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Legislation to mandate companies to report emissions moves forward in the Seanad

The Government had wanted a stay on the Bill that would delay its introduction by at least a year.

Image: Alamy Stock Photo

LEGISLATION THAT WOULD require companies with more than 50 employees to report their emissions is moving forward in the Seanad despite momentum among Government parties to delay it by a year.

The Companies (Emission Reporting) Bill 2021 would mandate companies to make a public disclosure annually showing the greenhouse gas emissions that their activities caused.

The Government had wanted a stay on the Bill that would delay its introduction by at least a year, saying it would allow for further engagement with affected industries.

However, no amendment was brought forward to delay the Bill during a debate this afternoon and it is moving forward in the Seanad.

Senator Lynn Ruane, who brought the Bill to the Seanad, said that “the idea is to require companies to publish their emissions and promote a culture of public scrutiny”.

“In 2018, Ireland’s 200 largest energy-consuming corporations collectively used 21% of the total national primary energy and over 50% of the total industrial energy use.

“Considering that the European Business Registry records 181,000 companies as live in Ireland, this translates to less than 1% of Irish companies consuming 21% of the national primary energy,” Ruane said.

“Allowing us to hold companies to account ensures that corporations make decisions based on proper environmental considerations and adopt company policies that will reduce their emissions in line with national targets.”

But for the Bill to be effective, the senator said it “can’t wait” and that, on a 12-month delay, it would be “difficult to understand how such a move can be justified considering the extraordinary time pressure we’re under to use every moment of the next decade to prevent the collapse of our climate and irreversible damage to our planet”.

“The Bill offers Government an opportunity to see which specific sectors and companies are struggling to meet emission targets” and adapt or introduce schemes in line with that information, she said.

Minister of State for Company Regulation Robert Troy said that “given the scale of the climate challenge, the interconnectedness of economies and the global nature of enterprise, it makes sense to work with the European Commission and other member states on the legislative requirements related to sustainability reporting”.

“Therefore, while the government is in agreement with the policy enshrined in the Bill to deliver the reduction in the level of greenhouse gases by companies and public bodies, we do need further time for further consideration and analysis of this private member’s bill,” he said.

“This is not a stalling tactic or opposing tactic. This is to enable the work that is already commenced and will continue.”

In response, Ruane said she and her colleagues working on the Bill have “no interest in ever rushing legislation through that’s going to be voted down at some stage unnecessarily”.

“The fact that it’s not going to be officially delayed by amendment means that we can continue to work together collaboratively on a piece of legislation that is active on the floor and I think allows for better and more robust engagement between ourselves and your department,” she said.

Minister Troy said that “while initially I was putting forward an official amendment, I do take your bona fides and when you rang last night and said that you will not be pushing this without consultation and without working with us, because we want to get it right”.

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Another point of contention around the Bill is the EU’s role in emissions reporting, as legislation is currently being prepared at a European level with a similar aim.

Senator Lynn Boylan said that although the EU legislation is forthcoming, if it “is weaker than this bill, then we have the situation, as it’s often the case, that the EU’s ambition is not the ceiling, but it’s a floor”.

“I think there’s no reason why we can’t be doing this on a national level and leading as a country rather than always having to rely on the EU when it comes to the environment,” Boylan said.

About the author:

Lauren Boland

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