An Taisce July 2014 Ezine

Volume 6 Issue 6
9th July 2014
Welcome to the July An Taisce Ezine newsletter. We have a new format this month, which is integrated into our new www.antaisce.org website. View this newsletter in your browser at http://www.antaisce.org/ireland/an-taisce-july-2014-ezine

Latest News

An Taisce Go Wild in Galway

Local Association Event
Friday, July 11, 2014
Galway City

An Taisce are going wild in the west as we bring a weekend full of wildlife events to Galway 'The city of tribes'. Our chock-a-block schedule of FREE events will run from Friday -11th July- through until the Sunday -13th July. All are welcome and our series of three wildlife events within Galway City are suitable for all ages.

We will kick things off on Friday night (10pm-12pm) at Galway Cathedral car park with a bat walk and talk. The event will be orchestrated by bat ecologist Kate Mc Aney of the Vincent Wildlife Trust. We will tour the bat haunts of Galway City. Species that we hope to hear (and perhaps see!) include the Soprano Pipistrelle, the Common Pipistrelle, Leister’s bat and possibly Daubenton’s bat. (for more info: http://ow.ly/yRmeg).

On Saturday (12noon-2pm) we will join Caroline and Colin Stanley from the Friends of the Merlin Woods for an exploratory walk in Merlin Woods. Caroline and Colin will be giving a guided walk and talk about some of the wildlife treasures that Merlin Woods has to offer. The Friends of Merlin Woods have been photographing and recording the butterflies of Merlin Woods for several years. So far they have identified 19 species of butterflies including the Marsh Fritillary. They have also found many other interesting species of insects, mammals and wildflowers within the woodlands which we will be exploring on the day (for more info: http://ow.ly/yRnAr).

On Sunday we will round the weekend off with a whole day showcasing Ireland’s most impressive native birds of prey. We will be spending the day in South Park, Galway City (12noon - 5pm) with the guys from Animal Magic and their feathered friends! This full day event will feature Animal Magic’s raptor experts showcasing owls, falcons and hawks, allowing participants to get close to these magnificent birds - usually only visible through binoculars in the wild. Animal Magic will also be speaking about the birds’ natural behaviour, their role in Ireland ecosystems and answering any questions you may have! Merlin's, Barn Owls and Golden Eagles will all be on display (for more info: http://ow.ly/yRoLt).

Cost An Taisce Members: 
Free
Cost Non Members: 
Free

City bats walk and talk: bat ecology and detection in Galway City

Local Association Event
Friday, July 11, 2014
Galway Cathedral and River Corrib

Join An Taisce and bat ecologist Kate Mc Aney of the Vincent Wildlife Trust for a night touring the bat haunts of Galway City. If there is suitable roosting habitat, bats can be found in surprising places, and Kate will be talking about how these nocturnal mammals find the suitable habitat and food required to survive in one of Ireland's busiest cities. Species that we hope to hear (and perhaps see!) include the Soprano Pipistrelle, the Common Pipistrelle, Leister’s bat and possibly Daubenton’s bat.

Time: 10pm-12 midnight (at the latest).

Meeting place: Galway Cathedral car park.

All ages welcome, children must be accompanied by an adult. Please wear warm clothing and bring a torch if you have one!

No dogs allowed.

Funded by Galway City Council Local Agenda 21 funding.

Cost An Taisce Members: 
Free
Cost Non Members: 
Free

The Wildlife and Butterflies of Merlin Woods

Local Association Event
Saturday, July 12, 2014
Merlin Woods

Join An Taisce and Caroline and Colin Stanley from the Friends of the Merlin Woods for an exploratory walk in Merlin Woods, a nature haven right on Galway City’s doorstep. Caroline and Colin will be giving a guided walk and talk regarding some of the wildlife treasures that the Merlin Woods has to offer. Friends of Merlin Woods have been photographing and recording the butterflies of Merlin Woods over the last couple of years. So far they have identified 19 species of butterflies including the Marsh Fritillary. They have also found many other interesting species of insects, mammals and wildflowers within the woodlands which we will be exploring on the day.

Time: 12noon-2pm

Meeting place: The council compound just past the playground of Merlin Woods City Park, Doughiska Road.

No dogs allowed.

If you have any additional queries about the event or where to meet, you can contact Caroline on 085 248 4380.

Funded by Galway City Council Local Agenda 21 funding.

Cost An Taisce Members: 
Free
Cost Non Members: 
Free

What's TTIP

Independent Event
Saturday, July 12, 2014
Greenhouse, 17, St. Andrews Street, Dublin 2

12th of July 2014. 11am to 1pm.

Venue: The Greenhouse, 17 St Andrew Street, Dublin 2

What is TTIP and why is it of concern?

The Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a trade treaty currently under negotiation between the EU and the USA. With tariffs between the USA and the EU already very low, a primary focus of these negotiations is on curbing regulations and standards on a range of areas including environmental protection, energy, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and toxic chemicals management, financial services and banking, food and consumer product safety. Of particular concern is the place to be given to international Investor-State Dispute Settlement, “ISDS”, mechanisms which allow investors to bypass national courts and challenge governments for introducing regulations that in business' view harms their business interests or imposes extra costs due to increased regulation.

Of greatest concern, is the secrecy and urgency associated with the negotiations, excluding democratic scrutiny. Effectively, a select political elite are seeking not only to decide the future course of public, environmental and economic policies within Europe and the USA, and to set the standards for the largest trade relationship in the world that will set the standard for global trade systems.

The total lack of transparency and democracy in such a momentous agreement is unacceptable.

Who are we?

Several civil society groups have come together to begin to explore how to respond to this process.

Representatives from a diverse range of local and global justice organisations, civil society organisations including Environmental NGO's, trade unions and other social movements in Ireland have come together to share information and to stimulate greater awareness regarding these negotiations and to highlight components of an agreement such as ISDS which would be detrimental and unacceptable.

Details of Event Planned:

On the 12th of July 2014 - it is proposed to hold a broad based civil society consultation on the TTIP which will be an opportunity for civil society groups to come together and learn and share about the TTIP and what impacts it will bring in Ireland and internationally.

A morning's information / briefing is proposed from provisionally between 11am and 1pm to be followed by a public street theatre event to highlight key aspects of the TTIP.

This event will be taking place in parallel to the World Development Movement’s day of action on TTIP in the UK.

Speakers

John Gibbons environmental campaigner and the founder of the climatechange.ie website. Paul Murphy - former MEP and member of European Parliament Trade Committee Barry Finnegan - ATTAC Ireland and lecturer, Faculty of Journalism & Media Communications, Griffith College Dublin Conor McCabe - Historian and Author, Research Fellow in UCD School of Social Justice

The purpose of the event is to provide information and to start a cross-sectoral civil society response on TTIP. The number of seats at the venue will be limited and therefore the event will required pre-registration.

Link to their facebook page https://www.facebook.com/events/293101270868688/

Butterflies with Chris Wilson

Independent Event
Saturday, July 12, 2014
Jamestown Nature Reserve

Butterflies with Chris Wilson Saturday July 12th

For more information please call Will Warham on (087) 205 2266.

Ireland's Birds of Prey - Showcase and Talk

Local Association Event
Sunday, July 13, 2014
South Park, Galway City

Join An Taisce and Animal Magic for close encounters with Ireland’s most impressive native birds of prey! This full day event will feature Animal Magic’s raptor experts showcasing owls, falcons and hawks, allowing participants to get close to these magnificent animals - usually only visible through binoculars in the wild. Animal Magic will also be speaking about the birds’ natural behaviour, their role in Ireland’s landscape and answering any questions you may have!

Time: 12noon - 5pm

Funded by Galway City Council Local Agenda 21 funding.

Cost An Taisce Members: 
Free
Cost Non Members: 
Free

Swift Box Workshop

National An Taisce Event
Saturday, July 19, 2014
St Anne’s Park Rose Festival

During the annual St Anne’s Park Rose Festival, we will also be providing a Swift Box Workshop for the public. At this event we will have our own marquee where hopefully a presentation about the work of the Dublin Swift Conservation Group can be delivered. This will be on Saturday and Sunday the 19th-20th of July, in St. Anne's Park.

Kerry Local Association Monthly Meeting

Local Association Event
Thursday, August 7, 2014
Maeve O'Donnell's house, 16 Denny St, Tralee. Co. Kerry

All members are welcome to attend.

