25th September 2022: The Citizens’ Assembly on Biodiversity Loss that was convened earlier this year under the Chairmanship of Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin, officially began an intensive period of meetings this weekend on Saturday 24th and Sunday 25th September at The Grand Hotel, Malahide Co. Dublin.
The weekend’s meetings were the first in a series that will be held in the autumn and winter as the Assembly considers the national response on the biodiversity crisis as declared by the Government in 2019.
The Assembly developed a plan of action to adequately address their large remit of biodiversity decline. Over the coming months, they will operate by sector, covering topics of Protected Sites and Species, Agriculture and Agricultural Landscapes, Marine Environments and Coastal Landscapes, Freshwater Environments / Special areas, Forestry and woodlands, Peatlands, and Urban and Artificial Landscapes.
This is the first citizens’ assembly in the world to focus specifically on biodiversity loss and its discussions and recommendations will likely be noted by environmental groups throughout the world as a potential model to confront the fundamental challenge of biodiversity decline.
On Saturday, author and philosopher, Dr Roman Krznaric, addressed the 99 members of the Assembly on the weekend’s wider theme of ‘Being a Good Ancestor.’ He encouraged members to be aware of the “tyranny of the now” and to think deeply about the quality of the world they want to pass on to their descendants in a moving presentation.
Other topics discussed included biodiversity decline, biodiversity obligations and governance, biodiversity conservation, ecological concepts and threats, national policy and resourcing for biodiversity loss.
Dr. Liam Lysaght of the National Biodiversity Data Centre gave the Assembly a presentation on tracking data in support of biodiversity loss. His presentation showed that between a quarter and a third of the species examined are threatened with extinction. Citizens were shown examples of the species Ireland is at risk of losing that include birds, fish, plants, and insects.
Laura Burke of the Environmental Protection Agency spoke to the Assembly of the gap between climate action planning and the actual implementation of Ireland’s climate goals. She stated that Ireland failed to meet its 2020 EU target of a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and that current sectoral climate budgets will not be delivered as they do not add up to the 51% reduction that had been promised by 2030. She also highlighted delays in repotting and organizing within national bodies to meet climate goals and that many of the initial 2021 Climate Action Plan actions have also been delayed.
Other speakers included Dr Mary Dobbs, Dr. Míchéal Ó Briain, Prof. Tasman Crowe, and representatives of the Irish Environmental Network. The Assembly also watched video presentations from the Children and Young People’s Assembly on Biodiversity and community groups from across the country working to protect local biodiversity.
On Sunday, the Assembly heard from Andy Bleasdale of National Parks and Wildlife Service on nature designations and the nature directives Ireland is obligated to deliver. He gave the Assembly an update on Ireland’s biodiversity status, stating that 85% of Irish habitats designated under the EU nature directive are not in good condition. He stressed the need for active engagement with landowners, incentives, and partnerships to help close the gap of planning and implementation.
Kate Raworth, economist, and author of Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to think like a 21st Century Economist spoke on the need to rework and balance world economies to both provide necessities for everyone and not exceed natural resources that contribute to biodiversity loss.
The Assembly also heard from Shirley Clerkin, Heritage Officer from the Monaghan County Council, and Eddie Casey from the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council.
Speaking on this weekend’s meeting, Chair of the Citizens’ Assembly on Biodiversity Loss, Dr. Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin, said, “I continue to be incredibly impressed by the passion and ambition of the 99 citizens involved in the Assembly and the seriousness in which they have taken on this monumental task.
Throughout the weekend, the quality of the questions being asked and discussions being held in response to the presentations showed an acute awareness and emerging understanding of the complexities of the topic. I am looking forward to the upcoming months of presentations and discussions, all done in the spirit of respectful listening.
There is still time from people outside the Assembly to engage with our work by viewing proceedings online and making submissions to inform the Assembly’s work. Perhaps in the spirit of Dr. Krznaric’s presentation, people might like to take a moment to think about the world they would like to leave future generations and things they can do to address biodiversity loss.”
The next meeting of the Citizens’ Assembly on Biodiversity Loss will take place on Saturday 15th and Sunday 16th of October.
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