Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) - Ireland

Major challenges lie ahead for Irish environment

The Irish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released the fourth ‘state of the environment’ report, entitled Ireland’s Environment 2008. This report assesses the overall quality of Ireland’s environment, the pressures on it and the way we are responding as a society to current and emerging environmental issues.

Dr. Mary Kelly, Director General of the EPA, said:

“This major report analyses the last four years of Ireland’s performance on the environment and concludes that Ireland’s environmental quality is good, although we are not making headway and we are not progressing at the rate we need to.  We have challenges on climate change, we have challenges on water quality and we have challenges on waste.  If we are to protect the important asset that is the Irish environment we must continue to invest in environmental infrastructure, despite economic slowdown.”

She continued:

“Ireland has made progress in a number of important respects over recent years.  We have reduced certain emissions to air, we have modernised waste management, and we have made some improvements in public transport.  The success of the producer responsibility initiatives on packaging and on waste electrical goods (WEEE) and the continued growth in general recycling show that the public do respond when given the necessary information and supports.  While we acknowledge these successes, this report points to considerably less success in a number of other environmental areas as evidenced by the key environmental challenges we have identified (see: key challenges section).”

For the first time, this report also includes projections for environmental pressures, including waste generation and emissions to air. This allows us to predict what the future could look like unless significant policy actions are taken now. 

For example:

Under the most favourable scenario, Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions will exceed the proposed reduction target for 2020 by seven million tonnes; The biodegradable municipal waste diversion targets for 2016 will be missed by 800,000 tonnes. The maximum quantity of biodegradable municipal waste allowed to be landfilled in 2016 and beyond, under the EU Landfill Directive, is 451,000 tonnes; Emissions of nitrogen oxides, currently well above the 2010 ceiling, are expected to remain high, mainly due to the continued emissions from the significant number of cars we drive.The report underlines the need for continued research to better understand these issues, and for technological development to provide a means to address them.  For this reason there is a strong commitment to environmental research over the next six years.

“While we will maintain our focus on licensing, enforcing, regulation and education, we need to continue to fund research and the development of environmental technologies.  Today’s environmental research is tomorrow’s environmental protection, and through the development of green technologies innovative solutions can be brought to market.” Dr. Kelly said. The overall picture painted by the EPA report, which is the most wide-ranging assessment of Ireland’s environment, highlights the scale of the challenges we face and shows that our environment is an asset under threat.
Presenting the report to Mr John Gormley, T.D., Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Dr Mary Kelly said:

“This report is an evidence based assessment of the Irish environment, which can and should be used by policy makers and decision makers to evaluate progress in meeting the main environmental challenges, and to determine whether national policies are being implemented and are working as planned”.

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