Bird and ecology talks and walks at Booterstown

Local Association Event
Sunday, August 24, 2014
Booterstown Nature Reserve

An Taisce's Dun Laoghaire Local Association will be kicking off Heritage Week 2014 with two wildlife walks at Booterstown Nature Reserve. The event will run on Sunday 24 August from 2 pm to 5 pm. We will meet at the viewing area opposite Trimleston Avenue. There will be a guided wild bird talk with Bird Watch Ireland at 2pm. At 3pm there will be a guided wild plant and ecology walk with Declan Doogue of the Dublin Naturalists Field Club. For more information: 086 3453946.

Find the bats of Dromoland Castle

Independent Event
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Dromoland Castle, Co. Clare

Find the bats of Dromoland Castle 7.30 pm. Annual Bat Meeting And Walk, Indoor introduction to Irish Bats for children followed by a Bat Walk at Dromoland Castle. Parents need to be accompanied by children!

An Taisce Supporters' Survey

1st June 2014
News Item

We would like to draw your attention to the An Taisce Supporters' Survey which winged its way through your letterbox this May. As an organisation, it is a fantastic way of connecting with you, our members who sustain and direct our focus as Ireland's longest established environmental charity.

So please, take five minutes when you get the chance to fill it out and pop it in the accompanying Freepost envelope. As a bonus, we will be selecting five members at random who return their surveys before 30th June to receive a hardback copy of "Wildflowers of Ireland- A Personal Record" by Zoe Devlin.

Alternatively, if you would like to participate in the survey online, you can do so by following this link: http://www.antaisce.org/2014survey

Many thanks,
Eoin Heaney
Programmes and Administration Officer.

Please ensure that An Taisce is signed up for your Local Public Participation Networks

1st June 2014

As of the beginning of June every local authority is working to establish Public Participation Networks (PPNs).  From now on these PPNs will be the only body locally nominating representatives of local community and environmental groups onto local authority committees, such as the Strategic Policy Committees(SPCs) and the new Local Community Development Committees (LCDCs).  The Environmental Pillar has relinquished its right to nominate to these bodies on the understanding that the Environmental Electoral College of the PPN will have this role.

With this in mind it is essential that An Taisce Groups/Local Associations (as members of the Environmental Pillar) register with the Community section of their local authority as soon as possible in order that the Environmental Electoral College of the PPN has a good membership.  Where there is no local group can interested members contact Eoin Heaney info@antaisce.org

In particular representation of the environment (via the PPN) on the Economc and Enterprise SPC,and theLCDCis essential.**These two bodies will respectively be responsible for developing the City/County Community Development Plan and the City/County Economic Development Plan, which will be merged to form the 6 year Local Economic and Community Plan for the county/city.  

The LCDC will also control the spending of all Leader funding and other European funds. Other SPCs of particular importance to us are the Planning and Transport SPC, and the Environment SPC.

Following their establishment, the PPNs are required to develop a vision for the well-being of their community for this and future generations. It is clearly essential that the expertise and knowledge that your members could contribute are represented in this conversation. This vision will then help guide the development of the 2 plans above, and the spending of the major resources provided by Leader.

Below is a powerpoint on PPNs & LCDCs, together with the Criteria for membership of the Environmental Electoral College of the PPN.

Download PDF: 
Download PDF (721.95 KB)

An Taisce calls on Minister Hogan to support cleaner air

11th June 2014
Press Release

A real chance to reduce premature deaths from air pollution

An Taisce – the National Trust for Ireland, is calling on Minister Hogan to support stronger air pollution standards at tomorrow’s meeting (12 June) of the EU Environment Council in Luxembourg.

If EU Ministers agree, citizens will benefit from improved limits on medium-scale power plants (between 1MW and 50MW), and a more ambitious new National Emissions Ceiling (NEC) Directive, a critical piece of EU-wide air quality legislation.

In late May An Taisce wrote to Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan regarding the revisions to EU air pollution law and urged him to support strong reforms (please see our letter).

"Real ambition is required: the deal currently on the table needs to be improved to ensure healthy air quality throughout Europe. Tomorrow’s meeting presents a real opportunity for Minister Hogan to support this goal”, according to James Nix, policy director of An Taisce.

Air quality issues lead to over 1,300 premature deaths and roughly €3 billion in medical expenses in Ireland every year. At a European level the number of premature deaths rises to 400,000 with 90% of European urban dwellers exposed to levels of air pollution deemed dangerous for human health.[1]

“Without a stronger proposal, there would still be 260,000 premature deaths annually by 2030 due to air quality in the EU, while the number in Ireland would remain practically unchanged” continued Mr Nix.

A coalition of European civil society organisations is calling on their respective governments to support progressive sectoral targets for 2020, 2025 and 2030 on pollutants that include nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxides, particulate matter, ammonia, mercury and methane.

“The cross-border nature of air quality demands strong collective action at European level with binding targets. An enhanced Directive will help guide decision-making and deliver better investment decisions for heating, transport, shipping, haulage, and agriculture. Improved technology will deliver lower running costs while at the same time safeguarding human health and the environment” concluded Mr Nix.

ENDS

For further information, please call: James Nix, Policy Director, An Taisce, +353 86 8394129 or Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications Chair, An Taisce +353 87 2411995, publicaffairs@antaisce.org

Link to Letter dated 28/05/14 to Minister Phil Hogan, Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government.

Ireland imports 84% of its biofuel, a far cry from self-sufficiency

12th June 2014
Press Release

To meet binding EU transport targets, Ireland imported 126 million litres of biofuel in 2013 – some 84% of the total 150m litres used here last year.

That’s according to An Taisce – The National Trust for Ireland, which is drawing attention to the failure of EU biofuels policy to meet one of its key aims, namely, to boost self-sufficiency in terms of transport fuels.

An Taisce says that reasonable progress has been made in Ireland to recover used cooking oil from restaurants and take-aways, with the total volume standing at 9.5m litres in 2013. However, compared to the amount recovered domestically, Ireland is importing three times more used cooking oil from Spain, and one-and-a-half times more used cooking oil from the UK, and overall, imports of used cooking oil (UCO) outweigh domestically recovered UCO by 7 times.

Taking the sector as a whole, around half of all the biofuel used in Ireland is derived from used cooking oil (49%), one quarter comes from corn (24%), while tallow from meat rendering plants makes up one in every eight litres (12.5%). The other feedstocks that go to make biofuel used in Ireland are wheat (7.6%), sugar beet (4.3%), sugar cane (3%), and palm oil mill effluent (0.9), and rape seed (0.3%).

The analysis by An Taisce comes as EU energy Ministers are tomorrow (13 June) expected to approve a limit on the amount of land-based biofuels that can be counted towards the requirement that renewables make up 10% of transport fuel by 2020. The new limit, set at 7%, aims to stem competition from biofuel for land, with EU policy responsible for a significant part of the global tension between fuel and food.

At issue also is “Indirect Land Use Change” (or ILUC), whereby food production in lower-income countries is pushed into more marginal land as international companies buy up premium land for fuel crops to supply mainly EU and US markets.

Research is also showing that biofuels do not reduce emissions as much as originally thought, and some do not reduce it at all.

An Taisce points out that EU policy is not sustainable. In the European Union as a whole, the percentage of imports is similar to Ireland (approaching 85%). If current policy is pursued, it will take 70 million hectares of land to supply the European Union’s biofuel demand, an area equivalent to the size of Sweden and Poland combined.

“In terms of reducing emissions most biofuels remain very much unproven”, according to James Nix, Policy Director at An Taisce, adding that “EU policy initiatives need to be directed much more towards energy savings than biofuel”.

Notes to editors:

http://www.transportenvironment.org/what-we-do/biofuels

https://www.foeeurope.org/sites/default/files/publications/foee_bioenergy_land_footprint_may2014.pdf

http://www.oxfam.org/en/grow/pressroom/pressrelease/2013-12-11/europe-can-cut-import-dependence-food-prices-ditching-biofuels

For queries / further comment, please contact: Cole Killion | An Taisce | ckillion01@bellarmine.edu | +353 87 184 91 41

Rabbitte announces new tax regime for offshore petroleum

18th June 2014

DCENR Press Release

Minister outlines new fiscal terms for oil and gas

The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Mr. Pat Rabbitte T.D. has today announced that the taxation provisions relating to petroleum exploration and production are to be revised upwards to provide for an increased financial return to the State from discoveries made under future exploration licences and licensing options.

