Ireland "must invest more in environment"

OECD environmental performance review calls for shift from EU funds to polluter pays policies

Ireland must invest more in environmental protection and introduce the polluter pays principle for water and air quality protection if it is to avoid a reversal in environmental progress. This is the main conclusion of the first environmental performance review on Ireland by the Organisation for economic co-operation and development (OECD), published yesterday.

The report say that Ireland has achieved reductions in energy and material intensity over the last decade due to changes to its economic base. However, like other commentators, it finds that rapid economic growth has increased many consumption-related environmental pressures, such as greater waste generation, use of private motor vehicles and land consumption (ENDS Daily 3 May).

The report criticises Ireland for eliminating water charges for households in 1997, describing it as "a step in the wrong direction". It urges the government to implement planned water charges for non-residential users. Water quality of rivers and streams has fallen since records began in the 1970s, the report notes; it recommends voluntary and regulatory measures to reduce agricultural pollution of water sources.

Ireland will have difficulty meeting EU and international deadlines for several air quality parameters, the report concludes, especially sulphur oxides, fine particles, nitrogen oxides, ozone and volatile organic compounds. The authors recommend a national plan to reduce air pollution, including measures to improve energy efficiency in all sectors, retrofitting of power stations with desulphurisation or denitrification equipment, phase-out of peat-fired power stations, expansion of the integrated pollution control licensing of industrial facilities and higher fuel taxes.

"Waste management is the environmental area which, until recently, received the least attention in Ireland," the report states. It urges the government to ensure: local implementation of waste management legislation (ENDS Daily 24 October); closure of sub-standard landfills; development of recycling and waste prevention; approval and implementation of a national hazardous waste management plan; and more complete application of the polluter-pays principle to household waste charges.

On sustainable development, the OECD report identifies spatial planning and agriculture as two sectors requiring particular effort. But the most pressing problem area is transport. The report foresees no end to increases in freight and private traffic and recommends more bypass construction to cut congestion-related pollution, stimulating demand for public transport, and better vehicle emissions testing.

Follow Up:
OECD, tel: +33 1 45 24 82 00, and environmental performance reviews where the report will be posted soon. See also Irish environment ministry press release and the report's conclusions and recommendations.

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