An Taisce AGM Reminder

1st June 2017
The AGM will be on Saturday 9th of September at 12:00 in Tailors' Hall. We will confirm an afternoon speaker nearer the time. If you have any motions that you would like to put to the AGM please discuss them with your Local Association and send them to secretary@antaisce.org or Secretary, An Taisce, Tailors' Hall, Back Lane, Dublin, D08 X2A3. It would help with printing the agenda if you could submit any motions before the end of July.

Guided Butterfly Walk, Sheskinmore, Co. Donegal

Local Association Event
Saturday, June 3, 2017
McGlinchey’s House, Sandfield, Near Ardara.

Directions: at the end of the L7743 which is off the R261, half way between Portnoo and Ardara

The walk starts at 11 a.m. and is about 4 hours duration. Bring a packed lunch.

Sheskinmore is "Donegal's Top Butterfly Site".

Guides: Bob Aldwell & Maurice Simms.
(Bob Aldwell is co-author of “The Butterflies of Donegal”).

Everyone Welcome - Free

Suitable for all age groups. Wear footwear and clothing to suit the expected weather.

This will be a leisurely guided looped walk through this network of wetland, heath, reedbed, machair and dunes.

This wide variety of habitats, sheltered spots and plant life in Sheskinmore supports a thriving and diverse range of butterflies. The “Butterflies of Donegal” records 21 butterfly species there.

Cost An Taisce Members: 
free
Cost Non Members: 
free

Recognise 8 Bird Songs, Letterkenny

Local Association Event
Tuesday, June 13, 2017
The Vestry, St Conal's, Letterkenny

Starting time: 7.30 p.m.

An indoor presentation about garden birds species and listen to recordings of 8 key birdsongs. This is followed by a walk in the Bernard McGlinchey Town Park to identify the bird songs in the wild.

Everyone welcome, no need to book.

Suitable for all age groups

Directions:The Vestry was formerly known as St Conal's Chuch. The meeting room is above the Poppy Seed Restaurant.

Cost An Taisce Members: 
FREE
Cost Non Members: 
FREE

The Plants and Bird Life of Keadew Machair, nr. Burtonport, Donegal

Local Association Event
Saturday, July 1, 2017
The Blocks' beach car park.

Starting time: 11 a.m.

Guide is Ralph Sheppard

A 3 hour walk through this species rich machair with the possibility of encountering chough, skylarks, stonechats, wheatear and many species of butterflies. The walk will be along Keadue Headland Keadue Bar and part of Keadue Strand.

June/July is the ideal time to enjoy the many flowering plants of the machair. A relaxed and enjoyable day.

Suitable for all age groups - Everyone welcome. No need to book. Bring a picnic. In association with Birdwatch Ireland.

Directions: The meeting point is known locally as 'The Blocks ' beach car park. It is located off the R259 at the very end of the single track road numbered L5953 which is 1st right after Keadue School If heading South towards Burtonport (Ailt an Chorrain) or 1st left before the school if heading North from Burtonport towards Keadue Strand.

Cost An Taisce Members: 
FREE
Cost Non Members: 
FREE

Dooey Dune System and Ballyness Bay, Co Donegal

Local Association Event
Saturday, July 15, 2017
Magheroarty Pier, near Gortahork

Meeting time: 11 a.m. A three hour leisurely walk in this ever changing and spectacular land and seascape of sand dunes and tidal bay. Bird life and plants. A joint event with Birdwatch Ireland.

Guide is Ralph Sheppard.

Suitable for all age groups - bring a picnic. Everyone welcome. No need to book

Cost An Taisce Members: 
FREE
Cost Non Members: 
FREE

The Life in the River, Glenties, Co. Donegal

Joint Event
Local Association Event
Tuesday, May 16, 2017
The Hatchery, Mill Road, Glenties

Start time; 7.30 p.m.

Owen Kelly and his colleagues of Inland Fisheries Ireland will lead a guided nature walk at the Hatchery, Mill Road, Glenties starting at 7 p.m on Tuesday July 19th.

Everyone is welcome, admission is free, no need to book. It is organised by the Donegal Committee of An Taisce.

The walk will last about 2 hours. It will focus on the many different kinds of wildlife that are in this stretch of river. There will be a demonstration of electrofishing and the examination, under microscopes, of the insects and other creatures that live in rivers of various water qualities.

Suitable for all age groups.

Wheelchair Access

Cost An Taisce Members: 
FREE
Cost Non Members: 
FREE

IFA's attack on Environmental NGOs undermines their own Credibility

5th April 2017
Press Release

In a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black, earlier this week the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) published an article entitled “Selective Misrepresentation of Research by Environmental NGOs Undermines Their Credibility” (1).

In so doing, ironically, the IFA completely and entirely misrepresented both the research in question and the response of environmental NGOs to its findings. The IFA’s unhappiness appears to relate to a newly published European Parliament document (2), entitled: ‘Research for AGRI Committee - Policy support for productivity vs. sustainability in EU agriculture: Towards viable farming
 and green growth’.

Figure 5 (p.25) of this document examines ‘Agricultural GHG productivity in the EU /average 2012-2014)’ using the measure of carbon productivity, i.e. how much agricultural output value in euro is generated for every tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent emitted.

The best performing country in the EU, Italy, achieved some €1,700 of agricultural output per tonne of emissions. The worst performing country in the EU28 was Ireland, where less than €400 in agricultural output was achieved per tonne of carbon emitted. As the EU report observes: ‘GHG productivity is a widely-accepted indicator at international level to monitor green growth (OECD). Differences within the EU are still high, as shown in Figure 5’.

The EU finding that Irish agriculture is the least climate-efficient in Europe reflects the dominance of beef and dairy systems in Ireland, compared to other member states with lower proportions of livestock farming.

The main findings of the study were reported in the Irish Times on April 1st, in an article headed: ‘Irish agriculture the least climate-efficient in Europe, study finds’. No environmental NGO made any official comment whatever surrounding this study. The Irish Times article goes on to state that Ireland is currently not on track to meet its climate targets for 2020 and 2030, partly because emissions from agriculture are likely to flatline at best. Agriculture is the single largest contributor to Ireland’s overall greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for one-third of the total.