Speaking this morning at the “Our Ocean Wealth Conference” in Dublin Castle, Minister Rabbitte, who also highlighted the exciting potent al in offshore renewable energy, recalled that last year he had told the Oireachtas that he intended to seek  independent expert advice on the “fitness-for-purpose” of Ireland’s fiscal terms, such advice to focus on what level of fiscal gain is achievable for the State and its citizens and, equally important, on the mechanisms best suited to produce such a gain. International experts in the sector, Wood mackenzie, were subsequently engaged to provide that advice.

Minister Rabbitte announced that having received and considered Wood mackenzie’s comprehensive and detailed report that he had sought agreement of the Government that Ireland’s oil and gas fiscal terms should be revised along the lines recommended. He said that he concurred with the Wood mackenzie recommendation that there should be no retroactive change to the fiscal terms applying to existing exploration authorisations.

Commenting on the detail of the report Minister Rabbitte pointed to the key central conclusion which is that there is scope for strengthening the current fiscal system in terms of:

  • providing for an increase in the overall State take;
  • ensuring an earlier share of revenue for the State; and
  • addressing what Wood mackenzie consider to be inconsistencies in the current fiscal system.

The principal recommendations made by Wood mackenzie are as follows:

  • For now Ireland should maintain a concession system, with industry rather than the State bearing the risk associated with investing in exploration;
  • Going forward a form of production profit tax should continue to apply in Ireland, but for discoveries made under future licences the form of this tax should be revised;
  • The tax should  be charged on a field-by-field basis with the rate varying according to the profitability of the field and charged on each field’s net profits;
  • That the revised tax should include a minimum payment at a rate of 5% which would function like a royalty and would result in the State receiving a share of revenue in every year that a field is selling production;
  • That the revised tax rates should be higher than the Profit Resource Rent Tax currently in place, thereby ensuring a higher share for the State from the most profitable fields. This would result in a maximum rate of 55% applying in the case of new licences, compared with a maximum rate of 40% under the current fiscal regime; and
  • That the corporation tax rate applying to petroleum production should remain at 25%.

These recommendations flow from a comparative analysis between Ireland and nine other comparable hydrocarbon producing nations such as Newfoundland and Labrador, New Zealand, Spain and South Africa amongst others, which can be found in the report.

Minister Rabbitte concluded that “By acting now and setting out Government policy on this issue, it is my intention to communicate a clear message in relation to the stability of Ireland’s fiscal regime for the oil and gas exploration sector. For existing licences no changes are proposed. For future prospective licence holders a clear regime is being set out and the rationale for that regime has been explained. This should further engender industry confidence in the stability and predictability of Ireland’s oil and gas fiscal terms and allow the industry to focus on effective and timely exploration effort.

Ends

Minister Rabbitte speech on new tax regime for offshore petroleum

Woods mackenzie report

Launch of Guide on European Environmental Directives in Northern Ireland

19th June 2014
News Item

Press Releasee from NIEL (Northern Ireland Environment Link)

It is estimated that over two–thirds of administrative and legislative actions in Northern Ireland originate from, or are influenced by, decisions taken in Brussels. Northern Ireland Environment Link (NIEL), on behalf of the All Party Group (APG) on European Environmental Regulations, Directives and Decisions, has produced a document summarising the various European Environmental Directives that impact upon Northern Ireland. 

Speaking at the launch of the publication entitled“European Environmental Directives in****Northern Ireland: An Introductory Guide” on 17th June, APG Chair Danny Kinahan said: “We hope this document will help those of us with a keen interest in the environment of Northern Ireland to understand and navigate our way through the European environmental standards that we are required to meet”. The guide covers a wide range of environmental issues of importance to Northern Ireland in areas such as: air pollution; water pollution; treatment of waste; noise; dangerous substances; and nature conservation.

The document can be accessed here: European-Environmental-Directives-in-Northern-Ireland.pdf (4 MB)

Note to editors:

​1. The purpose of the All Party Group on European Environmental Regulations, Directives and Decisions is to:

  • Examine ‘high–level’ EU issues in relation to the environment such as Directives, Regulations and Decisions rather than consideration specific ‘local’ issues.
  • Provide ‘added–value’ to the role of the Assembly Environment Committee and not replicate its work.

​2. Membership of the All Party Group on European Environmental Regulations, Directives and Decisionscan be viewed here.

​3. For enquiries, please contact Sean Kelly via e–mail:sean@nienvironmentlink.org

​4. http://www.nienvironmentlink.org

Minister Coveney welcomes EPA notification of proposed decision to grant waste licence for Haulbowline Island Remediation Project

21st June 2014
News Item

Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine Press Release

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD today welcomed the notification from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of their proposed decision to grant a waste licence for the remediation of East Tip site at Haulbowline Island, in accordance with section 42(2) of the Waste Management Act 1996, (as amended) and subject to the detailed conditions attached and provisions for objections as specified.

Commenting at the proposed decision, the Minister said “I welcome the notification by the EPA of their proposal to grant this licence (subject to the twelve specific conditions attached and the provisions for objections outlined). We look forward to the EPAs final approved decision being issued in due course, while respecting the provisions for objections provided for, which should pave the way for Cork County Council to commence the detailed design and execution phase of the core remediation work at Haulbowline Island in the near future. I have been determined that this project will proceed with minimal delays and the hard work which has gone on behind the scenes by both Cork County Council and my own Department has enabled substantial progress to be made this year. The whole of Island approach adopted is now bringing rapid results. In the past few months alone, we have already  seen An Bord Pleanála  give its approval for the remediation project and the commencement of crucial work to repair the Haulbowline Island access Bridges. The significant construction activity on the island will bring substantial benefits to the local economy transforming the Island into a genuine national infrastructural asset and an integral part of the Government’s plans for the Cork Harbour region within a relatively short time span”.

Note for Editors

The Government conveyed approval to the Minister for Agriculture. Food and the Marine for the clean-up of the former ISPAT site on Haulbowline Island in 2011. Cork County Council is acting as agent of the Minister in the remediation of the site. Key elements of the remediation plans were the planning application for works on the East Tip, lodged with An Bord Pleanála in October 2013 and the waste licence application, submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency in November 2013. The approval of both planning and waste licence applications (the latter currently a proposed decision to be issued by EPA subject to provision for objections being received) has involved complex and detailed preparatory work by Cork County Council and the Department and will (when finalised) clear the way for the completion of the project over the next two to three years. Haulbowline Island is located within Cork Harbour, between Cobh to the north and Ringaskiddy to the south. The site (known as the East Tip) contains approximately 650,000m3 of steelworks waste that was deposited on sand spit over a 40 year period. Access to the Island by road is from Ringaskiddy via bridges which transverse Rocky Island. 

The Independent Expert Panel (the Panel) welcomes the announcement by EirGrid of an underground route option for the Grid West project.

23rd June 2014
News Item

DCENR Press Release

In accordance with its Terms of Reference, the Panel wrote to EirGrid on 7 May 2014 requesting EirGrid to undertake comprehensive, route specific studies/reports of fully undergrounded and overhead options for each of the Grid West and Grid Link projects, including assessments of potential environmental impacts, technical efficacy and cost factors.

The Panel understands that EirGrid will now conduct public consultation on this underground route for Grid West, following which both the underground and overhead route options will be presented to the Panel so that it can review the options side by side, as per the Terms of Reference.

The Independent Expert Panel

Minister Coveney announces positive Government Decision on partial merger between Coillte and Bord na Mona

24th June 2014

Department of Agriculture, Food & Marine Press Release

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney, TD today welcomed the Government decision arising from the analysis undertaken of a beneficial merger of Coillte with Bord na Móna on foot of the Government decision in June 2013.

Minister Coveney, who is currently leading a four day trade and investment mission to the US, stated that “the Government decided today that both companies should work towards a partial merger of their businesses, focusing on the areas of overlap between the two companies. A joint venture between the two companies will manage their common business activities in biomass, wind energy, shared services, and recreation and tourism. This decision will maximise the levels of benefit to the State and the two companies in the medium term”.

