I refer the Deputy to my previous extensive answers in this House on this matter and to the two day debate on biodiversity related issues in this House last July. My Department is responsible for the implementation of a range of legislation and policy relating to biodiversity and nature in Ireland and is the National Focal Point for the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), an overarching international agreement underpinning the global biodiversity framework. In this context, my Department is the lead authority for the National Biodiversity Action Plan.
The current National Biodiversity Action Plan, Ireland’s 3rd, runs from 2017 to 2021 and captures the objectives, targets and actions for biodiversity to be undertaken by a wide range of government, civil society and private sectors to achieve Ireland’s Vision for Biodiversity.
My Department is currently preparing an interim review of the Plan and is in the process of gathering data from other Departments, agencies and stakeholders to inform that review.
Over the course of the last year I have listened very carefully to the debate on biodiversity loss and the threats to nature. Actions for biodiversity in 2019 have included the National Biodiversity Conference in Dublin, which I hosted; the development of the Seeds for Nature initiative; the wide ranging public consultation on the Heritage Ireland 2030 Plan; as well as the extensive engagement across Government on Climate Action. These measures were instrumental in my securing an overall 15% budget increase in the Heritage sector in Budget 2020.
Total funding for our Built and Natural Heritage sector in 2020 will amount to €62.5m, up from €54m last year – an increase of over €8m. This funding includes €7m in funding to embark on an accelerated programme of peatlands restoration and conservation works. This programme will result in 1,800 hectares of restored peatland in 2020, generating 100 jobs in the Midlands. It is part of a multi-annual programme which aims will ultimately lead to the storage of 28 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.
Restoration and rehabilitation of raised bogs will provide multiple additional ecosystem services such as water and air quality improvements, flood mitigation, enhancing biodiversity, opportunities for tourism development, and contribute to the social and economic well being of local communities.
Additional funding is also being provided to accelerate key nature conservation and biodiversity programmes under the National Parks and Wildlife Service, including the expansion of the NPWS Farm plan scheme to protect biodiversity and assist farmers with lands designated as Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas in their role as custodians of nature.
At a local level, my Department continues to provide grant funding for local authority projects that promote actions contained in the National Biodiversity Action Plan (NBAP) 2017-2021. This funding is aimed at enhancing biodiversity awareness, education and action through local authority led projects and initiatives.
The 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the CBD (COP 15) is to be held in Kunming, China, from 19 October to 1 November 2020. The aim of COP15 will be to update the Convention’s strategic plan and adopt a post-2020 global biodiversity framework. The post-2020 biodiversity framework is still under consideration and final targets remain subject to ongoing discussion and agreement among the Parties.
The Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee of the EU Parliament approved a resolution setting out their proposals for the 30% target for the Parliament’s position for CBD-COP15. The Committee has called for legally binding targets at global and EU level to increase ambition and ensure that post-2020 action on global biodiversity will be effective. Specifically, they want 30 % of the EU territory to consist of natural areas by 2030 and 30 % of degraded ecosystems to be restored.
However, the negotiating position for the EU and its Member States, including Ireland, at COP15 has not yet been finalised. Further discussions will take place in the run-up to COP15 and my Department will fully participate in these to ensure that Ireland's interests are considered and represented in the final positions adopted in China next year.