An Taisce Ezine Volume 6 Issue 3

1st March 2014
Volume 6 Issue 3

Ireland needs a holistic energy plan

10th March 2014

Stand down of agreements to export renewable energy to the UK gives a vital window to address Ireland's energy needs.

In the wake of the announcement last week by the Minister for Energy, Communication and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte TD, that plans to export wind energy from Ireland to the UK are unlikely to go ahead in the short term [1], An Taisce has asked the Minister to advance a holistic energy plan for Ireland.

An Taisce previously outlined its concern [2] regarding Ireland locking in to the export of electricity while failing to make cuts to energy imports, leaving Ireland's domestic energy situation extremely exposed.

At the same time Ireland is facing massive penalties and costs through failing to meet its own national obligations on energy emissions.

An Taisce now calls on Minister Pat Rabbitte TD to use the unplanned stand down on the export agreement to plan for its energy future that tackles the twin problems of climate change and energy security.

According to Ireland's National Trust, the process should be an open partnership and consultation with the citizens of Ireland, the end result being a National Energy Strategy.

The strategy should outline:

How our energy consumption will be reduced. A comprehensive household energy insulation under which 100,000 homes are enhanced each year to cut heating bills and enhance comfort levels. An assessment of the types of renewable energy & storage that could be available. A spatial strategy which addresses the issues associated with renewable energy projects such as location and siting. An assessment of how National requirements and Local requirements can be balanced. An assessment of how local and national communities can participate in the decision making. An assessment of how strengthened two way import/export interconnection with the UK & Europe may overcome the need for backup gas fired generation. How to stop further carbon loss from peat extraction and degradation. How to cease peat based electricity generation within the next 12 to 14 months Phasing out coal burning at Moneypoint over the next 3 to 4 years The timetabled phase-out of all peat, coal and oil in domestic heating. Ireland's energy challenge is immense. The scale of action to reduce climate emissions and secure our energy future needs to be considered as comparable to a national emergency, and treated similarly.

Notes:

[1] http://www.irishtimes.com/business/sectors/agribusiness-and-food/multi-billion-wind-energy-deal-unlikely-to-proceed-as-planned-1.1716726#.Uxn7yo0RCZw.twitter

[2] http://www.dcenr.gov.ie/NR/rdonlyres/B5FAC8D5-C72E-47E6-9A40-15B8BA27A71D/0/Stage1PublicConsultationresponsesAnTaisce.pdf

An Bord Pleanála ignores climate science and Government policy - again -

12th March 2014

An Bord Pleanála has shown once again that it is ignoring climate science and Government transport policy in its decision-making on key planning applications.

That's according to Ireland's planning watchdog, An Taisce - The National Trust for Ireland, after the planning appeals board issued two further decisions disregarding climate science and national transport policy.

Dublin Airport Authority has been granted permission to continue using 10,200 long term surface car parking spaces - even though the retention of these spaces is completely incompatible with the Government's Smarter Travel policy.

The last week also saw the planning appeals board approve a drive-through fast foot outlet on the historic Boyne Valley approach to Drogheda, which will see higher levels of car-borne commuting while reducing patronage at long-established restaurants in Drogheda town centre. Again, this is contrary to Government transport policy - as well as damaging the regeneration of Irish towns.

In 2009 the Government adopted progressive targets for transport through "Smarter Travel: A new transport policy for Ireland 2009-2020". The policy set down that:

"there will be a considerable shift to public transport and other sustainable forms of travel", that "the present levels of traffic congestion and travel times will be significantly reduced", "work related commuting by car will be reduced from a current modal share of 65% to 45%", and "the total kilometres travelled by the car fleet in 2020 will not increase significantly from current total car kilometres". These two most recent decisions by An Bord Pleanála follow closely on regressive determinations for retail expansion of the Liffey Valley and Kildare Village shopping centres.

Weak decision-making by An Bord Pleanála has also given local councils comfort to systemically ignore Government transport policy, as evidenced by Kildare Co Co's handling of the Kerry Group campus in Naas and decisions in Limerick on the redevelopment of the Dell site.

There are emerging parallels with the failure of banking regulation in the mid-2000s, concluded An Taisce.

