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Follow our weekly bulletin on key public policy issues for the island of Ireland.

Tax International

During the 2020 State of the Union address last week, Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission touched on taxation measures, specifically the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism and Digital Tax. The President outlined that “carbon must have its price – because nature cannot pay the price anymore.”During her speech the President also outlined that “this Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism should motivate foreign producers and EU importers to reduce their carbon emissions, while ensuring that we level the playing field in a WTO-compatible way.”When speaking about digital tax the President outlined that “we will spare no effort to reach agreement in the framework of OECD and G20. But let there be no doubt: should an agreement fall short of a fair tax system that provides long-term sustainable revenues, Europe will come forward with a proposal early next year.”For more information read the full speech. 

Sep 21, 2020
Public Policy

In this week’s Public Policy news, read how European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen presented her vision to make Europe green, digital and more resilient; what official figures reveal about the labour market in the UK; and how Ireland has extended its redundancy provisions to help reduce insolvencies, bankruptcies and further job losses.A green, digital and more resilient Europe Last week, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen gave her State of the European Union address where she set out her vision to make Europe become green, digital and more resilient. Key points covered were:Protecting Health: Building a stronger European health union in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak with measures such as:an EU4Health programme; a reinforced European Medicines Agency (EMA);a strengthened European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC); anda new European agency for biomedical advanced research and development (BARDA).Protecting livelihoods: protecting workers by introducing a legal framework for setting minimum wages and protecting businesses from external shocks; and boosting the single market by reinforcing the Economic and Social Union, getting the Schengen area working in full again and updating the EU’s industry strategy and competition framework.Reinforcing the Green Deal:increasing the emissions-reduction target from 40 percent to 55 percent by 2030 to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 and meet Paris Agreement obligationsrevising all of the EU’s climate and energy legislation by summer 2021;raising 30 percent of the €750 billion #NextGenerationEU budget through green bonds; and investing 37 percent of that funding in European Green Deal objectives.Leading a Digital Transformation : 20 percent of NextGenerationEU’s budget will be invested in moves to create a common plan for ‘digital Europe’ with connectivity, skills and digital public services.Deeping Global Relations: revitalising and reforming the multilateral system, including the World Trade Organisation and World Health Organisation; building agreements and relationships with the US, the UK and Africa; and building global agreements on ethical, human rights and environmental issues, and on digital taxation.Deliver a new Pact on Migration, with an approach based on humanity and solidarity.A first annual Rule of Law report covering all Member States.A European anti-racism action plan, with the appointment of an anti-racism coordinator, as well as strengthened racial equality laws.More on the vision for Europe can be read here. Labour market statistics reveal unemployment rates for the UK Employment data published last week shows that the overall rate of unemployment in the UK grew from 3.9 percent to 4.1 percent from May to July of 2020. The majority of job losses were among those aged between 16 and 24. According to official figures, almost half of those furloughed since May returned to work by mid-August rather than into unemployment or inactivity; however, it is expected that employment will fall more sharply and unemployment will increase more quickly as the furlough scheme nears its end in November. In Northern Ireland, labour market statistics published by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency on the same day revealed that proposed and confirmed redundancies more than doubled since August 2019, with record high numbers recorded in June and July. However, the Northern Ireland unemployment rate (2.9 percent) for the period May-July 2020 remains below the UK rate (4.1 percent), the European Union (27 Member States) rate (6.7 percent) for May 2020 and the Republic of Ireland rate (5.3 percent) for June 2020. Extension of Ireland’s redundancy provision On 15 September the Government approved an extension of the redundancy provisions relating to temporary lay-off and short-time work. Minister for Social Protection, Heather Humphreys TD announced that the measure, which suspends redundancy provisions – and which arose as a result of COVID-19 – will remain in place until 30 November. Describing the measures as necessary to “ensure businesses survive and that permanent job losses are avoided as much as possible”, Minister Humphreys reminded employees who remain on lay-off or short-time work for the requisite period that they will be entitled to exercise their right to claim redundancy from their employer when this emergency measure expires, and that all other redundancy provisions such as notice periods and payments of redundancy lump sums still apply, as does the existing employment rights legislation.Read all our updates on our Public Policy web centre.

