Science and Sustainability - RESEARCH-BASED KNOWLEDGE FOR ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION - Epa

 
Science and Sustainability - RESEARCH-BASED KNOWLEDGE FOR ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION - Epa
Science and Sustainability
RESEARCH-BASED KNOWLEDGE
FOR ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION
Science and Sustainability - RESEARCH-BASED KNOWLEDGE FOR ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION - Epa
Environmental Protection Agency
           Office of Environmental Assessment
           EPA STRIVE Programme 2007–2013

Science and Sustainability:
 Research-based knowledge
for environmental protection

          Dr Shane Colgan and Dr Brian Donlon
                   STRIVE Programme

     ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
     An Ghníomhaireacht um Chaomhnú Comhshaoil
   PO Box 3000, Johnstown Castle, Co. Wexford, Ireland

  Telephone: +353 53 916 0600 Fax: +353 53 916 0699
         Email: info@epa.ie Website: www.epa.ie
                    LoCall 1890 33 55 99

        © Environmental Protection Agency 2010
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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

This report presents research funded as part of the Environmental Research Technological Development and Innovation
Programme (2000–2006) and the Science, Technology, Research and Innovation for the Environment Programme
(2007–2013) and the Climate Change Research Programme (2007–2013). These programmes are funded through the
Environment Fund, the Inter-Departmental Committee for the Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation and the
National Development Plan. They are administered on behalf of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local
Government by the Environmental Protection Agency, which has the statutory function of co-ordinating and promoting
environmental research.

The authors wish to thank and congratulate the many researchers involved for their achievements as described in this
report and for their ongoing commitment to protecting the environment.

One of the key strengths of the EPA research programmes is the specialist knowledge available from EPA experts to
support ongoing projects and identify research priorities. Acknowledgement is due to the large number of EPA staff
who provide guidance and assistance to EPA-funded research.

The main authors of this report were Dr Shane Colgan and Dr Brian Donlon. Input and assistance from other members
of EPA staff and management in the preparation of this report are gratefully recognised.                                          i

DISCLAIMER

Although every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the material contained in this publication, complete
accuracy cannot be guaranteed. Neither the Environmental Protection Agency nor the authors accept any responsibility
whatsoever for loss or damage occasioned, or claimed to have been occasioned, in part or in full as a consequence of any
person acting or refraining from acting, as a result of a matter contained in this publication. All or part of this publication
may be reproduced without further permission, provided the source is acknowledged.

                                            EPA STRIVE Programme 2007–2013
                                 Published by the Environmental Protection Agency, Ireland

                                               PRINTED ON RECYCLED PAPER

ISBN: 978-1-84095-366-4                                                                                              06/10/500

Price: Free
Science and Sustainability - RESEARCH-BASED KNOWLEDGE FOR ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION - Epa
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Science and Sustainability - RESEARCH-BASED KNOWLEDGE FOR ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION - Epa
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FOREWORD

           Targeted and reliable environmental research provides an authoritative
           scientific basis for environmental policy and decision making. Over recent
           years, there has been significant expenditure of public monies on research
           and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognises the need to
           ensure that a substantial return for this investment is achieved.

           Policy-related research plays a vital role in ensuring that European Union (EU)
           and national policies are implemented in the most cost-effective manner,
           thus minimising the burden to the State and to business. In this context,
           the return on investment in environmental research appears across a range
           of areas, including environmental protection, economic growth, sustainable
           development and national engagement with EU and United Nations processes.

           The EPA has been assigned a statutory role to co-ordinate environmental
           research and our programmes are carefully planned to complement and
           reinforce key responsibilities of the EPA and the Department of Environment,
           Heritage and Local Government. Building on our experience of environmental          iii
           monitoring, regulation and guidance, the EPA supports a broad-ranging
           programme of science to inform both environmental policy and the eco-
           innovation agenda.

           This report is timely in that it comes at a half-way point in the STRIVE research
           programme, which began in 2007 and continues to 2013. The report
           examines the role of research in underpinning environmental policy and
           also the role of the EPA in supporting environmental research in Ireland. It
           highlights how environmental research supports policy and, through a series
           of examples, demonstrates the benefits to Ireland that result from having a
           well-targeted and policy-relevant environmental research programme.

           I hope that you find this report informative and useful.

           Dr Mary Kelly
           Director General
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     TABLE OF CONTENTS

     EXECUTIVE SUMMARY                                                 v

     1      INTRODUCTION                                              1
            1.1    ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH AND POLICY                  1
            1.2    EPA-FUNDED RESEARCH                                2
            1.3    RESEARCH DELIVERING FOR POLICY                     3
            1.4    CAPACITY AND CAPABILITY BUILDING                   4
            1.5    NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL LINKAGES                6
            1.6    VALUE FOR MONEY                                    7

     2      SUPPORT FOR ENVIRONMENTAL POLICIES                        8
            2.1    CLIMATE CHANGE                                     8
            2.2    WATER QUALITY                                      11
iv          2.3    WASTE AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT                      12
            2.4    ENVIRONMENT AND HEALTH                             14
            2.5    SOCIO−ECONOMICS                                    15
            2.6    AIR QUALITY, DEPOSITION AND NOISE                  16
            2.7    BIODIVERSITY                                       17
            2.8    LAND USE AND SOILS                                 18

     3      SUPPORT FOR THE KNOWLEDGE ECONOMY                         21
            3.1    ENVIRONMENTAL TECHNOLOGIES                         21
            3.2    CLEANER GREENER PRODUCTION PROGRAMME               22
            3.3    EPA ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH CENTRE                  24

     4      FUTURE DIRECTIONS AND PRIORITIES                          26
            4.1    FUTURE DIRECTIONS                                  26
            4.2    PRIORITY AREAS: ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY SUPPORT       26
            4.3    PRIORITY AREAS: SUPPORTING THE KNOWLEDGE ECONOMY   26
            4.4    PRIORITY AREAS: CAPACITY AND CAPABILITY BUILDING   27
            4.5    CONCLUSION                                         27