Notes:

Smarter Travel: A New Transport Policy for Ireland 2009 – 2020 sets out a series of overriding policy objectives in Chapter 3, summarised as follows:

Future population employment growths will predominantly take place in sustainable compact forms which reduces the need to travel for employment and services; 500,000 more people will take alternative means to commute to work to the extent that the total share of car commuting will drop from 65% to 45%; Alternatives such as walking, cycling and public transport will be supported and provided to the extent that these will rise to 55% of total commuter journeys to work; The total kilometres travelled by the car fleet in 2020 will not increase significantly from current levels; A reduction will be achieved on the 2005 figure for Greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector.

Why does Prime Time continue to promote Punch and Judy Shows

13th March 2014

Ireland’s leading Climate Scientist withdraws from Prime Time on Climate Change

Prime Time invited John Sweeney, Ireland’s leading Climate Scientist, onto the Panel and some members of An Taisce into the audience for next Tuesday’s show on ‘Climate Change’. We looked forward to contributing to the debate on how we should deal with the serious problems that ‘Climate Change’ will present to our children and grandchildren.

However, we have since learnt that Prime Time will be flying a ‘Climate Denier’ in from the UK for the night. We suppose that they have the idea that a ‘Punch and Judy’ show between opposing members of the panel will make ‘Good Television’, one which will certainly generate much heat but very little light.

John Sweeney has decided not to participate and An Taisce has decided to boycott this Prime Time show.

An Taisce is asking the Director General and the Programme’s Producers to explain if they understand ‘Climate Science’ and the difference between scientific balance and journalistic balance. Is Prime Time fulfilling its ‘Public Service Broadcasting’ remit? We are sure that it would be possible to find some expert that does not agree that smoking causes cancer but would RTE put them on a panel to discuss lung cancer?

The scientific debate on the validity of climate change has ended with the realisation that for the sake of future generations global warming must be restricted to 2 oC.

Public deserves a debate that discusses how to achieve this and:

Enables an honest discussion of Climate Change policy choices within the accepted bounds of peer-reviewed science. Encourages a national discussion on fair and independent annual Green House Gas (GHG) budgets and binding National and International targets Emphasises that Ireland must play its part in actually achieving real change. The general public is largely unaware of the threats to their future and their children’s futures. For the public to have an honest picture of the nature of the climate change risks they face and an involvement in how they are tackled, the debate must move on to problem solving.

An Taisce calls on MEP’s to ‘Fly in the face of bullying over Airline ETS’

18th March 2014

Please vote NO to the dismantling of the Aviation ETS

EU member states have succumbed to pressure from third countries and the aviation industry and decided to shrink the aviation emissions trading system (ETS) to only cover flights between EU airports until 2016. This decision leaves long-haul flights totally unregulated and sends the signal internationally that EU sovereignty can be curtailed through outside pressure.

The European Parliament's Environment Committee votes on 19 March 2014 on this flawed agreement on aviation in the Emissions Trading System. An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland believes this deal should be REJECTED and urges all Members of the European Parliament to vote NO to it in order to secure a better deal.

Members of the European Parliament will have to approve the EU government’s decision for it to become law. If the Parliament rejects the deal, the original EU law will resume with full effect.

James Nix An Taisce’s Policy Director said: “With this deal European governments have conceded again to international pressure without getting anything meaningful in return, let alone guarantees that soaring international aviation emissions will one day be tackled. Shrinking the aviation ETS to cover intra-EU flights effectively amounts to the dismantling of a European climate law. We urge MEPs to stand firm for Europe’s principles and sovereign rights, especially in today’s circumstances, and reject this deal.”

Print and make your own paper plane calling for MEPs to vote NO to dismantling the aviation ETS .

Notes:

For further Information see http://www.transportenvironment.org/aviationETS An Taisce is a member of Transport & Environment http://www.transportenvironment.org/ Aviation is the most carbon-intensive transport mode, responsible for about 5% of man-made climate change. If aviation were a country it would be ranked 7th in the world for CO2 emissions – between Germany and Korea. EU aviation emissions, a third of global totals, have doubled since 1990 and will triple by 2050 if unchecked. This deal would reduce the amount of CO2 emissions covered by three quarters if compared with the original scheme, which sought to charge carbon fees for the full length of flights in and out of the EU. It shrinks coverage by a third compared with the Commission proposal, backed by the environment committee of the European Parliament, which sought to cover emissions from flights in EU airspace and capture at least a part of emissions from flights to and from third countries. The decision essentially represents an extension of the one-year suspension known as ‘stop the clock’ until 2016. Stop the clock was an interim solution devised in 2012 to allow ICAO, the United Nations aviation body, to agree a global scheme to tackle aviation’s climate impact. But last October ICAO failed to make meaningful progress, merely agreeing to ‘develop’ (which is not the same as implement) a global deal for 2020.

