Sunday 27 November 2022 – The Citizens’ Assembly on Biodiversity Loss has voted in favour of holding a referendum on an amendment to the Constitution to protect biodiversity and has recommended a radical overhaul of the national approach to managing biodiversity loss.
The recommendations were made at this weekend’s seventh meeting of the Assembly at the Grand Hotel, Malahide, Co. Dublin. The 99 randomly selected members of the public and Chairperson, Dr Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin, also agreed, subject to Oireachtas approval, to extend the Assembly’s deliberations on a series of sector-specific recommendations through an additional full meeting of the Assembly early in the new year.
Members voted overwhelmingly in favour of holding a referendum of the people to amend the constitution with a view to protecting biodiversity. It was also recommended that this amendment should include a range of protections for substantive and procedural environmental rights for both people and nature.
The Assembly also endorsed a recommendation that the State has comprehensively failed in relation to biodiversity and made recommendations for fundamental change to the funding, implementation, and enforcement of national policies, EU biodiversity-related laws and relevant directives.
Other recommendations that were agreed reflected the thematic format of the Assembly’s deliberations and discussions since April this year. They cover all sectors and aspects of Irish life. These include the national policy and strategic approach to the biodiversity crisis, funding to address biodiversity loss, and the role of communities, NGOs, and industry.
Members also agreed to seek an extension to their deliberations from the Oireachtas, to allow further discussion on sector-specific recommendations on: agriculture; freshwaters; marine and coastal environments; peatlands; forestry/woodlands/hedgerows; protected sites and species; invasive species; and urban and built environments.
The recommendations will then be compiled into a final report that will be provided to the Government and Houses of the Oireachtas in compliance with the Assembly’s terms of reference.
Speaking at the conclusion of today’s meeting Chairperson Dr Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin, said, “This has been the first Citizens’ Assembly on Biodiversity Loss anywhere in the world, and this weekend members met to consider 160 separate recommendations on managing biodiversity loss. In doing so, we have made significant and major decisions including inserting a specific commitment to protecting biodiversity into Bunreacht na hEireann. This demonstrates the level of priority that we believe needs to be afforded to environmental protection.
“The Assembly has also endorsed new centralised structures for co-ordinating and implementing national policy on biodiversity loss to ensure that those laws and regulations to protect the environment that are already in place are properly enforced.
“Given the scale of the challenge of biodiversity loss and the extent of the issues that we have been considering in this process, we also agreed to request an extension of time to allow us thoroughly consider sector-specific recommendations on a range of different areas impacting Irish people, life, and communities. It is right that we do so if we are to fulfil the mandate given to us by the Oireachtas.”
All recommendations agreed upon by the Citizens’ Assembly are available at www.citizensassembly.ie
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