The Irish Times quoted researcher Joseph Curtin, a member of Ireland's Climate Change Advisory Council (CCAC), who states: “Saying that we have efficient beef systems is like saying that we have the most efficient coal plants in the EU, but ignoring that there are much more economically beneficial and sustainable ways to produce electricity”.

Separately, European agricultural policy expert and CCAC member, Prof Alan Matthews of TCD, tweeted (3) a graphic of Figure 5 with the following comments: ‘Ireland has lowest carbon efficiency (euro per tonne Ceq) among all EU MS agricultures due to structure of output’. This was retweeted and discussed on various personal social media accounts.

However, at 7am on Monday last, IFA issued a press release which, without any apparent provocation, aims a direct attack on the integrity, motives and professionalism of Ireland’s environmental NGOs. This is despite the fact that no NGO is quoted in the Irish Times article and no NGO issued any formal statement that could possibly have provoked such a stream of invective.

The IFA’s highly defensive response, apart from damaging the Association’s own credibility, does not once acknowledge the role of agriculture in Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions. Now, more than ever, there is a critical need to ensure research relating to climate change is communicated clearly and effectively. The IFA’s decision to dismiss this research by the European Parliament is in itself misrepresentative. According to IFA environmental chairman, Thomas Cooney, NGOs “sit in judgement and criticism of the sustainable development of the agri-food sector, but provide absolutely no alternative coherent vision or plan for the sector”.

It is regrettable that the IFA flatly refuses to engage with the environmental NGO sector and chooses instead to issue menacing statements accusing NGOs of being unpatriotic and trying to ‘undermine the agri-food sector’. This form of gunboat diplomacy from the IFA is unhelpful, and doubly disappointing emanating from a person chairing its ‘Environment Committee’.

Irish agriculture faces many challenges in the future, the greatest of which will be from climate change, a fact about which the IFA appears completely in denial. It is in Ireland’s national interest to develop a climate-resilient, locally-based, sustainable model of food production that also plays its part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions that are destabilising the global climate.

Irish agriculture can most effectively achieve this by reducing the size of the National herd by rejuvenating our organic and horticultural sectors.

Now, with Brexit on the horizon, a major question mark hangs over whether Irish farmers can still draw down CAP payments of over €1.5 billion annually, especially if this is to prop up the EU’s least climate-efficient system of agriculture.

And, with EU fines amounting to hundreds of millions of euros per annum to start hitting in the 2020s for our failure to reach legally mandated emissions targets, does the IFA expect ordinary taxpayers to bail out beef and dairy farmers for their high-emissions practices?

An Taisce believes it is time for a full and frank national dialogue on the future of food security and resilience on this island, one that moves past the ‘Origin Green’ slogans and addresses, for example, why Ireland has the second lowest amount of its farmland dedicated to organic agriculture in the EU (5).

We would be happy to participate in a constructive engagement, but it’s time for the name-calling and reality denial to stop.

ENDS

For further information, contact:
John Gibbons, An Taisce Climate Change Committee: +353 87 233 2689
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce. Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland i www.antaisce.org

Notes

  1. Selective Misrepresentation of Research by Environmental NGOs Undermines Their Credibility – IFA 1st April 2017 https://www.ifa.ie/selective-misrepresentation-of-research-by-environmental-ngos-undermines-their-credibility-ifa/#.WOUUcKK1uDt
  2. Research for AGRI Committee - Policy support for productivity vs. sustainability in EU agriculture: Towards viable farming and green growth 16-01-2017 http://www.europarl.europa.eu/thinktank/en/document.html?reference=IPOL_STU(2017)585905
  3. Tweet by Alan Mathews 30/03/2017 https://twitter.com/xAlan_Matthews/status/847378962648932353
  4. Ireland would profit from opting out of beef, says expert. Eoin Burke-Kennedy Irish Times Fri, Jun 5, 2015, 20:12 http://www.irishtimes.com/business/agribusiness-and-food/ireland-would-profit-from-opting-out-of-beef-says-expert-1.2239316
  5. Less than 2% of land used for organic farming in Ireland Conor Finnerty Agriland 1:00 pm - October 26, 2016 http://www.agriland.ie/farming-news/less-than-2-of-land-used-for-organic-farming-in-ireland/

About An Taisce

An Taisce is a charity that works to preserve and protect Ireland's natural and built heritage. We are an independent charitable voice for the environment and for heritage issues. We are not a government body, semi-state or agency. Founded in 1948, we are one of Ireland’s oldest and largest environmental organisations.

A bright future for Marine Protected Areas in Ireland

7th April 2017
News Item

An Taisce are active members of the Sustainable Water Network’s (SWAN) a network of Ireland’s leading environmental organisations working to ensure that policies such as the Water Framework Directive and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive are implemented and ensure the protection to Irelands aquatic environment. We were happy to take part in SWANs All-Ireland Marine Protected Areas Workshop yesterday. The event was attended by a broad range of stakeholders including top government officials and international NGOs working in the development of Marine Protected Areas and marine protection. There was broad agreement on the need of Marine Protected Areas to restore marine biodiversity and fisheries and on the need for a community based approach which considers and respects all coastal users and takes a sensitive and pragmatic approach to designation and management. Aside from the excellent brain storming sessions one of the most significant points in the day was the opening address by Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Simon Coveney. In his speech he indicated his dedication to bring forward a Bill which will allow for the designation of various types of MPAs and the provision of the necessary special protection measures required for the MPA in question. The Minister stated that all stakeholders will be involved and that their would be a pragmatic approach to what types of activities are allowed within the MPAs. It is our hope that certain highly destructive activities such as scallop dredging will be banned within these areas and that any affected fishermen will be empowered to shift to sustainable livelihoods within the MPAs. We hope that MPAs designation will be followed up with community support for job diversification. The benefits of MPAs in biodiversity protection, job creation and the restoration of commercially important species must be propoerly communicated to local communities from the outset. The riches of our coastal environment are the birth right of our coastal communities and they must be empowered to be the custodians of these areas moving forward. Only through close collaboration and mutual respect and understanding can we protect our marine environment and guarantee a prosperous future for our coastal communities.

We will include the Ministers speech below.