An Taisce obtains leave to take Hinkley Point legal challenge to the Court of Appeal in London

27th March 2014

An Taisce - the National Trust for Ireland - today successfully obtained leave to take its Hinkley Point legal challenge to the Court of Appeal in London

At the end of a brief hearing in London this morning, An Taisce - the National Trust for Ireland - was granted leave to take its legal challenge regarding Hinkley Point C nuclear power station to the Court of Appeal. The case is likely to be heard before the end of the summer.

An Taisce argues that the UK government's decision to approve Hinkley Point C nuclear plant (on England's west coast) without first consulting the public in Ireland is contrary to international, EU and English law.

The High Court in London found against An Taisce's arguments in December 2013, ruling that there was no need to consult the public in Ireland in the circumstances.

However, earlier this month a UN Committee wrote to the UK government - having first considered the High Court's judgment and other evidence – stating that in failing to consult its neighbours, Hinkley Point raises "a profound suspicion of non-compliance" with international law (the Espoo Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context).

This letter - on foot of a complaint to the Espoo Convention's Implementation Committee by Friends of the Irish Environment – provided strong support for the arguments advanced in An Taisce's legal challenge.

In light of this letter and An Taisce's arguments, Sullivan LJ concluded today that leave to take the case to the Court of Appeal should indeed be granted, overturning an earlier decision on the papers.

Commenting on today's decision, An Taisce's Natural Environment Officer and In-house solicitor Andrew Jackson said, "We've always felt we have a very strong case, even following the High Court's decision. We look forward to airing our arguments before the Court of Appeal. It's important to remember that this case is not about being pro or anti-nuclear. It's about the public's right to participate in decisions which could affect their lives - fundamental environmental democratic rights which are underpinned by international and EU law."

He continued, "We must thank our excellent legal team: Leigh Day solicitors and barristers David Wolfe QC and John Kenny BL. Credit is also due to Friends of the Irish Environment for their excellent work before the Espoo Convention's Implementation Committee. This is an important public interest case and we trust that the public's rights will ultimately be vindicated."

Better mobility for the Regeneron application at the former Dell Plant

13th June 2014

An Taisce appealed one condition of the application by Regeneron to redevelop the former Dell plant. This led to local upset on a misunderstanding that An Taisce had appealed the substantial planning permission.

It is best explained by James Nix's letter, printed in the Irish Independent.

Dear Sir,

Writing yesterday in this newspaper yesterday (27 March), Paul McNeive criticised An Taisce for seeking greater levels of public transport, cycling and walking in commuting to work at the former Dell plant in Limerick. The plant is due to be refurbished and enhanced by Regeneron, a US bio-pharmaceutical company.

After Regeneron applied for planning permission, An Taisce wrote to Limerick County Council asking the Council to request Regeneron to develop a mobility plan to guide the company, over time, to achieve higher levels of public transport, walking and cycling for travel to work. The benefits of having such a plan include: reduced congestion, better air quality, improved employee health - and, as more recent studies have shown, improved employee well-being and retention.

However, Limerick County Council granted planning permission without requesting any definite plan to boost public transport, cycling and walking. To say this jars with Limerick as Ireland's Smarter Travel demonstration city is an understatement. Limerick has been granted €9.3m of public funds to increase public transport, cycling and walking.

An Taisce then appealed the transport condition of the permission to An Bord Pleanála. Only the transport condition was appealed, something very clear from the document itself. Regrettably, a local election candidate issued a press release that neglected to make this clear, and a small number of news outlets covered the release without checking the story – or without making any contact with An Taisce for balance and fairness.

In your paper yesterday, Paul McNeive was unfortunately wrong-footed by the misreporting described above. Also, the story has moved on.

An Taisce and Regeneron have since worked together on a revised mobility plan and the appeal on the transport condition is no longer before An Bord Pleanala. Regeneron and An Taisce followed up with a joint press release, key quotes from which include:

“An Taisce is very pleased to support the Regeneron investment plan and happy that our concerns on reducing car dependency, where possible in line with national policy, have been addressed,” said Mr. Nix. Describing Regeneron’s new mobility management plan as ‘a leading template’, Mr Nix continued, “An Taisce said that the interests of good environmental management and best corporate practice are moving ever closer together. An Taisce is delighted to see Regeneron begin the refurbishment of the former Dell manufacturing building in Limerick in order to bring it back to life as a world class biopharmaceuticals manufacturing facility”.

