PRESS RELEASE: Irish Wildlife Trust calls on the Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action to ensure that nature is central to its recommendations.
The Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) has made a written submission to the Committee on Climate Action, calling on its members to recognise the important role that nature conservation can play in mitigating climate impacts and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Ireland (and the world) is also experiencing a parallel, but overlapping, extinction crisis which also threatens our way of life and there is an enormous opportunity to address both crises at once.
Download the full submission here
There are two important ways in which better protection for nature can help us in our climate challenge. Firstly, healthy ecosystems can help mitigate Climate Change impacts. This is because healthy rivers, soil, forests and seas lessen the impacts of extreme weather. The European Commission has said that: ”Natura 2000 sites are key in this role, when properly implemented”, referring to the network of protected sites under the EU’s Birds and Habitats Directives. In Ireland there are currently over 600 such areas covering more than 13% of the land. However, to-date the directives have been poorly implemented, with very few management plans for protected areas and most habitats and species being in poor condition. If we are to address the extinction crisis and realise the potential for climate resilience, there is an urgent need to invest adequately in an independent nature authority as well as other conservation initiatives.
The other important role nature can play in climate action is in directly helping to achieve reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. A study by the Nature Conservancy in 2017 found that ‘nature-based solutions’ – such as rewetting bogs, expanding natural forests and better managing farmland so that soil absorbs carbon – can provide up to 37% of the emissions reductions needed to meet global targets under the Paris Climate Agreement. According to the authors “we’re unlikely to see a better carbon capture and storage technology than that which nature provides—we just need to actively give it the best chance to do its job”. A study in the UK found a figure of 33% for land use in that country stating: “If reforestation occurred across the whole of the UK, increasing the total forest cover to 18% and if all bogs, grasslands, arable and horticultural lands were managed in the best way possible, then these could account for one third of the required cuts by 2050”. No comparable figures are available for Ireland but given the levels of emissions from worked over peatlands and agriculture a similar scale can surely be expected. In Ireland, forestry has been seen as part of the solution to emissions reductions however our model has been based on the expansion of non-native monocultures, which are a driver of biodiversity loss and water pollution while providing few benefits for amenity or recreation. In addition, recent studies have found that mixed forests are better at drawing carbon out of the atmosphere while native woodlands can provide multiple benefits from wildlife habitat to amenity, water purification and flood alleviation. Even better protection for the marine environment can help, with authors of a recent study saying: “marine reserves protected from fishing and other human exploitation can reduce the damage from acidification, rising sea levels, storm intensification, and other effects of climate change”.
IWT Campaigns Officer, Pádraic Fogarty says: “It’s a huge concern that the collapse of natural ecosystems is being forgotten in the climate debate. This would be a travesty, as restoring nature is likely to be the easiest, cheapest and most effective form of climate action available. We also believe it is likely to be among the most popular. Who doesn’t want to live in a county full of nature, with clean rivers, enchanting forests and healthy seas?” https://twitter.com/EU_ENV/status/1069550588705325057  https://www.nature.org/en-us/what-we-do/our-priorities/tackle-climate-change/climate-change-stories/how-nature-can-help-heal-our-planet/  https://theconversation.com/cop24-rewilding-is-essential-to-the-uks-commitments-on-climate-change-107541  https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/diverse-forests-capture-more-carbon/?amp  https://news.mongabay.com/2017/06/can-marine-reserves-help-counteract-climate-change/
CONTACT: Padraic Fogarty – IWT’s Campaigns Officer for more details firstname.lastname@example.org