St James’s Hospital fined €200,000 for emissions rules breach

Cash problems blamed for failure to buy enough carbon credits to cover pollution

St James’s was given a free allowance of 2,895 carbon credits for 2017, but its actual emissions were almost three times that. Photograph: Alan Betson

St James’s was given a free allowance of 2,895 carbon credits for 2017, but its actual emissions were almost three times that. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

One of the country’s biggest hospitals has been fined more than €200,000 for breaking EU rules on greenhouse gas emissions, in the first penalty of its kind in Ireland.

St James’s Hospital in Dublin blamed financial constraints for not being able to buy enough carbon credits last year to cover its pollution, which led to the penalty imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency.

It is trying to work out a “payment plan” with the EPA to pay the €201,100 fine handed down last October.

Telecoms giant Vodafone was fined €51,171 a month later for a similar breach relating to its emissions in Ireland.

Both St James’s Hospital and Vodafone are among 104 industrial polluters in the country regulated by the EU’s emissions trading system.

Each is given a gradually reducing free allocation of carbon credits every year to cover an emissions target, and if they exceed that target they must buy more allowances or find ways to cut their emissions.

One allowance covers one tonne of CO2.

St James’s was given a free allowance of 2,895 carbon credits for 2017, but its actual emissions were almost three times that, at 8,503 tonnes of CO2.

Industrial polluters must report their emissions for the previous year by March 31st and surrender allowances to cover them by April 30th annually.

Missed deadline

St James’s said the “escalating cost” of carbon credits last year “and the ongoing budgetary constraints faced by the hospital in funding clinical services led to the hospital missing the carbon credit surrender date”.

It appealed the fine but the EPA has no discretion over the mandatory penalties.

In addition to the fine, St James’s still has to buy the outstanding allowances.

“While this decision is disappointing, particularly in an environment of ongoing budgetary constraints, the hospital remains committed to accelerating its emission reductions,” said a hospital spokeswoman.

St James’s is reducing its total emissions by about 20 per cent every year and was “ahead of target” to achieve a 33 per cent reduction in energy consumption by next year, she added.

Vodafone Ireland said its fine “relates to an administrative error”.

“We are committed to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent by 2025, and to use 100 per cent renewable electricity by 2025,” a spokesman said.