An overwhelming majority of adults (86%) recognise the value of the environment to the people of Ireland, recent research conducted on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found. The EPA released the findings to coincide with the launch of its EPA 2018 in Review report. The Red C poll in November 2018 explored attitudes towards environmental issues.
Commenting on the survey, Laura Burke, Director General of the EPA said: “We are pleased to see that so many people recognise the importance of our environment as an asset to the country. Many of today’s environmental problems require a cross-sectoral, joined-up Government as well as a societal response. It is clear to us from our everyday interactions, that the public, business and broader society have a greater understanding of the link between reduced emissions and a clean environment, and our health, our wellbeing, our economy, our very culture.
“In our survey, respondents ranked climate change, waste, water quality and pollution as the biggest environmental challenges they see facing the nation. The EPA has key roles in addressing each of these challenges and our 2018 review report highlights progress in several areas, such as enforcement, licensing and air quality monitoring.”
The EPA’s National Priority Sites for Enforcement system has become an important enforcement tool, driving environmental compliance at licensed industrial and waste facilities. The EPA published regular updates during the year, with the agri-food and waste sectors accounting for the majority of the 15 sites listed for further enforcement action. Of the 15 sites on the National Priority Sites for Enforcement list in 2018, two were convicted in 2018, five more have cases before the court and three others are under consideration.
A total of 15 prosecution cases were concluded in 2018, with fines and costs totalling €229,483. Of these, eight sites had been on the National Priority Sites for Enforcement list in 2017 or 2018.
In terms of licensing, the number of decisions issued on industrial and waste licence applications increased in comparison to the previous year, with a total of 167 decisions taken. A new online licensing system also went live.
Speaking about air quality, Laura Burke said: “We continue to strengthen the capacity and capability of the air quality network and provide more comprehensive, localised, online information linked to public health advice. The number of EPA air monitoring stations more than doubled during the year – from 19 in 2017 to 45, under the 2017 – 2022 National Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Programme. Our reporting showed that home heating and transport choices directly influence the level of pollution in the air, affecting people’s health and life expectancy.”
The EPA’s Red C survey also shows that just over a third of adults (37%) recognise climate change as the most pressing environmental issue facing the country and 61 per cent cite it as being within the top three environmental concerns for us to tackle. Laura Burke added: “By any measure, we experienced an extraordinary year in 2018 where nature reminded us who is in charge – climate change is now with us and it is affecting us all. While Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions decreased slightly in 2017, EPA projections show that, at best, Ireland will only achieve a one per cent reduction by 2020 compared to its 20 per cent EU reduction target. We continue to work to engage people in debating how Ireland makes the necessary transition to a sustainable future. The newly-established National Dialogue on Climate Action, a Government of Ireland initiative facilitated by the EPA, hosted its first two Regional Gatherings in 2018, held in Athlone and Tralee. The EPA also hosted two public lectures on the science of climate change.”
The EPA supports the implementation, monitoring and assessment of climate action through collating and communicating trends in Ireland’s past and future greenhouse emissions; influencing behavioural change to improve resource efficiency and to foster a circular economy in Ireland through the National Waste Prevention Programme; regulating emissions from industrial sectors and through climate science research. Laura Burke concluded by saying: “The EPA prides itself on being an independent public body, working in a complex environment. We have different roles with different stakeholders – as a regulator, knowledge provider and advocate for the environment. In 2019, we will continue to work with all stakeholders to place the environment at the heart of decision making so that the wonderful and unique asset can be protected and improved for all the people of Ireland.”
Key Statistics – 2018 in Numbers
94 environmental licences issued
72 technical amendments completed
103 radiation licences issued (74 renewals; 29 new) and 952 technical amendments issued
39 conclusions on Article 27 by-product notifications
1 End-of-waste criteria agreed for LDPE plastic
315 urban waste water and 61 drinking water site visits
1,530 + visits to industrial, waste, dumping at sea and VOC facilities
38 prosecutions heard
102 inspections of Radiological Licensees
6 drinking water Directions issued to Irish Water
15 sites on the National Priority Sites for Enforcement in 2018 – the agri-food and waste sectors accounted for the majority of sites on the list
1,061,411 sessions on www.epa.ie
2,200+ environmental queries from the public
37,600 + EPA Twitter followers
6,852 environmental complaints reported (3,200 via See it? Say it? app; 1,606 via the National Environmental Complaints Line; 2,046 direct to EPA, including 897 about licensees)
249 EPA datasets uploaded to data.gov.ie (21,614 total views)
110 information requests (63 AIE and 47 FOI)
32 research reports published – Water (8); Climate (14); Sustainability (10)
National Waste Prevention Programme
5 major retailers (representing nearly 70% of the Irish grocery market) signed the Food Waste Charter