The Minister further stated that “This Decision is the culmination of an in-depth analysis undertaken by NewERA, and the relevant Departments on behalf of the Government and it also included input from both companies. My colleagues, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, and I considered the analysis and jointly concluded that a partial merger approach in the areas of synergy is the best approach at this time. I am pleased that the Government has agreed with our proposed approach”.

In relation to Coillte, which forms part of his responsibility for forestry, Minister Coveney added, “As Coillte is now over 25 years in operation, the recent analyses (in relation to the proposed sale of harvesting rights and a merger) have been timely and useful. Today’s decision allows Coillte to focus on its core activities in forestry and operating its board mills while allowing the company to harness those areas of synergy it has with Bord na Móna. Ultimately this decision will allow the State to derive as much value as possible from both companies.

He concluded by saying: “Coillte has developed and evolved significantly since it was established as the State forestry company. It is an integral element of the Irish forestry sector and I believe this decision, combined with restructuring which formed part of last year’s Government decision, will serve to enhance this role”.

ENDS

Minister Rabbitte Commits to publishing Bio-energy Strategy as Government approves streamlining of Bord na Móna and Coillte functions.

24th June 2014

DCENR Press Release

Joint Venture to merge key businesses of two significant state companies

The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources today secured Government approval for a memorandum proposed jointly with Ministers Coveney and Howlin to streamline and refocus the commercial operations of Bord na Móna and Coillte, primarily in the bio energy and wind energy sectors.

The decision will see the establishment of a Joint Venture (JV) between the two companies, with subsidiaries or SPVs as necessary, to focus on the identified areas of greatest synergy between the two companies, which are:

  • A Biomass business, to be called BioEnergy Ireland, which would procure biomass at market rates from both Coillte and private sources and use this to supply the entire market (including Coillte’s board companies and Bord na Móna’s power station) on a competitive, commercial basis.
  • A wind business comprising initially of two Coillte windfarms, with further integration of the wind business over time.
  • Shared Services to consolidate central support services and drive cost efficiencies,
  • Recreation and Tourism to realise the green/agri-tourism potential inherent in the combined land banks of the two companies.

This approach has the potential to capture many of the efficiency gains and policy benefits of a full merger, while avoiding some of the short-term costs and risks associated with that strategy.  After expert examination it has been decided to allow both companies concentrate on their core business while streamlining synergies between the companies where they exist.

For example, Minister Rabbitte added that within weeks he and Minister O’Dowd planned to publish a bio-energy strategy which would give further momentum to this important renewable energy. 

The Government has agreed that overall responsibility for implementing the decision, at Ministerial level, is to be given to the Minister for Communications Energy and Natural Resources.  An interdepartmental Steering Group has been charged with overseeing the project, with NewERA managing the detailed interaction with the companies and the JV on behalf of the Steering Group. 

Officials will be meeting with both companies in the coming days to brief them fully on the Government’s decision and to begin the detailed implementation process for the partial merger of the businesses to proceed as quickly as is feasible. 

Take-back scheme for expired medicines needed, EPA reports, given potential for environmental pollution

25th June 2014
News Item

EPA Press Release

The EPA has today released the National Hazardous Waste Management Plan for the years 2014-2020. The plan sets out the priorities to be pursued over the next six years and beyond to improve the management of Ireland’s hazardous waste.

   Dr Jonathan Derham, EPA Programme Manager, said:

“Society has an important role to play to reduce the risks posed by hazardous waste to human health and the environment. We need improved collection and treatment of hazardous wastes from households and small businesses.  In addition, product manufacturers and distributers of products that are hazardous when discarded need to take a greater role in the life-cycle management of these wastes, including prevention.”

 The plan makes twenty seven recommendations.  Key issues identified include:

  •  Hazardous waste collection facilities need to be provided by local authorities for householders and small businesses.  Local authorities need to be resourced to provide these services.
  • Given their potential for environmental pollution, a take-back scheme for expired household medicine is needed.
  • Farm hazardous waste should be collected using take-back schemes.
  • Improved collection of hazardous waste is required for a number of smaller priority sources including vehicle servicing garages, ports and harbours, and healthcare risk waste from individuals.
  • Sites where hazardous waste was disposed of in the past should be identified, assessed and, where necessary, remediated. 

A copy of the revised National Hazardous Waste Management Plan 2014-2020 can be accessed from the EPA website.  

Related links are listed below.

Notes to Editor:

1.      National Hazardous Waste Management Plan:

The Environmental Protection Agency is responsible for developing the National Hazardous Waste Management Plan under Section 26 of the Waste Management Act 1996 as amended.  The first such Plan was published in 2001 and was replaced by a second Plan published in 2008. This third plan is a revision of the National Hazardous Waste Management Plan 2008-2012 and will cover a period of six years from the date of publication.

The Environmental Protection Agency will promote and co-ordinate the Plan’s implementation, and will continue to take responsibility for:

  • chairing the National Waste Prevention Committee with oversight of the Plan’s implementation;
  • fulfilling specific implementation roles as identified in the Plan; and
  • monitoring and reporting on the Plan’s implementation.

The following is a summary of the revised Plan’s recommendations:

Prevention

Prevention projects to reduce the generation of hazardous waste in certain priority sectors (pharmachem, agriculture, healthcare, households, publishing & printing and transport) should continue to be led by the EPA under the National Waste Prevention Programme. Prevention initiatives should be incorporated into Regional Waste Management Plans and the Green Public Procurement Action Plan should provide for the substitution and reduction in use of hazardous materials. Waste characterisation studies of certain waste streams are also recommended to evaluate the reduction of the hazardous content of such wastes.

Collection

A comprehensive and accessible network of local drop-off facilities for householders and small businesses is recommended to tackle the problem of “unreported” hazardous waste. Enforcement activities should continue to focus on issues such as unauthorised burning of waste oil in order to increase collection and prevent environmental pollution. The potential for producer responsibility obligations for a number of hazardous waste streams should be given priority consideration.

Self-sufficiency

The objective of moving towards increased self-sufficiency and minimising exports continues to be recommended, where it is strategically/environmentally advisable, and technically and economically feasible. If Ireland were to become self-sufficient, suitable hazardous waste treatment options would be required.

Regulation

Consolidation of waste legislation and cooperation in enforcement is recommended. A review of waste licensing/permitting legislation is recommended in order to establish a proportionate regulatory mechanism, including relief, to facilitate collection, transport and temporary storage of certain hazardous wastes from small sources pending proper treatment.

Legacy issues

Old waste disposal sites, especially those that to a significant extent may have involved the disposal of hazardous waste, should continue to be managed (i.e. identified, risk assessed and regularised) in accordance with the Code of Practice drawn up by the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement and relevant legislation, where required.

North-south cooperation

The revised Plan recommends that any proposals for hazardous waste recovery/disposal infrastructure should take all-island considerations into account for capacity planning purposes. Cooperation between appropriate authorities on both sides of the border concerning hazardous waste management issues should be explored.

Guidance and awareness

A key aspect of proper hazardous waste management is guidance and awareness.  During implementation of the second Plan, the EPA developed prevention resources for certain sectors.  Such resources should continue to be disseminated (e.g. the Green Healthcare Programme). Local authorities and relevant sectoral organisations should also avail of appropriate media (e.g. social media) to inform the public and small businesses of hazardous waste collection services.

Implementation

Policy makers, regulators, product producers, importers, generators and holders of hazardous waste all play a vital role in ensuring that the generation of such materials is minimised, and the materials are collected and treated correctly in accordance with the waste hierarchy.

Each of the 27 recommendations in the revised Plan has a responsible body or bodies identified. The principal implementing bodies are the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the local authorities, along with facility operators and holders of hazardous waste.

2.      Related links:

Antibiotics in water - http://erc.epa.ie/safer/iso19115/displayISO19115.jsp?isoID=272

Householders’ Guides:

Garages Guide: www.epa.ie/pubs/reports/waste/wpp/Smart%20Garage%20Guide%202010%20small.pdf

Farming:

Coillte and Bord na Mona merger could pose a danger to Ireland's environment

25th June 2014
News Item

Environmental Pillar Press Release

The Environmental Pillar fear the latest merger between Coillte and Bord na Móna could pose a danger to Ireland's environment.

