Monday, 1 February 2021
Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters
Greenhouse Gas Emissions
I am very pleased that this matter has been selected for discussion today as it is an area in which I have a particular interest. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has demonstrated that global emissions must be reduced to net zero within the next few decades to avoid a dangerous increase in global temperatures. The programme for Government sets out how important the next ten years will be in addressing the climate change and biodiversity crisis.I am determined, through my delegated functions, to play my role. One of the first actions upon my appointment was to seek how we could make company law fit for purpose and address the need for more robust environmental reporting measures. It was at this stage I was informed that the work was under way in the EU Commission and I believe it would be premature to pre-empt this work. However, preparatory work has begun.
Last year, Senator Ruane and I met to discuss the company requirements with regard to reporting on greenhouse gas emissions. The current system of environmental reporting has been in place since 2017. Large companies in Ireland with more than 500 employees are required under company law to report on their impact on the environment such as their greenhouse gas emissions or to explain if they do not.
The current rules derive from EU law and encompass approximately 6,000 large global companies operating across the EU. Reporting is not limited to greenhouse gas emissions and can include anything material in terms of a company's impact on the environment. The information allows investors, consumers, policymakers and other stakeholders to make choices based on the environmental performances of the companies. It encourages companies to develop an environment-focused approach to their business but to be clear and honest, as it stands what we have is not fit for purpose. The process of comply or explain will not lead to the necessary or effective change in decarbonisation in this country. This needs to be improved and it is my intention that it will be improved.
I am committed to seeing reform in company law in this space. I have written to key stakeholders signalling what is happening and that I will seek their views when the draft legislative proposal is published at the end of quarter 1 this year. This will also be an important opportunity to reflect on what has been done and, given the extraordinary global upheaval, forge an effective approach to raise the transparency of the environmental information provided by undertakings in all sectors and result in lasting change for the better.
Many companies are keen to develop their reporting in this area and to differentiate themselves on the basis of their responsibility in regard to the environment and climate change. As legislators, there is an onus on us to require this in a clear and a consistent way, give the maximum relevant information possible to consumers and other stakeholders and minimise any unnecessary burden on companies.
To complement the consultation process, I will convene a forum to build on feedback. I will work with stakeholders across the different sectors, inviting their feedback and experience, ensuring that measures introduced are proportionate to the size of the respective companies and developing workable solutions that will ensure businesses are working towards reducing their environmental footprint and thus greater transparency for all. This will need cross-party co-operation and political leadership to ensure real and effective change is carried through, particularly as we navigate the pandemic recovery. It is my intention that decarbonisation is part of that recovery.
I look forward to working with the Senator. We can work together on the Bill she proposes and across all the different political parties because this is not just an interest unique to me or to her. Many Members of this House, and the Dáil, have a similar interest. I look forward to working with all Deputies who have an interest in this issue and ensuring that we bring forward legislation later this year that is fit for purpose.