A Watershed Year for Climate Change and Mapping Future Challenges

Date released: Feb 20 2008

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today published its Annual Highlights, 2007, a report summarising the agency’s key activities during the year.  Presenting the report to John Gormley, T.D., Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Dr. Mary Kelly, Director General of the EPA, said:

"Looking back in years to come, the year 2007 will be seen as a watershed year for climate change.  The reports of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change, the Stern Report and the Nobel Peace prize all contributed to a much heightened awareness of the fact that we are now living in a world that is experiencing climate change and that the time for action is short if we are to avoid the potentially calamitous impacts that climate change might bring about."

Looking to the future, Dr. Kelly said that:

"all sectors of the economy must now identify where carbon emissions can be reduced and start implementing changes that will result in incremental reductions in carbon emissions and start moving Ireland towards a low carbon future.  The EPA will play its part by providing reliable information on greenhouse gas emissions, both current and future, continuing to implement the emissions trading scheme and continuing to raise awareness about the issues facing Ireland."

A major milestone for the EPA in 2007 was the publication of 2020Vision, the EPA’s new Corporate Strategy, which sets out long-term goals for Ireland’s environment and identifies the steps to be taken by the EPA in the medium term to put us on the right track to achieving these goals.  Acknowledging that the EPA cannot achieve these goals on its own, Dr. Kelly said:

"The EPA is now seeking to involve other organisations and individuals in working with it to meet the challenges that lie ahead in protecting and improving Ireland’s environment.  To help focus attention on the issues, this year Highlights Report has been re-structured to reflect the 2020Vision goals so that you can see how the activities being undertaken by the EPA are helping to move us towards the goals that we have set for the environment".

The drinking water crisis in Galway in 2007 placed a spotlight on water protection and management issues in Ireland.  Commenting on the outbreak of cryptosporidium in Galway City and County, which affected over 90,000 people, Dr. Kelly said:
"This was avoidable, both through better protection of the drinking water supply, which would have prevented the source of the supply from becoming contaminated, and through ensuring that the drinking water treatment plant was capable of providing a reliable defence against contamination".

At the same time as the outbreak occurred, the EPA was made responsible for overseeing the supply of drinking water by public authorities.  Commenting on this development, Dr. Kelly remarked that:
"The EPA used its new powers to bring about a resolution to the problem in the shortest possible timeframe and we are now focussing our efforts on the many public water supplies that are at risk of failing to supply good quality drinking water".

During 2007, the EPA was also made responsible for licensing urban waste water treatment plants. In welcoming these new regulatory roles for the EPA, Dr. Kelly said:
"This will bring about a much greater degree of rigour and accountability to the management of both drinking water supply and waste water treatment by local authorities."

Noting the increase in the budget for the EPA for 2008, Dr. Kelly said:

"the EPA has been asked by the Government to take on new functions including the licensing of urban waste water plants, the supervision of drinking water supply and taking a lead role in the implementation of the Water Framework Directive and I welcome the additional resources which will enable us to carry out these functions in a professional manner".