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OPINION: Climate and biodiversity emergency declaration warranted

May 26th, 2019 5:00 PM

By Southern Star Team

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DENIERS of climate change and the threat it poses to humanity and the world we inhabit need to wake up to its reality given the damage it is inflicting on biodiversity, which is seeing the extinction of millions of species of our flora and fauna. The damage this is doing is being especially highlighted to coincide with National Biodiversity Week 2019, during which experts have been communicating the importance of biodiversity and urging people to do their bit to try to protect it.

Biodiversity loss poses a huge global threat to our livelihoods, food security, health, and quality of life, and a recent UN report on biodiversity highlighted that nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history, with accelerated rates of species extinctions.

According to An Taisce, Ireland is not immune to this mass extinction of species. The National Biodiversity Centre found that Irish butterfly populations have plummeted at a rate of 12% over the past decade, and a third of all Irish bee species could be extinct by 2030.

Globally we are losing plant, insect, mammal and bird biodiversity at rates not heretofore witnessed. In Ireland, 85% of our protected habitats are in poor or inadequate condition, and over 50% are declining, while 14% of species assessed are considered to be endangered

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is an international legally-binding treaty, which was signed by 150 government leaders, including Ireland, at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. It sets out three main goals: the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components, and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits from the use of genetic resources.

As a party to the CBD, Ireland is required to submit national reports on the measures taken and their effectiveness in meeting the objectives of the convention. The latest one, compiled by the National Parks and Wildlife Service, has been described as ‘a damning indictment of the state of biodiversity in Ireland, with insufficient progress reported across most targets.’

In response, and in order to try to protect nature and to make the country a better place for people and biodiversity, the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Ms Josepha Madigan, TD, wants all sectors to play a part. The government’s National Biodiversity Action Plan includes the creation of a biodiversity duty across sectors to ensure they promote biodiversity and reduce impacts of their work and she is about to oblige public bodies to increase protection for Ireland’s biodiversity.

In parallel, in recent weeks, Dáil Éireann has declared a climate and biodiversity emergency,  accepting and endorsing the report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action, and becoming only the second national parliament in the world to have done so. This, at least, is an official acknowledgement of our failures in the area, especially on how dismally we are failing to get anywhere near the EU-set target of reducing the level of our 2005 greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020.

Of course, this declaration will count for nothing if it is not followed by action from both government and individuals to reduce emissions. We have to look at what changes we can make ourselves in the areas of energy efficiency, mode of transport and, where appropriate, in our diets.

The threat to our delicate ecosystem, however, is probably even more urgent and anything we can do to protect and enhance biodiversity in our gardens would be a start in a bigger effort to  try to stem and, hopefully, reverse the decline in animal and plant species that is currently happening at such frightening rates.

Biodiversity is aptly described by the organisers of National Diversity Week as ‘the foundation for human health,’ adding that ‘it underpins the functioning of the ecosystems on which we depend for our food and fresh water, the air we breathe, aids in regulating climate and offers us an aesthetic beauty and aids our mental health.’

So, it beggars belief why would want to continue with actions from the past that will only further threaten biodiversity and, by extension, the world that we live in and would like to pass on still intact to future generations. More than ever before, we need to think globally and act locally on taking measures to encourage biodiversity; not doing so will only lead to a man-made catastrophe of epic proportions.

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