Cillian Sherlock, PA
Parking at public service buildings which have good access to public transport links will be phased out as part of plans to cut emissions.
The Cabinet has agreed a new public sector mandate, which will also see disposable cups, plates and cutlery being banned from most public service buildings.
The plan is part of the State's target to halve emissions by 2030.
The measures also include promoting the use of bicycles and shared mobility options, and only procuring zero-emission vehicles where possible, the elimination of paper-based processes as far as was practical, and the phasing out of fossil fuel heating systems from 2023.
The mandate would apply to all public sector bodies covered by Climate Action Plan (CAP) decarbonisation targets, except for local authorities, commercial semi-state bodies and schools.
The cutlery, plates and cups mandate would not apply to clinical and healthcare environments.
Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan said the mandate would ensure all government departments and the main State agencies would “play their part”.
He was speaking at Tom Johnson House, which is undergoing renovations at a cost of €36 million, including the installation of heat pumps.
He said the overall cost of the multi-decade process to retrofit all public buildings would cost up to €9 billion.
Asked about timelines under the new mandate, Mr Ryan said: “The timeline is now. This building has been (upgraded) as an example.
“The Department of Environment’s own headquarters will move in November.
“So we have to act now. This is the decade where we have to change.”
The building, which will also house the National Cyber Security Centre, is doubling its capacity to accommodate 500 employees, but parking will only be provided for 10 per cent of staff.
Minister for Public Procurement, eGovernment and the Circular Economy Ossian Smyth said this level of parking was “absolutely normal” in the private sector and was what people had come to expect in the city centre.
Mr Smyth said: “We are leading by example and there are two good reasons for that.
“One is that you can’t persuade people or inspire people to do something if you’re not doing it yourself.
“And the second reason is to get experience, so you’re not making policies about things you’ve never actually done yourself.”
Mr Ryan said there would not be a “punitive” approach to the allocation of parking spaces and stressed it was about providing better alternatives through public transport.
“It's not going to be so restrictive that people can’t get to work,” he said.
“But the world has changed, the average in our department now, I think, is two days a week people are coming in.”
Asked about exceptions for schools, commercial semi-states and local authorities under the public sector mandate, Mr Ryan said there was a separate legal requirement for councils to develop a low-carbon plan.
“No-one can opt out and say climate targets don’t count for us – they actually apply to everyone,” he said.
The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland’s Annual Report 2022 on Public Sector Energy Performance showed that public sector bodies were now 31.5 per cent more energy efficient than in 2009, saving €2.2 billion in the process.
Separately, Mr Ryan said it was appropriate for the temporary reduction in excise duty on motor fuels to be phased out.
“We set out clearly that is what we would do. That would give us the capability if we were in another further crisis, the flexibility to use similar measures,” he said.
He added that there was a need for a broad stable base for Exchequer revenue for social welfare, education and health.
“We will look again at the Budget, as we did in last year’s Budget, as to what protections we put in place to shelter people who really are being hit badly by it,” he said.