      FURTHER READING                                                 28
      APPENDICES                                                      32
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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Research and innovation play a pivotal role in                     Ireland faces particular challenges in meeting environmental
environmental protection by providing information on               protection obligations under European legislation and
& assessments of the current state of the environment,             other internationally binding legal agreements. As noted in
building environmental projections & trends, and                   State of the Environment reporting, the most challenging
developing new tools for environmental management. The             commitments lie in the following areas (where there may
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Science, Technology,         be a danger of incurring financial penalties if targets are
Research and Innovation for the Environment (STRIVE)               not met):
Programme has been planned specifically to support
                                                                   – Preventing deterioration of water quality, under the
environmental research activity in areas closely aligned to
                                                                     Water Framework Directive (WFD);
policy needs. Since 2000, the EPA has supported over 600
research projects ranging in size from individual scholarships     – Reducing greenhouse gases (GHGs), under the Kyoto
to large interdisciplinary collaborative projects. Collectively,     Protocol and the European Commission’s Climate Action
these projects are strongly targeted at three critical areas:        and Renewable Energy Package;
                                                                   – Developing information and methodologies on the
1. Informing policy development and implementation:
                                                                     cost of failing to take action to preserve or improve
   generating new knowledge to underpin national
                                                                     environmental quality (Cost of Inaction);                          v
   responses to environmental challenges and drivers
                                                                   – Fulfilling national obligations on the designation,
   including Climate Change, Water Quality and Waste
                                                                     classification, management and protection of sites,
   Management;
                                                                     under the Habitats and Birds Directives;
2. Green innovation: assisting national efforts in                 – Achieving emission reduction targets for transboundary
   developing the smart economy by sharing and                       gases, particularly nitrogen oxide emissions, under the
   embedding the EPA’s environmental expertise with                  National Emission Ceilings Directive; and
   groups leading innovation in this area; and
                                                                   – Reducing biodegradable waste sent to landfill, under
3. Research capacity: developing Ireland’s research                  the European Union (EU) Landfill Directive.
   and development (R&D) capabilities to support future
                                                                   Additional challenges exist in the implementation of
   environmental policy development and green-enterprise
                                                                   environmental legislation such as the Environmental
   activities.
                                                                   Liabilities Directive, the REACH Regulation1, the Waste
The EPA manages environmental research funding on behalf           Framework Directive and the Soil Framework Directive.
of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local
                                                                   The effective use of research findings is a critical part of
Government (DEHLG) with a view to developing the skill
                                                                   achieving an evidence-based approach to environmental
base and knowledge necessary for effective environmental
                                                                   protection. In order to harness the knowledge and capabilities
protection. The funding provided supports an extensive
                                                                   of the research sector, three conditions are required:
programme of environmental research − including policy –
focused research and technical development projects. This          1. Relevance: Carefully planning at programme level
approach is complemented by a parallel aim to develop                 to ensure that the research addresses pressing policy
research capability from a historically low base. Funding             questions;
is provided through a series of open calls, with proposals
evaluated by peer review prior to selection and grant award.       2. Quality: The work undertaken must be carefully managed
At all stages in the process from scoping call documents              to ensure that it is robust and quality assured; and
through to management of the research projects, there is
                                                                   3. Implementation: organisations involved in making and
a strong emphasis on alignment with STRIVE programme
                                                                      implementing policy must utilise the research outputs.
aims, including informing environmental policy.

                                                                   1   REACH Regulation, the Regulation for Registration, Evaluation,
                                                                       Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals.
Science and Sustainability - RESEARCH-BASED KNOWLEDGE FOR ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION - Epa
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     Since 2000, EPA research funding has provided strong           Waste and Resource Management
     support to knowledge generation across a wide range of
                                                                    – A key finding from a research report led to the
     issues in environmental protection. This report outlines
                                                                      establishment within the EPA of the National Waste
     the policy context for EPA-funded research and includes
                                                                      Prevention Programme (NWPP) in 2004. NWPP activities
     a synthesis of some of the key outcomes from research
                                                                      have a strong regard to the need to prevent or divert
     funded by the EPA on a thematic basis. Examples are given
                                                                      biodegradable waste from landfill (as provided for in
     below that demonstrate the contribution of policy-relevant
                                                                      the National Strategy on Biodegradable Waste) and to
     research to environmental protection across ten priority
                                                                      improving hazardous waste management. Other work
     thematic areas.
                                                                      to prevent wastage of water and energy ensures that
                                                                      contributions are also made from the NWPP to the
     Climate Change
                                                                      Water Framework and Climate Change agendas.
     – EPA research funding has established new national
       capacity to forecast future climate conditions in Ireland,   – Research models have generated national projections
       which did not exist prior to 2000.                             for waste generation and management in Ireland up to
                                                                      2020 − allowing policy and decision makers to forecast
     – Research on GHG emissions from agriculture has been            future waste issues and likely policy responses.
       central to the development of improved inventories for
       Ireland for the 1990–2004 period.                            – Recent research investigated the potential role that
                                                                      mechanical biological treatment (MBT) of waste can
     – Research indicates that grasslands can take up between         play within the Irish waste management sector.
       11 and 18 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the air per
       hectare per year. Most of the carbon dioxide is recycled     Environment and Health
vi     as animal feed but it is estimated that 10–15% of
                                                                    – Researchers funded by the EPA have developed new
       the carbon is sequestered into the soil, where it can
                                                                      research capability and have provided timely knowledge
       reside for much longer time periods, with a positive
                                                                      and assistance to local authorities in dealing with
       environmental benefit.
                                                                      significant health scares and outbreaks (e.g. the Galway
     – Analysis provided by EPA-funded research provided the          Cryptosporidium outbreak in 2007).
       basis for reporting a reduction of GHG emissions from
                                                                    – A project established in 2007 is working with UK experts
       landfills of 0.7 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent
                                                                      to develop Irish expertise and to provide knowledge
       annually. This has been estimated to provide savings of
                                                                      for estimating the size of the health burden that is
       approximately €50 million to the State over the Kyoto
                                                                      attributable to air pollution within homes.
       Protocol period.
                                                                    Socio−Economics
     Water Quality
                                                                    – The EPA has funded the development of a Sustainable
     – Contributions from research under the WFD include
                                                                      Development Research Model for Ireland (ISus) which
       the development of novel methodologies for the
                                                                      forecasts environmental emissions (to air, soil and water)
       characterisation of waterbodies and determination
                                                                      and natural resource use (energy, land and water) to
       of reference baseline conditions.
                                                                      2025. Linked to the HERMES macroeconomic model for
     – Detailed analysis of the impact of WFD-related                 Ireland, ISus allows integrated planning of economic and
       research projects has indicated that 62% of projects           environmental development.
       demonstrated a high level of policy impact.
                                                                    – An EPA-funded research project has calculated a detailed
     – A cluster of research projects on eutrophication has           ecological footprint of Ireland, which shows that if
       provided scientific data to support appropriate measures       everyone on earth consumed at the same level as an
       or actions for use in the implementation of national           Irish citizen then resources equivalent to three times
       policy for reducing phosphorus and nitrogen losses to          those available on Earth would be needed.
       waters from agricultural sources. Findings from this work
       provided the basis of existing advice and measures for
       reducing nutrient losses from agriculture to water.
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Biodiversity                                                   – A research team has patented a technology for the
                                                                 conversion of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) into
– The biodiversity project ‘Ag-Biota’ has identified
                                                                 biodegradable plastic. A spin-out company, Bioplastech
  suitable bio-indicators for the environmental impacts of
                                                                 Ltd, was founded in 2008 to develop this biodegradable
  agriculture. Outputs from the Ag-Biota project represent
                                                                 polymer as a new market product.
  a significant input to Ireland’s obligations under the
  United Nations (UN) Convention on Biological Diversity
  (CBD) and will assist in the national aspiration to halt     Cleaner Greener Production Programme
  and reverse the decline in biodiversity within the wider     (CGPP)
  countryside.
                                                               – Environmental savings achieved by 22 organisations
– Other long-term research projects, still in progress, will     under Phase 2 of the CGPP have been quantified as:
  quantify the impact of key sectors on biodiversity (e.g.       3,500 tonnes per annum of GHGs, 1,550 tonnes per
  bio-energy crops, road landscaping and aquaculture),           annum of waste arisings, and 120,000 m3 per annum
  and directly address the protection and management             of water savings. Further analysis of this phase of the
  of ecological resources in the context of environmental        CGPP showed that significant financial benefits were
  change (e.g. climate change, pollution and resource            also realised, with a once-off EPA grant of €1 million,
  management).                                                   resulting in ongoing savings of €1.6 million per annum
                                                                 to the participating organisations.
Land Use and Soils
                                                               – A project on Greening Irish Hotels developed
– An EPA-funded project on the urban environment
                                                                 environmental programmes for 56 hotels with
  published the Green City Guidelines which provided
                                                                 quantifiable environmental achievements, including
  practical ways for local authorities, planners and                                                                          vii
                                                                 1,113 tonnes of waste diverted from landfill and 3,000+
  property developers to protect and enhance biodiversity
                                                                 tonnes of carbon dioxide output reduced. This initiative
  in medium- to high-density urban developments.
                                                                 has since further developed into the Green Hospitality
– The BOGLAND project is reviewing knowledge on social,          Award which now has approximately 150 members,
  economic, environmental and institutional aspects of           who in 2008 achieved savings of over €3 million while
  peatland utilisation and management to develop a               improving their environmental performance.
  protocol for the sustainable management of peatlands
                                                               Environmental Research Centre
  in Ireland. Peatlands cover over 16% of the land area
  of Ireland (circa 1.3 million hectares), and represent       – The EPA has developed the SAFER-Data2 system as a
  important habitats including many Special Protection           user-friendly archive of environmental research data
  Areas (SPAs) and Special Areas of Conservation (SACs).         facilitating dissemination to other users − with over
                                                                 1,400 datasets and downloads now exceeding 13,000.
Environmental Technologies
                                                               – Research on the effectiveness of EPA regulation activities
– A state-of-the-art experimental wastewater treatment
                                                                 found that integrated licensing reduced pollution by
  plant at Tuam, Co. Galway, has been established
                                                                 35% and individual emissions by between 8% and 49%
  through EPA funding with the co-operation of the
                                                                 compared with hypothetical ‘no-improvement’ emissions.
  National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG) and
  Galway County Council. The facility will advance the         – Working with Met Éireann, the EPA has established
  development & testing of novel technologies and                new monitoring and analytical capacity in relation to
  facilitate practice-based training & education to support      transboundary air pollutants and has supported further
  environmental policy.                                          development of the Global Atmosphere Watch station
                                                                 at Mace Head.
– A survey of 18 large-scale projects funded by the EPA
  since 2005 found that the research investment had led        – EPA funding has supported the development and
  to wider benefits, including the filing of five patents,       deployment of a fully autonomous device for real-
  with seven additional patents in preparation, one license      time measurement of the main components of landfill
  agreement, and one new spin-off company.                       gas, with potential to replace the current method of
                                                                 monitoring using hand-held instruments.

