Biodiversity essential to “address future climate shocks”

29 October 2020 

Failing to adequately consider biodiversity in the Climate Bill could reduce our ability to respond to future climate shocks, the Committee on Climate Action has heard. 

Professor of Zoology Yvonne Buckley at Trinity College Dublin issued the warning in today’s pre-legislative scrutiny and noted that such shocks are coming down the road in “twenty to thirty years”. 

“If we remove biodiversity from the system, we may lose the ability to have food systems that are resilient and that can recover from such shocks,” she added. 

In response, Social Democrats TD Jennifer Whitmore expressed her concern that “in the rush to address climate change we’re going to do it through technological innovations” and that biodiversity would be left to the wayside.

In the current Bill, the term biodiversity is mentioned just twice in its 54 pages. Alongside “ecosystem services”, it is also considered an area of expertise for a Climate Change Advisory Council member. 

The Bill should therefore comply with and actively support the implementation of the National Biodiversity Action Plan, according to Prof Buckley.

The Bill was promised within the first 100 days of the new Government’s term and was published earlier this month.

It proposes a 2050 target of climate neutrality, five year carbon budgets, annual revisions to the 2019 Climate Action Plan and a strengthened role for the Climate Change Advisory Council. 

Carbon Capture and Storage 

Dr James Glynn of the MaREI Research Centre also spoke before the Committee and said “scientifically explicit language” must be used in the Bill. 

Additionally, Dr Glynn called for the word “achieve” to be reinstated in relation to the 2050 target. 

Currently, the Bill says the 2050 target of climate neutrality is something to “pursue”, rather than “pursue and achieve” as previous legislation has called for. 

Dropping the word achieve, Dr Thomas Munizer told the Committee, “sends alarm bells to a lawyer”. 

Addressing the prospect of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), Dr. Glynn stressed that without near 100 per cent capture rates of CO2, fossil-fuel CCS plants are likely to be inconsistent with Paris Agreement compliant targets without emissions offsetting elsewhere in the energy system. 

Citing a recent publication in Nature, there is a risk of an overreliance on what is “yet to be fully commercialised Carbon Capture and Storage”, Dr. Glynn warned. 

Therefore, while Ireland should hope for the technology to develop, we should not hedge our bets to “expect it to deliver in the near term”. 

If CCS is not available in Ireland in the short term, he added, then policy should be geared towards “more rapid mitigation”. 

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