Ireland urged to adopt overarching environmental policy

16th December 2020

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Sine Gabbott

The absence of an overarching national environmental policy is having a negative impact on the Republic of Ireland's efforts tackling climate change, biodiversity loss, air pollution, and other individual challenges.

That is according to a report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which warned that the outlook for Ireland's environment “is not optimistic“ under a business-as-usual scenario.

For example, the document highlights how 90% the country's energy is still generated from fossil fuels, while 85% of EU listed habitats are in unfavourable conditions.

The EPA called for a “decade of action“, warning that, when it comes to Ireland's environment, “the sum of the parts does not make up a coherent whole“.

“Environmental issues and challenges such as climate change, air quality, water quality and biodiversity cannot be looked at in isolation, as they are complex, interconnected and need to be tackled in an integrated way,“ explained the EPA's director general, Laura Burke.

“Now is the time for an overarching environmental policy position for Ireland – to be clear on our ambition to protect Ireland's environment in the short, medium and long-term, and on our commitment to live up to the image of a clean green island.“

In relation to greenhouse gas emissions, the report's data confirms Ireland's underachievement in curbing emissions and meeting its targets.

The findings also show that the number of areas with pristine water quality has fallen from over 500 in the 1980s to just 20 today, and that raw sewage is being discharged to water from 35 Irish towns and villages.

Air quality in some urban areas still does not meet World Health Organization (WHO) standards, according to the report, while wetland birds, such as curlews, are under threat as a breeding species.

In addition to an overarching national goal, the EPA called for better implementation and delivery of existing environmental legislation and policies.

It highlighted how COVID-19 has shown people the importance of the natural environment in their local areas, boosting awareness of the positive benefits of a clean environment for health and well-being.

“Now, more than ever, Ireland's green and blue spaces, which include urban parks, coasts, lakes, rivers, forest and bogs, are essential components of our health infrastructure,“ said Dr Micheal Lehane, director of the EPA's Office of Environmental Assessment.

“These allow people to get out in nature and away from everyday stresses, to the benefit of health and well-being and they need to be clean and protected. An investment in the environment is also an investment in our health.“

Image credit: iStock


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