EPA urges move to a low carbon economic recovery

Date released: Apr 02 2009

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today published its Annual Highlights 2008, a report summarising the EPA’s key activities during 2008.  The report aims to provide an overview of the work of the EPA in 2008.

In launching the report, Dr. Mary Kelly, Director General of the EPA, said,

“At the beginning of 2008, there was little indication that the world was facing an economic crisis on the scale we have witnessed.  This is happening at a time when we are also facing the twin environmental challenges of a climate change crisis and an eco-systems crisis. Early warnings about the potentially catastrophic effects of climate change must be heeded and a more sustainable approach to natural capital must be adopted.

“Fundamental changes will be required to ensure that economic recovery, when it comes, is low carbon economic recovery which is sustainable both economically and environmentally. There are also significant economic opportunities for Ireland in becoming a low-carbon and greener economy. The Smart Green Economy must be pursued.”

A major milestone for the EPA in 2008 was the publication of its fourth 'State of the Environment' report, Ireland’s Environment 2008.  The report highlighted the scale of the challenges faced by Ireland and shows that the environment is an asset under threat.

Four main environmental challenges for Ireland to address in the coming years are identified:

  • Limiting and adapting to climate change,
  • Reversing environmental degradation – particularly in relation to water pollution and the conservation status of habitats,
  • Mainstreaming environmental considerations across all sectors of the economy, and
  • Complying with environmental legislation and agreements.

“Dealing with these challenges will be made all the more difficult due to the economic downturn,” Dr. Kelly stated, “but failure to do so would be extremely shortsighted and will repeat failures of the past which have left Ireland with many legacy issues to address.  We need to stop playing catch-up on the environment.

“The challenge of climate change is forcing environmental considerations centre-stage in a way that has never happened before in Ireland,” she said. “Energy supply, transport, agriculture and the residential sector all require major change if Ireland is to start on the road to becoming a green economy but there are signs of green shoots appearing on the economic landscape and this is to be welcomed.

“There are clearly many economic and social advantages in developing a green economy and the EPA will be placing a high priority on this area during 2009 through its research and communications programmes.  Ireland, for example, has a real opportunity to become a world leader in renewables and to position itself as a net exporter of energy in years to come while radically reducing the carbon footprint of energy production.”
Sustained investment in environmental infrastructure is also required during these leaner economic times including waste water treatment, drinking water treatment, river basin management and waste management as Ireland has been playing catch-up in these areas. 

Addressing this point, Dr. Kelly stated,

“In more straitened economic circumstances, it becomes even more important to ensure that investment goes where it is most needed.  The EPA will continue to provide independent, objective and timely information which will help guide these decisions and the Annual Highlights Report provides a useful overview of this. 

“Sustained investment in critical environmental infrastructure is essential even in these more difficult times,” she stated, “and must be given priority so that Ireland in the first instance catches up to European norms in key areas like waste water treatment and the provision of good quality drinking water to all consumers.”

Download the Annual Highlights Report 2008.

Ends

Further information: EPA Media Relations Office, 053 9170770 (24-hour)