Speech by Minister Simon Coveney at the Sustainable Water Network’s (SWAN) UK & All-Ireland Marine Protected Areas Workshop

Ladies and gentlemen. It is my very great pleasure to be invited here today to open this workshop and I am very pleased to see the range of excellent contributions we can look forward to today on the value and delivery of marine protected areas. Events like this provide a great opportunity to build networks and share experiences and I would encourage attendees to actively participate both in the formal sessions and in the margins. For an island nation with one of the largest maritime areas in the EU, the importance of the sea to Ireland cannot be overstated. Having grown up beside the sea and having pursued various maritime activities, I have a great appreciation for the sea and its value to the economy and, its value socially, culturally and recreationally. The sea is a subject close to my heart and I also am aware of the opportunities and threats facing the marine environment currently and into the future.

In ‘Harvesting our Ocean Wealth’, the Government set out its vision and identified the high-level goals and integrated actions to enable our marine potential to be realised. While recognising the need to develop a thriving maritime economy, the plan also acknowledged the need to protect our marine ecosystems and to ensure compliance with environmental law. Our ocean wealth is a national asset that needs to be sustainably developed but also protected and managed for the benefit or our citizens.

The Marine Strategy Framework Directive, or MSFD, forms the basis of our sustainable interaction with our marine environment. In its third recital it states that: "The marine environment is a precious heritage that must be protected, preserved and, where practicable, restored with the ultimate aim of protecting biodiversity and providing diverse and dynamic oceans and seas which are clean, healthy and productive"

The purpose of MSFD is to integrate environmental considerations into all aspects of marine policy and activity so that we maintain or reach a point of "Good Environmental Status", or GES, in our seas and oceans and thereafter, that we ensure it is maintained through sustainable use of our seas.

The Directive requires that we assess our marine environment; develop GES targets and indicators; monitor our environment in light of these; and where necessary introduce a programme of measures to address issues affecting GES being achieved.

Key to any successful programme of measures is ensuring that we have a coherent and effective network of marine protected areas and other spatial protection measures across all the EU’s marine regions. This is a requirement of the Directive. 3

This is why I recently committed to introducing enabling legislation to provide for the creation of a diverse but coherent network of marine protected areas with appropriate enforcement measures where they do not already exist in law.

Of course, I recognise that we are not starting from a blank canvas in this regard. There already exists a significant number of protected areas under the Habitats and Birds Directives which are regulated by my colleague, the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. These include a significant number of Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protected Areas and I intend to add new types of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) to these and, over time, to provide for the designation of an ecologically representative network of marine protected areas. The Bill I am drafting will allow for the designation of various types of MPAs by Regulation, including their geographical delineation and the provision of the necessary special protection measures required for the MPA in question. These regulations will identify what human activities, if any, need to be managed, limited or allowed in each potential MPA and will identify the time-periods where such restrictions apply.

It is my intention that the Bill will provide for enforcement powers and create penalties for offences under the legislation, where appropriate powers and penalties do not already exist in law. Enacting enabling legislation is one thing, establishing what types of MPAs we require to ensure that GES is maintained or reached is another. This workshop will go some way to help clarifying issues in this regard.

I also propose to establish shortly, an expert advisory group whose terms of reference will include the development of a process for the identification, designation and recommendation of candidate marine areas which require protection. This will involve the input from among others, specialist experts in Government Departments, state agencies, eNGOs and from academia. There is little doubt that this process will be challenging and there will be strong and often diverging views and aspirations. However, the creation of a network of MPAs will be welcomed by most and as well as addressing our environmental targets, will help to enhance Ireland’s environmental reputation both nationally and internationally. The purpose of any area MPA-designated should be to ensure that we are able to reach and maintain our GES targets. Accordingly the group will operate with reference to our formally identified MSFD targets and the EU Commission’s revised GES Criteria which are due to be approved by Council of Ministers this month. However, as MSFD is concerned with sustainable use of our marine environment, social and cultural factors will be a consideration, such as protecting certain sustainable traditional approaches etc. in particular geographic locations. Other determining factors will include Common Fisheries Programme Article 11 commitments. The requirements of the OSPAR Convention and other relevant international Conventions and Treaties will be considered, where their requirements intersect with our MSFD requirements.

Because it will have an impact on a significant number of users of the marine environment, consultation will be required with stakeholders from industry, recreational users, and civil society. As the marine environment is a transboundary one, the views of interested parties from bordering jurisdictions will also be required in certain cases. MSFD specifically requires such transboundary co-operation.

I am conscious that the creation and implementation of marine protected areas, in itself, is not a universal panacea for all the threats affecting marine ecosystems. They are, however, I believe, an extremely important tool that needs to be complemented by other management strategies such as addressing the problems of marine litter, climate change and maintenance of pollution controls. As you are all probably aware at this stage, my Department is also working on legislation to prohibit the manufacture and sale of certain products containing microbeads, including cosmetics, other body care products detergents and scouring agents where a clear pathway to our riverine and marine environments has been identified.

It should be noted that microbeads only represent a small fraction of the microplastics that are entering our marine environment. Also, due to our small population size, the benefit of an Irish ban on microbeads is limited in its impact. Ireland will, however, continue its position of advocating for a European wide ban and one which is not limited just to personal care products but also to household products, detergents and abrasive products such as scouring agents.

I was delighted with the response to the recent public consultation process relating to microbead prohibition, which is now closed. Over 3,000 contributions were received, which is a tremendous response to a public consultation. This clearly demonstrates that civil society is extremely concerned by marine environmental issues, which I find reassuring. Submissions received will now feed into the forthcoming legislative process and a formal response will be prepared.

In relation to the Marine Strategy Framework Directive in general, I am pleased to inform you that my Department has started preparation for the second cycle of the process. The initial cycle was, to an extent, a learning process and we have gained a lot of knowledge to build on in cycle two. I would like to thank you all for your contribution in progressing our understanding of the relevant issues to date and I look forward to your continued involvement in the second and subsequent phases of the process.

I appreciate that there can be an element of consultation fatigue in relation to these processes, but this is an area where there are many scientific unknowns. Globally, we are still trying to fully comprehend our marine environment and the risks and harm being presented to it. We are also developing how we can best work with stakeholders such as yourselves to address this. This is an evolutionary process.

