Photo credit: Statkraft Ireland
2 Oct 2023
A pre-budget statement from environmental NGOs and renewable energy associations
Two renewable energy industry associations, Wind Energy Ireland and the Irish Solar Energy Association, have joined with leading environmental NGOs for a pre-budget statement calling for a step-change in Government investment in environmental capacity at both state and civil society level to address the biodiversity and climate crises.
The joint statement, which has been sent to Government Ministers ahead of Budget 2024, calls for a range of targeted measures to support an environmentally-sound transition to a zero carbon power system. In light of the state’s commitment to rapidly ramp up renewable energy sources in accordance with Ireland’s legally-binding pollution limits, the organisations highlight that greater funding must be allocated to environmental protection, restoration and monitoring as part of the delivery of renewable and grid infrastructure.
Substantially increased resources are needed at all levels of Government and in environmental NGOs to accelerate the energy transition while protecting nature. The statement highlights a lack of environmental capacity in state agencies, which the organisations say is undermining renewables objectives and compliance with environmental law, while a lack of resources among NGOs means they are often prevented from substantially engaging in the planning and development process.
The joint statement calls for, among other actions:
An increase in funding for relevant Departments and agencies and a fast-track recruitment process for key state bodies that are critical for delivering a zero-carbon electricity system and protecting and restoring nature, to ensure that they have enough ecologists, for example, to progress their work in a timely fashion.
The establishment of a dedicated Climate and Nature Restoration Fund from windfall corporation taxes to finance climate and nature infrastructural and capital investments, including nature-based solutions.
The introduction of a dedicated new funding stream to support training and upskilling of existing staff in public bodies involved in carrying out environmental impact assessment.
The allocation of at least €7 million in 2024 to help reach the target of fully protecting 10% of Ireland’s ocean and seas and at least €55 million to support longer-term designation of Marine Protected Areas and ongoing management until 2030.
The establishment of a new funding stream for science and research focused conservation organisations to enable them to fund staff posts so that they can meaningfully engage in ecological research, active conservation, infrastructure consultation and planning processes.
An increase annual funding to the Irish Environmental Network by €1 million in order to improve the ability of environmental NGOs to engage in environmental planning and policy.
Commenting on the joint statement, Justin Moran, Director of External Affairs with Wind Energy Ireland, said:
“Budget 2024 is an opportunity for the Government to invest resources in building the foundations of a net-zero energy future. The planning system must be given the resources it needs to assess applications for renewable energy projects thoroughly, but quickly, so that people can have confidence in the process and we can deliver the projects required to decarbonise our energy supply. This means properly funding An Bord Pleanála, the National Parks & Wildlife Service, the Maritime Area Regulatory Authority and key environmental stakeholders.”
Oonagh Duggan, Head of Advocacy with BirdWatch Ireland, said:
“In May 2019, Dáil Éireann declared a climate and biodiversity crisis. Yet, warnings on the state of biodiversity in Ireland have grown starker; two thirds of Ireland’s bird species are threatened, and over 70% of our peatlands are in bad status. Biodiversity and climate are inextricably linked and the time to invest in nature for a sustainable future is now.”
Conall Bolger Chief Executive Officer of the Irish Solar Energy Association said:
“We at ISEA are delighted to support the proposals to strengthen investment in building the capacity of the state and civil society in support of an environmentally sound energy transition. This transition will be underpinned by the decarbonisation of energy systems through renewable electricity, but that is the beginning of the story rather than the end. To embed this transition requires strengthening capacity for state and civil society actors. For example, for our planning system to properly function stakeholders should be appropriately informed and empowered to participate."
Jerry Mac Evilly, Head of Policy in Friends of the Earth Ireland said:
“As the UN Secretary General has said, ‘climate breakdown has begun’ - the case for getting off dirty gas, coal and oil has never been clearer. This means rapidly ramping-up renewable and grid infrastructure now, not in 10 years time. However, lack of capacity at both state and NGO level is putting both our renewables and environmental objectives at risk. Budget 2024 is an opportunity to adequately invest in an environmentally-sound energy transition.”