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Ireland is starting to clean up act, says EU chief

The Republic's poor record on implementing environmental protection measures is changing, the European Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom said yesterday.

In Dublin for the European Investment Bank's forum on environmental sustainability, Ms Wallstrom said she was particularly satisfied with the establishment of the Office of Environmental Enforcement, which was launched by the Environmental Protection Agency during the week.

Ms Wallstrom had initially suggested such an office in an open letter to the former Minister for the Environment, Mr Dempsey, during the lifetime of the last Government. She was particularly pleased to see it come to fruition this week.

Ms Wallstrom also said she was aware that Ireland was addressing issues such as air and water quality, climate change, waste management, and facilities for the chemical industry.

From next year all EU states would be subject to "scorecard" tracking of environmental performance, and during Ireland's presidency key legislative and policy issues would arise in the drive to move Europe to "the ultimate goal" of a low carbon economy.

The issue for the European community was how to "bridge" renewable technology into the mainstream economic agenda, she said. Addressing the conference on environmental sustainability in waste and energy projects, the Commissioner said the need for sustainable energy was driven by climate change, security of supply and market liberalisation.

Member-states of the EU will limit carbon dioxide emissions by use of emissions trading from 2005. Industries will be given an allowance, effectively a limit on how much they can emit. They can sell unused portionsof the allowance or buy in more - effectively a fine - if they need to.

The international fear of a repeat of the September 11th attacks and the instability of much of the oil-producing world were both incentives towards security of supply. In this regard Ms Wallstrom said decentralised local, renewable energy was a key factor in future energy sources.

But she warned: " A consensus on the way forward is emerging, but it is widely thought we have plenty of time to make the switch. This is a mistake. Global warming is happening and we must not overlook the fact that it takes time in addition to money to build a new infrastructure that is centred on renewable energy sources and capable of replacing our current system of energy supply".

While in Dublin the Commissioner also met the Minister for the Environment, Mr Cullen, who said they had had "a productive discussion on environmental priorities for the Irish presidency".

Tim O'Brien

The Irish Times

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