The Pillar, which is made up of 27 of Ireland's national environmental NGOs, are now calling on the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney to clarify the status of the new joint venture and what exactly its remit will be. 

Yesterday Minister Coveney announced the merger stating that it would help the state 'derive as much value' from the venture.

The Environmental Pillar believe that this focus on short term gains, particularly with regard to biomass production and wind farms, could have a damaging effect on  Ireland's wider environment including our already vulnerable uplands.

It is this very short term focus that has lead Coillte to fail at it's core objective, which is the sustainable management of the public forest resource.

This latest proposal to merge Coillte with  Bord na Móna, in what appears to be a very loose arrangement to co-operate and focus on biomass, wind farm businesses and tourism in particular appears to be extremely short sighted and strictly profit oriented.

Ireland has already felt the impact of hasty wind farm development through three Coillte related landslides in Galway, Kerry and Leitrim.

There have also been ongoing reports over many years of damage to watercourses  associated with Coillte clearfelling, herbicide use and fertilisation activities, as is highlighted in the recent EPA Hydrofor project results.

A Pillar spokesperson, Andrew St Ledger, said: "It is the outdated Coillte Industrial tree farming model, that needs changing,  this model is overly reliant on chemicals, exotic conifers, and destructive harvesting by heavy machines. The biomass part of this plan is in effect giving the green light for an actual intensification of this negative forestry policy model. This is a real missed opportunity to reform Coillte and in turn, create a truly sustainable state forestry policy ".

Coillte needs to address not only the poor level of afforestation, with the state apparently unable to meet its own target of 15,000 ha new planting per annum , but also  the lack of specific initiatives to transform the species diversity in the national forest estate to focus on our native tree species as well as introduce more sustainable management practices. International research is showing that native trees are most adapted for Climate change mitigation, as well as for biodiversity enhancement.

Coillte have failed to increase our extremely low treecover, which when coupled with the inability of the State to maintain the 15,000 ha per annum new planting targets of the national forestry strategy, means the biomass objectives of the new plan will be impossible to achieve. Since 2007 the average new planting is only approx 8000 ha per annum with an overdependence on non native species..

According to COFORD, the State forestry research body, in a 2009 publication, Forestry 2030, in a paper, Irish Forestry and renewable energy, they state:

"Simply stated, if afforestation continues to fall below 15,000 ha per year as in recent years then wood fuel supply (biomass) will not be sustainable in the long term. It will therefore not be possible to meet the government's long term targets for renewable energy from our national resources. As security of supply is a key issue in government energy policy, national afforestation levels and funding must reflect this need ".

St Ledger went on to say, "Bord na Mona also needs to address its destructive policy of peat harvesting. A comprehensive policy of peatland restoration must be put in place for biodiversity and for Ireland to meet its climate change objectives."

The Pillar see this merger proposal as failing to address the real issues surrounding Ireland's outdated forestry policy. While providing the appearance of a well thought out new plan to boost the flagging Irish economy, in reality very little will have changed at all, the losers will be the Irish people and their environment.

ENDS

The Pillar would like to ask the Minister to respond to the following questions in relation to this merger decision:

  1. How will the security of supply issue outlined by COFORD in 2009, be addressed when afforestation targets remain at critically low levels.
  2. Why have Coillte not already developed a successful Biomass model.
  3. Why can Coillte not supply any of the guaranteed demand for quality timber poles by both the ESB and Eircom, both of which are importing vast amounts of timber poles, allowing a significant amount of revenue to leave the economy as well as highlighting a lack of vision and forestry competency.
  4. Why is a Coillte's actual forestry/timber operation not their main source of income?
  5. Why was the review of Coillte initiated by the last government not completed and the report made public, this critical review would have shown up the weaknesses in Coillte and allowed for an opportunity to implement the necessary critical reforms.
  6. Will this merger merely continue to hide the real issues of competence and capacity to sustainably manage the Public forest resources, in effect buying time and kicking the can down the road.
  7. Who will regulate the activities of two semi state bodies who will be under fierce pressure to deliver an economic return, knowing in the past how self regulation by Coillte in particular simply does not benefit the environment or the communities who suffer the immediate consequences of lax regulation. 

Notes for Editor:

A copy of the Environmental Pillar Tree Cover policy can be found here: 

http://environmentalpillar.ie/files/2010/12/Environmental-Pillar-Tree-Cover-Policy-Nov-2010-3.pdf

COFORD Forestry 2030

http://www.coford.ie/publications/forestry2030/

About the Environmental Pillar

The Environmental Pillar is a national social partner, comprising 27 national environmental organisations.  It works to promote the protection and enhancement of the environment, together with the creation of a viable economy and a just society, without compromising the viability of the planet on which we live for current and future generations of all species and ecosystems. For more information, please see our website, Facebook or Twitter

Member Organisations of the Environmental Pillar:

An Taisce, Bat Conservation Ireland, BirdWatch Ireland, Centre for Environmental Living and Training, CoastWatch, Coomhola Salmon Trust, Crann, ECO-UNESCO, FEASTA, Forest Friends, Friends of the Earth, Global Action Plan, Gluaiseacht, Irish Doctors' Environmental Association, Irish Wildlife Trust, Hedge Laying Association of Ireland, Irish Natural Forestry Foundation, Irish Peatland Conservation Council, Irish Seal Sanctuary, Irish Seed Savers Association, Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, Native Woodland Trust, Sonairte, Sustainable Ireland Cooperative (Cultivate), The Organic Centre, VOICE, Zero Waste Alliance.   

Don't let TDs go on holidays before debating the Climate Bill

26th June 2014
News Item

Request from Stop Climate Chaos

By the end of 2014 Ireland will have a climate law. This is what the Minister for the Environment, Phil Hogan, has promised and we want to see him stick to his promise. But we need your help. Will you ask your local TDs to play their part in tackling climate change?

Passing legislation can take time. If we are to be in with a chance of seeing the Climate Bill passed into law before the end of the year, it must be published and debated in the Dáil before the summer holidays. This way there can be no excuses about running out of time in the autumn.

Getting the Bill debated before our elected representatives go off on summer holidays also means Ireland will have something concrete to offer when world leaders (including Enda Kenny) meet in New York in September to discuss their proposals for solving the climate crisis.

As a country with the second highest greenhouse gas emissions per person in Europe, we must be able to stand over our climate legislation, both at home and when we are speaking on the world stage. If Ireland could go to New York and tell the world that we are about to pass a strong, effective climate law that does what it is supposed to we could encourage others to do the same!

Ask your local TDto push for the Bill to be published and debated before the summer so that Enda isn't going empty-handed to New York in September and Ireland has a climate law before the end of the year. 

An Taisce is a member of Stop Climate Chaos www.stopclimatechaos.ie

New Strategic Infrastructure Application for Cork Port

27th June 2014
Submission Summary

An Taisce has made a submission on the new Cork Port application to An Bord Pleanala under the Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure) Act 2006. The application is largely a repeat of a previous proposal refused by An Bord Pleanála on 25th June 2008 (Ref: 04.PA0003), for development at Oyster Bank, Ringaskiddy. The refusal was on grounds that relocation of current port facilities from Tivoli which is served by a railway line and ‘has reasonably direct access to the national road network’ to Ringaskiddy‘ to an area which is not connected to the national rail system and would be totally reliant on road based transport’ would be ‘contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area’.

Among other issues raised, An Taisce has stressed the need for An Bord Pleanala to assess climate change given, the unpredictability of north Atlantic ocean temperature warming in generating more regular and intense storm patterns, increased risks from the combination of high tides, Atlantic storm conditions and concentrated periods of high rainfall in river catchments upstream from urban centres. This was reflected in the floods which affected Cork and Limerick cities in the early part of 2014, and storm damage over a wide area of coastline particularly in Co Clare.

To read our submission in full, see the PDF attached.

Download PDF: 
Download PDF (322.5 KB)

Environment Pillar statement at Aarhus Convention Meeting of Parties on Ireland's Implementation report

30th June 2014
News Item

Michael Ewing - Thank you Chair for the opportunity to speak.I am the Coordinator of the Environmental Pillar in Ireland, an advocacy coalition of 27 national environmental NGOs

We welcome the ratification of the Convention by Ireland

I would like to start by saying that the process for developing Ireland's National Implementation Report was a good model of open analysis and public participation for which the Department of the Environment should be commended.

