish on that website a report prepared by or on behalf of the Minister on the implementation of the strategy.”.
I move amendment No. 24:
In page 22, between lines 13 and 14, to insert the following: “Requirements in relation to diagnosis, maintenance and repair of electronic equipment16. (1) In relation to digital electronic equipment sold in the State, a manufacturer shall make available, for the purposes of diagnosis, maintenance or repair of the equipment—(a) to independent repair providers, andin a timely manner and on fair and reasonable terms, relevant documents, parts and tools, including any updates to information or embedded software.
(b) to owners of the equipment,
(2) Where a manufacturer has made an express warranty with respect to digital electronic equipment and the wholesale price of the equipment is €100 or more, the manufacturer shall provide such parts, tools, and documents as enable the repair of the equipment during the warranty period at an equitable price, with due regard to—(a) the actual cost to the manufacturer of preparing and distributing the parts, tools or documents, exclusive of any research and development costs incurred,(3) In relation to equipment with an electronic security lock or other security-related function, the manufacturer shall make available to the owner and to independent repair providers, on fair and reasonable terms and through secure data release systems where appropriate, any special documents, tools or parts needed to disable the lock or function, and to reset it, for the purposes of diagnosis, maintenance or repair of the equipment.
(b) the ability of owners and independent repair providers to afford the parts, tools or documents, and
(c) the means by which the parts, tools or documents are distributed.
(4) Both an owner and an independent repair provider may maintain an action against a manufacturer who contravenes subsection (1), (2) or (3), and the court may order the manufacturer to take such action as may be necessary to observe the requirements of the subsection concerned, or to pay damages.
(5) (a) Nothing in this section requires a manufacturer to disclose a trade secret, save as and to the extent necessary to provide documents, parts and tools on fair and reasonable terms.
(b) Subject to paragraph (c), nothing in this section alters the terms of any agreement between a manufacturer and an authorised repair provider.
(c) A provision of an agreement referred to in paragraph (b), or any other agreement, is void insofar as it purports to waive, avoid, restrict or limit a manufacturer’s obligations under this section.
(6) In this section—“authorised repair provider”, in relation to a manufacturer, means a person who is not a connected person and who has an agreement with the manufacturer—(7) A reference in this section to making a document or thing available on fair and reasonable terms means making the document or thing available on terms that are equivalent to the most favourable terms under which a manufacturer makes the document or thing available to an authorised repair provider—(a) pursuant to a license to use a trade name, service mark or other proprietary identifier, to offer the services of diagnosis, maintenance or repair of digital electronic equipment under the name of the manufacturer, orprovided that a manufacturer who offers the services of diagnosis, maintenance or repair of digital electronic equipment manufactured by it or on its behalf, and who does not have an agreement with a connected person for the provision of such services, is an authorised repair provider with respect to that equipment;
(b) otherwise to provide such services on behalf of the manufacturer,
“connected person” has the meaning assigned to it by section 10 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997;
“digital electronic equipment”—(a) subject to paragraph (b), means any product that depends for its functioning, in whole or in part, on digital electronics embedded in or attached to the product,“document” includes any manual, diagram, reporting output, service code description, schematic, or other guidance or other information used in effecting the services of diagnosis, maintenance, or repair of digital electronic equipment;
(b) does not include—(i) mechanically propelled vehicles designed and constructed to be suitable for use on roads, or
(ii) medical devices within the meaning of the Health (Pricing and Supply of Medical Goods) Act 2013;
“embedded software” means any programmable instructions provided on firmware delivered with digital electronic equipment, or with a part for such equipment, for the purposes of operating the equipment, including all relevant patches and fixes made by the manufacturer of such equipment or part for this purpose;
“firmware” means a software program or set of instructions programmed on digital electronic equipment, or on a part for such equipment, to allow the equipment or part to communicate within itself or with other computer hardware;
“independent repair provider” means a person who—(a) in relation to a manufacturer and any authorised repair provider of the manufacturer, is not a connected person, andprovided that a manufacturer or an authorised provider of a manufacturer is, when engaged in the diagnosis, service, maintenance or repair of digital equipment that is not manufactured by or sold under the name of the manufacturer, an independent repair provider;
(b) is engaged in the diagnosis, maintenance, or repair of digital electronic equipment,
“manufacturer” means a person engaged in the business of selling, leasing, or otherwise supplying new digital electronic equipment, or parts of such equipment, that has been made by or on behalf of the manufacturer;
“owner” means a person who owns or leases digital electronic equipment;
“part” means any replacement part, whether new or used, made available by a manufacturer for purposes of maintenance or repair of digital electronic equipment manufactured by or on behalf of, sold or otherwise supplied by the manufacturer;
“tools” includes any software program, hardware implement or other apparatus used for diagnosis, maintenance, or repair of digital electronic equipment, including software or other mechanisms that provision, program or pair a new part, calibrate functionality, or perform any other function required to bring the equipment back to fully functional condition.(a) regard being had to any discount, rebate, convenient means of delivery, means of enabling fully restored and updated functionality, rights of use, or other incentive or preference the manufacturer offers to an authorised repair provider, or any additional cost, burden, or impediment the manufacturer imposes on an independent repair provider, and
(b) not conditioned on or imposing a substantial obligation or restriction that is not reasonably necessary for enabling the owner or independent repair provider to engage in the diagnosis, maintenance, or repair of digital electronic equipment made by or on behalf of the manufacturer.”.
