Sustainable Development Model predicts potential environmental impact of future economic activity

Date released: Feb 18 2010

New research, published today by the EPA, shows how economic forecasts can be used to project waste generation and emissions of pollutants across Ireland.  The ISus (Irish Sustainable Development) Model is based on the work of a three-year study by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), funded under the EPA STRIVE research programme.

Speaking about the findings of the research, Dr. Mary Kelly, Director General, EPA said:

“This model, developed by the ESRI, is very welcome. We are all aware of the use of GDP and other statistics to measure economic change. These, however, leave many things unmeasured, including the environment.
The ISus model provides a link between economic forecasting and potential environmental impacts.  This enables us to use the expertise of the ESRI, in relation to economic data, and link this with the environmental data produced by the EPA. The results will aid policy and decision makers to diagnose environmental problems, identify pressure points, target policy interventions and assess their success.
For example, projections on the generation of biodegradable waste – how much and where - could be a very useful tool for planning the location and required capacity for waste management infrastructure in the future.”
 

ISus covers more than 25 potential pollutants (to air, water and waste) emanating from 20 economic sectors.

Some of the findings from the research:

  • In relation to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions: Ireland faces a significant challenge in meeting its target for 2020.
  • In relation to waste generation: projections from the model suggest that Ireland will also have great difficulty meeting EU limits on landfilling of biodegradable municipal waste.
  • In relation to carbon tax: it illustrates the spatial distribution of households likely to pay the highest tax, with those in the commuter belts likely to pay most.
    The data show that in the period 1990 – 2006, while the economy was growing strongly, some emissions (sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds) have fallen, while others (carbon dioxide from fossil fuel combustion, dioxins)  have increased.  ISus is able to attribute these changes to economic growth, structural changes in the economy and technological and behavioural change.

“The EPA is very happy to be working in collaboration with ESRI on this project and hopes to be able to reap the benefits of the work in producing forecasts and projections for environmental impacts based on different scenarios in the future”said Dr Kelly.

The report Ireland's Sustainable Development Model  is available on the EPA website.

The findings from this research are being presented today at a seminar on Environmental Projections and Policy for Ireland in the Economic and Social Research Institute.

Editor’s Notes:
This work was funded through the EPA’s Science, Technology, Research and Innovation for the Environment Programme (STRIVE). The programme employs a strategic and targeted approach to protecting and improving the natural environment through the provision and accumulation of scientific research and knowledge. Funding for the EPA STRIVE Programme is provided through the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the programme is administered by the EPA on their behalf.