Five reasons why it’s wrong to abolish the Department of the Environment

Published by Conor Mulvihill on

June 1st, 2016

The Department of the Environment is needed to prevent severe losses to biodiversity, and damage to the natural systems that provide us with clean air and water, and support food production in Ireland. A strong and well-funded Department dealing with all natural environment issues – natural heritage, wildlife, water, air, waste, forestry, soil and climate change is needed .


No one to take responsibility

  1. Dividing up various environmental issues across different departments is detrimental to Ireland’s environment. If the current arrangements are implemented wildlife, water and waste will be split up between three government departments. Breaking up these functions will greatly diminish the impact of environmental considerations on government decision-making, and any unified approach to environmental protection will be severely weakened.


One Department and one minister.

  1. Such a department needs a clear mandate to protect the natural environment. It is necessary to place environmental functions under the responsibility of one minister the Government would recognise the importance of preserving the Irish environment and our moral and legal obligations to protect, restore and enhance our environment for current and future generations. If a department or minister is only partially responsible for certain environmental affairs it’s likely that they will give a lot less attention to tackling such issues and most likely such issues will be last on their agenda.


More environmental agreement deadlines will be missed.

  1. Ireland has signed a variety of environmental agreements including UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030, the Paris climate conference (COP21) for 2020, and to phase out power stations burning peat past 2019 to name a few. Ireland has been notorious in the past for missing deadlines for other environmental agreements similar to the ones mentioned. The lack of a strong and well-funded Department will only result in more deadlines being missed giving the Irish government a bad name at home and abroad.


The wrong message

  1. If the proposals are carried out it would make Ireland the only EU member State without a Minister for the Environment, a matter of considerable international embarrassment. Not having a Department with the Environment in its title gives a strong impression to the Irish people and to other countries that the natural environment is not viewed as an important issue by the Irish Government.


The environmental problems facing Ireland now and in the future

  1. Ireland is facing a variety of key environmental challenges now and in the coming years. These include limiting and adapting to climate change, reversing environmental degradation, mainstreaming environmental considerations and complying with environmental legislation and agreements. Sustainable development emphasizes how natural resources and environmental conditions are fundamental to the economic and social well-being of future generations and how they should not be exhausted or degraded. In this regard it is vital that environmental issues and considerations be placed at the heart of policy and decision-making across all sectors.

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Conor Mulvihill

Conor is Communications Assistant with the Irish Environmental Network. His background is in science and he has a masters in international relations.