Message from the Chief Executive Officer
The publication of the report from the Citizens’ Assembly on Biodiversity Loss was a landmark event in the realm of public policy in 2023. A representative group of 99 members of the public, randomly selected from households across Ireland, came together to hear from experts, stakeholders and the general public about biodiversity loss and related issues. Having considered a large body of information and opinion from invited guests, the Assembly recommended 159 actions that it considered necessary if biodiversity loss was to be halted. An interesting feature is that the results of the ballots on each of the recommended actions are included in the report. While there was near unanimity on some actions, particularly those directed at State Agencies, actions that require a significant change in behaviour by society or which impact specific sectoral activities received less overwhelming support. This is an important signal from the process that much work needs to be done to convince everyone of the need to take action and not to rely on others.
The publication of the Fourth National Biodiversity Plan was deferred to allow some of the recommendations from the citizens’ assembly to make their way immediately into public policy. This is a good move as it captures some of the sense of urgency that the Citizen’s Assembly on Biodiversity Loss highlighted in its report. The Fourth National Biodiversity Plan is due for publication early in 2024. This biodiversity policy framework presents an opportunity to serve as the catalyst for the ambition and recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly on Biodiversity Loss to translate into real action in Ireland to address biodiversity loss.
Approval by the European Parliament of a Nature Restoration Law in November is another recent development for biodiversity. This legislation aims to restore at least 20% of the EU’s degraded land and seas by 2030 and repair all ecosystems in need of restoration by 2050. It will require all EU States to submit National Restoration Plans to the Commission within two years, and these plans must show how they will deliver on the targets. Not everyone is happy about this new legislation. It has been resisted by the agricultural sector, where it is being presented as a threat to their industry. It is unfortunate that biodiversity is being presented in this way, as the challenge we face is to explore how
biodiversity loss can be addressed while maintaining a viable agricultural industry. But to do this, it will require genuine efforts to change the way biodiversity is managed on agricultural land.
How this might be done was the topic of the National Biodiversity Data Centre’s Protecting Farmland Pollinators EIP project, working with 40 productive farmers in County Kildare. The evidence from this fiveyear research project shows clearly that where farmers took evidence-based actions on farmland significant benefits for biodiversity were achieved without impacting on the productivity of their farming systems. An added benefit of the project was that the participating farmers really enjoyed taking these actions, learning about biodiversity, and working with the National Biodiversity Data Centre to come up with practical, workable solutions.