Ireland’s Article 17 Report was submitted by my Department to the European Commission in April 2019.
In Ireland, 85% of habitats are reported as being in Unfavourable status. The main drivers are agricultural practices which negatively impact over 70% of habitats, particularly ecologically unsuitable grazing, abandonment and pollution. The Unfavourable status of many habitats is not surprising as this is the reason they have been listed on the Directive.
My Department is engaged in a range of targeted activities to address these issues at regional, national and EU level, and also liaises with other departments, particularly the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, to implement policy and practices which will help tackle the drivers of biodiversity loss.
The status of species is somewhat better: 57% assessed as Favourable and 30% assessed as being in Unfavourable status, with 72% demonstrating stable or improving trends while just 15% demonstrated on-going declining trends. Progress is being made and a number of species such as bats, otter, pine marten and grey seal are doing well.
As part of the ongoing implementation of the National Biodiversity Action Plan 2017-2021, in 2018 I launched a grant scheme to assist local authorities with biodiversity projects in their areas that support actions in the Plan and this scheme has been expanded in 2019 with an increased level of funding.
Recognising the need for a coherent cross-sectoral response to the biodiversity crisis, earlier this year I announced our ‘Seeds for Nature’ , a range of commitments to be undertaken by public authorities and other stakeholders to drive implementation of actions in the Plan.
Climate and biodiversity are inexorably linked and climate change will exacerbate the impact of pressures with peatland, coastal and freshwater systems. My Department is currently finalising a sectorial Climate Change Adaptation Plan for Biodiversity as part of the Government’s overall climate change adaptation strategy.
Biodiversity underpins all aspects of our lives and society. Halting biodiversity loss is not simply a matter for a single agency or department. However, my Department is the lead for implementation of biodiversity policy in Ireland and takes this responsibility very seriously and will continue to work across a range of areas, engaging across sectors, to tackle biodiversity loss.