Addressing climate change and invasive species a priority across British Isles, says British-Irish Council

23rd March 2018

Addressing the immediate and long-term risks and impacts of climate change must be a priority for priority for all Governments in the British Isles, the British-Irish Council said today.

This was one of the key findings of Environmental Ministers as the British-Irish Council (BIC) environment division met today at Farmleigh House, Co Dublin for its fifteenth meeting.

The Council was established under the Good Friday Agreement and brings together the Irish and British Governments, together with the devolved institutions in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales and representatives of the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey.

Today’s meeting focused on how the administrations can work together on climate adaptation, as well as how to tackle invasive non-native species and food waste.

In a communique issued following the meeting, the Council said that all of the administrations agreed that they face a number of shared climate change impacts, challenges, and opportunities.

Ministers discussed the current and future impacts of climate change including changes in precipitation patterns and the frequency of extreme weather events in recent years.

According to the communique, the Ministers recognised that the burden of these impacts will fall heavily on human health, biodiversity and habitats, and the forestry and agricultural sectors.

The Council also issued a document on how best to respond to the challenge of climate change impacts and adaptation following the meeting.

“A number of these impacts will be transnational and may require coordination and collaboration at a regional level to ensure a coherent and effective response,” the report states.

The report points to the economic “cost of inaction” will likely exceed the cost of “early adaptation action”.

“Early adaptation action is imperative to anticipate potential damage and to plan for and implement measures to minimise threats to the economy, private property, critical infrastructure and ecosystems,” the report finds.

Invasive Species

The threat posed by invasion non-native species to their respective ecosystems was emphasised by all Ministers at the meeting.

Invasive species were estimated to have cost the economies of Ireland and Northern Ireland a combined total of over €261million in 2013 and are a major threat to our native flora and fauna.

The Ministers also launched Invasive Species Week at the event, which will be coordinated for the first time across all the BIC administrations

The importance of prevention of aquatic species such as freshwater invaders from the Ponto-Caspian region was highlighted, and well as the need to push for better coordination with countries on the continent to reduce the risk of invasion.

Ministers also agreed to enhanced cooperation on some key invasive species including muntjac deer and the sea squirt.

Minister for the Environment Denis Naughten said: “Invasive alien species impact numerous areas of our daily lives such as healthcare and animal health, crop yields, damage to infrastructure, damage to the navigability of rivers, and damage to protected species.”

“It is the responsibility of all of us to ensure we take all appropriate steps to minimise their spread,” he added.  According to the National Biodiversity Data Centre, the number of invasive species in Ireland has increased by 183 per cent in the past 50 years.

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