I spoke to the amendment.
I will. Amendment No. 25 is out of order. Amendment No. 26 is out of order. Amendment No. 27 is out of order. These do not arise out of committee proceedings. Amendment No. 28 is out of order because it does not arise out of committee proceedings. Amendment No. 29 is out of order for the same reason.
I move amendment No. 30:
In page 52, after line 28, to insert the following:
AMENDMENT OF CLIMATE ACTION AND LOW CARBON DEVELOPMENT ACT 2015
Amendment of section 1 of Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015
41.Section 1 of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015 is amended by the insertion of the following definition after the definition of “joint committee”:“ ‘Just transition’ means a transition that ensures the economic, environmental and social consequences of the ecological transformation of economies and societies are managed in ways that maximise opportunities of decent work for all, reduce inequalities, promote social justice, and support industries, workers and communities negatively affected, in accordance with nationally defined priorities, and based on effective social dialogue.”.”.
As it happens, I was very ill the day the committee discussed it but it is extraordinary that such a large portion of a Bill on the circular economy is given over to CCTV, drone footage and the issue of illegal dumping. I am aware it is a huge problem but it is also one that needs to be targeted at businesses and corporate transgressions. The nuts and bolts of setting up surveillance itself may lead to the mushrooming of a surveillance industry. Ironically, this could see sophisticated digital machinery manufacturing, which often leaves us needing rare earth materials. The proliferation of that is severely at odds with the ambition of any kind of circular economy.
This morning I was talking to the lads who run the park where I live in Ballyfermot. They are constantly picking up bags from illegal dumping. The council picks up the waste. The private bin collectors do not contribute anything to it. Millions are spent every year by local authorities to deal with the consequences of very high bin charges. Having just one answer, that is, surveillance, surveillance, surveillance does two things - it does not address the root of the problem and it creates another poisonous and toxic industrial practice around the surveillance industry. It leaves the State picking up the pieces again and does not deal with the climate impact of these issues.
I welcome the discussion and debate on each Stage of this legislation and acknowledge the Minister has taken on board some of the recommendations. There will be further discussion in the Seanad and colleagues of mine will bring forward amendments, as I am sure others will as well.
I am disappointed there were not amendments on CCTV and the need for caution with it. Significantly more needs to be done in the area of product obsolescence. I would, given the opportunity, have supported the amendment from the Labour Party. We need to see action on that. On Committee Stage, the Government pointed to the need to act at a European level. We need to see more on that. We need to see the deposit return scheme. I share the concerns of other Deputies about the possible unintended consequences of the latte levy and the implications there. I think we will bring forward amendments on that in the Seanad. There is a crazy anomaly with the recycling of polyethylene terephthalate, PET, plastics in Ireland. Due to the configuration of levies and incentives here, it makes more sense to export it to I do not where - certainly the four corners of Europe, if not of the world - than it does to run it up the road to County Monaghan so it can be done here.
The Minister has been contacted by Shabra Plastics and Recycling Limited and I know there are ongoing discussions. It makes no sense at all. State agencies such as Repak and others are a part of that mix and it has to be resolved.
I welcome this debate and I welcome the engagement of the Minister. Although I am coming to the Bill at a late stage, I appreciate that the Minister has sought to engage seriously with the deliberations that took place on Committee Stage and reflected them on this Stage.
The issue I wish to repeat is built-in obsolescence, particularly in electronic goods. If the Minister takes away one thing tonight to bring to the Council of Ministers meetings he attends, it is that we must have some form of critique of the capitalist model that takes away from the consumer the right to repair something such as an iPhone. Equally, consumers must not be bound into contracts in a way that gives the whip hand to Apple, Samsung or any of these big global conglomerates. Arguably, given the current model we have in Europe, they have greater traction with the European Commission than perhaps a Council of Ministers might have. If strong Ministers at the Council push back against these big conglomerates in a way that protects the citizens and consumers of Europe, so that citizens have that right to repair built in as a principle, they would be doing a very good day's work.
I intend to bring forward additional amendments on Committee Stage of this Bill in the Seanad. The proposed amendments, which align the licensing aspects of the Environmental Protection Agency Act 1992 and the Waste Management Act 1996 with the revised emergency planning provisions under section 181 of the Planning Acts, are critical in terms of progressing the State's response to the energy emergency. Those amendments will be brought back to the Dáil for consideration in due course.
I accept the points made about the care that has to be taken regarding surveillance and any use of CCTV. At the same time, it is one of the tools that every local authority in the country was looking for to help to deal with illegal dumping. It is only one, and there are very significant safety provisions relating to CCTV provided for in the Bill.
No. We have gone through the process and there is no time for any further discussion. The Minister has proposed that the Bill do now pass, so it either does or does not. The Bill will then be sent to the Seanad and the Minister has indicated that he will table further amendments there. Those amendments will have to come back before the Dáil and there will be another debate on the Bill at that point.