Biodiversity: Motion (Resumed)

The following motion was moved by Senator Róisín Garvey on Thursday, 5 November 2020:
"That Seanad Éireann:
- Dáil Éireann’s declaration of a climate and biodiversity emergency on 9 May 2019, and the steps that have been taken since that date at local, national and European levels to address the ongoing emergency;
acknowledges that:
- nature and biodiversity, meaning the diversity of living things within ecosystems, are deteriorating globally at rates unprecedented in human history, thus steadily destroying the essential basis for our health, sustenance, prosperity and quality of life;
- scientists have warned that a sixth mass extinction event, labelled the 'Anthropocene Extinction', may currently be under way;
- nature and biodiversity provide essential life supports to humans in a variety of ways, including through pollination of crops, regulation of water, air and soil quality, regulation of climate, provision of resources such as medicines and building materials, mitigation of natural disasters such as flooding, maintenance of options for the future, and opportunities for learning, inspiration, aesthetic appreciation, spiritual development and the improvement of mental and physical health;
- nature is essential for human existence and happiness, that natures’ contributions are difficult or impossible to replace, and that the future of humanity is inseparable from the future of nature;
- the decline of nature and biodiversity is primarily due to human drivers, including changes in land use such as agricultural expansion and urban growth, the direct exploitation of organisms via unsustainable harvesting, logging, hunting and fishing, the impact of climate change on species distribution and ecosystem structures, and its exacerbating effects upon the other drivers, pollution of the air, water and soil, and invasions of alien plant and animal species;
- the maintenance and improvement of current habitat conditions and natural heritage is as important as the generation of new ones;
notes with concern that:
- globally, around one million animal and plant species are already threatened with extinction, many within decades;
- the average abundance of native species in most major land-based habitats has fallen by at least 20 per cent, while at least 680 vertebrate species have been driven to extinction by humanity, with more than 40 per cent of amphibian species, almost 33 per cent of reef-forming corals, more than one-third of marine mammals, and approximately 10 per cent of insects threatened with extinction;
- biodiversity loss is not only an environmental issue, but a developmental, economic, security, social and moral issue as well, with current negative trends in biodiversity undermining progress towards the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals in the areas of poverty, hunger, health, water, cities, climate, oceans and land;
- a lack of diversity, especially genetic diversity, poses a serious risk to global food security by undermining the resilience of agriculture to threats such as pests, pathogens and climate change;
- land degradation has reduced the productivity of nearly 23 per cent of the global land surface, while pollinator loss increases the chances of crop failure;
- up to 400 million tons of heavy metals, solvents, toxic sludge and other industrial waste enter the world’s rivers and oceans annually, while fertilisers entering coastal ecosystems have created over 400 dead zones covering a combined area of almost one quarter of a million square kilometres;
- the destruction of natural environments, in conjunction with poaching and wildlife trafficking practices, increases the likelihood of animal-to-human transmission of zoonotic pathogens such as Ebola, Rabies, Swine Flu, Avian Flu, SARS, and possibly SARS-CoV-2 (Coronavirus);
recognises that:
- most Irish habitats listed on the European Union Habitats Directive are in unfavourable status and almost half are demonstrating ongoing declines, while none of Ireland’s grassland, heathland, bog, mire or fen habitats are in favourable status;
- almost 40 per cent of our active raised bogs in Ireland’s Special Areas of Conservation network have been lost in the past twenty years;
- of 202 regularly occurring species of bird on this island, 37 have been placed on the red conservation list, including the curlew, corncrake, lapwing, barn owl and golden eagle, while a further 91 are on the amber list, including the robin, starling, swallow, swift, cormorant, gannet and puffin;
- 30 per cent of our bee species and 18 per cent of our butterfly species are threatened with extinction;
- according to the Irish Wildlife Trust, 48 of our marine species face extinction and require greater legal protection, including the basking shark, angel shark, Atlantic salmon, sunfish, turbot, halibut, purple sea urchin and kaleidoscope jellyfish;
- seismic testing, occurring at acoustic levels 100,000 times more intense than a jet engine, has regularly occurred over the past decade during the exploration process for oil and gas reserves in Irish waters, causing untold damage to whales, dolphins and porpoises by damaging their food sources, such as plankton, and causing displacement of species in some cases;
- invasive animal species such as the zebra mussel and the grey squirrel, and invasive plant species such as giant hogweed and Japanese knotweed, pose a growing threat to our native flora and fauna;
- biodiversity provides vital ecosystem services, free of cost, to one of our most important economic sectors, agriculture, with the value of nutrient cycling by soil organisms alone estimated to be worth €1 billion a year;
- the direct annual value of insects via pollination of human food crops has been estimated as at least €53 million in Ireland, while the indirect value provided through pollination of forage crops such as clover and the maintenance of a functioning ecosystem, is likely substantially higher;
- alongside the intrinsic value of an intact marine environment, it has been estimated that recreational services provided by Irish marine ecosystems are worth €1.6 billion in value to the economy, that fisheries and aquaculture are worth €664 million, carbon absorption services €819 million, waste assimilation services €317 million, scientific and educational services €11.5 million, coastal defence services of €11.5 million, and seaweed harvesting €4 million;
- in many parts of Ireland, whether on their own or supported by the State, farmers have led the way on projects to protect biodiversity, habitats and species, including farmers involved in the Burren Programme in Clare, the Hen Harrier Project in six special protection areas, the Pearl Mussel Project in eight different river catchments, and the Biodiversity Regeneration in a Dairying Environment (BRIDE) project in the Bride Valley, Co. Cork;
- in a 2015 survey, Ireland’s natural, unspoilt environment was cited by 86 per cent of visiting tourist respondents as a reason to visit Ireland, and that in 2018, out-of-State tourism generated €5.6 billion for the Irish economy;
calls on the Government to act upon the Programme for Government’s commitments regarding biodiversity as soon as possible, and to:
- review the protection, including legislative protection processes, of our natural heritage and significant land use changes;
- ensure that the State can protect nature and enforce existing statutory protections of designated features of conservation interest by providing sufficient support to the National Parks and Wildlife Service and reviewing the Service’s remit and structure;
- establish a Citizens’ Assembly to examine and propose solutions to the biodiversity emergency, thus bringing the creativity and ingenuity of our citizenry to bear upon this crisis;
- ensure that environmental policy is strategy-led and biodiversity-focused by developing a new National Pollinator Plan, supporting the collection of biodiversity data, developing a National Soils Strategy, completing a national hedgerow survey, and carrying out a baseline biodiversity survey on Irish farms;
- ensure that farmers are recognised as the custodians of our land, and are financially supported in playing a vital role in maintaining and restoring habitats and utilising ecologically sound practices;
- seek to ensure the Common Agricultural Policy rewards farmers for sequestering carbon, creating habitats and restoring biodiversity, improving water and air quality, producing clean energy, and developing schemes that support results-based outcomes;
- secure improvements in soil health and water quality by delivering an ambitious reduction in the use of inorganic nitrogen fertiliser over the next decade;
- advocate for a fair system of eligibility conditionality, under the reform of Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition rules, recognising that farmers should not be unfairly penalised for maintaining land that contributes to biodiversity principles, and thus allowing farmers to accrue benefits from managing land as wetlands or native habitats;
- implement the EU’s Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies in order to increase environmental and biodiversity benefits to our economy and society, including the ambitious reductions in respect of pesticides and fertilisers;
- conserve and expand a diverse range of natural habitats by developing a National Land Use Plan, incentivising the rewetting of carbon-rich soils, supporting the planting or rewilding of native woodland on every farm, and adopting a close-to-nature, continuous cover approach to forestry so as to ultimately create permanent biodiverse forests containing trees of all ages;
- develop comprehensive legislation for the identification, designation and management of Marine Protected Areas in Irish territorial waters, aiming to ensure these areas cover 30 per cent of our waters by 2030.".
Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:
To insert the following after the final paragraph:
“calls on the Government to recognise the integral role of biodiversity in regulating the climate and ensuring long-term resilience to climate change explicitly in the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill 2020 and that all policy instruments resulting from that Bill and the Principal Act comply with, and actively support, the implementation of the National Biodiversity Action Plan; recognises:
- the need to transition to renewable energy but that this transition should enhance biodiversity and be consistent with the National Peatlands Strategy;
- that biodiversity is threatened by some of the same drivers that cause climate change; biodiversity is also under threat from climate change; and calls on the Government to legislate to prevent the development of future Liquefied Natural Gas terminals;
- that the findings of the report produced by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine which showed Ireland’s forestry industry is a net emitter of CO2; that the National Parks and Wildlife Service finds the model of forestry is one of the biggest pressures on biodiversity-rich EU protected habitats; and calls on the Government to implement a new Forestry Strategy that works for community and the planet;
- the significance of this Island to the Native Irish Honey Bee (Apis mellifera mellifera) and Ireland now has potentially the greatest reserve of Apis mellifera mellifera in the world, however, our magnificent bees are under threat due to the importation of non-native bees from all over the world leading to the hybridisation of our local native bees; and calls on the Government to develop a strategy for its conservation.”
(Senator Lynn Boylan)