Sep 21, 2020
Sustainability

 PwC has pledged to achieve net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030. The commitment includes supporting its clients to reduce their emissions, as well as reducing those from the PwC network’s operations and suppliers.PwC plans todecarbonise its operations, including its travel footprintinvest in carbon removal projects to neutralise its remaining climate impact engage its suppliers to tackle their climate impactwork with its clients to support their efforts to make a net-zero future a reality for allcontribute to public policy developments in support of net-zero at national, regional and global levels.Bob Moritz, Global Chairman of the PwC network, said: “Businesses and economies must evolve quickly to address the significant challenges facing our societies and our planet. Whether you look at this through the lens of human need or from a capital allocation perspective, it is in the interests of everyone that we see systemic change that averts climate catastrophe and unlocks the potential of green growth.”“A net zero world is within reach. Getting there will take innovation, hard work, collaboration and bold thinking but the benefits will be immense. The business community has a responsibility to act and we are determined to play our part, not just in our own operations and supply chain, but also in the way we advise and support our clients to create a sustainable world for future generations.” Read more here. 

Sep 18, 2020
Public Policy

In this week’s Public Policy news, read how European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen presented her vision to make Europe green, digital and more resilient; what official figures reveal about the labour market in the UK; and how Ireland has extended its redundancy provisions to help reduce insolvencies, bankruptcies and further job losses.A green, digital and more resilient Europe This week, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen gave her State of the European Union address where she set out her vision to make Europe become green, digital and more resilient. Key points covered were:Protecting Health: Building a stronger European health union in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak with measures such as:an EU4Health programme; a reinforced European Medicines Agency (EMA);a strengthened European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC); anda new European agency for biomedical advanced research and development (BARDA).Protecting livelihoods: protecting workers by introducing a legal framework for setting minimum wages and protecting businesses from external shocks; and boosting the single market by reinforcing the Economic and Social Union, getting the Schengen area working in full again and updating the EU’s industry strategy and competition framework.Reinforcing the Green Deal:increasing the emissions-reduction target from 40 percent to 55 percent by 2030 to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 and meet Paris Agreement obligationsrevising all of the EU’s climate and energy legislation by summer 2021;raising 30 percent of the €750 billion #NextGenerationEU budget through green bonds; and investing 37 percent of that funding in European Green Deal objectives.Leading a Digital Transformation : 20 percent of NextGenerationEU’s budget will be invested in moves to create a common plan for ‘digital Europe’ with connectivity, skills and digital public services.Deeping Global Relations: revitalising and reforming the multilateral system, including the World Trade Organisation and World Health Organisation; building agreements and relationships with the US, the UK and Africa; and building global agreements on ethical, human rights and environmental issues, and on digital taxation.Deliver a new Pact on Migration, with an approach based on humanity and solidarity.A first annual Rule of Law report covering all Member States.A European anti-racism action plan, with the appointment of an anti-racism coordinator, as well as strengthened racial equality laws.More on the vision for Europe can be read here. Labour market statistics reveal unemployment rates for the UK Employment data published this week shows that the overall rate of unemployment in the UK grew from 3.9 percent to 4.1 percent from May to July of 2020. The majority of job losses were among those aged between 16 and 24. According to official figures, almost half of those furloughed since May returned to work by mid-August rather than into unemployment or inactivity; however, it is expected that employment will fall more sharply and unemployment will increase more quickly as the furlough scheme nears its end in November. In Northern Ireland, labour market statistics published by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency on the same day revealed that proposed and confirmed redundancies more than doubled since August 2019, with record high numbers recorded in June and July. However, the Northern Ireland unemployment rate (2.9 percent) for the period May-July 2020 remains below the UK rate (4.1 percent), the European Union (27 Member States) rate (6.7 percent) for May 2020 and the Republic of Ireland rate (5.3 percent) for June 2020. Extension of Ireland’s redundancy provision On 15 September the Government approved an extension of the redundancy provisions relating to temporary lay-off and short-time work. Minister for Social Protection, Heather Humphreys TD announced that the measure, which suspends redundancy provisions – and which arose as a result of COVID-19 – will remain in place until 30 November. Describing the measures as necessary to “ensure businesses survive and that permanent job losses are avoided as much as possible”, Minister Humphreys reminded employees who remain on lay-off or short-time work for the requisite period that they will be entitled to exercise their right to claim redundancy from their employer when this emergency measure expires, and that all other redundancy provisions such as notice periods and payments of redundancy lump sums still apply, as does the existing employment rights legislation.Read all our updates on our Public Policy web centre.