I would also like, in particular, to commend the Department on the support given by them to our efforts towards the education of lawyers and judges with regard to the Convention and in particular the Compliance Mechanism.

However, unfortunately, this first report from Ireland is in a format which lists rather than explains new legislation and the steps taken to move towards full implementation.

Regrettably then it reads more as a reference for legal practitioners than a readable explanation of the progress made towards implementing the Convention in Ireland.

We would hope that the following reports will more clearly constitute comprehensive information on the state of implementation in the manner envisaged by the Guidance on Reporting Requirements.

Taking a quick look at one particular issue, access to justice, the report's outline of the serious problem of the barrier created by legal costs unfortunately fails to reflect the real situation that exists in Ireland. Many stakeholders and lawyers consider Ireland's legal costs to be non-compliant with the Convention. Indeed that view is even reflected in relevant case law.

However, despite being requested in the public consultation on the draft report, the case law in question has not been cited in Ireland's National Implementation Report, consequently giving a misleading impression.

We hope that further consideration through the Convention's processes of implementation in Ireland will take these factors into account.

Finally, we welcome Ireland's statement this morning in the context of the ending of Ireland's role in the Public Participation Task Force that Ireland is committed to devoting extra effort to national implementation, and look forward to working constructively with them to this end.

ENDS

An Taisce is a founder member of the Environmental Pillar
www.environmentalpillar.ie

National Risk Assessment needs to make climate the primary and overarching risk

30th June 2014
News Item

An Taisce has responded to a consultation by the Department of the Taoiseach on the National Risk Assessment. The purpose of the National Risk Assessment is to identify the risks, both financial and non-financial, which Ireland faces and therefore ensure appropriate prevention and mitigation measures are introduced.

An Taisce in its submission made clear that climate change and fossil fuel dependence are the interrelated, biggest and defining challenges of our time and the consequences of which are becoming increasingly visible and are being exacerbated by unsustainable economic growth. This challenge, and the necessary development of policies to address them, are becoming a reality with which society has to learn to live.

Risks of climate change are of a different order than any of the others - a category of risk without precedent in human history, one that acts as a threat multiplier in all areas of public policy including investment, property value, economic well-being, social protection, public health and national security. Therefore, based on the available science it is the view of An Taisce that the primary and overarching risk to be addressed in the National Risk Assessment must be climate change and fossil fuel dependence with all other forms of risk seen as subsidiary to these.

Furthermore, An Taisce has commented that the National Risk Assessment should be far more advanced at this stage, given the obvious urgency of climate change as outlined in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2013) - Fifth Assessment Report (AR5). The National Risk Assessment should be moving toward providing both mitigation and adaption measures, to reduce risk and uncertainty, by acting to significantly reduce Ireland’s dependence on oil and its greenhouse gas emissions across all sectors and thereby increasing the state's resilience and capacity to survive in a time of energy and climate uncertainty.

Click the link below to read the full submission.

Download PDF: 
Download PDF (640.56 KB)

Air pollution still harming Europe's ecosystems, despite reduced emissions

30th June 2014
News Item

European Environment Agency (EEA) Press Release

Emissions of nitrogen-containing pollutants continue to harm sensitive ecosystems, according to two new reports published today by the European Environment Agency (EEA). Nonetheless, both reports show a marked improvement over the last two decades. 

Read more ....

European Environment Agency
www.eea.europa.eu 

Email addresses MEP's 2014 - 2019

30th June 2014
News Item

DUBLIN

MIDLANDS NORTH WEST

SOUTH 

Minister Howlin announces Government approval for removal of FOI application fee.

1st July 2014

Department of Public Expenditure and Reform - Press Release

The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Mr. Brendan Howlin T.D. announced that the Government today approved the removal of the €15 FOI application fee for non-personal FOI requests as part of a suite of reforms to Ireland’s FOI regime.

It is planned that these changes will be introduced in the context of the enactment of the FOI Bill, 2013.

The Minister said:-

Over the last number of months I have concluded that Ireland’s fees regime for FOI required a radical overhaul. 

The €15 application fee will be abolished for all FOI requests and the Search, Retrieval and Copying fees will only apply where the preparation time for a request exceeds 5 hours. In other words, the vast majority of FOI requests will now be free of charge.

The FOI fees measures which I am putting in place restore the balance in relation to FOI fees envisaged in that path-breaking legislation. These reforms will allow our citizens access to information on a level par with best practice across the OECD. After all, information and data are the currencies of the new age.”

The Minister’s proposals highlight that the full realisation of the benefits of the restoration and reform of FOI embodied in the Bill must be enabled by a modern fees regime.

The centrepiece of the new system are modernised Search, Retrieval and Copying (SRC) fees which only apply where the preparation of FOI requests for decision-making require in excess of 5 hours of search and retrieval time.  A cap is proposed on the total level of FOI fees that can be charged by a public body.  An upper limit is also provided for above which a public body may refuse to process the request.

The Minister also said:-

“My assessment of FOI fees reform was strongly informed by the issues raised in the pre-legislative scrutiny of my proposals on FOI carried out by the Oireachtas Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform Committee the FOI Bill and the debate on the Bill during its passage through the Oireachtas, as well as the views of civil society participating to the preparation of Ireland’s Open Government Partnership (OGP) National Action Plan.”

My conclusions were strongly reinforced by discussions I had with colleagues and participants at the OGP Europe Regional Conference held in Dublin Castle in May which highlighted the vital role of FOI as a cornerstone of openness, transparency and accountability of government and public administration”.

The Minister’s assessment of and proposals on FOI fees are detailed in a paper published on  the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform’s website www.per.gov.ie together with a draft Code of Practice for FOI for public consultation and the report of the External Review Group on FOI which were also approved by the Government for publication.

Notes for Editors

FOI Fees

The reforms to the FOI fees regime are as follows:

  • Removal of the €15 application fee for non-personal requests;
  • From now on, the first 5 hours (€100) of Search and Retrieval will be free of charge meaning that the majority of FOI requests going forward will have no costs associated with them.
  • Introduction of a cap on the amount of Search Retrieval and Copying fees that can be charged at €500 (25 hours approx.);
  • Introduction of a further upper limit on estimated Search Retrieval and Copying fees at €700 (35 hours) above which an FOI body could refuse to process a request (or if the requester agreed, the request could be processed with full fees applying without limit);
  • Introduction of a definition in the Bill to ensure that there is clarity on the activities for which Search Retrieval and Copying fees can be applied
  • The issue of multi-faceted requests (i.e. multiple requests relating to entirely separate and different issues contained as a single FOI application) can be addressed through the power in the Act to refuse requests on administrative grounds – the removal of the application fee will remove the necessity for these type of requests;
  • The significant reduction in application fees for internal reviews and appeals to the Information Commissioner from €150 and €75 to €50 and €30 respectively had been agreed by the Government in July 2012.

Review of FOI

There were two main strands of the FOI review process:

  • the preparation of a report by an external group of FOI experts including journalists, academics and transparency advocates;
  • the examination of all the key features of the operation of FOI and the development of recommendations on best practice by an internal group of FOI experts representing all Government Departments and the main sectors of the public service.

The External Review group’s remit was to advise on:

  • improvements in procedures and practices to facilitate requesters and enhance compliance by public bodies with the Act;
  • structures and guidance to support user interests and decision-makers so as to secure good practice and consistency in implementing the Act;
  • operational practice by public bodies in key areas relating to the Act, including the publication of FOI requests, related information, and publication of information generally outside of the Act.

The report sets out the External group’s recommendations for enhancing implementation of FOI by public bodies and spans areas such as routine publication of information and use of publication schemes, communications/engagement with requesters, training, processing of requests, engagement between public bodies and the Office of the Information Commissioner, records management, and support structures and networks.

