Monday 26 August 2019

Council staff to work from home to cut State's carbon footprint

Drafting plans: Climate Action Minister Richard Bruton. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Drafting plans: Climate Action Minister Richard Bruton. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Local authorities will be told to pilot remote working among staff as part of a new charter to be issued by the Government.

Climate Action Minister Richard Bruton is in the final stages of drafting a new plan that seeks to dramatically reduce the country's carbon footprint.

Every local authority in the country will have to sign up to a 'Climate Action Charter' in the coming months.

They will be issued with a series of measures that must be implemented, and ordered to draw up individual targets.

It is a move that is likely to raise eyebrows in the Green Party, which will hold the balance of power on many local authorities as a result of their strong showing in the elections.

Local authorities will be told to:

  • Deliver 50pc improvement in energy efficiency by 2030;
  • Develop a process for carbon-proofing major decisions;
  • Ask suppliers to provide information on their carbon footprint;
  • Support employees to undertake changes in their lifestyle to reduce their carbon impact;
  • Improve efficiency of usage of outdoor light.

Awards

It is understood local authorities will be expected to run competitive calls to support innovative projects.

Their progress will be measured using key performance indicators and authorities will be given bronze, silver and gold awards.

Every government department will also issue a formal direction to each of their agencies that they "de-carbonise and take steps to address climate disruption in their own area".

Sources said the Climate Action Plan would make the point that it was "absolutely vital that the public service leads by example".

"That means the Government will take steps to ensure that every public service body is at the forefront of de-carbonisation," the source said.

The mandate will require public-service bodies to meet a core group of requirements, with additional obligations placed on larger public service organisations.

A new public procurement framework for electric vehicles will be introduced which will allow public bodies to buy them with reduced administrative burden.

State bodies such as An Post and Inland Fisheries Ireland have already committed to electrifying their fleets.

Mr Bruton discussed the plan at a Cabinet sub-committee meeting yesterday and is expected to produce a finalised version in the coming weeks.

His approach is based on copying the Action Plan for Jobs that he developed while in the Department of Enterprise.

Sources say it will include "strict timelines" for progress, with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's office keeping tabs on the commitments being carried out by each department.

All public facilities will have to pursue resource efficiency actions, including measures to reduce food waste, promote water conservation, waste segregation, reuse and recycling practices.

Public bodies will establish "a green team to engage staff in being part of the solution".

Householders

The push for change at local and national government level will run along new measures that will affect householders more directly.

Carbon tax is expected to be raised in the next Budget, leading to hikes in the price of petrol, diesel and home heating oil.

The motor industry is also likely to be hit with changes to the vehicle registration and tax systems.

Mr Bruton also has plans to ban single-use plastic such as polystyrene food containers, cups and drinks containers.

People will also be encouraged to improve their home insulation, so homes need less heating, helping the environment and saving on energy bills.

The climate action plan spells out that the current approach to retro-fitting homes is not delivering the change required to meet the current target of 45,000 homes a year over the next decade.

It is the Government's intention to introduce a "pay and save" scheme that would allow householders repay the cost of retrofitting their home over a long period.

This could include consumers paying the cost back through an addition to a utility bill such as the ESB.

Every home in the country will also be given a smart meter by 2024 so customers can monitor their electricity and gas usage.

Irish Independent

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