“I am delighted with the available talent in Limerick, the progress made thus far on the preliminary portion of the proposed development, and the great national and regional response we have had to our investment plan for the Limerick facility,” said Mr. Van Plew. “An Taisce plays an important role encouraging folks to think about their long term impact on the environment, and we are very happy to have engaged with An Taisce on issues relating to mobility planning and on other aspects of the proposed development. Regeneron and An Taisce have much in common in terms of encouraging sustainable best practice”.

Yours,

James Nix, Policy Director, An Taisce – The National Trust for Ireland

An Taisce prevents 'drive thru' in inner-urban Navan site adjacent to a school

13th June 2014

An Taisce has successfully appealed a 'drive thru' at Brew's Hill, Navan, Co Meath. The subject site was immediately adjacent to the entrance to St. Joseph's Mercy Primary School. An Taisce's primary concern was the exposure of students to foods that are high in fat, salt and sugar. Speaking on behalf of An Taisce, Tomás Bradley stated: ' we are delighted An Bord Pleanála has taken careful consideration of the appropriateness and location of fast food outlets in the vicinity of schools and parks, as advocated by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government in their Draft Local Area Plan Guidelines 2012 '

There are other issues at the location, as outlined by An Taisce to the planning appeals board. Mr Bradley noted: ' a better design solution can be achieved at this site that would enhance the character of the area rather than permit an anti-urban development which promotes unsustainable modes of travel and undermines the active function of the street and town centre'.

An Bord Pleanála signed the order to refuse the drive-thru on the 24th March 2014 on the grounds that the streetscape and visual amenities of the area would be seriously injured.

Report from the Wexford Local Association

13th June 2014

The Wexford LA held a very enjoyable dinner on 7th March that was addressed by Mark Clinton and whose subject was "Ring Forts and the Quaker Connection". This specifically referred to the Corlican Ring Fort that has been used as a Quaker graveyard and which the LA is taking in charge. Two members of the Society of Friends were in attendance. Mark's extremely well researched talk was fascinating and revealing and leaves the way open for further reasearch into this unique site which may well have also served as a small redoubt for Cromwell in his march on New Ross and as a graveyard for a number of his soldiers.

The AGM was held a few days later and resulted in our electing Patricia Byrne as the new Chair. Patricia is well known locally for work in the Field Club and other flora oriented activities. The Treasurer's resume showed a balance in hand of some €480.

We look forward to some more informative and socially enjoyable outings this coming year.

Planning matters this year have been very slack as very few Planning Applications were validated in Wexford in 2013/14 and the decision to transfer the majority of referrals to Head Office is partly to conform to the new Electronic notification system and to keep HO informed on the most urgent planning issues.

Tim Ryan outgoing Chair.

Report from the Dun Laoghaire Association

13th June 2014

We celebrated National Tree Week at Booterstown Park on March 7 th. We were ably assisted by the third class from Our Lady’s School. Mairead Meighan and Rebecca Meighan welcomed the class. Councillor Victor Boyhan gave horticultural advice to the diggers advising that they would enjoy the beech tree in years to come. Afterwards Alison Carter brought them bird watching to the Williamstown Creek where they were delighted by the close proximity of several teal, green shank and godwit.

March 9 th was a beautiful spring day at Booterstown. Our first walk kicked off with leader Katherine Duff, our youngest follower was just 8 years old. We viewed the Williamstown Creek and sluice gate which facilitates the flow of water both into and out of the nature reserve.

Crossing the railway bridge we walked along the intertidal area of the beach looking at different seaweeds, molluscs, crabs and the ubiquitous litter and embankment graffiti. When we crossed the Trimleston stream outflow we realised that the embryonic dune system had been greatly reduced due to the December and January storms. The dunes had been flattened and a great amount of sea shells had been deposited there.

We traced our way along the shore returning to Booterstown Nature Reserve to start the botanical walk led by Sara Rublacava. Being the only saltmarsh in south Dublin the reserve is a special and unique place for a wide variety of diverse plants in particular the EU protected annual grass Puccinellia fasciculate.

