Public Policy Bulletin, 19 March 2021

Mar 19, 2021


In this week’s Public Policy news, read about Ireland’s growing green finance, the launch of Northern Ireland Apprenticeship Week 2021, the publication of the UK’s Industrial Decarbonisation Strategy and information for UK businesses on the application of Plastic Packaging Tax, and the continuation of the Eurogroup’s stance on government spending to counter the economic damage caused by COVID-19. 

Ireland’s green finance grows further

It was reported this week that green lending at AIB rose to over €1 billion last year - an increase of almost 20 percent on the previous year. The lending was for green mortgages, 0 percent finance for purchases of electric vehicles, and sustainability linked loans, and accounted for 16 percent of new lending at the bank last year. The bank aims to see green lending account for 70 percent of overall new lending by 2030, which is says will significantly help the Government and European Union meet carbon-reduction targets.

The news comes two weeks after Bank of Ireland reportedly raised €750m by issuing its first green bond to fund sustainable projects such as green buildings and energy efficiency, renewable energy and clean transportation. This bond was three times over-subscribed. The bank also has a €2bn Sustainable Finance Fund, with €950m of green loans allocated to homeowners and businesses. 

Green bond sales have surged in recent years, as countries and companies seek to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement and as investor demand rises for ESG (environmental, social and governance) investment opportunities. AIB was the first Irish bank to issue a green bond in 2020, when it raised €1 billion of capital to support lending towards renewable energy projects and green buildings. Ireland’s National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) had previously entered the market in 2018, raising €3 billion from the sale of its first 12-year ‘green bond’, and it raised an additional €2 billion in 2019. ESB became the first Irish company to sell such debt on the public bond markets in June 2019. 

Employers encouraged to get involved in NI’s Apprenticeship Week

Northern Ireland’s Economy Minister Diane Dodds this week launched the second annual Northern Ireland Apprenticeship Week, which will take place from 26 to 30 April 2021. Speaking at the launch, Minister Dodd encouraged everyone with an interest to get involved, describing the benefits of apprenticeships to employers: 

“Employers can strengthen and grow their teams with an apprentice, thereby developing the skills of our people right across Northern Ireland. Skills are a key priority for me as we begin the process of rebuilding our economy and I am determined to keep apprenticeships at the centre of our long-term strategic plans.’’

Featured as part of the week will be a virtual ‘insight into EY’ event with opportunities to hear from current trainees and to learn about business areas and opportunities.
Apprenticeship partners can get involved by hosting their own apprenticeship events or in collaboration with others. Further information is available here

UK businesses can now access information on the application of Plastic Packaging Tax

Information on the application of the new Plastic Packaging Tax has been published this week. The aim of the tax is to provide a clear economic incentive for businesses to use recycled material in the manufacture of plastic packaging and stimulate increased levels of recycling and collection of plastic waste, diverting it away from landfill or incineration. 
The tax is to be introduced in the UK on 1 April 2022 and will apply to UK manufacturers and importers of plastic packaging with less than 30 percent recycled plastic. 

UK Publishes Industrial Decarbonisation Strategy

The UK’s Industrial decarbonisation strategy – the first such strategy published by a major economy – was published this week. The strategy sets out the government’s vision for a prosperous, low-carbon UK industrial sector that can decarbonise in line with net zero commitments while remaining competitive and without pushing emissions abroad.

By covering the full range of UK industry sectors from metals and minerals to food and drink, this Industrial Decarbonisation Strategy focuses on the businesses in the UK industry sectors that account for approximately one-sixth of UK emissions, the manufacturing processes of which must transform if the UK is to meet the ambitious targets set out in the 10 Point Plan for a green industrial revolution published in November 2020. 

Eurogroup to continue supportive economic stance 

Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe, TD chaired a meeting of Euro Area Finance Ministers this week to discuss budgetary policy across the bloc. The Eurogroup, of which Minister Donohoe is President, agreed to maintain current levels of government spending to counter the economic damage caused by COVID-19, until the current acute health emergency has passed. The spending amounted to an estimated 8 per cent of Euro Area GDP in 2020, in addition to liquidity schemes of 19 percent of Euro Area GDP. In a joint statement the Eurogroup stated:

‘We are united in our approach that until the health crisis is over and recovery is firmly underway, we will continue to protect our economy through the deployment of the necessary level of fiscal support’.

The Eurogroup has also planned for a ‘gradual shift towards more targeted actions to promote a resilient and sustainable recovery’ for those sectors most in need as the health situation improves.

Read all our updates on our Public Policy web centre