Science and Sustainability - RESEARCH-BASED KNOWLEDGE FOR ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION - Epa
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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: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.epa.ie LoCall 1890 33 55 99 © Environmental Protection Agency 2010
S C I E N C E A N D S U S TA I N A B I L I T Y 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
S C I E N C E A N D S U S TA I N A B I L I T Y 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
S C I E N C E A N D S U S TA I N A B I L I T Y 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
S C I E N C E A N D S U S TA I N A B I L I T Y 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.
S C I E N C E A N D S U S TA I N A B I L I T Y 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.
S C I E N C E A N D S U S TA I N A B I L I T Y 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.
S C I E N C E A N D S U S TA I N A B I L I T Y 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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