Progress “too slow” on Government climate and biodiversity targets

13 September 2021

The pace of environmental progress is currently “too slow” to achieve the Government’s targets, according to a new report. 

A Friends of the Earth commissioned report card awarded the Government a “C+” grade for its current standing on climate and environment commitments made in the Programme for Government last year. 

Based on an out-of-10 ranking, the Government scored relatively high in areas like waste and climate governance, but fell to 4.5 and 4 respectively when it came to biodiversity, forestry and agriculture. 

“While many of the Government’s commitments are not yet visible in our everyday lives, environmental issues have clearly moved up the political agenda in the past year,” the chair of the report’s assessment panel Dr Cara Augustenborg said. 

“However, serious concerns remain regarding the Government’s progress in addressing the biodiversity crisis, declining water quality, and the role of agriculture and forestry in these areas,” she added. 

“Something done, a lot more to do”

In relation to biodiversity shortcomings, the assessment found that commitments to review the National Parks and Wildlife Service mandate and the convention of a Citizen’s Assembly on biodiversity was moving “too slowly”. 

Additionally, the ongoing failure to address previous commitments on hedgerows, invasive species and implementation of the National Biodiversity Action Plan also contributed to the low score. 

Food Vision 2030, the next agricultural blueprint, was deemed to be “incompatible with climate goals and emission reduction targets” and is set to “perpetuate an agricultural model which is directly responsible for escalating nutrient pollution and locks Ireland into damaging water quality for the remainder of this Government,” according to the report. 

“I would sum up this assessment as ‘something done, a lot more to do’”, Director of Friends of the Earth Oisin Coghlan said. 

“For me, the report highlights how essential it is that people and communities stay engaged in climate campaigning. Civil society pressure helped to secure the progressive commitments in the Programme for Government and only sustained engagement with our elected representatives will ensure they are delivered,” he added. 

The report, coming just days before the Oireachtas will return from its recess, echoes previous assessments of progress on the climate and biodiversity crisis.

Earlier this year, the National Biodiversity Forum issued their verdict that the current National Biodiversity Plan had failed to stem the loss of nature in Ireland. 

The current plan is set to expire by year end, and the Forum stressed that “little or no action” had been taken to address some of its key objectives. 

They recommended that the plan’s successor must be put on a legal footing and be backed with adequate funding. 

“If the new Biodiversity Action Plan is to have any meaning, it must be backed by law – legislators must step up to this task,” Pádraic Fogarty of the Environmental Pillar said. 

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