In May of this year, the Government approved the updated 2023 Public Sector Climate Action Mandate (PSCAM). The Mandate, first introduced as part of the Climate Action Plan (CAP) 2021, sets out the goals Public Sector Bodies must achieve as part of the government’s overall strategy for reducing emissions. The newly updated Mandate is an expansion of the 2022 Mandate. New actions have been added and existing actions have been expanded. This article will talk through the updated Mandate, explain its purpose and describe the new requirements it presents.
What is the Mandate?
The CAP’s overall aim is to achieve a 51% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in Ireland by 2030. While the CAP acknowledges that the public sector is not the major driver of emissions, the Mandate has been introduced to facilitate the public sector in taking a leading role in reducing emissions. The Mandate must be followed for those bodies it applies to, but it should be noted that it does not apply to every public sector body. Local Authorities, Commercial Semi-State Agencies and Schools are all exempt from the Mandate. Size is also a consideration when adhering to the Mandate. The Mandate places greater responsibilities on government departments and also on organisations that consume over 50 GWh of energy per annum than it does on smaller bodies, which can fulfil the Mandate’s minimum requirements.
Status of the 2022 Mandate
For those public bodies the Mandate does apply to, many of the requirements found in the updated Mandate are unchanged from previous years. For instance, the requirement to establish and support Green Teams has not been altered. Furthermore, nothing has been removed from the Mandate. This means that any work completed to fulfil the previous Mandate remains valid. Any organisation still working on fulfilling the previous Mandate can continue to use the guides made available by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland. We anticipate that updated guidelines will be made available for the new Mandate, however, no timeline for this is available so far.
Changes from the 2022 Mandate
For those who are subject to the Mandate, the following are the major changes to be aware of:
- A new requirement has been added stating that senior management complete a climate action leadership training course in 2023.
- The requirement that sustainability and emissions be addressed in the annual report has been amended. The annual report must now also address: a) efforts to implement the Mandate; b) compliance with Circular 1/2020 related to air travel emissions.
- The requirement to review use of paper has been amended to include the need to eliminate paper-based processes and, where this is not possible, to use recycled paper as the default.
- The requirement to achieve formal environmental certification has been amended with distinct requirements for organisations spending more or less than €2m per annum on energy.
- A requirement to implement Green Public Procurement (GPP) has been added. This should be performed in line with the EPA Green Public Procurement Guidance.
- The requirement to create bicycle friendly buildings has been amended to indicate that the priority should be to facilitate moving away from individual car use.
- A new requirement to phase out the use of parking in buildings, without compromising on supports for those with physical mobility issues, has been added.
- New recommendations for retrofitting large building have been added.
- The requirement to procure zero-emission vehicles only has been amended to include a requirement that any procurement contracts a public sector body enters into should use zero emissions vehicles whenever possible.
Dr. Conor Dowling