                                                               2   SAFER, Secure Archive for Environmental Research.
Science and Sustainability - RESEARCH-BASED KNOWLEDGE FOR ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION - Epa
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       Conclusions
                                                                         EPA R&D Funding at a Glance:
       Environmental issues tend to be complex and influenced
       by a range of causal factors. Effective environmental             Since 2000, the EPA, on behalf of the DEHLG,
       policies therefore require robust and in-depth knowledge to       has invested over €110 million in environmental
       underpin actions. This knowledge is best delivered through        research and innovation. Further matching funding
       a systematic programme of environmental research which            amounting to €23 million has been secured through
       complements the EPA’s own assessment and monitoring               co-funding arrangements in this period. These research
       programmes. As shown in this report, EPA-funded research          programmes have…
       has provided significant support for environmental policy         …funded over 600 research projects,
       and decision making at national and international levels.
                                                                                      Scholarships [PhD + MSc]                                                                              200
       A strong portfolio of environment technology research
                                                                                      Large research projects                           3
                                                                                                                                                                                            247
       has been established, focused on areas where the EPA’s
       role as an environmental regulator and monitor provides                        Desk studies and other projects                                                                       82
       added value. Collaboration between researchers and EPA                         Cleaner Greener Production                                                                            75
       staff brings together lab-based innovations with real-world
       experience and samples to steer novel ideas into practice.        …resulted in over 200 reports and other publications,
       This work will make a significant contribution to the
                                                                                      Published research reports                                                                            123
       development of Ireland’s Smart Economy.
                                                                                      Guidance notes, briefings, etc.                                                                       76
       A review of EPA research funding reported that the EPA has
       been “undeniably successful in building up, from almost           …generated over 1,400 datasets for further analysis
viii   zero and in a comparatively short period of time, the             and research,
       environmental research capability in Ireland” (CIRCA Group
                                                                                      Resources                                                                                             154
       (Europe) Ltd, 2007).
                                                                                      Datasets                                                                                       1,449
       Continued strong investment in environmental
       research is crucial to support policy formation and               …and supported a strong increase in academic
       implementation, as today’s environmental research                 research outputs.
       will become tomorrow’s environmental protection.                                     600
                                                                                                    Numer of Papers
                                                                                                                                                                                             4.5

                                                                                                    Citations per Paper                                                                      4.0
                                                                                            500
                                                                                                                                                                                             3.5

                                                                                            400                                                                                              3.0

                                                                                                                                                                                                   Citations per Paper
                                                                         Number of Papers

                                                                                                                                                                                             2.5
                                                                                            300
                                                                                                                                                                                             2.0

                                                                                            200                                                                                              1.5

                                                                                                                                                                                             1.0
                                                                                            100
                                                                                                                                                                                             0.5

                                                                                              0                                                                                              0.0
                                                                                                  1998-2002     1999-2003   2000-2004       2001-2005   2002-2006   2003-2007   2004-2008

                                                                         A list of Principal Investigators funded through the
                                                                         EPA’s research programmes (2000–2010) is shown in
                                                                         Appendix 1.