As it is tidal the marsh is alternatively full and relatively empty of water. In this brackish water the plants must endure not only salty conditions but constant wetting and drying which makes survival difficult in this harsh environment. We looked at the Nutley stream which is the main source of fresh water to the marsh where birds come to drink.

It was this steam which suffered an oil leak last October from an oil release from a road culvert back. Prompt action by the Dun Laoghaire Association and Dublin County Council prevented serious damage to the marsh and its wildlife.

Our final walk on birds was with Sean Hogan from the Bootestown reserve committee. He both informed and entertained us with his great knowledge of the identification and habits of land, sea and marsh birds. Unfortunately no light bellied Brent geese were present but sizeable numbers of godwit, sanderling, teal, knot and greenshanks were and one little egret. All could be seen busily foraging in the rich mud for small crustaceans and worms.

Land birds sang from the trees even their song could be identified by Sean who told us about the great migrations of birds, their eating habits, selection of mates and the seasonal changes of birds’ genitalia!

So if you want to know more come to our next bird walk on Heritage Sunday August 24 thor in May for National Biodiversity Week. Our thanks to those led our walks which were funded by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council and the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government through the Local Agenda 21 Environmental Partnership Fund

Booterstown Spring Clean will take place on April 27 th at 2pm. Meet at Booterstown DART carpark. This year we will be joined by the Irish Wildlife Trust Dublin Branch and students from the Dublin Institute of Technology. This year our event is part of International OCEAN Initiatives 2014 raising awareness of the problems of waterways litter. All welcome, tea afterwards. Info: R Jeffares 087 9537959

Report from the Clare Association

13th June 2014

Our Annual General Meeting of the Clare Association of An Taisce is at the Temple Gate Hotel on Tuesday 8 th April starting at 8pm

On the Agenda

The Burren On considering our Burren land and the funding we have requested, we realised that we have, in fact, complied to most of objectives of the Management Plan and so now we need to rethink the objectives. We also need to consider revising or extending our Burren Management Committee as, starting from September, we will need more hands-on involvement. We are to discuss both the objectives and the membership of our Burren Management Committee and changing it name to Clare Properties Management Committee. Public Participation in new local authorities At our meeting, last October, we informed you of the government’s plan to reorganise the County and local authorities. The ten authorities chosen as test cases proved that the system did not work. The Department of the Environment now proposes a new system and this will be fully discussed at our AGM.

We are also considering changing the Association's Standing Order to allow for us to let members know of meetings by email.

Meath Association Monthly Report

13th June 2014

The Meath Association AGM will take place on Tuesday 29 th April at 7:30 pm in Slane Castle. Alex Mountcharles will give a talk on the ‘Proposed Distillery at Slane’. Members will receive notification in the coming weeks, along with Copy of Social Calendar organised by Christopher Gray. This is Christopher’s last season unfortunately; he will be sorely missed for his intriguing events and expertise. We wish to thank him for the exceptional work he has carried out on behalf of the Meath Association. At the AGM there will be a discussion on how events can be organised in the future. If anyone has any ideas or would like to volunteer for the Social Calendar subcommittee please contact us.

Work is continuing on the maintenance and restoration of the Boyne Navigation. Recently the Slane Community Forum group (SCF) have cleaned the vegetation from Slane to Morgan’s Lock. It has been observed that water levels have been very low on this stretch of the Canal despite recent flooding. This was investigated by SCF and Geoffrey Clarke of Meath Association. It was discovered that there was a serious leak at the base of the concrete protective wall in Morgan’s Lock. This has been referred to the Boyne Navigation Branch (BNB) of IWAI for a solution and remedial works. The Navan Angler’s Group are also assisting the BNG with the clean-up at Athlumney.

Meath County Council’s Boyne Greenway section at Oldbridge is making good progress, An Taisce in conjunction with BNG provided technical and engineering input on the design of the Greenway. We recommend members to take a stroll along the Canal here where they can see the repair work to the retaining wall (damage caused by large tree growing out from the wall) and the installation of steps.

Tailors’ Hall have lodged an objection submission on our behalf with regards to a planning application on an archaeological sensitive area.

The Ellison Awards ceremony will be taking place on the first of November, venue has to be confirmed. This year we are accepting entries from both Meath and Louth and we are calling on all our members to nominate projects. The details of the competition will be announced in the coming weeks in the local press and on line.