Public Policy Bulletin, 5 February 2021

Feb 05, 2021


In this week’s Public Policy news, read about a report into the response of professional accounting bodies to the COVID-19 pandemic; how business-as-usual won’t be enough to meet Ireland’s climate objectives; an extension on the public consultation to the National Development Plan; an investment in SFI Research Centres; current unemployment levels in Ireland; and Northern Ireland’s Energy Strategy and entrepreneurial funding.

Building a Better Future – The response of Accounting Bodies to the COVID-19 pandemic

Chartered Accountants Ireland has contributed to a report providing insights into how professional accountancy organisations responded to the COVID-19 crisis and are working the shape a more resilient future. Institute's Professional Accountancy Leader, Dee Moran, and Susan Rossney, Sustainability Expert and Public Policy Officer, collaborated with members of the Institute's team and the team in A4S to contribute to the report.

Building a better future”, published by the UK Prince’s Accounting for Sustainability Project’s Accounting Bodies Network, details the accountancy bodies’ immediate response to the pandemic and explores the actions accountancy bodies will take in order to reset and rebuild a more sustainable economy.

The report sits alongside a second report setting out recommendations for actions that CFOs and others from across the finance and accounting community can take to build back better, drawing on lessons from the pandemic response.

“Fundamental changes” required to how we do business

The Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan TD has announced that he is leading the preparation of the next Climate Action Plan, which will set out actions that must be taken across every economic sector in order to ensure Ireland delivers on its energy commitments.

One of the major deliverables of this, of course, was announced this week, with the Minister obtaining Cabinet approval to introduce legislation to ban licences for new oil and natural gas exploration. The legislation will be included in the Climate Action and Low Carbon Amendment Bill which will go before the Oireachtas in the Spring Legislative Programme.

The announcement points to the scale of ambition that the Minister has warned is required for Ireland to meet is climate objectives, and which is likely to have a major impact on businesses in Ireland. Speaking at the launch of a joint publication by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) last week, Minister Ryan stated that simply “doing less than business-as-usual will not be enough; we must make fundamental changes to how we do business and how we live our lives.”

The report, which found that the overall GHG emissions reduced in 2020, contained warnings that this reduction may be temporary, with the economic rebound from the Covid-19 crisis estimated to bring emissions back to previous levels unless additional action is taken (Full detail on the 2020 estimates is available on the EPA and External linkSEAI websites.)

We will monitor developments and continue to update members.

National Development Plan public consultation phase extended

The deadline for submissions to the public consultation to the National Development Plan has been extended until 19 February 2021. The National Development Plan will support economic, social, environmental and cultural development across the country in parallel with the National Planning Framework. This framework provides a high-level guide to planning and development over the next 20 years.

Announcing the extension, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Michael McGrath, TD, stated “We need to ensure that we have the capacity to adapt and we must take an integrated approach, including climate change adaption at every stage in our development plan. This will make development more resilient by reducing climate impacts and make for a better future for the people of Ireland and I am particularly anxious to hear the views of the public on this matter.”

Details for how to respond to the consultation can be found here.

The final review of the National Development Plan is expected to be completed in the summer of 2021.

€193 million investment in five world - leading SFI Research Centres

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD has announced an investment of €193 million in five Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Research Centres for six years. A key objective of SFI’s Agenda 2020 is to position Ireland as a global knowledge leader and develop a set of world-leading, large-scale research centres that will provide major economic impact for Ireland.

The five centres will carry out research into smart medical devices, e-health, telecommunications networks, cybersecurity, smart cities, artificial intelligence, ethics and data privacy, as well as applied geosciences, energy security and marine resources.

The investment is further backed by significant industry support from 200 industry partners committing over €91 million in cash and in-kind contributions.

Unemployment in Ireland rises to 25 percent

Figures released this week by the Central Statistics Office (SCO) show that unemployment in the Republic of Ireland rose to 25 percent in January 2021, when adjusted to take account of those receiving the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP). The unemployment rate using the standard methodology remained unchanged from last month, at 5.8 percent. The rate of unemployment was 15.7 percent among 15-24 year olds and 4.6 percent among 25-74 year olds. The report mentioned that at least 8 percent of PUP recipients are attending full-time education during the current academic year.

Northern Ireland’s Energy Strategy and funding for energy entrepreneurs

The Northern Ireland Department of the Economy has published its Energy Strategy e-bulletin, the seventh in a regular series to keep key stakeholders updated on progress with developing the new energy strategy. The bulletin provides information and advice that businesses may need in the coming years as the energy sector is decarbonised, as well as funding opportunities for low carbon energy and report on the Future of Energy Efficiency Policy in Northern Ireland.

The bulletin was published the same week as the UK government announced £11 million in government funding for UK energy entrepreneurs to turn ideas into clean, green technologies that eliminate carbon emissions. Commenting, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Brandon Lewis said that “[w]ith a share of this new £11 million investment, Northern Ireland’s entrepreneurs will be able to help supercharge the United Kingdom’s ‘Green Economy’, as we continue to work towards our goal of reducing our emissions to net zero by 2050”. The Secretary of State encouraged all entrepreneurs to apply for the scheme to help Northern Ireland build back greener. Further details for how to apply are here.

Read all our updates on our Public Policy web centre