Code of Practice

Key findings which emerged from the review raised both by the Public Bodies Review Group and the External Review Group as well as the Committee for Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform were addressed in the Code of Practice which sets out a step by step approach:

  • to ensure effective structures, supports and resources are in place in public bodies to support the implementation of FOI in line with best practice;  
  • to have a strong, expert and authoritative leadership role exercised by the FOI Central Policy Unit (CPU) in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to guide, support, provide knowledge and expertise to ensure the effective and efficient operation of FOI in public bodies;
  • to improve procedures and practices to facilitate requesters and enhance compliance by public bodies with the Act;
  • to provide guidance to support user interests and decision-makers so as to secure good practice and consistency in implementing the Act;
  • to ensure sustained training to maintain good FOI practice across public bodies;
  • to re-establish and animate existing FOI networks which were previously highly effective fora for problem solving, sharing learning, promulgating good practice and mutual support; and to create and maintain a close working relationship between them and the FOI CPU;  
  • to ensure clear guidance within public bodies on records management, including in relation to data creation and the routine retention and destruction of records to assist the efficient retrieval of information; and 
  • to promote, as a standard practice, the pro-active publication of information outside of FOI.

 
ENDS

An Taisce Supporters’ Survey Draw Results

7th July 2014
News Item

Your returned copies of our recent supporters’ survey have been coming in thick and fast over the past few weeks and we are delighted with the constructive, positive feedback which we are receiving across the board.

It is with great pleasure that we would like to announce the winners of the draw for those of you that responded before 30th June, 2014. A hardback copy of Wildflowers of Ireland by Zoe Devlin is on its way to Charles Coombs, Co. Cork, Peter and Alicia White of Dublin, William B. Palmer in Co. Kerry, Susan Clarke in Co. Kildare and John Mc Mahon also in Dublin. Congratulations and enjoy!

There is still an opportunity for members to fill out and send in your surveys via the enclosed Freepost envelope, so please do when you get the chance. You can also let us know your thoughts directly by following this link: http://www.antaisce.org/2014survey

PayPal chief says EU-US trade deal will bring jobs but there are no guarantees and a lot to lose from the proposed deal

8th July 2014

Environmental Pillar Press Release

The Environmental Pillar, a coalition of 27 environmental NGOs, is concerned about aspects of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and is calling on MEPs to reject it in its current form.

"PayPal's Louise Phelan may believe that Ireland will gain from the new deal but there is no guarantee this deal will deliver jobs," said Charles Stanley Smith of the Environmental Pillar.

"In fact Ireland stands to lose a lot more from the TTIP as it is currently envisaged. There are plans to include a mechanism within the deal which will allow companies to sue governments who have regulations which damage their profits.

"This would allow companies to sue Ireland over its environmental regulations. This Investor-to-State Dispute Settlement mechanism (ISDS) would allow companies by-pass national courts and seek millions of Euro in damages.

"Canada is currently fighting a $250m legal action from a fracking company for the decision of Quebec to ban fracking.

"This could open the door for fracking here against the will of the Irish people.

"We are opposed to trade agreements which would serve the interests of corporations at the cost of citizen's rights and our environment."

ENDS

Notes for Editor:

About the Environmental Pillar

The Environmental Pillar is a national social partner, comprising 27 national environmental organisations.  It works to promote the protection and enhancement of the environment, together with the creation of a viable economy and a just society, without compromising the viability of the planet on which we live for current and future generations of all species and ecosystems. For more information, please see our website, Facebook or Twitter

Member Organisations of the Environmental Pillar:
An Taisce, Bat Conservation Ireland, BirdWatch Ireland, Centre for Environmental Living and Training, CoastWatch, Coomhola Salmon Trust, Crann, ECO-UNESCO, FEASTA, Forest Friends, Friends of the Earth, Global Action Plan, Gluaiseacht, Irish Doctors' Environmental Association, Irish Wildlife Trust, Hedge Laying Association of Ireland, Irish Natural Forestry Foundation, Irish Peatland Conservation Council, Irish Seal Sanctuary, Irish Seed Savers Association, Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, Native Woodland Trust, Sonairte, Sustainable Ireland Cooperative (Cultivate), The Organic Centre, VOICE, Zero Waste Alliance.   

Europe US trade deal could open the door to fracking in Ireland

8th July 2014

Environmental Pillar Press Release

 The Environmental Pillar is concerned that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) currently being negotiated could force Ireland to permit fracking against the will of the Irish people. 

The trade deal, as currently envisaged, would allow for companies banned from fracking in Ireland to take legal action against the country under an onerous new mechanism which would allow companies to sue states.

The Environmental Pillar, which is a coalition of 27 Irish environmental NGOs, is calling on Ireland's newly elected MEPs to oppose any trade deal which will put the profit of private companies ahead of the interests of Irish citizens.

The TTIP agreement could see Ireland's ban on fracking challenged by multinational energy companies in special courts as part of an Investor-State Dispute mechanism (ISDS).

The possible outcomes being Irish taxpayers having to pay millions in damages or the government being forced to allow fracking go ahead.

Under a similar agreement, the Canadian government was hit with a $250 million lawsuit from US oil and gas company Lone Pine Resources last year. 

This came after Quebec temporarily banned fracking in the St Lawrence river basin. The province said they needed time to assess the impact of fracking on the area.

It is proposed that TTIP will include an Investor-State Dispute Settlement mechanism (ISDS). This will allow investors to bypass national courts and challenge governments for introducing regulations that in business' view harms their interests or imposes extra costs due to increased regulation. 

"This new US-EU trade deal could open the door to fracking in Ireland," said Oisín Coghlan Environmental Pillar spokesperson.

"Fracking is the process of breaking rock deep within the earth to extract natural gas. It has been blamed for numerous environmental, safety, and health problems - most notably the contamination of drinking water.

"No town or village in Ireland would want this in their area but because of a deal struck behind closed doors in Brussels it could happen.

He added: "We oppose any trade deal which puts the profit of multinational companies above the will of the Irish people.

"While the possible implications for Ireland could be huge there is very little public knowledge of this deal. It is currently being negotiated by the European Commission behind closed doors.

"Trade deals are not in themselves a bad thing but any deal which allows companies to sue states outside of national courts for damaging their profits has to be questioned.

"It not only raises the issues of fracking but a number of other issues surrounding intensification of food and biomass production, the privatisation of healthcare, and the control of dangerous chemicals in food and the environment."

Background

  • A moratorium on fracking is currently in place in Ireland until the completion of a scientific survey by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
  • The government have said they will not make a decision on whether to permit fracking until they have time to consider the study, which is due to be completed in late 2016.
  • However, test drilling is currently taking place in Northern Ireland and recently there have been efforts in the UK to make fracking licences easier to obtain.
  • Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, involves drilling vertically, then horizontally, into shale rock to obtain methane or natural gas.
  • Water, chemicals and sand are blasted into the drilled wells, creating cracks in the adjacent rock and releasing the gases into the well.
  • The process requires dozens of chemicals to reduce heat and to prevent drill bits clogging. It has been criticised for having potential to contaminate groundwater and to induce movement underground.
  • An examination of the health aspects of fracking, published earlier this year by the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), highlights a dearth of scientific studies.
  • In Pennsylvania USA, where the practice is common health practitioners say that the most common symptoms that residents blame on fracking are coughing, shortness of breath and worsening asthma.

Event

On Saturday July 12th a public meeting will be held to inform people about TTIP. 'What's TTIP' will feature four speakers: John Gibbons, environmental campaigner and founder of climatechange.ie, Paul Murphy former MEP, Barry Finnegan ATTAC Ireland and Griffith College lecturer and Conor McCabe, Research Fellow in UCD School of Social Justice. It will be held in the Greenhouse, 17 17 St. Andrew Street, Dublin 2, from 11am to 1pm.   

ENDS 


Find out more about TTIP and fracking:


Notes for Editor:

About the Environmental Pillar

The Environmental Pillar is a national social partner, comprising 27 national environmental organisations.  It works to promote the protection and enhancement of the environment, together with the creation of a viable economy and a just society, without compromising the viability of the planet on which we live for current and future generations of all species and ecosystems. For more information, please see our website, Facebook or Twitter

Member Organisations of the Environmental Pillar:
An Taisce, Bat Conservation Ireland, BirdWatch Ireland, Centre for Environmental Living and Training, CoastWatch, Coomhola Salmon Trust, Crann, ECO-UNESCO, FEASTA, Forest Friends, Friends of the Earth, Global Action Plan, Gluaiseacht, Irish Doctors' Environmental Association, Irish Wildlife Trust, Hedge Laying Association of Ireland, Irish Natural Forestry Foundation, Irish Peatland Conservation Council, Irish Seal Sanctuary, Irish Seed Savers Association, Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, Native Woodland Trust, Sonairte, Sustainable Ireland Cooperative (Cultivate), The Organic Centre, VOICE, Zero Waste Alliance.   