                                                                     3                      EPA commitment of greater than €100,000.
S C I E N C E A N D S U S TA I N A B I L I T Y

1 – INTRODUCTION

The overall finding of the most recent Environmental                                 1.1 ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH AND POLICY
Protection Agency (EPA) State of the Environment Report
(Ireland’s Environment 2008) is that the quality of the                              The European Commission Science Meets Policy event in
environment is relatively good although there are a number                           2006 identified that research has a number of different
of significant challenges ahead. As noted in that report, the                        roles to play in policy development, including:
four main environmental challenges facing Ireland in the
                                                                                     – Provision of information to support policy choices by
coming years are:
                                                                                       analysing consequences and examining alternatives;
1. Limiting and adapting to climate change;                                          – Development of tools and provision of reference data
2. Reversing environmental degradation – particularly in                               for implementing and monitoring policies; and
   relation to water pollution and the conservation status                           – Generation of new knowledge to challenge existing
   of habitats;                                                                        policies and possibly lead to re-framing of policy
3. Mainstreaming environmental considerations across all                               problems.
   sectors of the economy; and
                                                                                     Research is needed for the implementation of Ireland’s
4. Complying with environmental legislation and agreements.                          international commitments, to meet the needs arising
                                                                                     from existing and emerging policies, and to support action
                                                                                                                                                     1
The report also underlined the role that science, research
                                                                                     plans and thematic strategies. As shown in Figure 1, there
and innovation play in responding to environmental
                                                                                     is a close relationship between research and policy. From
protection challenges. In particular, it identified that
                                                                                     preliminary and scoping studies through to analysis and
high-quality research provides a foundation for credible
                                                                                     assessment of policy options and finally to providing tools
decision making. The complexity of existing and emerging
                                                                                     for policy implementation, research has a strong role to play
environmental issues and the range of causal factors mean
                                                                                     in the development and practice of evidence-based policy.
that environmental policies must be underpinned by an
in-depth level of knowledge that can only be delivered
through a systematic programme of environmental research.

                                                 POLICY-MAKING PROCESS    

                  ANALYSIS                                              FORMULATION                                      IMPLEMENTATION

    Identify the                   Build                       Identify                   Preferred                Implement          Evaluate
                                                                                                                             
      problem                    evidence                      options                     option                   the policy       the policy

          é                           é                            é                            é                      é                 é

              Horizon scanning                                 Data analysis & assessment                              Method development

         Fundamental research                                   Reports & research briefs                              Modelling & guidance

       Experiments & modelling                                          Policy options                                Assessment & feedback

                                                    é é é é RESEARCH INPUTS é é é é

Figure 1:
The role of research in supporting the policy-making process4.

4     After: Collins T., The Policy Cycle, NUI Maynooth, (http://library.nuim.ie/documents/Policycycle.pdf).
S C I E N C E A N D S U S TA I N A B I L I T Y

    Better environmental governance involves making policy         – Should have the prospect of leverage of external
    decisions based on evidence and taking decisions in              (national, EU, business) research funding; and
    consultation with relevant national stakeholders, including    – Should be an existing core of national research
    academia. Research only provides an effective input to           competence in the field.
    environmental policies if researchers and policy makers
    co-operate closely to understand specific needs, ensure        In 2007, the Department of Environment, Heritage and
    the relevance of topics, and improve communication             Local Government (DEHLG) allocated further funding to the
    and take-up of research findings.                              EPA specifically for a Climate Change Research Programme
                                                                   (CCRP). This funding became available initially from the
                                                                   Inter-Departmental Committee for the Strategy for Science,
    1.2 EPA-FUNDED RESEARCH                                        Technology and Innovation (IDC-SSTI) and is directed at
    The EPA research programme for the period 2007–2013 is         addressing specific knowledge gaps of direct relevance to
    entitled Science, Technology, Research and Innovation for      the National Climate Change Strategy. The major aim of
    the Environment (STRIVE). The programme aims to protect        the CCRP is to support the development of policy responses
    and improve the natural environment by addressing key          appropriate for Ireland in the context of national needs and
    environmental management issues through the provision of       wider EU/international actions. The specific objectives of the
    world-class scientific knowledge. This is achieved through a   CCRP include:
    competitive programme of research developed, supported         – To provide a science-based analytic framework for
    and co-ordinated by the EPA.                                     national actions;
    The research funded by the STRIVE programme is designed        – To inform and support engagement at EU and United
    to give practical impacts in terms of informing and              Nations (UN) levels; and
2   supporting policy and decision makers.                         – To enable Ireland to avail of the opportunities that will
                                                                     arise from global actions to address climate change.
    The STRIVE programme supports applied environmental
    research, including policy-focused research and technical      EPA-funded research delivers a high-quality policy-focused
    development projects. This approach is complemented            evidence base through the measures noted above and
    by a parallel aim to develop research capability from a        by encouraging active dissemination of research outputs.
    historically low base. Funding is provided through a series    Since 2000, the EPA has supported over 600 research
    of open calls, with proposals evaluated by peer review prior   projects ranging in size from individual scholarships to large
    to selection and grant award. At all stages in the process,    interdisciplinary collaborative projects. The breakdown of
    from scoping call documents through to management              these awards is shown in the table below.
    of the research projects, there is a strong emphasis
    on alignment with STRIVE programme aims, including                 Project type                                         No.
    informing environmental policy. The following criteria are         Scholarships [PhD + MSc]                             200
    applied to identify the research areas for inclusion in the        Large research projects  5
                                                                                                                            247
    STRIVE programme (EPA, 2007):
                                                                       Desk studies and other projects                       82
    – Should be of significant relevance to environmental              Cleaner Greener Production                            75
      policy and legislative frameworks (including international
      commitments, protocols and initiatives, legislative and      In financial terms, this represents an investment of over
      policy requirements, European Union (EU) thematic            €110 million in research and development (R&D) which has
      strategies and action plans);                                been provided through the National Development Plans
                                                                   (NDPs), the Environment Fund and the IDC-SSTI. Further
    – Should be of significant relevance to objectives of
                                                                   matching funding amounting to €23 million has been
      the EPA strategy, other national strategies and/or
                                                                   secured though co-funding arrangements in this period6.
      be a priority area as outlined in recent State of the
      Environment and indicator reports;                           In terms of selection of specific projects for funding,
    – Should contribute to the environment element of              scientific excellence is the initial criterion enforced
      the Knowledge Economy;                                       through a rigorous peer-review process. A complementary
    – Should be distinctive or complementary to research           evaluation is carried out by national-overview panels to
      funded by other national research funders;
                                                                   5     EPA commitment of greater than €100,000.
                                                                   6     See Appendix 2.
S C I E N C E A N D S U S TA I N A B I L I T Y

ensure a good fit between the proposed research and
Ireland’s policy needs (current and emerging). Once selected
for funding, major projects are required to form a steering
group of national and international experts to ensure
that the research is of a high quality and continues to
be focused on its main objectives.

