The EPIIC project (Environmental Policy Integration: Innovation and Change) was a 1-year desk-study that explored the relevance of environmental policy integration (EPI) for Irish environmental governance. EPI involves bringing environmental concerns into all other policy sectors, but notably agriculture, energy, transport, etc. The research questions posed were How joined up is Irish environmental governance? and
What remedies could be undertaken to improve integration?. The primary method of research was through semi-structured interviews with 38 diverse experts. Interviews were sought with national-level policy experts, but also at the local and regional levels, and with non-governmental actors, including commercial firms, third-sector not-for-profit entities and environmental non-governmental organisations (NGOs). A comparative focus was built into the research design, with interviews in Northern Ireland and Scotland.
Chapter 3 of this report examines the history of the EPI concept. In Chapter 4, we recount an Irish EPI success story that combined energy conservation, energy poverty and health. A contrast is made with slow Irish progress on anaerobic digestion, with EPI absent in this case. Both examples are framed within a wider discussion of environmental policymaking in an era of disruption. Chapter 5 reports the detailed interview findings. Awareness of the EPI concept was quite limited, and there is a need to engage with ordinary citizens to make EPI accessible. Interviewees were adamant that the silo mentality is a genuine problem, including the phenomenon of silos within silos. It is at the local government level that a lack of integration is most acute, especially as regards planning. There are, however, EPI policy champions nestled in specialist agencies, for example the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), Teagasc and the City of Dublin Energy Management Agency. Private sector actors can also drive EPI, notably larger multinational firms but also not-for-profit NGOs. Interviewees expressed strong views on a lack of environmental data sharing, on the suitability of voluntary agreements that aim to go beyond compliance, and the importance of subsidies, specifically feed-in tariffs, for new renewable technologies such as anaerobic digestion or biogas. Also advocated were policy instruments that engage the public and bring the citizen back in to policy delivery. In Chapter 6, a number of concrete recommendations are made to enhance EPI in an Irish setting. These include better communication of EPI and possible rebranding of the concept, as part of a wider participatory dialogue. Rather than major institutional change, adaptation and evolution is stressed. A dedicated network agent needs to be established to broker formal policy networking. This could be either a new bespoke body or a modified formation of the National Economic and Social Council. This network agent should ideally report to the Department of the Taoiseach to maximise its co-ordination role. A Green Bridging Fund (or similar) of not less than 1m per annum is recommended. The diagonal axis of EPI, where state expert agencies predominate (SEAI, Teagasc, the Marine Institute, the Heritage Council, Office of Public Works, etc.) should be reinforced with extra budgetary resources and more staff. However, the National Transport Authority and the Regional Waste Co-ordination Offices need priority support so that they can better play a role as bridging agents. The Irish local planning system needs a substantive shift in organisational culture. To do this, ideas from green infrastructure and the transition towns movement could usefully be embraced, as they promote integration. A new cadre of Directors for Green Infrastructure Services should be appointed within the local government system. There is an urgent need for a review of all environmental data held by public agencies, to be facilitated by a dedicated environmental data analytics team. Supports such as renewable energy feed-in tariffs, although expensive, are worth keeping for emergent technologies, notably anaerobic digestion and biogas, as long as they follow international best practices in their design. There is a need to explore soft bridging instruments. These could be citizen science projects but also carbon-neutral certification and labelling schemes. Possible templates for such bridging initiatives can be found in the recent catchments.ie and EPA food waste projects. Finally, Irish environmental policy lesson drawing should be global in its orientation and multilateral, rather than confined to always drawing lessons from the typical comparators (i.e. the UK) or situated within the most ubiquitous institutional fora (typically the EU).