The EU’s current biodiversity strategy is a “failure”, the Minister for Heritage has declared.
Yesterday, the EU Council reached an agreement on a nature restoration law that would put in place recovery measures that would cover at least 20% of the EU’s land and 20% sea areas by 2030.
Minister Malcolm Noonan welcomed the Council’s agreement and said current legislation is not working.
“All the trends are going in the wrong direction,” he told The Pat Kenny Show.
“Our water quality is [declining], we’re losing spaces to nature, a lot of habitats are in poor condition and in Ireland that’s reflected very much - as it is broadly in Europe as well.”
The Nature Restoration Law still needs to be passed by the European Parliament, but Minister Noonan said “the general mood in the room was good” and he was optimistic it would become law.
If enacted, it would have “significant implication” for Ireland - and not just in rural areas.
“They’re talking about urban tree cover,” he said.
“You look at flooding we’ve had in Tralee and my own home town of Kilkenny over the last few days with the heavy rainfall, it’s about nature-based solutions and having solutions to manage that.
“But also increasing nature in urban areas; so, I think it’s critically important that you connect habitats.”
The details of each member state’s restoration plan will be decided by national Governments over the next two years and Minister Noonan promised to “engage broadly with stakeholders”.
He was also keen to disavow the idea that nature restoration would disadvantage the agricultural sector.
“So, for instance, we have a fantastic project up in Donegal and Mayo called Wild Atlantic Nature where in the last few weeks farmers have been paid on average payments of €3,200 - €2.4 million going into the local economy up there,” he said.
“That’s a life project, it’s a five year cycle.
“So, what we’re very keen to pursue is this idea of a Nature Fund, so that we can give long-term certainty to landowners.
“We don’t see agriculture and nature as being separated from each other; nature needs farming and farming needs nature.”
In April, the Citizens’ Assembly on Biodiversity Loss published its final report and urged the Government to “take prompt, decisive, and urgent action to address biodiversity loss and restoration”.
Main image: A Puffin is seen on Wild Isles. Picture by: BBC