On completion of the project, a number of reports are
produced to meet the requirements of various users from
a 2- to 3-page briefing note for policy makers to a 200- to
300-page technical report for following researchers. For
reports with significant public and/or practitioner interest,
additional dissemination activities are used, including
launch events, press releases and seminars.                                Minister for Environment, Heritage and Local Government,
                                                                           John Gormley TD pictured in 2009 at the launch of the EPA
    Published research reports (2000−2009)                          123    report, Innovation for a Green Economy with Dr Mary
    Guidance notes, briefings, etc.                                  76    Kelly, Director General EPA and Larry Stapleton, Director EPA

Datasets and other research outputs produced by EPA                        In 2000 and 2006, the EPA arranged consultation
STRIVE research are stored and distributed by the EPA’s                    workshops to establish research priorities within identified
SAFER7-Data research archive (http://erc.epa.ie/safer). Data               thematic areas. Participants at these workshops included
holdings are grouped by ‘Resource’, where each represents                  representatives from government departments & agencies,
a particular project or activity. Within SAFER-Data, each                  local authorities, the research community, industry and         3
resource is fully catalogued in compliance with the                        non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
requirements of the EU INSPIRE8 Metadata Regulation.
                                                                           At a project management level, overview panels guide
    Resources                                                       154    the final selection of projects for funding in the context of
    Datasets                                                       1,449   national priorities, and project steering groups that include
                                                                           national and international experts guide ongoing projects.

1.3 RESEARCH DELIVERING FOR POLICY                                         In this manner, the EPA aligns overall direction of the
                                                                           research programme to the needs of those involved in both
Since the commencement of the Environmental Research                       the formulation and implementation of environmental
Technological Development and Innovation (ERTDI)                           policies. Figure 2 (below) provides an illustration of the
programme in 2000, research funded by the EPA has                          keywords in EPA-funded projects.
delivered a large volume of knowledge to support
environmental protection.

Policy relevance is a fundamental consideration in the
planning of the EPA’s research programmes. Research
objectives and major thematic areas are identified
through consultation with staff from the DEHLG and
the EPA. This process is then supplemented by review of
policy documents and legislation and engagement with
international bodies (such as the European Commission) on
EU & global priorities. The programmes are aligned to the
national research strategy through co-operation with other
Irish research funders.

                                                                           Figure 2:
                                                                           Tag-cloud representation of key terms in EPA-funded
                                                                           research projects.
7     SAFER, Secure Archive for Environmental Research.
8     INSPIRE, Infrastructure for Spatial InfoRmation in Europe.
S C I E N C E A N D S U S TA I N A B I L I T Y

    Figure 3:
4   Thematic breakdown of EPA funding to research projects 2000–2009.

    As noted above, EPA-funded research produces a significant    1.4 CAPACITY AND CAPABILITY BUILDING
    body of applied knowledge that has been carefully planned
    and executed to meet identified policy needs. From a          Starting from a low base in 2000, environmental research
    policy point of view, outputs from EPA-funded research        capacity in Ireland has been substantially strengthened
    are applied for a range of purposes from managing single-     through the support of the EPA research programmes.
    house wastewater treatment systems to providing national
    data towards meeting Ireland’s commitments under the
    Kyoto Protocol.                                                 Key Achievements:

    On a thematic basis, the EPA research and innovation            u A review of EPA research funding (2000–2006)
    investment is as shown in Figure 3.                               reported that the EPA was “undeniably
                                                                      successful in building up, from almost zero and
    ‘Support for policy’ can be related to environmental
                                                                      in a comparatively short period of time, the
    challenges and drivers (Section 2) or to assisting national
                                                                      environmental research capability in Ireland”
    efforts in developing the Knowledge Economy (Section 3)
                                                                      (CIRCA Group (Europe) Ltd, 2007).
    and this is discussed in more detail later in this report.
                                                                    u Establishment of scholarship schemes to support
                                                                      PhD and MSc students (almost 200 to date) and
                                                                      postdoctoral opportunities to support research
                                                                      career progression.
                                                                    u Establishment of a scheme to support the purchase
                                                                      of key environmental research infrastructure.
                                                                    u Doubling of the publication rate for Irish researchers
                                                                      publishing in the environment & ecology area and
                                                                      a significant increase in citations (reflecting the high
                                                                      quality and relevance of the research).
S C I E N C E A N D S U S TA I N A B I L I T Y

                       600                                                                                                                       4.5
                                 Numer of Papers

                                 Citations per Paper                                                                                             4.0
                       500
                                                                                                                                                 3.5

                       400                                                                                                                       3.0

                                                                                                                                                       Citations per Paper
    Number of Papers

                                                                                                                                                 2.5
                       300
                                                                                                                                                 2.0

                       200                                                                                                                       1.5

                                                                                                                                                 1.0
                       100
                                                                                                                                                 0.5

                         0                                                                                                                       0.0
                             1998-2002         1999-2003          2000-2004         2001-2005     2002-2006       2003-2007       2004-2008

Figure 4:
Bibliometric indicators in the environment & ecology area for Ireland.
                                                                                                                                                                             5

In addition to staff working on funded projects9, the                                     Publication of research papers in international journals
EPA has provided direct scholarships to support 151 PhD                                   (and citing of these publications by scientific peers) is a key
students and 41 MSc students. These activities form part of                               indicator of research quality. Researchers working on EPA-
the EPA’s response to and the targets set in the Strategy for                             funded projects are actively encouraged to publish results
Science, Technology and Innovation regarding increasing                                   and to present their findings at international conferences.
research capability through human capital investment. In                                  As a result of increased funding to environmental research
2007, the Developing Environmental Research Potential                                     and the high quality of the work undertaken, strong
(DERP) scheme supported three outstanding early-                                          growth is observed in key bibliometric indicators for the
career researchers by providing funding to them for the                                   environment & ecology area.
establishment of new research groups.

In response to the joint Higher Education Authority (HEA)/
Forfás review Research Infrastructure in Ireland − Building
for Tomorrow, the EPA introduced a scheme to provide
75% funding towards the procurement of key equipment
identified as deficient in research institutions. Under
this initiative, 13 significant projects were supported,
representing a national investment of over €2.25 million
in critical environmental research infrastructure.