Your contribution is very important in this regard and it is important that you continue to engage with these processes as they develop. I would like to express my appreciation to SWAN for organising and running this workshop and I look forward to its deliberations. I wish to conclude by reiterating my firm support for the establishment and enforcement of a network of connected marine protected areas. These will play a vital role in biodiversity conservation in challenging times. They will also form part of our rich environmental legacy for the generations to come.

We, as current custodians of the marine environment have a duty and a responsibility to pass on a resource to be sustainably developed and enjoyed by our children and their children. I hope you have a thought-provoking and enlightening workshop and I hope there will be significant information and experience sharing. I look forward to the findings of the workshop and I am confident that it will be a vehicle to progress the development of a network of ecologically representative and connected marine protected areas in Ireland.

Thank you.

See more at http://www.merrionstreet.ie/en/News-Room/Speeches/Speech_by_Minister_Simon_Coveney_at_the_Sustainable_Water_Network%E2%80%99s_SWAN_UK_All-Ireland_Marine_Protected_Areas_Workshop.html#sthash.kS9xiqAO.dpuf

The Burning Issue – Seanad Committee Stage – Heritage Bill 2016

12th April 2017
News Item

An Taisce have written to all of Ireland's Senators in advance of tomorrows Committee Stage debate on the Heritage Bill 2016. We have asked that take into consideration the attached letter on upland burning in tomorrow's debate. Recent research has been carried out by Teagasc here in Ireland and in the UK in 2017 which shed some important light on the distinction between controlled burning as a tool for vegetation management and wildfires.

Allowing burning in March as is proposed in Section 8 of the Heritage Bill 2016 will not address the core issues facing upland and marginal farming communities of which increased burning is a symptom. Facilitating burning in March will increase the risk of wildfires which are a serious threat to life, property, the environment and traditional grazing itself.

We hope that they will take our concerns into consideration.We hope some of the points will help to inform the debate tomorrow.

The Burning issue – Seanad Committee Stage – Heritage Bill 2016

Ireland's uplands are important cultural landscapes in which farming communities have shaped the environment and been shaped in turn by the environment since the Neolithic era. Our uplands continue to support the traditional extensive farming practices which have been lost in the lowlands and on which many rare habitats and species are reliant. These High Nature Value farming systems are of vital important given that they continue to support rural communities and indirectly drive industries like tourism. They have important cultural significance and alongside biodiversity they also play an important role in maintaining ecosystem services associated with our uplands such as water and flood regulation and carbon sequestration.

Over the preceding decades uplands have been subjected to the intensive and rapid processes of change associated with rural-restructuring and globalisation. The natural constraints which have preserved many important elements within these communities also pose significant challenges to the socio-economic viability of these communities. These challenges have been evident in the declining populations and ageing populations in many of our upland communities.

Fire has been used for centuries as a tool to generate and manage the semi-natural habitats in our uplands. In particular traditional controlled burns in tandem with sustainable grazing levels have sustained heather moorland habitats which support internationally important and threatened species such as Hen Harrier, Curlew, Red Grouse, Skylark and many more. Burning as a tool has many benefits and drawbacks which are open for debate but what appears clear is that the negative impacts of fires increase in line with their severity, frequency and scale. These negative impacts are felt by the environment in terms of biodiversity loss, water quality, and increased greenhouse gas emissions but also threaten the viability of upland grazing itself.

It is of concern that the debate on burning within the context of the Heritage Bill 2016 to date on whether the burning season should be extended to include March has focused on the issue of whether burning itself is good or bad for our uplands. In reality this kind of dialogue has failed to address the core issues.

• Will the proposed changes improve controlled burns or facilitate more wildfires?

• Why are so many wildfires occurring and are they of benefit to the farming or broader rural community?

• What are the core issues which need to be addressed to ensure the long term viability of farming in marginal areas?

Under CAP headage payments our uplands became over stocked in many areas resulting in overgrazing and environmental damage. This has left a strong impression within the public consciousness of the negative impacts of overgrazing. Less well known or understood are the negative impacts of under-grazing. Under-grazing resulting from destocking or land abandonment is a serious threat to semi-natural habitats which require traditional grazing practices. An excellent example of this are the species rich grasslands in the Burren.

According to recent Teagasc research in the Wicklow Uplands between 1999 and 2014, 66% of the farmers had either reduced their numbers of sheep grazing the uplands or stopped grazing altogether, and a further 16% had done so in the 5-10 years previous to 2014.
Almost all of the respondents surveyed (93%) stated that heather had increased on their commonage in the last 15 years. The majority of farmers (63%) stated that bracken cover had increased on their commonage while 22% of respondents felt that the proportion of grassland had decreased on their commonage. The reduction in grazing has resulted in an increase in woody heather, bracken and gorse. This has impacted on biodiversity by reducing the diversity of semi-natural habitats and it has knock-on impacts for farming by reducing the available grazing habitat.

The loss of grazing land also has other implications for farm incomes as subsidies under the Common Agricultural policy and cross compliance require farmlands to be farmed or in Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAECs). The presence of bracken, woody heather and gorse will result in farmers therefore being penalized. The increase in scrub and the positive incentives for its destruction have resulted in an increase in uncontrolled burning both within and outside the banned window of September – February. The resulting wildfires are a threat to property and life. They cost emergency services nationally a huge amount of time and resources. They damage the environment and degrade farmland.

According to Teagasc these wildfires are also not good for farming. In relation to:

Bracken - Burning in general, speeds up the spread of bracken as the rhizomes are better able to withstand fires than more shallow rooted plants such as heather.

Gorse / Furze / Whins - Gorse regenerates prolifically from the seed bank after a fire, and ideally should be kept under control by grazing. The young fresh regrowth which follows burning is very sensitive to herbicides. Repeated burning without follow-up treatment can lead to a dense carpet-like infestation.The best time to burn is between September and November, avoiding the bird-nesting season and also avoiding January-February which results in increased seed germination.

Heather – Burning should be controlled, irregular and in patches. Burning is only recommended when followed with sustainable levels of livestock grazing. Mechanical cutting of heather can be used to make fire breaks and fire control lines for prescribed burning at a later date.