Sep 18, 2020
Public Policy

In this week’s Public Policy news, read how Ireland has officially entered recession, how the new National Waste Action Plan for a Circular economy intends to move the focus from disposal to production, about two support schemes now available for Northern Ireland businesses, and how the EU plans to make a more resilient green and digital future Europe.Ireland enters recession following biggest quarterly drop ever recordedThe latest quarterly national accounts released by the Central Statistics Office last week showed that Ireland’s economy has officially entered recession. Ireland’s GDP has contracted by 6.1 percent during the second quarter of 2020. A recession is defined as the GDP contracting two quarters in a row. Consumer spending decreased by 19.6 percent, while industry and government spending increased by 7.5 percent.  Overall economic activity was partly offset by an increase of €37.8 billion in net exports of goods and services in Q2. The following sectors contracted significantly: Construction: 38.3 percentDistribution, transport, hotels and restaurants: 30.3 percentAgriculture, forestry and fishing: 60.6 percentArts and entertainment: 65.5 percentInformation and Communication: 1.5 percentMinister Finance Paschal Donohoe reportedly stated that there has been a strong pick-up in the third quarter of this year, according to indicators available to Government, and that Ireland compares favourably against the UK, eurozone and the US, where GDP declined by considerably more in the same period. Ireland publishes its Waste Action Plan for a Circular EconomyThe Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment this month published its Waste Action Plan for a Circular Economy. The policy is part of a new National Waste Action Plan and aligns with the goals of the European Green Deal, which seeks to embed climate action in all strands of public policy. The policy contains over 200 measures across various waste areas, including the Circular Economy, Plastics and Packaging and Green Public Procurement, and its goal is to move the focus away from waste disposal and look at resources more broadly to maximise their value rather than disposing of them. The plan is also summarised in infographics, which describe key actions and targets for both individuals and businesses. Invest NI makes two new COVID-19 schemes available  Minister for the Economy, Diane Dodds last week announced two new support schemes available to Northern Ireland businesses:£1million Digital Selling Capability Grant to help retailers and wholesalers better access consumer demand and grow online sales; and£5million Equity Investment Fund to help early stage and seed stage SMEs access finance. Both schemes opened for applications on 9 September. They are operated by Invest Northern Ireland, which is developing several new initiatives to help companies in the new business environment post-COVID-19.Kevin Holland, CEO of Invest NI, described SMEs as “the lifeblood of the Northern Ireland economy” and stated that the two new recovery schemes are “part of a range of solutions we are putting in place to help businesses progress recovery plans, strengthen supply chains, develop new products and access finance.”More information on Business Supports available for Northern Ireland can be found on the Chartered Accountants Ireland COVID-19 Hub, updated regularly. EU integrates strategic foresight into policymakingThe EU has published its strategy to integrate foresight into policymaking. The aim of the strategy is to help understand future challenges and opportunities, to identify major trends, explore alternative futures and design forward-looking policies to make Europe more resilient, green, digital and fair in the future. I’s first annual report Strategic Foresight - Charting the course towards a more resilient Europe focuses on social and economic, geopolitical, green and digital resilience. Read all our updates on our Public Policy web centre.

Sep 14, 2020
Sustainability

 CDP, CDSB, GRI, IIRC and SASB have announced a statement of intent to work together, based on a shared vision of the elements necessary for more comprehensive corporate reporting. These five organisations guide the overwhelming majority of quantitative and qualitative sustainability disclosures today, and provide the integrated reporting framework that connects sustainability disclosure to reporting on financial and other capitals.This commitment comes at a pivotal moment for progress towards a globally coherent solution for sustainability disclosure standards. Climate change, the global pandemic, and the increasingly clear connection between sustainability performance and financial risk and return are driving the urgency. The paper addresses the complexity surrounding sustainability disclosure and outlines a shared vision of standard-setting that enables companies to collect information about performance on a given sustainability topic once, but provide relevant information to different users through appropriate communication channels. It also describes the role of taxonomies and technology to enable sustainability-related data to be structured for sharing and comparison, as well as the importance of a publicly available data platform to democratise access to this information as a public good. Click here to read the paper

Sep 11, 2020