                                                                                          Students at Cork Institute of Technology receiving
9                 A recent exercise for the Higher Education Research Group (HERG)        postgraduate degrees under the EPA scholarship scheme.
                  indicated that approximately 300 people are working full-time on EPA-
                  funded research projects (at PhD, Postdoctoral and Research Assistant
                  levels) along with over 50 Principal Investigators.
S C I E N C E A N D S U S TA I N A B I L I T Y

    1.5 NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL                                 EPA research funding is offered on an all-island basis and
    LINKAGES                                                       several projects have been initiated with partners and/or
                                                                   co-ordinators based in institutes in Northern Ireland. The
    The EPA has developed linkages with many organisations         EPA is a member of the Scotland & Northern Ireland Forum
    with a view to promoting best practice in areas of mutual      for Environmental Research (SNIFFER) and has participated
    responsibility and common interest. These linkages             in co-funding a number of all-island studies to support
    include co-funding arrangements, participation in advisory     implementation of the Water Framework Directive (WFD).
    committees, and memoranda of understanding (MoUs).
                                                                   A number of critical international linkages have also been
     Linkage           Organisation                                established to promote Irish environmental research into
     EPA & DEHLG       It is estimated that 50−60 EPA and          the international arena, including enhanced participation in
     input:            DEHLG staff are involved in the             the European Research Area (ERA). For the EU Framework
                       research programme at any time:             research programme10, EPA staff members play roles as
                       developing new research, providing          national contact points and national experts under the
                       data and samples; and participating         Environment theme, while the EPA Director General sits on
                       in project steering committees. This        the Environment Advisory Group charged with advising the
                       activity is critical in targeting the       European Commission on strategy, objectives and priorities
                       research programme and in bringing          for the programme.
                       outputs into use for policy support.
                                                                   To support the participation of the Irish research community
     Formal            Teagasc, Marine Institute, Department
                                                                   in EU research funding calls for proposals, the EPA launched
     co-funding        of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food,
                                                                   an Online Catalogue of Irish Expertise in Environmental
     arrangements:     National Council for Forest Research
                                                                   Research which has been accessed by over 4,000
6                      and Development (COFORD), Met
                                                                   researchers throughout Europe11.
                       Éireann, Sustainable Energy Ireland,
                       Fáilte Ireland, National Parks and          To date, there are 20 successful projects in the FP7
                       Wildlife Service.                           Environment theme with Irish partners, including one
     Co-operative      Enterprise Ireland, Science Foundation      project coordinated by Ireland (CoralFish – National
     linkages:         Ireland, Health Research Board,             University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG)). The tables below
                       Irish Research Council for Science,         provide the details on the level of Irish participation under
                       Engineering & Technology (IRCSET),          the first three FP7 Environment calls.
                       Enterprise Ireland FP-7 Office, Irish
                                                                   Irish participation in the 2007–2009 Environment Calls:
                       Business and Employers Confederation
                       (IBEC), COMHAR (the Sustainable                     Irish                     Irish            % Success rate
                       Development Council), National                  participants              participants
                       Biodiversity Data Centre, Heritage              2007−2009                in successful
                       Council.                                                                   proposals
     Advisory          Higher Education Research Group,                      102                        26                    25.5
     Committees        Fáilte Ireland, Health Service Executive,
     and MoUs:         Environmental Scientists Association of     Percentage Irish take of the total environment budget,
                       Ireland.                                    2007−2009:

    There are many environmental issues that have a similar            % Irish take of total                   National target
    impact both for Northern Ireland and the Republic of               environment budget
    Ireland, offering strong prospects for successful and                          0.91                                0.80
    productive co-operation. From a North–South perspective,

                                                                   10 The Seventh Framework Programme for research and technological
                                                                      development (FP7) is the European Union’s chief instrument for funding
                                                                      research over the period 2007−2013. Under FP7, a budget of €1,890
                                                                      million is allocated for research activities in the area Environment
                                                                      (including Climate Change).
                                                                   11 http://erc.epa.ie/fp7catalogue/
S C I E N C E A N D S U S TA I N A B I L I T Y

The EPA also participates in a wide range of international             1.6 VALUE FOR MONEY
networks (ERA-NETs) to share experience and to co-ordinate
research activities with other similar organisations across            External evaluations of the EPA’s research funding were
Europe. It is involved in four of these networks as shown              undertaken in 2004 and in 2007, marking the mid-point
below.                                                                 and end point of research funding provided by the NDP
                                                                       (2000−2006). These evaluations were based on assessment
 Title             Objective                                           of the programme by experts, supplemented by interviews
 SKEP    12
                   SKEP is a partnership of 17 government              with researchers and research users regarding the scope
                   ministries and agencies from 13 European            and effectiveness of the research and its outputs. Overall,
                   countries responsible for funding                   the evaluations were broadly very positive, with some
                   environmental research. The project                 recommendations to streamline workflows, which were
                   aims to improve the co-ordination of                mostly adopted.
                   environmental research in Europe − with
                                                                       The 2007 review was carried out by CIRCA Group (Europe)
                   a particular focus on better environmental
                                                                       Ltd and produced an overarching finding that the ERTDI
                   regulation.
                                                                       programme had been successful in building up, from
 CIRCLE13          Climate impact analysis and adaptation              almost zero and in a comparatively short period of time,
                   response must be informed by a coherent             the environmental research capability in Ireland. In the
                   body of research and it is CIRCLE’s prime           review, operating procedures within the ERTDI programme
                   objective to contribute to such efforts by          were benchmarked against two national research funding
                   networking and aligning national research           agencies (the Health Research Board and the Department
                   programmes in the 19 CIRCLE partner                 of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food’s FIRM programme) and
                   countries.                                          one external funding agency (SNIFFER). It was found that      7
 ENVHEALTH         The ERA-ENVHEALTH consortium is a                   the procedures adopted by the EPA are broadly in line with
                   network of 16 public bodies responsible             international best practice in research funding.
                   for financing or managing research
                   programmes in environment and health.               Within the EPA, a value-for-money methodology for Irish
                   The aim of the activity is to enhance               environmental research was developed and published
                   co-ordination of European environment               in the IPA Journal Administration (O’Leary et al., 2008)
                   and health research.                                (see Appendix 1). This method was used by the SKEP
                                                                       network as a case study in a report comparing programme
 ECO-              The primary objective of ECO-INNOVERA
                                                                       evaluation across European environmental research funders.
 INNOVERA          is to pool Europe’s most relevant
                   research and innovation programmes on
                   eco-innovation in order to reduce the
                   fragmentation of the European research
                   landscape in this field.

