January 18, 2021

Ireland commits to an international coalition to protect biodiversity

Biodiversity Strategy

Ireland has committed to an international coalition that intends to protect over 30% of the planet’s land and seas. The announcement represents a part of the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People launch from last week which aims to create an agreement to address the biodiversity crisis.

The coalition has announced a goal to exceed 30% protection of the planet by the end of the decade and to focus on delivering global nature-based solutions. Minister of State Malcolm Noonan confirmed Ireland’s participation in the coalition and represented Ireland at the One Planet Summit for Biodiversity meeting last week.

Referencing the ongoing challenges of the pandemic, Minister Noonan explained that the ability and progress of countries working together to support our nature and biodiversity had been impacted. Minister Noonan highlights, however, the implications of Covid-19 have enabled us to reassess our position and relationship with nature, especially in regards to how we can minimise the impacts of future pandemics. Mr Noonan explains that acknowledging and addressing the extent of damage to nature is critical in achieving  a sustainable future.

The Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) has welcomed the commitment but emphasised that it needs to be supported by swift and decisive action, including an end to overfishing, a focus on land restoration and the development of a nature-focused farming system. The IWT highlights that we need to show clear progress and act in a way that echoes the state of emergency announced by the Dáil several years ago.

Padraic Fogarty, the campaigns officer at IWT explains that we are yet to see any clear delivery on the commitments made from the 1990s and 2000s, in which extinction and pollution were regarded as things of the past. The reality is, extinction has only become more of an issue in recent times. Oonagh Duggan of BirdWatch Ireland explains that the coalition is an important agreement, but requires ramifications to certain structures that are limiting effective action against biodiversity loss. This includes enforcing stable funding for the National Parks and Wildlife Service, improving enforcement measures of environmental laws and ensuring governments prioritise biodiversity and conservation in their existing and future policies.

The recent coalition plans represent the second international biodiversity action taken by Ireland in recent months. In September 2020, Ireland agreed to join the ‘Leaders Pledge for Nature’. Representative committed to reaching a vision of “Living in Harmony with Nature” by 2050 and ensuring our world was on track to reach biodiversity recovery by 2030. The United Nations previously announced a target of reaching at least 30% global protection and proposed over 30% of climate mitigation plans to meet the targets set in the Paris Agreement should be achieved through nature-focused solutions. For Ireland, this would involve planting native trees and rewetting peatlands.

The biodiversity challenge in Ireland

According to reports, over 60% of Ireland’s wild bird species are currently listed as a conservation concern, and waterbird species have witnessed a 40% decline over the last twenty years. Furthermore, over 30% of Irish bees are now threatened with extinction, over 80% of protected habitats are believed to be in poor condition and water quality reports suggest a continued decline in conditions.