Ireland’s Environmental Data

NESC launches an exploratory study which catalogues and discusses environmental data and indicators in Ireland–‘Ireland’s Environmental Data: Inventory, Assessment and Next Steps’.[pdf, 3.85MB] In publishing the research study, the Council makes a number of observations and poses questions for discussion among those interested in environmental policy and analysis. The research includes an overview of existing environmental data as well as a critical discussion of its current use, gaps and possible future directions, drawing on stakeholder interviews.

The research findings include the following:

  1. Greater use could be made of the rich and varied data and indictors existing in Ireland, particularly the data increasingly collated for reporting requirements under EU directives and procedures. The report suggests that the development of a national-scale open data resource, similar to the NYC OpenData initiative, would be in Ireland’s interest competitively. The Council welcomes further discussion on this resource and its potential to support greening the economy.
  2. Key stakeholders need to identify the most policy-relevant data for future needs, defining more closely ways in policy can lead the transition towards a green society. It is necessary to develop an agreed understanding of what is meant by the green economy and to prioritise the data that would support its development.
  3. A key gap noted by those interviewed in the study was the ability to put a value Ireland’s biodiversity and ecosystem services (natural capital). The report suggests further exploration of methodologies to achieve this would be fruitful. However, the Council notes that this is challenged by the absence of baseline biodiversity data which would be required before any valuation and it welcomes discussion on this important area.

NESC Director, Dr. Rory O’Donnell said today ‘The Council is pleased to publish this useful study and considers it timely to examine what role environmental data can play in supporting Ireland’s continuing progress towards a low carbon society’. Dr O’Donnell went to say, ‘We hope the findings will stimulate discussion among interested stakeholders and the public as to both innovative ways existing data can be used and what are the most critical additional data needs to support public policy and sustainable behaviour by firms, farms, public bodies and households’.

Ireland’s Environmental Data: Inventory, Assessment and Next Steps
An exploratory study on Ireland’s environmental data was commissioned by NESC as part of its sustainability remit, supported by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. NESC asked the consultants, EnvEcon Limited and Flannery Nagel Environmental, to set out the context and challenge for Ireland in the compilation and use of environmental data for future needs and to provide a strategic, reflective and probing look at existing environmental data and indicators.

The report and its data map (National Environmental Data Map (NED-Map) [ pdf, 722kB] provide an overview of Irish environmental data sources and key insights into the use and value of environmental. The value of the NED-Map, with 265 data items and indicators organised by type and focus, is that it assembles in a clear and accessible way, the vibrancy and diversity of current environmental data sets. The report is concise and accessible, drawing out a range of perspectives from 25 stakeholder interviews as to the current use of data, current gaps and critical next steps.