Seanad debates

Wednesday, 24 November 2021

Companies (Emission Reporting) Bill 2021: Second Stage


10:30 am

Photo of Eugene MurphyEugene Murphy (Fianna Fail)

I acknowledge the role of Senator Ruane in introducing this legislation and allowing us to have what I would call a very important debate. I am sure it is in everybody's interest to have this matter discussed and make progress where we can. However, I am inclined to support the Government's proposal to wait 12 months in respect of this Bill. I do not believe this is a delaying tactic whatsoever. I very much share the view that we are making a huge effort to bring Irish society with us to make massive changes in this area, particularly regarding emissions.

I support a lot of what the Senators are doing. I have always said that while it is important to introduce Bills such as this, we cannot browbeat people. The number of people who engage with me regularly on making environmental changes is extraordinary, be it in agriculture or industry. I could name 20 companies straight away that are coming forward saying they are going to do something for environmental reasons. They may have a half an acre of ground on which they want to plant trees. Many companies are progressing with the planting of trees.

With regard to agriculture, I recently visited with the Taoiseach a plant called Easyfix, near Ballinasloe, County Galway. I would recommend a visit to see the technology that is being produced there to help farmers to reduce emissions from slurry and everything else. It is just extraordinary. Companies like this will represent a complete game changer as we move forward.

There is a huge debate in every sector of our society on acknowledging that we have to react to global warming. We all accept that but we should not fail to underscore the massive voluntary effort being made. People are not being pushed and they are listening to the debate. They are listening to all the politicians talking about climate change and looking at new rules brought in by the current Government. We now have targets in law that will have to be met. Many companies will have to adhere to those targets. Many companies, under EU law, will have to come up trumps in respect of their emissions.

The enterprise sector is responsible for 13.3% of Ireland's total greenhouse gas emissions. Sixty-eight percent of this proportion is accounted for by large energy-using companies operating in the EU emissions trading system, EU ETS. The EU ETS is a cap-and-trade system whereby a defined number of emissions allowances is allocated to each installation annually. Companies are required to have an approved plan for monitoring and reporting annual emissions, administered by the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA. This plan is also part of the EPA permit to operate required for industrial installations. The emissions report data for a given year must be verified by an accredited verifier by 31 March of the following year. Once verified, operators must surrender the equivalent number of allowances by 30 April of that year. Failure to surrender allowances currently leads to penalties. The system is EU wide and ensures that Ireland's enterprises are on a level playing field with their European counterparts from a competition perspective, with the subsequent incentivisation of emissions reductions in a market-based system. Currently in the EU ETS, there are 105 Irish installations, consisting of Ireland's largest public bodies and enterprises. EU ETS emissions in Ireland have been steadily declining, having reduced by 20% between 2016 and 2019. Under the EU Fit for 55 package, EU ETS sector targets are expected to be revised to involve a reduction in the order of 61% by 2030 compared to 2005 levels, representing a significant increase on the current target, 43%. Additional proposed changes to the EU ETS include the expansion of the scheme into the maritime sector and the phasing out of free emissions allowances for aviation to align with the UN global carbon offsetting and reduction scheme for international aviation.

There is much more I could say but my time is limited. I do not want to give the impression I am against what the Senators are trying to do today, but I genuinely believe the one-year process will involve a year of consultation, with all of us working together so we do not come across as browbeating, particularly to smaller businesses, which are quite good environmentally-----


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