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  • Writer's pictureFiona Smith

Joint Committee on Environment and Climate Action Report on Biodiversity

The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Environment and Climate Action Report on Biodiversity which sat earlier this year and heard contributions from NCI founder Prof Jane Stout & INCASE project lead Dr Catherine Farrell has issued its report with recommendations on biodiversity.

The cross-party Committee chaired by Brian Leddin heard from a series of experts on the topic of how diversity within nature's links to climate issues and how to tackle Ireland's biodiversity crisis. Mr Leddin writes that the report points towards "how we restore biodiversity...and how to best reap co-benefits associated with diverse ecosystems in order to mitigate climate change".

The report sets out 75 recommendations and highlights the need for prioritising the designation of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) as well as the immediate development and implementation of management plans for existing and future designated MPAs.

A key element in restoring biodiversity on land would be an agri-environment scheme that would provide farmers with greater incentives to protect and create areas of biodiversity on their land, as well as greater engagement with landowners to provide tailored solutions to peatland restoration, an issue discussed by Dr Farrell.

On forestry, the Committee recommends pursuing a policy of forestry diversification to increase the resilience of our forests.

Given the lack of consistent data and research into biodiversity in Ireland (an issue also highlighted by NCI's Data4Nature workshop last year), it is welcome that the Committee recommends increased resources for research, monitoring and data gathering projects for biodiversity to inform future Government policy and highlights the need for farmers to measure their own emissions.

Since biodiversity is an issue that cuts across all sectors of government, all bodies need to work together, and all Departments must acknowledge and fulfil their obligations to protect and enhance biodiversity

Further recommendations which should help on this front include:

- the introduction of legislative provisions to protect and promote biodiversity on a statutory basis to set out roles and obligations across all Departments and public bodies in respect of biodiversity,

- Biodiversity Officers/Units within Government Departments, local authorities and other public bodies where appropriate to coordinate and promote biodiversity measures,

- the establishment of a Joint Committee on Biodiversity to oversee developments with regard to biodiversity in all environments.

The report quotes Professor Jane Stout pointing out the various values of nature, stating that: “without a variety of different creatures in soils, hedgerows, woodlands, bogs and heaths, we would not be able to produce food, timber and other raw materials. Without a variety of creatures and habitats in the landscape, we would not have protection against natural hazards such as seasurges, floods and droughts. Without a rich and diverse landscape, our culture and recreational opportunities would be diminished.”

Stakeholders suggested that the lack of value placed on nature has been driven by EU and national policy. Dr Deirdre Lynn, National Parks and Wildlife Service and long-time NCI Steering Committee noted that current economic measurements, particularly Gross Domestic Product (GDP), are inadequate when it comes to measuring the impact and value to society of biodiversity protection and restoration. She stated that: “We should be measuring progress by our common good. Various indices are worked on, for example, the happiness index. There should be a different one rather than having only straightforward GDP because it is not a good measure of how the general population are feeling.”

Read the full report HERE.

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