Severe wildfires must not be confused with managed burns. Management fires are set in winter or early spring when soil heating is minimal. The later in the season burning takes place the drier and more flammable the vegetation will be. If your objective is to carry out a limited controlled burn then having highly flammable vegetation is not helpful. The chances of causing wildfires substantially increases in spring and summer during dry periods. This also increases deep soil heating and the catastrophic burning of peat becomes more likely to occur .

It is An Taisces belief that legalizing burning in March will in fact facilitate more wildfires. It will in no way tackle the core issues driving uncontrolled burning which are the decline in upland farmers and livestock, a lack of training and supports and perverse incentives to burn under land eligibility.

Voting in favour of burning in March is not a vote in support of upland farmers or farmers in the West it is ignoring their plight and compounding the challenges they face.

The core driver of reduced grazing is related to economic returns. This is the critical issue facing marginal farming communities that must be addressed. Market mechanism must be developed such as branding High Nature Value food products, the development of local artisan food products and the diversification of the upland economy into eco-tourism. The distribution of CAP funding towards farmers who provide the greatest environmental goods and services through results base schems will also benefit farmers in marginal areas.

As far as burning is concerned the use of fire as a tool should aim to provide a mosaic of upland landscapes and habitats in conjunction with sustainable grazing levels.

To achieve this we believe that the following actions must be taken:

  • Improved training and research into burning and upland management is needed.

  • There needs to be a review of land eligibility criteria which benefit neither farmers nor the environment. Perverse incentives should be addressed.

  • The under resourcing of the National Parks and Wildlife Services and rural Fire Services needs to be addressed.

  • Where illegal burning does occur regardless of the Heritage Bill 2016 there needs to be a review of the enforcement of Section 40 of the Wildlife Acts and Land Eligibility in relation to illegal burning.

  • Any changes to the existing closed season for burning under Section 40 of the Wildlife Acts must be underpinned by scientific data.

  • Any changes to the existing closed season for burning under Section 40 of the Wildlife Acts should have a clear positive impact on the sustainability of upland farming. This should be clearly set out with reference to Teagasc research.

Is mise le meas

Fintan Kelly

Natural Environment Officer, An Taisce, The National Trust for Ireland

Download PDF: 
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Failing to plan means planning for failure: Irish GHGs continue to climb

13th April 2017
Press Release

Today’s announcement by the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) set out Ireland’s staggering catalogue of failure in grasping the challenge of climate change and the need to achieve urgent, sustained and ambitious decarbonisation of all aspects of our economy.

Apart from missing our modest EU-mandated targets to achieve a 20% emissions cut by 2020 (versus 2005) by a mile, even more worrying is the apparent intention of the Irish state to do virtually nothing to honour our legal and moral commitments to play our part in a concerted international effort to rein in emissions before climate destabilisation leads to what the scientific community warns will be an irreversible global catastrophe.

Unbelievably, the EPA projections suggest Ireland’s national emissions will be 3.58% higher in 2030 than in 2016. Our National Policy Position, based on achieving at least 80% decarbonisation by 2050, has Ireland on track to have more than halved our total national emissions by 2030. Instead, on current policy, they are actually continuing to increase.

“This is a stunning failure of political leadership and vision. Many Irish people have looked aghast at the Trump administration’s dismantling of environmental regulations and abandonment of climate change targets, yet while the rhetoric in Ireland is less extreme, the reality is little better in terms of our own capitulation to vested interests and betrayal of future generations”, according to John Gibbons of An Taisce’s Climate Change Committee.

According to the EPA report, Agriculture and Transport are projected to account for 74% of Ireland’s non-ETS sector emissions in 2020 (agriculture: 45%, transport: 29%)). For the period 2015-2020, agriculture emissions are projected to increase by 4–5%. Reflecting the chaotic failure to plan strategically, Transport emissions are projected to increase rapidly over the period to 2020 with a 10–12% increase on 2015 levels.

The EPA report must place serious question marks over the idea that our agriculture sector, far and away the largest source of pollution in Ireland, can be allowed to achieve something as vague as ‘carbon neutrality’, which appears to include availing of ‘land use’ loopholes to try and offset our sky-high emissions associated with having a food production system dominated by GHG-intensive beef and dairy output.

For instance, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with ‘Enteric fermentation’ (ie. methane from ruminants such as cattle and sheep) produces 10.8 million tonnes of GHG emissions annually. This is more pollution for one sub-sector of agriculture than produced by every household in Ireland (6.0 million tonnes) plus Commercial Public Services (1.97 million tonnes) plus all Wastes (885 thousand tonnes) combined.

Meanwhile, Road Transportation, currently producing a whopping 12.5 million tonnes of GHGs, totally dominates the Transport sector, generating around 95% of total Transport emissions, and this is slated to continue to grow, all the way to 2035. Minister Shane Ross has to date shown precisely zero interest, understanding or engagement in the massive and growing pollution crisis associated with Ireland’s doomed love affair with the private car.

An Taisce endorses the comment by EPA director general Laura Burke when she noted that: “If we are to realise this policy position and our aspirations to transition to a low carbon economy, then any new measures to be included in the upcoming and future National Mitigation plans need to be innovative and effective to get Irelands emissions back on a sustainable trajectory”.

This confirms critiques by An Taisce and others of the extremely unambitious nature of the recently published draft National Mitigation Plan, and we urge Climate Minister Denis Naughten to go back to the Cabinet table and demand that his Taoiseach and fellow senior ministers finally start treating climate change like the grave political, economic and societal crisis that it is.

Poor levels of public understanding and engagement with climate change as an issue in Ireland may well be related to the patchy, haphazard media coverage it receives, with crackpot theories by public figures like Danny Healy-Rae and Michael O’Leary attracting far more media interest than coverage of the actual science.

John Gibbons of An Taisce’s Climate Change Committee concluded “We owe it to this generation and the next to get real about climate change – while we still can”.

ENDS

For further information, contact:
John Gibbons, An Taisce Climate Change Committee: +353 87 233 2689
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce. Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
www.antaisce.org

Notes

About An Taisce

An Taisce is a charity that works to preserve and protect Ireland's natural and built heritage. We are an independent charitable voice for the environment and for heritage issues. We are not a government body, semi-state or agency. Founded in 1948, we are one of Ireland’s oldest and largest environmental organisations.

