February 21st, 2019
The Green Party has called on the government to stop paying lip service to biodiversity protection and invest €50 million in the chronically underfunded National Parks and Wildlife Service.
As Ireland’s first National Biodiversity Conference comes to a close, the Greens want the positive momentum of the event to lead to a concrete investment in protecting nature.
Speaking at the conference yesterday, UCD researcher Rachel Morrison said that we are “not really seeing investment” in our natural environment or in our natural capital in Ireland.
Pointing to a UCD review of national biodiversity expenditure carried out last year, Ms Morrison said that direct spending on biodiversity from 2010 to 2015 amounted to €1.49 billion or 0.31 per cent of government expenditure.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature for OECD countries to contribute at least 0.3 per cent of their GDP for biodiversity conservation. Ireland currently spends .13 per cent of GDP in this area.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), in particular, has seen a “continuous year-on-year reduction” in its budget that has left it “in a critical state”, the review found.
The total NPWS budget for 2017 was €11 million. By way of comparison, the Greyhound Racing Bord received €16 million of public money in 2017 while Horse Racing Ireland received €64 million.
The Green Party said that it wants to see the “chronically underfunded” NPWS receive a serious increase in funding to help their “excellent and committed staff” to protect and manage our nature.
Senator Grace O’Sullivan said that her party’s proposal for an additional €50 million of funding for the NPWS will also help to provide jobs in rural areas around Ireland.
It will also help us to fulfil our obligation to manage our Natura 2000 European sites effectively and protect the “incredible wealth of nature we possess for the next generation”, she said.
“Let me be clear though this investment alone will not stop biodiversity loss we need a raft of changes to tackle this crisis but it would be a strong first step.”
The errors of our ways
Speaking today, the coordinator of the Environmental Pillar, Michael Ewing, said that the Minister for Public Expenditure should give the keynote address at the next conference to announce that our Government has “seen the error of their ways” in terms of biodiversity spending.
In the meantime, he said that the Government must properly fund the NPWS to give it the support to do its job, as well as reversing cuts to funding for the Heritage Council and environmental NGOs.
He also called for long-term future of the National Biodiversity Data Centre with a clear rolling multi-annual budget and commitment to providing long-term funding for the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan.
Speaking this morning, President Michael D Higgins said that the burden of responsibility to protect biodiversity all too often falls on the shoulders of environmental NGOs.
He reserved special praise for the Irish Environmental Network and it’s 32 members who have been a “welcome voice in our public discourse” on biodiversity loss.
While praising the increasing level of constructive dialogue between the Government and conservation groups, Mr Higgins said that the NGOs also “serve a crucial function by challenging public policy and public authorities when they fall short of what is needed to protect our wildlife”.
“I am struck by their sense of determination in the face of decades of difficulties. Too often, like Cassandra heralding the fall of Troy, they have struggled to be listened to and their warnings have gone unheeded,” Mr Higgins added.