The Government must adopt an “overarching” environmental policy

25 November 2020 

The state must pursue a national environmental policy that incorporates the climate crisis, biodiversity loss and water and air quality, the EPA said today. 

In their over 400-paged State of the Environment report, the body warned that the outlook for Ireland’s environment is not “optimistic”.

“The overall quality of Ireland’s environment is not what it should be, and the outlook is not optimistic unless we accelerate the implementation of solutions across all sectors and society,” EPA Director General Laura Burke said. 

In order to take meaningful action, the intersectional issues of climate change, the biodiversity crisis, and water and air quality cannot be “looked at in isolation, as they are complex, interconnected, and need to be tackled in an integrated way,” she warned. 

In addition to a policy-reset, Ms Burke stressed better implementation of existing policy was needed. 

“Many plans and programmes are already in place which, if fully implemented, would go a long way towards resolving persistent environmental issues. 

Full implementation of, and compliance with, legislation is a must to protect the environment,” she said. 

More than “meeting targets” 

The EPA’s analysis also confirmed that Ireland is failing to curb its emissions and meet its own climate targets. 

But the agency noted that the task at hand is “more than meeting targets” and that the real goal for the state in the face of the climate crisis is “to have a resilient and stable society and economy, one that is carbon neutral through its own efforts and natural attributes”. 

The report also stated that nature and wild spaces are under “unprecedented pressure” and need to have better safeguards. 

“Ireland is already losing much of what is important in its environment,” Dr Michael Leane of the EPA said. 

“Now, more than ever, Ireland’s green and blue spaces, which include urban parks, coasts, lakes, rivers, forest and bogs are essential components of our health infrastructure,” he added. 

Investing in the environment, according to Dr Lehane, is also “an investment in our health”. 

Earlier this month the EPA warned that raw sewage from 35 towns and villages are present in Irish waters and that the vast majority of these areas are unlikely to receive treatment until after 2021. 

Its presence was an “unacceptable risk” to both public health and the environment, Dr Tom Ryan of the EPA said at the time. 

Yet “another wake-up call” 

Sinn Fein Senator Lynn Boylan said today’s report comes as yet “another wake-up call” and “tells us what we already knew”.

“We need a holistic, whole-of-government approach. Sadly, this government is failing to implement that and are failing to give these crises the attention they demand,” she said. 

Minister for Climate Action Eamon Ryan retweeted the report, quoting the agency’s assessment of the scale of biodiversity loss and damage that has already been done to ecosystems. 

“It’s our job in Government to help deliver the necessary solutions,” he said. 

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Kayle Crosson