Heritage Bill - Two steps forward, one step back?

18th April 2017
News Item

The Heritage Bill 2016 has passed the final stage of the Seanad and will soon be brought to the Dáil for further debate. While a certain amount of progress had previously been made in relation to hedge-cutting, there are a number of issues which remain unresolved and more which have arisen from the Final Stage of the Seanad debate.

Amendment 63

The recent amendment by Fianna Fáil Senators Ó Domhnaill and Paul Daly, passed in the Third Stage, will, if made law, allow for only roadside hedges to be cut outside the hedge-cutting season, in cases of road safety. This is a positive development in that it prevents unseasonal hedge-cutting on around 80% of hedges across the country. However, an amendment, introduced at the eleventh hour by Minister Humphreys may mean that these restrictions on hedge-cutting will once again be loosened. Amendment 63, passed on Thursday 13th April at the Report Stage of the Bill, if made law, will exempt landowners from obligations under Section 40 of the Wildlife Act, in cases where hedgerows are judged to be a hazard to road safety.
The Minister defended the amendment on the grounds that she sought to

“eliminate confusion as to whether landowners issued with a Section 70 order during the closed season can cut their hedges without infringing on the Wildlife Act.”

However, a number of Senators voiced their concern at the last minute amendment. Senator David Norris outlined once again the importance of hedgerows, not only as nesting habitat for vulnerable species of birds such as the red-listed yellowhammer, but also their role as a food source and habitat for pollinators and other wildlife.

Senator Grace O’Sullivan expressed her frustration and disappointment at what she dubbed “absolutely regressive”. It was essentially undoing months of progress since the debates over the Bill in November, after much engagement with different sectors of society including farmers, NGOs, individuals and communities, who felt that hedgerows should be protected in August.

“I’m so concerned that we are now in a position where every step that we had felt we had made with you Minister over the course of the last few months has been obliterated.”

She showed her discontent at what she deemed a "grubby" bill, adding;

“It is a destruction of heritage, it’s a destruction of our hedgerows, it’s destruction of the beauty of the Irish landscape, it’s a disgrace”.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins added her disdain for the amendment, calling it “an insult and an injury to our natural heritage” and one which “goes against the spirit of what has happened over two decades.” According to Senator Higgins, the amendment would allow a landowner to take any action he or she deems appropriate for health and safety reasons in respect of a roadside hedge at any time of year therefore, and entail that regulation and Section 70 orders are “out the window” and the role and authority of local councils, with regard to their perspective, is “disregarded”.

“It is a washing of the hands and again it is shameful that a Minister for Heritage would seek to gut the Wildlife Act of which she is the guardian.”

Data Deficient Pilot Study

An additional tabled amendment, which was defeated, would have introduced the use of a public register allowing for a record of hedge-cutting and upland burning. In Minister Humphreys view, she could not "accept any gain that there might be from having such a register that would justify the costs involved". However, Senator Kevin Humphreys defended the need to keep a clear record, also highlighting the inherent contradiction between the Minister’s view and her intention to introduce a 3-year pilot study.

“If we don’t know what’s happening there and we can’t monitor over a long-term period of time exactly what’s happened on the uplands we won’t be able to have a scientific basis for decisions we make.”

The Burning Issue

Within the report stage, the issue of upland burning was not dealt with and no amendments have been passed to prevent the potential damage the Heritage Bill may lead to.
It still remains a crucial issue and must be raised by members of the Dáil. To allow upland burning in March will further endanger vulnerable wildlife such as the curlew and will not address the core issues which face upland and marginal farming communities. Furthermore, it will increase the risk of wildfires, which pose a threat to people, property, wildlife, the environment and traditional grazing itself. The uplands form an important part of our heritage. They are cultural landscapes in themselves, which have been shaped by farming communities for centuries as these communities have been shaped by them. Uplands support extensive farming practices on which many rare species depend, many of which have been lost to lowlands, due to the intensification of agriculture. High Nature Value farming areas are of huge value to wildlife and farming communities, not only for the conservation of nature, but also for tourism and the continuation of a viable rural way of life.

A certain amount of progress has been made and thanks are due to the groups and individuals who campaigned against the Bill. Gratitude is also due to the Senators who put forward amendments and spoke out against it, Senators Grace O’Sullivan (Green Party), Alice-Mary Higgins (Ind), David Norris (Independent), Kevin Humphreys (Labour), Lynn Ruane (Ind), Michael McDowell (Ind), Francis Black (Ind), Fintan Warfield (Sinn Féin), Trevor Ó Clochartaigh (Sinn Féin), Gerard Craughwell (Ind), including Senators Brian Ó Domhnaill and Paul Daly (Fianna Fáil) who put forward the amendment to limit hedge-cutting to roadside hedges only. However, while small victories may be claimed in this regard, the “Heritage” Bill still has the potential to damage that which it purports to protect. It is up to campaigners for nature and the responsibility of those in the Dáil to see that this does not happen.

The Petition has reached over 27,500 signatures. Show your support and add your name here - https://my.uplift.ie/petitions/no-to-more-slash-and-burn

The EU Environmental Implementation Review - Ireland

19th April 2017
News Item

In May 2016, the Commission launched the Environmental Implementation Review (EIR), an analysis over a period of two years aimed at improving the implementation of existing EU environmental policy and legislation. As a first step, the Commission drafted reports on the 28 member states, in order to identify environmental challenges and opportunities. The aim in producing these reports has been to bring about communication over common environmental challenges within the EU and also the best ways to address major issues in implementation. These reports were published in February this year, accompanying the EU Commission’s Communication, ‘The EU Environmental Implementation Review 2016: Common challenges and how to combine efforts to deliver better results’.

Main challenges for Ireland

The main challenges that have been highlighted with regard to implementation are:

  • The need to complete the Natura 2000 designation process, with clearly defined conservation objectives, for terrestrial and marine sites.
  • Protecting the raised and blanket bogs remains a significant challenge.
  • Maintaining the important investments required for water services, given the urgent need to invest in water infrastructure.

According to the report, Ireland could perform better on issues where a sound knowledge base and good practices already exist by:

  • "Making better use of the significant potential in nature for tourism by better managing and protecting natural sites.”

