The State must prioritise the biodiversity and climate crises in its 2021 budget and ensure that all measures taken to address them are done through the lens of a Just and Ecological Recovery.
Last year the Dáil declared a biodiversity and climate emergency because of the very poor status of much of Ireland’s biodiversity and its increasing emissions, but little has happened since.
It’s time for the government to put its money where its mouth is and invest in climate and nature.
This is the call from Ireland’s leading coalition of environmental groups, The Environmental Pillar, who are urging the government to ensure the post-pandemic recovery builds back both the environment and society for the better.
During the earliest months of lockdown much of the country felt a greater and deeper appreciation of nature. But for decades, funding for enforcement of laws that protect wildlife, active habitat conservation, ecosystem restoration and awareness raising have been a pittance compared to what’s needed.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service has identified the need for €1.6bn in national and EU funds to protect and restore the internationally important biodiversity that we have. National policies and plans (e.g the CAP Strategic Plan) must deliver for biodiversity and additional funds are required to support wildlife and habitats of national importance. 
As many streets and roadways fell quiet these past few months, our transport emissions saw a temporary dip, but a mounting body of evidence has shown that any emissions reduction we have seen over the lockdown period is short-lived in the absence of systemic change. 
And furthermore, emissions reduction should not, nor should they ever, come at the cost of a devastating pandemic.
We were also reminded during this time that the distribution of responsibility for the climate crisis is profoundly unequal in Ireland, as our richest 10 percent emits almost as much as the bottom 50 percent. 
We now find ourselves at a crossroads as we emerge from this crisis. We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to chart a new course away from the destructive and unjust path we have careened down for far too long.
Therefore, in order to meet the intersecting challenges at hand, the Pillar is calling on the State to take the following actions in this year’s budget:
- Provide €100 million annually from the national exchequer to the National Parks and Wildlife Service to address the biodiversity crisis, and secure a clear rolling multi-annual budget for the National Biodiversity Centre. 
- Draw on European funding to invest in fair, fast and far-reaching climate action across all sectors. 
- Incentivise and assist local communities in their efforts to reduce their climate impact and improve their quality of life. 
- Introduce fiscal policy to address luxury emissions and bring an end to tax breaks for aircraft fuel. 
- Fund awareness campaigns to inform the public about climate change and biodiversity, as this is their right under the Aarhus convention. 
Karen Cieselski, co-ordinator of the Environmental Pillar, said:
“In the wake of a disastrous public health emergency and facing down the barrel of the ongoing climate crisis, we can pave the way to a better and more just future for both people and the planet.
Investing in the climate infrastructure to get us there is crucial, and we know in light of recent EU developments that not only is bloc-wide funding available to get us there, it is also imperative that we do so.
The crisis we find ourselves in is profoundly unequal the worldover, in terms of its creation and its consequences. The budget must address this legacy and we urge the government to take the decisive and just measures in doing so.”
Oonagh Duggan, BirdWatch Ireland and Environmental Pillar spokesperson, said:
“We’ve seen how much solace nature has given us during these incredibly trying and difficult months.
Yet state-wide commitment to our natural environment and biodiversity has been woefully inadequate, not just for last year’s budget, but for decades.
The Environmental Pillar has repeatedly called for the reversal of this trend, and we do so once again at this pivotal moment.
We must ensure that the National Parks and Wildlife Service has the resources they need to protect our environment and we must guarantee a stable fiscal future for the National Biodiversity Centre for years to come.”
Dr. Elaine McGoff, An Taisce and Environmental Pillar spokesperson, said:
“Our economy depends on nature and the services it provides, it’s fundamental, and if we don’t invest in it then we are undermining the viability of all other sectors.
Nature is not an optional add-on, it is fundamental for our health, well-being and livelihoods. Failing to invest in nature now, will ultimately lead to paying a much greater price later.”
Notes: NPWS 2019. The Status of EU Protected Habitats and Species in Ireland: https://bit.ly/2RS2K44  EPA Greenhouse Gas Emissions Projections 2019 – 2040: https://bit.ly/304ORUC
ESRI report on emissions reductions due to Covid-19: https://bit.ly/2RPvx94 Oxfam report on Carbon Inequality in Ireland: https://bit.ly/361Zc7C  This was also called for in the Pillar’s General Election Manifesto: https://bit.ly/33USD3J  The European Green Deal will mobilise at least 1 trillion over the next decade into sustainable investments: https://bit.ly/3cqHo6Z  Blueprints like the 15-minute city have the capacity to improve life quality, reduce pollution and help local economies: https://bit.ly/363POAa  This is one measure among many called for in Oxfam’s report on Carbon Inequality in Ireland: https://bit.ly/361Zc7C  More information on the Aarhus Convention can be found at https://bit.ly/3cpnYiZ