 

No to ISDS: Not now, Not here and not for us

8th July 2014

You might want to take part in this campaign against the ISDS (Investor State Dispute Settlement) part of the TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership)

You can visit the No 2 ISDS Website http://www.no2isds.eu/

Let the European Commission know that you reject privileged rights for private investors!

Although trade and investment agreements have always had a substantial impact on almost every aspect of the daily life of citizens, workers and consumers, the European Commission nevertheless prefers to negotiate secretly behind closed doors. Trade unions and civil society organisations are not actively involved in trade talks. This is particularly true for the on-going trade negotiations on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the European Union and the United States of America – the largest bilateral trade and investment agreement ever negotiated.

Democratically unjustifiable and unacceptable

One of the most contested elements is the so-called “investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS)”. Investor-state dispute settlement is a provision that empowers foreign investors to sue the states where they have made investments in secret international tribunals. This allows investors to challenge regulatory measures introduced by the host country that reduce the investment potential (including expected profits) of investors. It limits the capacity of democracies to pass legislation addressing legitimate public concerns, such as labour rights, health and environmental protection, or human rights. Furthermore, investor-state arbitrations are carried out behind closed doors with corporate lawyers (for-profit arbitrators), who are not accountable to the public and have a commercial interest in keeping this harmful system alive (which creates a significant conflict of interest). Investor-state arbitration thus puts private corporations and governments on the same level. From a democratic point of view, this is totally unjustifiable and unacceptable.

Negotiations behind closed doors, no involvement of citizens, trade unions and civil society

The arguments against investor-state dispute settlement have been known for many years. Despite this, the European Commission has attempted to silently push it through in its ongoing trade negotiations with the US. It was only after sustained and substantial protests by citizens, trade unions and civil society groups that the European Commission launched a public consultation on the mechanism. However, this consultation - that was initially sold by the European Commission to the public as a way to involve citizens, trade unions and civil society - turns out to be a mere caricature.

First of all, the consultation does not ask the public whether they want investor-state dispute settlement or not in TTIP. Furthermore, ordinary citizens are overwhelmed with a highly technical and lengthy questionnaire. To make matters worse, the public are forced to exclusively stick to this electronic questionnaire that is not very user-friendly. Letters or E-Mails are not permitted. This contradicts the very essence of public consultations and makes it highly problematic from a democratic point of view.

For all of these reasons, AK EUROPA (the Brussels office of the Austrian Federal Chamber of Labour), the ÖGB Europabüro (the Brussels office of the Austrian Trade Union Federation), and Friends of the Earth Europe (the largest European environmental grassroots network), wish to offer guidance to anyone who would like to speak out against investor-state arbitration and secretive, opaque trade negotiations taking place behind closed doors.

We believe that special privileges for investors should be excluded from TTIP. We therefore also reject the Commission’s proposal to ‘improve’ the currently foreseen investor-state dispute settlement system. The only viable solution is: NO INVESTOR-STATE DISPUTE SETTLEMENT AT ALL!

It is of fundamental importance that we send a clear and strong message to the European Commission. Take part in the consultation and help us push back unjustified privileges for private investors at the expense of people and societies as a whole!

An Taisce's and the TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership)

8th July 2014

An Taisce believes that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the EU and the US is a major cause of concern. 

We believe that it will undermine and compromise the ability of Europe to establish, maintain and further develop effective environmental policies.

We are also concerned that these deals, which may have very far‐reaching implications for Ireland and Europe, are being negotiated without a sufficient degree of transparency or democratic control of the process.

We wrote a letter to Minister Bruton - see below


Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation
23 Kildare Street,
Dublin 2

28.05.14

Re: An Taisce concerns and recommendations on CETA and TTIP negotiations

Cc: Minister for State John Perry; Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore; Minster for State Joe Costello

Dear Minister Bruton,

With this letter I wish to share with you the key concerns and recommendations of An Taisce – The National Trust for Ireland, in relation to the negotiations on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the EU and the US, for which negotiations started in June 2013, as well as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between the EU and Canada, which is pending conclusion.

Our concerns centre on the risk and even likelihood that the resulting agreements will undermine and compromise the ability of Europe to establish, maintain and further develop effective environmental policies. We are also concerned that these deals, which may have very far‐reaching implications for Ireland and Europe, are being negotiated without a sufficient degree of transparency or democratic control of the process.

The two elements that we consider most problematic and which we understand the EU is so far supporting are the proposals for Regulatory Cooperation and for Investor State Dispute Settlement Mechanisms. The first element, whether sector specific or horizontal, bears the risk of undermining the implementation and

further development of effective environmental policies by creating new procedures, criteria and governance bodies that will effectively act as a barrier to the EU legislative process. The second element bears the risk that, even if the EU regulators would still be able to propose something meaningful in theory, they would no longer be able to do so in practice as it would expose the EU to expensive lawsuits by corporate interests which would be decided in specially created tribunals allowing them to escape the domestic court system. We welcome the fact that the Commission has decided to reflect further on this issue for a period and to consult the public before pursuing it through the negotiations and hope that this will result in the idea being abandoned.

In addition to these issues, and relating specifically to Irish agriculture, we are concerned that removing regulations to allow North American beef and Dairy into the European markets will make it more difficult for Irish farmers to compete. This reduce returns per kg for Irish farmers and ultimately provide an incentive for farmers to farm in a more intensive and less environmentally sustainable way. As such, both farming livelihoods and Ireland’s environmental health could be compromised by these trade agreements.

Given the clear and imminent potential threat to environmental protection and to the associated benefits for European citizens, An Taisce calls for you to do everything in your power to:

  • Demand that EU negotiators provide full public access to all negotiating documents, and that a comprehensive Sustainability Impact Assessment is finalised rapidly and used as a basis for furthernegotiations. This should include a decision on whether to proceed with the negotiations at all;
  • Demand that the European Parliament, Ireland, and other EU Member States firmly reject therecently agreed CETA deal with Canada due to its inclusion of an Investor State Dispute Settlementmechanism, which the Sustainability Impact Assessment commissioned by the EuropeanCommission advised not to include;
  • Demand that the European Commission work to ensure that TTIP excludes mechanisms for Regulatory Cooperation, Investor State Dispute Settlement, fast track ratification as well as deeperforms of regulatory cooperation in the field of energy, climate, chemicals, agriculture and food, and other areas where environmental policy risks being weakened;
  • Demand that the European Parliament, Ireland, and other Member States reject a final TTIP deal should the Commission fail to exclude any of the above contentious issues.

Our concerns are expressed in more detail in the enclosed document “Regulatory rollback: how the TTIP puts the environment at risk”. This document was prepared by the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), a network of NGOs of which An Taisce is a member.

Download PDF: 
Download PDF (202.13 KB)

La Via Campesina calls for the International Treaty on seeds to reject biopiracy

8th July 2014
News Item

La Via Campesina Press Release

(Geneva, 7th of July 2014) The International Treaty on seeds (ITPGRFA) celebrated on July 3 in Geneva its 10th anniversary. It has been recognizing for a decade now farmers’ rights to use, exchange and sell their seeds. By organizing the sharing of seeds gathered from peasants’ field in 131 countries, it makes a critical contribution to global food security. Given climate change is on the rise, these local seeds are often the only ones guaranteeing harvests, while varieties selected in laboratories to work with chemical inputs are unable to adapt to any unexpected stress.

The success of the Treaty should not however mask its broken promises. The industry has still to service the debt contracted when “borrowing” for free seeds from peasants to create its commercial seeds. As such, the Treaty is unable to fulfil the sharing of benefits. Meantime, peasants lose their right to use the seeds they generously gave to the Treaty, as the industry contaminates these seeds with its engineered genes or patent them based on their natural features. Farmers’ rights cannot remain a statement of general intent and if the Treaty persists to trample on these rights, farmers cannot carry on to graciously give their seeds.

Without effective safeguard mechanisms for farmers’ rights and fair benefit sharing, along with concrete measures against patents on life, the seeds bank of the Treaty will become biopirates’ commons.

This Treaty must change, and La Via Campesina is ready to assist.

More on www.viacampesina.org

News Source Name: 
La Via Campesina