09th May 2020
Press release: IWT welcomes the leaked EU Biodiversity Strategy on the anniversary of Ireland declaring a climate and biodiversity emergency
On Thursday May 9th 2019 Ireland became the first country to declare a climate and a biodiversity emergency. On its first anniversary there is sadly little to show for this declaration which the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar described as ‘symbolic’. There have been no substantial changes in this time to address collapsing biodiversity in Ireland; a deadline to end overfishing at the end of 2019 came and went, Budget 2019 saw no noticeable increase in the miserly funding to the National Parks and Wildlife Service, while a promise to hold a citizens’ assembly on biodiversity loss has, so far, not be fulfilled.
In November 2019 the European Parliament declared a climate and environmental emergency and since then we have seen the publication of EU’s Green New Deal. Earlier this week the much-anticipated Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 was leaked on the internet. The strategy, if carried though, contains a number of ambitious – and welcome – actions which would transform farming, fishing, forestry and wetland management. It includes commitments to:
· protect 30% of EU land and sea territory by 2030 (in Ireland the current figures are 12% and 2.4% respectively) while 10% of this should be ‘strictly protected’;
· properly manage and monitor protected areas, with timelines for recovery (Ireland has virtually no management plans for protected areas);
· connect protected areas through ‘ecological corridors’, something which is essential for maintaining healthy populations of species;
· introduce binding commitments to member states to restore ecosystems, including sea grass meadows, peatlands, old-growth forests and semi-natural grasslands. In Ireland all of these habitats are in bad condition and require urgent intervention if restoration is even to remain possible;
· restoring nature on farmland including halving the use of chemical pesticides, an increase of land area under organic production to 25% and the restoration of degraded soils;
· the strategy alludes to the ending of all bottom-trawling at sea (which would be an enormous boost for marine life), eliminating or vastly reducing the unwanted by-catch of threatened marine species and ‘zero tolerance’ for illegal fishing practices;
· Restoring freshwater ecosystems through the removal of dams and other barriers and ‘zero pollution’ from nitrogen and phosphorus (typically through run-off from farmland or discharges from human waste).
If implemented, these measures would have enormous ramifications for Ireland’s farming, fishing, peat mining and forestry sectors. The IWT would like to have seen the issue of non-farmed land in the Common Agricultural Policy addressed (e.g. through a rewilding action) while an action to plant 3 billion trees is meaningless when the type, nature or area of woodland is not stated (much better would be an area target for restored native woodland, or area-target for commercial woodland under close-to-nature practices).
The IWT nevertheless welcomes the strategy. We hope that the next minister with responsibility for biodiversity will engage positively with this process so that we can move beyond ‘symbolic’ declarations to measurable improvements for the natural world upon which we all depend.
CONTACT: Padraic Fogarty – IWT’s Campaigns Officer: firstname.lastname@example.org