White celebrates environmental excellence at the Dún Laoghaire Rathdown EnviroCom Awards


Speech by Minister Alex White TD

Labour TD for Dublin South

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources

Wednesday, November 12th 2014

Radisson Blu St. Helen’s Hotel

It is a pleasure to be here tonight at the eighth annual Dún Laoghaire EnviroCom Awards. I will try to keep my speech brief as I know you’re all looking forward to your meal.

The purpose of tonight’s EnviroCom Awards is to recognise businesses and agencies in Dún Laoghaire Rathdown for their environmental achievements. The Awards celebrate excellence, innovation, dedication and success in environmental management in our community. The awards shine a light on the range of actions that businesses and agencies can take to minimise their impact on the environment and in many cases save money and lower costs.

Thank you to Dr. Josephine Browne, the President of the Dún Laoghaire Rathdown Chamber for inviting me to speak tonight. It is an honour to co-present the awards and I want to commend Josephine and the Dún Laoghaire Rathdown Chamber of Commerce as well as Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council for the leadership they have shown in successfully running the EnviroCom Awards.

I’d like to acknowledge Cathaoirleach Marie Baker, council members and my local Oireachtas colleagues who are in attendance tonight.

Most importantly I want to congratulate and commend those of you who have been nominated for an award. Entries have been rigorously assessed on a demanding set of criteria. The ten award categories are incredibly diverse and demonstrate the diversity of environmental programmes in operation across the Dún Laoghaire Rathdown region.

To those of you who are nominated tonight, your leadership in environmental management is crucial. Without a strong tide of public support, it will be impossible to lower emissions and end our dependency on fossil fuels. If we’re to successfully transition from being a high carbon to a low carbon country we need local agents of change pushing and driving the green agenda through every local community in Ireland. This is exactly what you are doing and I applaud your efforts.

It is encouraging to see that tonight’s awards ceremony has not one, but two awards for engaging communities in environmental projects. Galvanising and educating our colleagues, customers, neighbours, families and friends on the urgent necessity to conserve energy and to protect our environment are essential. Climate change by its very nature is a problem of global proportions. But it requires not just global solutions from the top down but also innovative and creative solutions from the grassroots up.

As Minister for Energy it is my task to ensure a safe, sustainable, economic and cost-effective energy sector, no matter who the consumer is, be they householder, small start-up business, multi-national or citizen.

In Ireland, we stand at an ‘Energy crossroads’. At the moment, my Department is facilitating the development of Ireland’s future energy policy. Over 1,200 submissions have been received from the length and breadth of the country, from community groups to energy suppliers and businesses. They all have shared their views on what direction our energy policy should take. This month, my Department is hosting a series of consultative workshops that brings a wide range of stakeholders together to debate how best our country’s energy policy can steer an appropriate course between sustainability, security and competitiveness. This process will result in the White Paper on Energy Policy in Ireland being published by the summer of next year.

A central component of energy policy is the empowerment of energy citizens. An empowered energy citizen is someone who is informed and a proactive contributor to the ongoing evolution of the Irish energy market. I see many of you here tonight as empowered energy citizens and the EnviroCom Awards as a template for other communities to embrace.

I was pleased to see that two of tonight’s awards are linked directly to my ministerial portfolio and sponsored by the SEAI who I see are represented here this evening by Majella Kelleher. I am looking forward to learning more about the programmes nominated in the energy management and green transport categories.

For the fourth year in a row, the SEAI, under my auspices, will roll out the Better Energy Programmes. These programmes have successfully delivered major energy savings, created jobs, tackled fuel poverty and helped reduce carbon emissions in over 250,000 homes since the programmes began. In 2015, a further €47m will be provided to the Better Energy Homes Programmes and the Better Energy Warmer Homes programme.

While all of you tonight are working on a local level and I on a national, our collective effort to reduce carbon emissions is connected to a wider, global context. Last month the Government and our EU partners committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% by 2030.

This outcome will require a substantial and sustained effort to increase Ireland’s renewable energy output and improve our energy efficiency. We all have a role to play in this endeavor and I thank you all for leading the way. I look forward to co-presenting the awards after our meal and meeting with tonight’s inspirational winners and nominees.

Thank you.