Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Minister to launch new National Biodiversity Action Plan

Minister of State for Nature, Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan will launch a new National Biodiversity Action Plan (NBAP) today (Thursday, January 25).

Ireland’s 4th NBAP aims to protect and restore nature nationwide, and is the first to be published under the Wildlife Amendment Act 2023, with legal requirements for public bodies.

The plan, which will be officially launched at the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin, comprises 194 actions including commitments to develop a national Nature Restoration Plan.

The actions set out in the plan also include commitments to increase collaboration on nature-friendly farming, and to further strengthen action on wildlife crime.

Key recommendations made by the Citizens’ Assembly on Biodiversity Loss are also addressed in the plan. In its final report the assembly made 17 recommendations specific to agriculture.

“Biodiversity is fundamental to societal wellbeing and economic development, and its decline – both globally and in Ireland – poses serious threats to people.

“This collaborative plan sets out how Ireland will reverse these declines up to 2030,” according to the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage.

National Biodiversity Action Plan

The legislation backing the plan requires selected public service bodies to integrate biodiversity into their plans, policies and programmes, and to report to the minister on progress. 

Underpinned by an unprecedented focus on accountability, resourcing and implementation, the plan also includes commitments to: 

  • Expand and enhance our network of national parks;
  • Deliver on obligations to conserve our most precious habitats and species;
  • Strategically target efforts on invasive species;
  • Review nature governance across the state; and
  • Explore the ways in which the rights of nature can be formally recognised. 

The development of the NBAP has been led by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) at the department in collaboration with key stakeholders across government and wider society.

“Research has shown that agriculture, forestry, invasive species, resource extraction and development are having significant impacts on biodiversity in Ireland.

“Many of these issues were addressed in the landmark report by the Citizens’ Assembly on Biodiversity Loss. The NBAP seeks to address a number of its key recommendations,” the department said. 

“In my time as minister, I have visited projects and initiatives the length and breadth of the country; walked fields, hillsides, bogs, rivers, urban parks, community gardens, coastlines and hedgerows.

Biodiversity plan. Minister of State for Nature, Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan
Minister of State for Nature, Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan

“I have met the most extraordinary people bringing passion, expertise and dedication to bear on the protection and restoration of habitats and wildlife,” Minister Noonan said adding that these people need to be “empowered to keep going”.

“This plan will provide us with the focus we need to step up action to conserve and restore biodiversity and contribute to our national, regional and global targets.

“Millions of years of evolution are at stake,” assistant director, science advice and research at the NPWS, who led the development of the plan, Dr. Deirdre Lynn said.

Biodiversity loss

In recent decades, scientists across the world have been documenting “increasingly worrying” declines in biodiversity, according to the department.

In Ireland, almost a third of our EU-protected species and 85% of EU-protected habitats are in unfavourable status, and over half of native Irish plant species have declined in the last 20 years.

Over 20% of breeding and 52% of key wintering bird species are reported to have short-term declining trends, and 30% of our semi-natural grasslands have been lost in the past 10 years.

Extinction threatens 48 species living in the Irish marine environment, including fish, crustaceans, shellfish and invertebrates, according to the department.