The Citizens’ Assembly on Biodiversity Loss issued a final report today with 159 recommendations on how Ireland can improve its response to the biodiversity crisis. The report underscores the serious and chronic failure by the State to adequately fund and enforce existing laws to halt and reverse biodiversity loss.
The 99 members of the Citizens’ Assembly were drawn from across the nation and a variety of backgrounds to consider how Ireland can re-evaluate current policies and practices to save biodiversity. Citizens’ Assemblies have a history of bringing national public sentiment into focus and influencing policy change. At a time when Ireland is losing nature at an alarming rate, the Citizens’ Assembly report delivers an urgent call to action and an opportunity for Ireland to change course.
The final report echoes many recommendations that have been championed by the Environmental Pillar, a 32 member coalition of Irish environmental non-governmental organisations working to represent the views of the Irish environmental sector. For example, the Environmental Pillar has called on Irish Ministers to amend mandates and legislation to ensure public bodies, such as Bord Na Mona and Coillte are fit to deliver on Ireland’s climate and biodiversity objectives. The Environmental Pillar has also issued strong support for the EU Nature Restoration Law, which Irish leaders have undermined by calling the law overly ambitious, despite its range of actions that would cut greenhouse gas emissions and restore nature across Europe.
Overarching strategic recommendations in the report introduce a number of reforms that could be game-changers for biodiversity. These include a referendum to amend the Constitution with a view to protecting biodiversity and a new statutory National Biodiversity Plan that is supported by legislation and funding. The report’s recommendations offer a suite of options to combat biodiversity loss, while sending a powerful signal that ordinary Irish people deeply value biodiversity.
The report is a referendum on the actions of the Government to address biodiversity loss and a clear directive for Ireland’s political leaders to act.
Oonagh Duggan, Head of Advocacy, BirdWatch Ireland said:
“The report of the Citizens’ Assembly on Biodiversity Loss is the first of its kind globally with 99 citizens setting out their recommendations based on the evidence provided to them on the stark reality of our degraded environment and disappearing biodiversity. Ireland has a golden opportunity now to step up and be a global leader and put in place the structures and funding needed to elevate the response to the biodiversity crisis across all levels of government and in society as recommended by the citizens.”
Caroline Whyte of Feasta, the Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability, said:
“We welcome the Citizens’ Assembly’s clear recommendation that Irish economic policy should move beyond GDP expansion as an end in itself, and that the National Well-being Framework should be improved so that it better encompasses Environment, Climate and Biodiversity. A shift in economic policy will be key to achieving biodiversity protection and regeneration, so it is encouraging that 94% of Assembly members believe the Well-being Framework should be given a strong role in shaping policy and informing the annual budgetary process.“
Dr. Elaine McGoff, Natural Environment Officer with An Taisce said:
“It is incredibly inspiring to have 99 citizens recognise the fundamental importance and intrinsic value of biodiversity. The Citizens’ Assembly has made clear that nature should be protected and that we should not take for granted substantive and procedural rights to have and defend a healthy environment.“
Andrew St Ledger of CELT, the Centre for Environmental Living and Training, said:
“We welcome the Forestry and Woodland recommendations and wish to see them implemented in a long overdue revised national forestry policy. We need a forestry policy that has an ecological focus at its heart, one that treasures our extremely valuable ancient woodland fragments and hedgerow resources, and one that ends commercial forestry on peatlands.”
Karin Dubsky, Director of Coastwatch said:
“We welcome this report and its superb core recommendations, which if implemented, can turn decades of biodiversity loss around and give citizens rights to protect nature. The Assembly’s recommendation to not just designate 30% of Ireland’s Maritime Area as MPA by 2030, but effectively manage this network of Marine Protection Areas is crucial. However, aquaculture doesn’t get a mention in the report and the marine environment is under unprecedented pressure today. Ireland will need to do much more to ensure healthy seas into the future.”
Fintan Kelly, Agriculture and Land Use Policy and Advocacy Officer with Environmental Pillar said:
“The Irish government now has a clear mandate from the Irish people to redouble efforts to restore nature. Through the Nature Restoration Law, which is currently being negotiated at an EU level, the government has a unique opportunity to immediately respond to the concerns of the Citizens Assembly by positively shaping the EU’s response to biodiversity loss and climate change. We call on the Irish government to play a positive role in negotiations and maximise the opportunity for the country and deliver the long-term support required to improve our relationship with nature across land and at sea.”