On the motion regarding biodiversity, there is a postponed division. I have to deal with that division relating to amendment No. 1, in the name of Senator Boylan. The debate took place yesterday, Thursday, 5 November. On the question that the amendment be made a division was claimed and that must be taken now.

Amendment put:
The Seanad divided: Tá, 17; Níl, 32.

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Black, Frances.
  • Boyhan, Victor.
  • Boylan, Lynn.
  • Craughwell, Gerard P.
  • Flynn, Eileen.
  • Gavan, Paul.
  • Higgins, Alice-Mary.
  • Hoey, Annie.
  • McDowell, Michael.
  • Moynihan, Rebecca.
  • Mullen, Rónán.
  • Ó Donnghaile, Niall.
  • Ruane, Lynn.
  • Sherlock, Marie.
  • Wall, Mark.
  • Warfield, Fintan.


  • Ahearn, Garret.
  • Ardagh, Catherine.
  • Burke, Paddy.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Malcolm.
  • Carrigy, Micheál.
  • Cassells, Shane.
  • Chambers, Lisa.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Crowe, Ollie.
  • Cummins, John.
  • Currie, Emer.
  • Daly, Paul.
  • Davitt, Aidan.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Dolan, Aisling.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Fitzpatrick, Mary.
  • Gallagher, Robbie.
  • Garvey, Róisín.
  • Hackett, Pippa.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lombard, Tim.
  • Martin, Vincent P.
  • McGreehan, Erin.
  • Murphy, Eugene.
  • O'Loughlin, Fiona.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • O'Reilly, Pauline.
  • O'Sullivan, Ned.
  • Seery Kearney, Mary.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Lynn Boylan and Niall Ó Donnghaile; Níl, Senators Robbie Gallagher and Seán Kyne.
Amendment declared.
Motion agreed to.