Launch of the Irish State Administration Database

The Irish State Administration Database was launched last week at an event which formed part of the Innovation Dublin festival. The Database was developed by an interdisciplinary team working in the UCD Geary Institute, led by Dr Niamh Hardiman of the UCD School of Politics and International Relations, with funding from the Irish Research Council for Humanities and Social Sciences. The searchable Database records details of births, marriages and deaths of all central stage agencies (including government departments) since the foundation of the State in 1922. Avid agency watchers can study the growth in agency numbers to their peak in 2008 and subsequent modest decline. The Database shows that there are currently 350 central state agencies. However, the rich data can be mined in other ways, enabling users to look at trends by reference to such characteristics as function (eg delivery, trading, regulation, adjudication), policy domain (eg health, education, transport), and legal form (eg statutory corporation, public company, company limited by guarantee). Some further information about the Database can be found here. Users need to register here to use this free resource. There will a be hands-on demonstration of the Database on 23 November, 3-5pm, in Room G-5, Daedalus Building, UCD Belfield Campus, with an emphasis on the range of potential applications. This event is open to all but requires advance booking with

Climate Change Bill

In Q4 2009, the Dept Environment published a Framework for the Climate Change Bill 2010 promising a Heads of Bill by Q1 2010. The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security decided not to wait for that and published a draft bill. This was “published” to members of the press last week, and has been made available to all this week.

There are two significant differences between the Government’s sketch and the Oireachtas’ draft. First, the Oireachtas sets a target for energy efficiency whereas the Government does not. Second, the Oireachtas puts an Taoiseach in charge whereas the Government puts the Minister of the Environment in charge.

Energy efficiency is a means to an end. Setting an energy efficiency target is therefore inappropriate. Greenhouse gas emissions are primarily from agriculture, energy and transport — that is, beyond the control of the Minister of the Environment. It is therefore appropriate to put an Taoiseach in charge.

The Oireachtas’ draft is considerably more detailed and specific than the Government’s sketch (as you would expect). It is long on creating bureaucracy but short on details how emissions would be cut.

Oireachtas and Government agree that the target for greenhouse gas emissions in 2050 is 20% of the 1990 level.

If we run Hermes/IDEM/ISus out to 2025 and extrapolate trends from there, assuming a 2% annual growth of the economy between 2025 and 2050, we find emissions of 49 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2050 — 87% of 1990 levels. 60% is from fossil fuel combustion, and 36% from agriculture.

If we double the rate of decarbonisation of the economy (3.3% for energy, 2.8% for construction, 0.2% for methane, 0.9% for nitrous oxide between 1990 and 2025 in the baseline), 2050 emissions fall to 44% of their 1990 levels.

If we triple the rate, emissions go to 29%. If we quadruple the rate, emissions go to 22%.

Quadrupling the rate of technological progress (broadly defined) is very hard — particularly since Ireland’s baseline rate is rather high compared to other countries.

If we do away with agriculture, 2050 emissions would be 56% of 1990 levels. Doubling the rate of progress in energy and construction would reduce emissions to 17%.

Doubling the rate of technological progress is hard. Methane- and nitrous-free agriculture is not easy either.

It strikes me that 80% emission reduction by 2050 is on the ambitious side.

I would think that it is better to implement realistic policies than to set unrealistic targets.


He_who_shall_not_be_named pointed out that the Oireachtas draft also has a target for 2020: -30%. We have repeatedly pointed out that the -20% target for that date cannot possibly be met without draconian measures such as a prolonged depression or a ban on cows. -30% is, of course, even more difficult.

Covanta writes off Poolbeg investment

(H/T to Joe & Valerie)

Covanta has written off its entire investment on the Poolbeg project in its 3Q results, citing the “political and regulatory environment” in Ireland. That’s just the sort of language we want in a SEC filing.

According to RTE, Covanta still intends to build the incinerator but does not feel bound to do so.

I’m not sure whether this is more bluff by Covanta, prudent accounting on their part, or a sign that Minister Gormley will after all waste a substantial sum of money, raise waste charges for everyone, and condemn the country’s waste to landfill for years to come.

Household waste management, episode N

The US Ambassador has again intervened in public in the row over the Poolbeg incinerator. Covanta flew some journalists to Copenhagen and they report enthusiastically about incineration there.

Covanta is concerned about the proposed (but unspecified) levies on incineration, though. They seem to accept the levies proposed by Gorecki et al and endorsed by Forfas. These levies reflect the estimated externalities of incineration, but are lower than the estimates by Eunomia. Minister Gormley, however, has proposed that levies should be unrelated to the damage caused, but should rather be set at punitive levels for undesirable technologies.

The public consultation on this has now been closed for two weeks, but the submissions have yet to be uploaded.

FDI in Ireland

Goerg, Hanley and Strobl write about FDI policy at Vox EU. Here’s the summary:

A chief concern for countries aiming to attract investment is how it will trickle down to the local economy. This column presents evidence on the effect of government grants to foreign companies investing in Ireland between 1983 and 2002. It finds that the grants had little effect on generating supply links with local firms and argues that governments should instead work towards reducing partner search costs.