Questions for minister for Business and Enterprise re: Data Centres and Israel

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Business Enterprise and Innovation, Oral Questions

QUESTION: To ask the Minister for Business; Enterprise and Innovation the steps the IDA is taking as part of its efforts to attract data centre investment to ensure that the climate effects of locating data centres here will be fully mitigated by those companies it is courting to build here in view of the goal of ramping up the construction of data centres.

REPLY

I can assure the Deputy that IDA Ireland is sensitive to the potential environmental impact of all forms of foreign direct investment (FDI).

Data centres have taken major steps in recent years to reduce their carbon footprint and are now among the largest and most significant users of renewable energy. In 2018, IDA Ireland commissioned a report by Grant Thornton which examined the impact of data centres on the Irish economy. In addition to an overall economic contribution of €7.13bn since 2010, the report indicated that 85% of the data centres studied were already investing in power from renewable sources and 15% indicated that they were generating renewable energy onsite. Over 75% of data centre respondents were investing in two or more renewable energy initiatives, while over 60% were investing in energy efficient facilities and equipment.

In addition, IDA Ireland has taken steps to help its data centre and other clients to mitigate their carbon footprint. For example, in 2018 the Agency introduced its ‘Go Green’ Business Offer, which outlines the main national support programmes that are available to adopt green business principles, improve sustainability and drive energy efficiencies. These supports are provided by agencies including IDA Ireland, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The IDA’s support programmes to reduce carbon emissions now include its Environmental Aid, Green Plus and Green Start programmes. These are being actively marketed across the Agency’s client base, including to data centre operators.

QUESTION: To ask the Minister for Business; Enterprise and Innovation the extra scrutiny undertaken when assessing applications for the export of category 5 dual use items to states with a record of oppression and human rights abuses such as Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Israel.

REPLY

The European Union operates an export control framework to prevent the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, to promote regional stability and to protect human rights. The framework regulates exports of Dual-use items. Dual-use items are goods and technology that can be used in both civil and military applications. The framework is given legal effect by Council Regulation (EC) No. 428/2009 setting up a Union regime for the control of exports, transfer, brokering and transit of dual-use items. This regulation has direct legal effect in all Member States of the EU. My Department is the national competent authority in Ireland with responsibility for the implementation of this regulation.

Exports of Category 5 “Telecommunications and Information Security” dual-use items from Ireland are predominantly back-office IT systems e.g. data storage, networking, cybersecurity. They are classed as dual-use items by virtue of the fact that they incorporate strong encryption for data security purposes.

Applications for export licences in respect of dual-use goods are subject to rigorous scrutiny by my officials and are assessed against the criteria set out in the Dual-use Regulation. There is a particular focus on the end-user within the country of destination. As part of their application, companies are required to submit a Certificate, signed by the end-user, stating the purpose for which the item to be exported will be used. My officials also consult an EU database to check if similar licence applications have been denied by another EU member state.

My officials apply the criteria set out in Council Common Position 2008/944/CFSP when assessing applications for Dual-use licences. Criterion 2 in particular, specifies consideration of “Respect for human rights in the country of final destination as well as respect by that country of international humanitarian law”.

My officials consult with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in respect of export licence applications for sensitive destinations, such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Israel, seeking observations on any foreign policy or human rights concerns that may arise in respect of a proposed export. Such considerations are subject to constant review in the light of developments in a particular regions.