12 SKEP, Scientific Knowledge for Environmental Protection.
13 CIRCLE, Climate Impact Research Coordination for a Larger Europe.
S C I E N C E A N D S U S TA I N A B I L I T Y

    2 – SUPPORT FOR ENVIRONMENTAL POLICIES

    The EPA’s research programmes have been planned                       Climate change research in Ireland provides scientific
    specifically to support environmental R&D activity in areas           support, analysis and information to inform actions and
    aligned to policy needs. Research findings are used to                to support policy responses. Specific issues include:
    identify and address knowledge gaps associated with new
    legislation, to provide national context for negotiations on          – Ensuring that the national GHG inventory is based on
    future legal commitments and to evaluate the effectiveness              the best possible science and is subject to independent
    of current policies.                                                    verification;
                                                                          – Identification of pathways for achievement of a carbon-
    EPA-funded research delivers knowledge across all aspects               neutral Ireland by 2050;
    of environmental protection. It is informed by consultation
                                                                          – Ensuring that actions taken to adapt to climate change
    with government and other stakeholders, and is focused
                                                                            are informed by best available analysis to reduce impacts
    on the needs associated with policy and legislative drivers.
                                                                            and minimise risk;
    The following sections review major research drivers by               – Scientific engagement with international bodies and
    thematic area and highlight how EPA-funded research                     processes working on climate change issues; and
    projects are examples of these.                                       – Enabling Ireland to avail of the opportunities that will
8                                                                           arise from global actions to address climate change.
    2.1 CLIMATE CHANGE
                                                                            Key Achievements:
    Climate change is generally considered to be the most
    significant environmental challenge facing the world.                   u Publication of A Summary of the State of Knowledge
    Addressing this challenge will require an unprecedented                   on Climate Change Impacts for Ireland, which
    change in society and key economic areas. Major investments               provides an overview of current and potential climate
    are required in actions to reduce and eliminate emissions of              change impacts broken down by economic and
    greenhouse gases (GHGs) and to address the consequences                   social sectors. Following its launch by the Minister
    of climate change. Climate change is by its nature cross-                 for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government
    cutting and transcends many of the normal operational                     in 2009, it received extensive public attention and is
    and policy boundaries. Actions on climate change are                      cited in the Framework for the Climate Change Bill.
    also uniquely driven by science, through the work of the                  The report also identifies gaps in knowledge to help
    Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).                         define future research priorities.
                                                                            u Development of new national capacity to model
    Under the Kyoto Protocol, Ireland has committed to limiting
                                                                              future climate conditions in Ireland − which did not
    the increase in GHG emissions in the period 2008−2012
                                                                              exist prior to 2000. The National Climate Change
    to 13% above its 1990 levels. Current levels of Irish GHG
                                                                              Strategy 2007−2012 notes that “the [EPA-funded]
    emissions are approximately 20% above 1990 levels. The
                                                                              C4I project has developed climate modelling for
    EU is also committed to achieving at least a 20% reduction
                                                                              Ireland and is a crucial component of national
    in GHG emissions by 2020, compared with 1990 levels.
                                                                              capacity required to inform policy development”.
    This target will be increased to a 30% reduction if other
                                                                              The Government is committed to sustaining and
    developed countries commit to comparable reductions14. The
                                                                              developing a climate-modelling framework within
    National Climate Change Strategy sets out a pathway for
                                                                              Met Éireann, building on the C4I (Community Climate
    achievement of national targets. The Government has also
                                                                              Change Consortium for Ireland) project to do so.
    produced a White Paper on Delivering a Sustainable Energy
    Future for Ireland and a National Bioenergy Action Plan.

    14 European Commission Communication, Limiting Global Climate
       Change to 2 degrees Celsius − The way ahead for 2020 and beyond,
       COM(2007) 2.
S C I E N C E A N D S U S TA I N A B I L I T Y

                                                                   Further reading: Sweeney et al., 2003, 2009; Desmond
  Key Achievements:                                                et al., 2009.
  u Research on GHG emissions from agriculture has
                                                                   Scientific Predictions of the Irish Climate in the
    been central to the development of improved
                                                                   21st Century
    inventories for Ireland for the 1990–2004 period.
    This work has been recognised to be of international           The C4I Project has established a substantial national climate
    standing (UNFCC15, 4th Assessment IPCC16 Report),              modelling capability for the benefit of Irish scientists, policy
    and related work in this area has identified likely            makers and other users. Initial findings of the group were
    significant impacts nationwide in key sectoral areas           published in 2008, with predictions of critical relevance for
    such as agriculture, marine and water resources.               sectors such as agriculture, planning and energy, including:
  u A review of landfill management practices
                                                                   – Ireland’s climate will continue to warm, particularly in
    and methane capture and utilisation at landfill
                                                                     the summer and autumn seasons. The greatest warming
    facilities in Ireland, combined with an improved
                                                                     will occur in the south and east of the country. Demand
    methodology for the estimation of the methane
                                                                     for heating energy is likely to reduce significantly as the
    generated in landfill, has resulted in a significant
                                                                     climate warms.
    downward revision of methane emissions to the
                                                                   – Autumn and winter seasons will become wetter:
    atmosphere from landfills in Ireland. This has been
                                                                     increases in the range of 15−25% towards the end
    estimated to provide savings of approximately €50
                                                                     of the century. Summers will become drier: 10−18%
    million to the State over the Kyoto Protocol period.
                                                                     decrease towards the end of the century.
The following project summaries provide some examples              – Changes in precipitation and temperature are likely to
of policy-relevant research supported through the EPA                lead to a rise in winter stream flows (increasing the risk       9
research programmes, illustrating the connection between             of flooding), and a reduction in summer flows.
funded research and environmental protection.
                                                                   The C4I Project has been very successful in building a
Climate Change: Scenarios and Impacts for Ireland                  regional climate model for Ireland and, building on the
                                                                   other EPA-funded climate change awareness work, it
Research on climate change impact for Ireland has noted
                                                                   has strengthened knowledge and understanding of
that signals of such impacts are evident in Ireland and in
line with changes that are occurring at regional and global        global warming and its consequences among both the
levels. They are expected to continue to increase in the           general public and the political system. Ongoing work
coming decades and up to at least the end of this century.         will build on the project through further modelling work
These include changes to key meteorological parameters             and will continue to support major EU initiatives such as
such as average temperature, rainfall intensity and patterns,      ENSEMBLES and EC-EARTH.
as well as ecosystem changes.
                                                                   Further reading: Dunne et al., 2008.
Ongoing assessments by the IPCC point to a range of
significant global trends that have implications for the           Estimation of Emissions of Greenhouse Gases from
future course of Ireland’s climate. This research produced an      Agriculture and Strategies for their Reduction
assessment of the magnitude and likely impacts of climate          This research project was carried out against the background
change in Ireland over the course of the current century
                                                                   of GHG emissions in Ireland being in excess of the amount
by establishing scenarios for future Irish climate based on
                                                                   permissible under the Kyoto Protocol. Agriculture in Ireland
global climate model projections for the middle and last
                                                                   is a major contributor to GHG emissions and, prior to this
quarter of the present century. The report from this study
                                                                   project, Ireland possessed no research capability in either
identifies where vulnerability to climate change exists in
                                                                   methane or nitrous oxide emissions (which are 20 and 312
Ireland and what adjustments are likely in the operation
                                                                   times, respectively, more potent than carbon dioxide as
of environmental systems in response to such changes.
                                                                   GHGs). The major objective of this project was to obtain
The report on climate impacts was published by the EPA             a more accurate inventory of agricultural emissions and
in 2003 and received significant attention in the media −          to suggest strategies for their reduction, in particular to
playing an important role in informing public awareness            investigate nutritional and management practices that
of climate change in Ireland.                                      could reduce emissions from the national herd.