The report also identified two main “Points of excellence” where Ireland has taken innovative approaches which could be mirrored by other member states;

  • To comply with a ruling by the Court of Justice, Ireland implemented a major reform of its waste sector, closed illegal landfills and financed costly clean-up and remediation works.
  • Ireland has taken a proactive approach towards managing complaints in the environmental sector, in cooperation with the Commission.”

Towards a circular economy

The report highlights the importance of the adoption of a National Strategy on Resource Efficiency in 2014. This refers to the EPA strategy, ‘Towards a resource efficient Ireland’, which aims to achieve the vision of ‘Living better, using less’.

According to the report, “Ireland is committed to achieving EU targets on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing energy efficiency and renewable energy, increasing reuse, recovery and recycling of waste, improving water quality, and conservation."

The report also finds that major issues remain in relation to waste management, such as;

  • the lack of households covered by door-to-door separate collection of waste and;
  • the lack of financial incentives to encourage increased recycling and prevention of waste as opposed to relying on residual waste treatment.

Nature and biodiversity

The report acknowledges Ireland failure to complete the designation and set out clear conservation objectives and measures for Natura 2000 sites. Another obligation that must be fulfilled is the allocation of sufficient resources for implementation in order to achieve favourable conservation status across protected species and habitats under the Habitats and Birds Directives.

  • The report gives the conservation status of SACs and SPAs as of data from 2013; with only 9% of the habitats’ status favourable, 50% unfavourable– inadequate and 41% unfavourable – bad.
  • With regard to species, 52% had favourable assessments in 2013, 20% at unfavourable-inadequate and 10% unfavourable-bad status.

It notes the main pressures to habitats as unsuitable grazing levels (both under and over-grazing), pollution of freshwaters, drainage and cutting of peatlands and wetlands, invasive species and recreational pressures, including some building works. One major obstacle to achieving the objectives of the Nature Directives is identified as the lack of adequate ‘financial and human resources to support appropriate land management and conservation measures’.

While praising some examples of land management, such as in the Burren, the report highlights the lack of site specific conservation and management plans for Natura 2000 sites. It recommends better administrative capacity building, to also allow for stronger stakeholder engagement and notes that insufficient communication and awareness regarding Natura 2000 has also led to misunderstanding and mistrust. The Eurobarometer report for 2015 found that only 5% of people knew what Natura 2000 was.

The largest source of complaint to the Commission has been compliance with the Nature Directives, with the greatest concern relating to raised and blanket bogs. The report notes that despite a ban on turf-cutting in protected SAC raised bogs, illegal activities continue. Furthermore, the necessary steps to restore raised bogs have yet to be fully taken. It emphasises the need for a number of issues to be addressed;

  • management of blanket bog and ‘assessing and ensuring the compatibility of turf cutting’ in these areas
  • finalise the draft National Peatlands strategy and National Raised Bog SAC Management Plan
  • the decline of waders, particularly the Curlew within and outside Natura sites
  • reconciling the protection of the Hen Harrier with forestry and wind farm development,
  • avoiding the cutting of hedgerows as well as burning in the uplands during the nesting season of birds.

Marine environment

With regard to implementing the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, many of Ireland’s environmental descriptors (explaining what the environment will look like when Good Environmental Status has been achieved), still need to be more clearly defined, more specific and measurable. The report recommends improving these, addressing knowledge gaps, better assessment and reporting of main pressures and impacts to marine areas as well as better monitoring of programmes and methods for marine protection.
Water quality and management With regard to water quality, Ireland has a number of failings, particularly regarding surface waters;

  • 56 % are affected by diffuse sources of pollution,
  • 49 % by point sources of pollution,
  • 24 % by river management,
  • 9 % by abstraction,
  • 8 % by flow regulation and morphological changes.

While the level of nitrates from agricultural sources decreased from 2008 to 2011, agriculture is still identified as ‘a significant pressure’. The ‘challenge’ posed by further agricultural intensification, (set out in FoodHarvest 2020), particularly in relation to 50% increase in milk yields is also acknowledged. Drinking water quality is identified generally as meeting high standards within the Drinking Water Directive, and 73.7% of bathing waters said to be of excellent quality. However, it also draws attention to problems, such as the presence of trialomethanes in water supply areas and implementation issues in relation to urban waste water, noting that in 47 of 170 agglomerations of wastewater, secondary treatment is not ensured, resulting in direct discharge of untreated wastewater.

Environmental taxation

The report commends Ireland’s introduction of ‘Green Tenders’, an Action Plan on Green Public Procurement, introduced by the department of the Environment, Community and Local Government in 2012.
The Commission had previously recommended the introduction of taxation on CO2 content of energy products for non- ETS sectors and efforts to strengthen local government financing through property tax and waste water charges. This report noted that these steps were taking place, noting that revenue from environmental taxes was 2.43% of GDP, just under the EU28 average, but that it also accounted for 8.17% of total revenues from taxes and social-security contributions (compared with EU28 average 6.35%). The report notes the potential negative environmental impacts of the current reduction of motor tax on commercial vehicles. It also highlighted that peat for electricity is exempt from carbon tax while still being subsidised, also pointing out that
“Reduced value-added tax rates on energy products (at 13.5%) also conflict with overall energy and climate policy objectives as the decree the incentive to reduce energy consumption or improve energy efficiency.”

Air pollution

Air quality is noted as generally good, but with exceptions and with estimated health related external costs of air pollution above €2 billion per year, (2010). This also translates in direct economic costs to “382 thousand workdays lost each year due to sickness related to air pollution”. “With associated costs for employers of EUR 65 million/year (income adjusted, 2010), for healthcare of above EUR 5 million/year (income adjusted, 2010), and for agriculture (crop losses) of EUR 30 million/year (2010)”.

Effective governance and knowledge

According to the 2013 European Quality of Government Index, Ireland ranks 10th out of the 28 Member States. The report mentions Ireland’s more recent efforts to reduce infringements of environmental law, implement court judgements and to improve “coordination and consistency amongst its local authorities and other compliance assurance authorities”, but also points out Ireland’s shortcomings in relation to the INSPIRE Directive in terms of disseminating environmental information to the public.

