The continuing success of Irish society depends fundamentally on the preservation of the overall productivity, health and long-term sustainability of the eco-systems and environmental services.
These services underpin and supply many of the most basic components of human welfare – such as healthy soil, flourishing biodiversity, clean water and clean air.
And yet we see the development of economic structures dominating all decision-making, and drivign us to compete for continuing growth, based on an impossible exponential increase in the exploitation and destruction of natural resources.
Our challenge is to reduce the strain on the eco-system services whilst allowing a healthy prosperity for all in society.
The Environmental Pillar is leading the efforts to protect the eco-system services upon which we all depend – whilst ensuring the well-being of this and future generations.
Our main areas of focus are:
Climate change remains the defining challenge of our age. The Environmental Pillar is working to map a path to a sustainable future, which addresses not just decarbonisation but also energy security, economic competitiveness and social cohesion.
The Environmental Pillar is working with the other social partners to explore how Ireland can position itself to prosper in a 21st century that will see a shift to a steady state economy. Initiatives which reduce energy use or which produce it from renewable resources must be prioritized.
Public involvement in decision making is essential if a truly sustainable future is to be created. In this context, the full implementation of Agenda 21 and the Aarhus Convention is essential.
Our very existence, our quality of life and our economy depend on the health of our natural infrastructure. In order to protect biodiversity and the public services it provides, the Environmental Pillar is working with sectors of society to ensure that biodiversity protection and enhancement is integrated into: all natural resource and land use management (including agriculture and forestry); activities in the marine environment; and the way in which we try to prevent climate change and respond to climate change.
Reduction and better management of waste is vital to long term environmental, social and economic well-being. We need to break the strong link between economic development and waste generation. There are many opportunities for employment and industry in this area.
We need to promote public transport through low cost mechanisms, and the intensive promotion of cycling in urban areas. Taking freight off the roads an on to rail and water is another essential part of a sustainable transport future. .
The need for proper planning of land use, infrastructure and sustainable communities requires the effective engagement of the public in these critical decision-making processes that affect both their health and environment. Involvement of the public at the earliest possible point in full assessment of the impacts on the environment of projects, policies and programmes is essential.
We must reduce the impacts of domestic waste, forestry, agriculture and drainage on water quality. Public involvement in water management is not just a legal requirement of the EU Water Framework Directive but is essential if a new sustainable water management path is to be taken.