15 UNFCC, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
16 IPCC, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
S C I E N C E A N D S U S TA I N A B I L I T Y

     The findings from the project are being used in calculating   In compliance with national regulation and EU directives
     the national inventory of GHG emissions (as required          related to waste management, there have been very
     under various international agreements). In the absence of    significant changes in both the number of landfills and
     these data, the Irish inventory would have to be calculated   on-site waste management practices since 1990. Previous
     using international default values, which could result in     estimates of emissions at these sites followed the default
     inaccurate or misleading results.                             IPCC methodology and used best available activity data.
                                                                   However, the uncertainty in the activity data was large,
     Further reading: O’Mara et al., 2008.                         and as such warranted investigation. A focused study was
                                                                   commissioned to investigate the historic and current levels
     Generation, Capture and Utilisation of Methane
                                                                   of methane capture, flaring and utilisation on Irish landfills,
     on Landfills in Ireland
                                                                   leading to a substantial revision of the estimates of emissions
     Methane is a by-product of the microbiological                for all years since 1990. When coupled with an additional
     decomposition of organic material under anaerobic             update of methodology to the latest IPCC model for
     conditions. In unmanaged, or poorly managed, conditions,      methane generation within landfills, the current estimate of
     the organic waste diverted to landfill decomposes under       emissions from waste in 2007 is just 33% of the estimates
     such oxygen-deficient conditions, leading to a significant    made prior to the study. This represents a downward
     release of methane to the atmosphere. Methane emissions       correction of estimated total national GHGs of approximately
     from landfill were identified as a key source of emissions    1.3 megatonnes carbon dioxide equivalent or 2%. This has
     and a key source of uncertainty in an analysis of the         been estimated to provide savings of approximately €50
     national emissions inventory submission of 2008.              million to the State over the Kyoto Protocol period.

                                                                   Further reading: Fehily Timoney & Co., 2010.
10
                                                                   Measurement and Modelling of Greenhouse Gas
                                                                   Fluxes in Ireland
                                                                   Carbon dioxide is the most important GHG considered to
                                                                   be causing climate change. Policy makers worldwide are
                                                                   working to achieve an international agreement to reduce
                                                                   GHG emissions under the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol.
                                                                   A group of projects, involving intensive field and laboratory
                                                                   work, measured and modelled the soil carbon stocks and
                                                                   stock changes in a number of Irish soils. Based on analysis
                                                                   of intensive measurements, carried out over a 5-year period
                                                                   at sites in the south-east and south-west of the country,
                                                                   the research concluded that grasslands are potentially an
                                                                   important sink for carbon dioxide.

                                                                   The research indicated that grasslands can take up between
                                                                   11 and 18 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the air per
                                                                   hectare per year. Most of the carbon dioxide is recycled as
                                                                   animal feed but it is estimated that 10–15% of the carbon
                                                                   is sequestered into the soil, where it can reside for much
                                                                   longer time periods, with a positive environmental benefit.

                                                                   Further reading: Byrne & Kiely, 2009; Kiely et al., 2009, 2010.

     Researcher undertaking measurements to establish soil
                                                                   Pipeline Projects
     carbon stocks.
                                                                   Other ongoing projects funded in this area through the
                                                                   CCRP include ‘Phenological and ecological analysis of
                                                                   climate impacts’, ‘Extreme weather, climate and natural
                                                                   disasters in Ireland’, and ‘Future targets for greenhouse
                                                                   gas mitigation in Ireland’.
S C I E N C E A N D S U S TA I N A B I L I T Y

2.2 WATER QUALITY                                                     Research Needs of the Water Framework Directive

One of the primary environmental challenges that Ireland              In order to help WFD implementation in Ireland, this
faces over the next decade is to achieve ‘good water                  6-month desk study was funded by the EPA under the
status’ for all waters by 2015 as set out in the WFD. The             ERTDI Programme 2000–2006. This study reviewed
main threat to surface-water quality is eutrophication                monitoring and research requirements, and the state
arising from excess nutrients in the water (phosphorus and            of preparation of Ireland for WFD implementation. It
nitrogen) coming mainly from agricultural manures and                 concluded that implementation of the WFD required
fertilisers, sewage and detergents. In general, the quality           significant research effort into the classification, monitoring
of public drinking water supplies remains high; however,              and identification of pressures – in particular, to identify
the poor microbiological quality of the private group water           and quantify parameters indicative of quality and to
schemes and groundwater continue to be challenges for                 establish robust typologies and reference conditions. Based
authorities responsible for drinking water.                           on recommendations from this report, the EPA and the
                                                                      DEHLG have structured a detailed programme of research
As noted above, the key driver in this area is the WFD                and recent EU reports indicate that Ireland performed
although other important legislation includes the Directive           strongly with regards to the implementation of the WFD
on the Quality of Water Intended for Human Consumption,               in the period up to 2009.
the Directive on the Management of Bathing Water Quality,
the Dangerous Substance Regulations and the Directive                 Further reading: Irvine et al., 2002.
Concerning Urban Waste Water Treatment.

  Key Achievements:
                                                                                                                                        11
  u Significant contribution by EPA-funded researchers
    to the development of novel methodologies
    for the characterisation of waterbodies and the
    determination of reference baseline conditions as
    required under the WFD. This work played a key
    role in ensuring that Ireland complied with reporting
    targets for the WFD17.
  u Detailed analysis of the impact of research projects
    linked to the WFD has indicated that 62% of                       Water quality sampling
    projects demonstrated a high level of policy impact
    (Wemaere et al., 2009).                                           Tools for Reference, Inter-Calibration and
  u Research findings fed directly into the EPA Code                  Classification
    of Practice: Wastewater Treatment and Disposal                    To fulfil the obligations of the WFD, a river typology within
    Systems Serving Single Houses (EPA, 2009).                        Ecoregion 17 had to be produced. This study surveyed
  u The findings of a large-scale integrated project                  50 sites within Ireland that had been previously classified
    supplied scientific data used in the formation of                 as high quality by the EPA to determine whether they
    national policy for reducing nitrogen and phosphorus              were of high ecological status (and thus could be used as
    losses to waters from agricultural sources.                       reference conditions) and to use these spatial reference
                                                                      sites to develop the river typology. Several typologies were
The following project summaries provide some examples                 developed from this dataset, including typologies developed
of policy-relevant research supported through the EPA                 from permutations of different environmental variables
research programmes, illustrating the connection between              and variable boundaries. A 12-category permutation-based
funded research and environmental protection.                         typology was recommended as the best typology, and has
                                                                      now been adopted by the EPA.

17 In March 2007, a communication from the European Commission
   placed Ireland first out of the 27 EU Member States in reporting
   performance in relation to WFD compliance.
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