Government to scale up efforts to prevent species loss

Creation of ‘biodiversity duty’ on public and local authorities among new measures

The decline in Irish native bee and butterfly populations is matching accelerating global declines. Photograph: iStock

The decline in Irish native bee and butterfly populations is matching accelerating global declines. Photograph: iStock

 

The Government is to scale up efforts to address widespread species loss in Ireland and to protect habitats details of which will be announced by the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan on Wednesday.

Legislation to create a “biodiversity duty” on public and local authorities is one of the key measures that will be outlined at the opening of the first National Biodiversity Conference taking place at Dublin Castle.

Organised by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and the Irish Forum for Natural Capital (IFNC), the event brings together all key stakeholders from Government, public bodies, business and NGOs in an effort to reverse biodiversity loss and fully implement the National Biodiversity Action Plan.

The announcement coincides with confirmation that the decline in Irish native bee and butterfly populations is matching accelerating global declines. Of the 3,000 Irish species of plants and animals subject to conservation assessment, 25 per cent are threatened with extinction.

Ms Madigan is to double annual funding for biodiversity actions by local authorities’ biodiversity and heritage officers to €1 million, and to increase supports for efforts to tackle invasive species.

A climate action programme within the department is to be set up to improve understanding of the impact of climate change on biodiversity, and a platform to address biodiversity is to be set up with Irish businesses. Improved surveillance, detection and prosecution of wildlife crime is to be pursued, backed by a new memorandum of understanding with An Garda Síochána.

The conference is aiming to agree at least “20 seeds for nature” among stakeholders across all sectors of society and the economy. To advance this, Ms Madigan is hosting a meeting of senior leaders from Government, business and NGOs at the conference.

Quoting the Living Planet Report 2018, she said: “We are the last generation that can to reverse this trend. And the time for action is now. We are well past the point of well-meaning rhetoric and pious aspirations. Our impact on disappearing nature poses a clear and present danger to this and future generations.”

The Government had an important role to play and its vision was outlined in the National Biodiversity Action Plan, she said. “We have also committed to providing €60 million funding to protect our natural heritage and biodiversity in Project Ireland 2040.”

Her department was protecting the national parks and reserves, rebuilding the National Parks and Wildlife Service, restoring bogs and carrying out extensive scientific investigation and monitoring of habitats and species, she said. “In Budget 2019 we increased funding for our built and natural heritage sector by 15 per cent to €54.3 million,” she said.

The Minister accepted the need to do more. “The initiatives I will be announcing are a sign of this Government’s commitment to protecting and restoring nature,” she said.

However, she said success would only come through collaboration with farmers, foresters, fishers, local authorities, businesses and communities.

“I’m asking everyone to lead within their own sphere of influence for a new horizon for nature in Ireland. Our rivers, our kingfishers, our woodlands, our salmon, our pollinators, our meadows, our eagles, our whales and dolphins, will not thrive without it,” she said.

Her department is to seek the views of the public on a draft biodiversity climate change adaptation plan. It “ aims to protect biodiversity from the impacts of climate change and to conserve and manage ecosystems so that they deliver services that increase the adaptive capacity of people and biodiversity”, she said.

IFNC director Prof Jane Stout of Trinity College welcomed the announcement.

“Nature underpins every transaction and every decision we make. We need to value it and invest in it. The IFNC is working with a diverse range of partners to help value, protect and restore Ireland’s natural capital and ecosystem services,” she said.

“By recognising the value of nature and making informed decisions, we can help reverse nature’s decline. This will benefit nature and people. This conference is a call to action – it is bringing people together to make nature count.”