Ireland does not have the level of historical industrial activity of many EU member states. For that reason, the impact of industrial emissions on Ireland's air and water quality is therefore less significant than many of its EU partners. For example where industry and resource extraction account for 50% of GHG emissions across the EU, the figure for Ireland is 14%. However, it is worth noting that 30% of all non-hazardous and over 60% of all hazardous waste in Ireland emanates from the industrial sector.
Further, the primary sources of air and water emissions in Ireland are agriculture, transport, energy production and the burning of solid fuels in homes.
If that is the case, can Ireland's industrial sector assume that no significant legislative change will impact its operations in the near-term? The answer is no.
The key reason is the EU's Green Deal and specifically, the EU Commission's adoption of EU Action Plan “Towards Zero Pollution for Air, Water and Soil” (the Action Plan). The Action Plan sets out an integrated vision for 2050 - a world where pollution is reduced to levels that are no longer harmful to human health and natural ecosystems, and thus creating a toxic-free environment. It also outlines the steps that the Commission believes will be required to be taken in order to achieve this objective.
1. Review and overhaul of air and water quality standards. In the case of air quality it would mean becoming more closely aligned with the the World Health Organisation (WHO) standards which afford a higher level of protection for human health (one of the core objectives of the Action Plan).
2. Steadily reducing pollution towards the zero pollution goal. This will include introducing measures to reduce pollution from production and consumption and further development of EU waste laws to copper-fasten the clean circular economy principles.
3. Stronger enforcement with a greater engagement between the Commission, environmental and other member state authorities.
4. Consolidating and strengthening the EU's environmental knowledge centres and the development and deployment of "green digital solutions and smart zero pollution" measures.
5. Setting key 2030 targets to:
- Reduce the health impacts (premature deaths) of air pollution by more than 55%. The European Environmental Agency estimates that there are 380,000 premature deaths in the EU and 1,300 premature deaths in Ireland from air pollution (Particulate Matter (PM2.5), nitrogen dioxide and ozone depletion).
- 30% reduction of the share of people people chronically disturbed by transport noise. The European Environmental Agency estimates that such noise causes 12,000 premature deaths annually and contributes to 48,000 new cases of ischaemic heart disease across the EU.
- Reduce the EU ecosystems where air pollution threatens biodiversity by 25%.
- Reduce nutrient losses, the use and risk of chemical pesticides and the sale of antimicrobials for farmed animals and in aquaculture by 50%.
- Reduce plastic litter at sea by 50% and reduce micro plastics released into the environment by 30%.
- Reduce significantly the total waste generated and reduce residual municipal waste by 50%.
6. The line of travel at EU-level is clear and will almost certainly lead to changes to the suite of legislation already in place to monitor and control industrial emissions (including the Industrial Emissions Directive) and improve air quality (including the National Emissions Ceilings Directive and the Ambient Air Quality Directives).
This will in turn lead to changes at national level through more stringent National Air Pollution Control Programmes (NAPCP). Indeed last year, the EPA recommended the urgent publication and rollout of actions as part of the forthcoming National Clean Air Strategy (which is part of the wider NAPCP) and it urged the Government to ensure that the strategy is underpinned by WHO standards because these are more stringent than the limits set by existing EU legislation.
We are ideally-placed to advise your business on emissions regulation in Ireland. Some of our most recent experience is outlined below.
A multinational pharmaceutical manufacturer
on EIA and AA issues arising in the context of a planning application and an application for an EPA licence in connection with an expansion of its existing manufacturing facility.
Pilgrims Pride Corp / Moy Park
on all Irish environmental and regulatory law aspects of the acquisition of Kerry Group's meats and meals business in Ireland and the UK.
Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board
on all Irish law environmental, offshore petroleum safety and planning aspects of the acquisition by Canada Pension Plan Investment Board of Royal Dutch Shell's interest in the Corrib Gas Field.
on applications for foreshore licences including advice on EIA and AA and on the defence of judicial review proceedings taken challenging a decision by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to grant a foreshore licence.
in successfully defending judicial review proceedings taken against the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities (CER as it then was) by Shannon LNG in relation to a tariffing decision taken by the CRU.
An energy company
on potential multi-million euro liability under the Environmental Liability Directive.