November 2, 2020

Biodiversity, a critical part of addressing existing and potential climate challenges

Climate Action in Ireland

The Committee on Climate Action has emphasised that a failure to provide adequate support for biodiversity in the Climate Bill may lead to a reduction in our ability to respond to other disruptive climate events in the future.


Yvonne Buckley, a Professor of Zoology at the Trinity College of Dublin presented the warning during recent pre-legislative discussions, indicating that further challenges are disruptive events that are likely to emerge in the future. Professor Buckley explained that if we eliminate biodiversity from the system, we potentially will lose the capacity to create resilient food systems that are capable of recovering from other events in the future.

Jennifer Whitmore of the Social Democrats raised her concerns, stating that in the urgent move to tackle climate change, we are focusing our attention on innovative technology, but at the expense of leaving biodiversity out of the equation. In the latest plans, the phrase ‘biodiversity’ only appears twice in the entire 54-page report. It is believed that biodiversity, along with ‘ecosystem services’ is regarded as an area of expertise for members of the Climate Change Advisory Council.

Professor Buckley believes the bill should be compliant and support the implementation of the National Biodiversity Action Plan. The Bill was promised by the new Government within the first 100 days of their term and was published last month. It includes a goal of reaching climate neutrality by 2050, five-year carbon budgets and yearly updates to the 2019 Climate Action Plan and a strong role for the Climate Change Advisory Council

Dr James Glynn of the MaREI Research Centre presented to the Committee explaining that scientifically explicitly language needs to be included in the bill. Dr Glynn urged for the word “achieve” to be readded into the bill, citing the use of the term with the 2050 target. At present, the bill includes the phrase ‘to pursue’ the 2050 target of climate neutrality, rather than definitively achieve this level. Some concerns reducing the word ‘achieve’ from the bill could be very detrimental to reaching these targets.

In regards to the development of innovative technologies such as carbon capturing and storage, Dr Glynn emphasised that without nearly 100% capture rates, fossil fuel CCS facilities are likely to meet the Paris Agreement compliant goals without emissions being offset in other areas of the energy system. Dr Glynn referred to a recent study in Nature suggesting that there is a potential concern of over-relying on what is yet to be complete commercialised carbon capture and storage industry. 

While Ireland intends for this technology to develop further, scientists are urging the nation not to be too focused on CCS and expectations that it will deliver in the short term. Dr Glynn believes that if CCS is not readily available in Ireland within the short term, then policies should be more focused on accelerating mitigation.