Ireland declares climate and biodiversity emergency

Published by Niall Sargent on

May 9th, 2019

The Dáil has declared a climate and biodiversity emergency, making Ireland one of the first countries to officially recognise the gravity of the crisis facing us.

The issue was raised during a debate on a motion to accept and endorse the recommendations of the new landmark climate report from the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action.

While a vote on the motion was due to be taken next Thursday, it was agreed to accept an amendment from Fianna Fáil without a vote for the Dail to also declare both a climate and biodiversity emergency.

The amendment also calls on the Citizens’ Assembly to examine how the State can improve its response to the issue of biodiversity loss.

The Fianna Fáil amendment was moved by Deputy Timmy Dooley but was put forward by Green Party Leader Eamon Ryan as there were no
Fianna Fáil members in the chamber at the time of a proposed vote.

Speaking this evening, Mr Dooley said that biodiversity loss is an “existential threat linked to the climate crisis”.

He said that action in Ireland is “lacking” to date, calling for biodiversity protection to be integrated into policy decisions across all departments.

He also called for better enforcement of environmental law and enhanced funding for the environmental and conservation sectors.

The Green Party, People Before Profit and Sinn Fein also raised amendments that would see the Dail declare a climate emergency.

The Sinn Fein amendment also called for the Dail to reject the endorsement of an increase in the carbon tax.

Extinction Rebellion Dublin April 2019 Photo: Niall Sargent

Ecological collapse

Calls for the state to declare an ecological emergency have risen in recent months as the rate of biodiversity decline increases rapidly.

On Monday, a UN-backed report found one million plant and animal species are now threatened with extinction and declining at rates unprecedented in human history.

Additionally, a report from the World Wildlife Fund and the Zoological Society of London released last October found that 60 percent of the world’s large animals had disappeared since the 1970s.

Around one-third of Ireland’s 98 wild bee species are threatened with extinction, while recent findings show that over 60 per cent of the 202 species of commonly occurring birds in Ireland is now on the red and amber conservation lists.

Over 90 per cent of 58 listed habitats in Ireland also have an ‘inadequate’ or ‘bad’ status and just over half of the 61 European protected species in Ireland are in a ‘favourable’ conservation status.

Climate emergency

Ireland remains well off track to meet its 2020 and 2030 climate targets and is singled out as one of the worst countries in Europe for addressing climate change.

Green Party Leader Eamon Ryan said that there is now a real opportunity for the political system to “recognise the scale of the [climate] challenge” and commit to begin taking the steps “needed to turn the ship around”.

“We are glad that Dail Eireann has declared a climate and biodiversity emergency and has accepted and endorsed the report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action.

“Our Parliament is the second national parliament to pass such a motion but it will be of little meaning unless we are now willing to act on the recommendations of the Committee and of the Citizens Assembly.” 

Protesters in both Dublin and Cork last week called on the State to declare a climate emergency – a key demand of both the school strikes movement and Extinction Rebellion.

Scotland, Wales, and Westminster officially declared climate emergencies in the past few weeks. Wicklow became the first county in Ireland to declare a climate and biodiversity emergency last week.

Extinction Rebellion Ireland protest Photo: Niall Sargent

Time to ‘rise to the challenge’

The Stop Climate Chaos (SCC) coalition sent a letter to all TDs this morning urging them to support the motion.

The letter called on them to “demand that the Government incorporates the full suite” of recommendations in the Oireachtas report in forthcoming climate change policy.

“This is the Dáil’s opportunity to rise to the challenge of climate change and represent the public’s increasing desire for urgent action,” said Oisín Coghlan, coordinator of SCC.

“Declaring a Climate Emergency is a rational response to the threat level and our failure so far to stem the pollution poisoning our life support system on Earth, our only home,” he added.

Image by NiklasPntk from Pixabay
Image by NiklasPntk from Pixabay

New era for climate policy

The climate action report – launched in April – follows months of scrutiny by Committee members and builds on a wish list outlined by the Citizens’ Assembly on how the State can lead on climate action.

The Government has said that it will feed the recommendations into its upcoming All-of-Government climate plan and the National Energy and Climate Plan that will be sent to the European Commission later this year.

Overall, the report is widely ambitious as the Committee recognises that the window of opportunity to reduce emissions and avoid severe climate impacts is rapidly closing.

The report recommends replacing our current self-designated target of 80 per cent emissions reductions by 2050 with a new target of net zero emissions by mid-century that is set in stone in new climate legislation.

Other recommendations accepted by the Committee include calls for the Government to establish a just transition taskforce focused on workers in the Midlands and a new legal framework for tackling climate change.

Recommendations to embed climate into the educational curriculum and for new broadcast media guidelines for climate coverage were also accepted.

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Categories: News

Niall Sargent

Niall is the Editor of The Green News. He is a multimedia journalist, with an MA in Investigative Journalism from City University, London