Room to improve? The Report in Context

The report has shown that while Ireland has in some areas demonstrated 'Points of Excellence', there are areas which there is vast room for improvement. For example, Ireland is commended on its commitment to "achieving EU targets on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing energy efficiency and renewable energy, increasing reuse, recovery and recycling of waste, improving water quality, and conservation." However, this is not reflected in the reality on the ground, considering that we are due to miss our 2020 carbon emissions reduction targets and in light of the recently published Draft National Mitigation Plan (NMP), which is in the view of An Taisce, unambitious and 'too little too late'. [Read the press release for An Taisce's views on the Draft Plan - http://www.antaisce.org/articles/too-little-far-too-late-national-mitigation-plan-an-unmitigated-failure].

For policies and laws drawn up with the best intentions for improving the state of our environment are only as effective so far as they are implemented. Significant changes have been identified, but more needs to be done to keep environmental protection and sustainability moving in the right direction.

For more in-depth information, take a look at;

Detailed country report on Ireland – http://ec.europa.eu/environment/eir/pdf/report_ie_en.pdf;

Report factsheet – http://ec.europa.eu/environment/eir/pdf/factsheet_ie_en.pdf

Celebrating 25 Years of LIFE, the Habitats Directive & Natura 2000

28th April 2017
News Item

The EU LIFE programme and the Habitats Directive, approved on the 21st May 1992, are celebrating 25 years this year! The European Commission, the European Parliament, the Council and the Committee of the Regions will proclaim the 21st May 2017 as ‘European Natura 2000 day’ at a special event in Brussels.

In tandem with its approval, the Habitats Directive, along with the 1979 Birds Directive, formed the basis of the Natura 2000 network, designed to preserve Europe’s unique natural heritage. The network consists of over 27,000 sites across Europe helping to protect countless species and habitats. (http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/natura2000/EUnatura2000day/index_en.htm) To celebrate European Natura 2000 Day, the LIFE programme is organising events across Europe during the month of May. Keep up to date here - life-25.eu

Natura 2000

In Ireland there are 28 species of land mammal, over 400 species of birds and more than 4,000 plant species and over 12,000 species of insect. The majority of EU-protected species are in “Favourable” status in Ireland, but a number are considered to be in “Bad” status and require continued efforts to protect them. There are 430 Natura sites in Ireland. The area covered by SACs is approximately 13,5000 hectares, including habitats such as raised and blanket bogs, sand dunes and woodlands. Among the species given protection are Otter, Freshwater Pearl Mussel and Bottlenose Dolphin.

Ireland’s 154 SPAs covers approximately 570,000 hectares. Species protected by these SPAs include birds such as the Dunlin, Golden Plover and Hen Harrier. Many migratory species visit our shores at different times of the year, such as seabirds. Ireland’s wetlands also provide wintering habitat and resources for over three-quarters of a million waterbirds each year. [Note 1]

More is needed to continue the protection of the habitats and species but a lot has been achieved through projects funded under the LIFE Programme.

What has LIFE achieved?

In the EU it has helped fund over 4000 projects. The LIFE programme has for example;

  • helped to bring the Griffon Vulture back from the brink in the Balkan and Pirin mountains, Bulgaria.
  • aided the designation of a huge Natura 2000 network marine area in Sweden to protect the harbour porpoise.
  • made a major contribution to the recovery of the Iberian lynx populations in Spain and Portugal, so much so that the species is no longer on the IUCN ‘critically endangered’ list.
  • helped nine new pairs of imperial eagles to form, also in Bulgaria bringing the population to 25 pairs, also creating jobs in the region, through the Save the Raptors Project.

Not only is it helping nature and biodiversity but also addressing wider issues such as climate change and waste, while in many cases also creating jobs.

  • The SlideIn LIFEproject in Sweden has demonstrated how old trolley bus networks can be revived to provide fossil-fuel free transport.
  • FromRoofToRoad in Denmark showed bitumen in waste roofing felt can be reused in asphalt for roads, reducing pollution and creating jobs.
  • ClimaBiz in Greece has helped develop tools for businesses to adapt their strategies in relation to climate change mitigation and adaptation.

What it has done in Ireland?

In Ireland, a total of 58 projects have been co-financed by LIFE funds, including 38 on environmental innovation and 20 on nature conservation. Take a look at projects in Ireland here. [Note 2] Some examples of successful and ongoing projects in Ireland are the LIFE Raised Bogs project, the RaptorLIFE Project, Duhallow, Cork and the BurrenLIFE project, which has also been shortlisted for the LIFE Green Awards, a part of the 25th Anniversary celebrations.

  • LIFE Raised Bogs

The LIFE Raised Bog (‘The Living Bog’ ) project aims to improve over 2,600 hectares of raised bog habitat in Ireland’s SACs over the next five years, restoring habitat for numerous important flora and fauna. It incorporates 12 important raised bogs across 7 counties. These habitats once covered approximately 350,000 hectares of the country but many have been lost due to human activity, such as mechanised turf-cutting and peat extraction. With the stark realisation of the need for peatland conservation in the 1970s, the Irish-Dutch movement began trying to restore remaining salvageable bogs, in particular Mongan Bog, (part-owned by An Taisce), along with Clara and Raheenmore Bog. Since then, 53 of the raised bogs that have been saved, have been designated as SACs under the Habitats Directive. With an estimated 99% loss of the former area of active growing raised bog, only 1,650 ha of the remaining ‘intact’ high bog can now be classified as living, ‘Active Raised Bog’. The project also aims through community involvement to promote understanding and awareness of the value of our raised bogs, not only as habitats but also for their role in carbon storage and flood prevention.

Read about Mongan Bog here

  • The RaptorLIFE Project

The aim of IRD Duhallow RaptorLIFE Project which began in January 2015, is to work with the local community to achieve a better environment, "Connecting and restoring habitats for Hen harrier, Merlin, Atlantic salmon and Brook lamprey in Duhallow, Ireland". It is the first project to integrate the conservation efforts of two important Natura 2000 sites, Blackwater SAC and the Stacks to Mullaghareirk Mountains, West Limerick hills and Mount Nagle SPA. The project is particularly important, given the decline of the Hen Harrier in recent decades, due to habitat loss and persecution. The project places great emphasis on stakeholder engagement and one of the main aims is to work with stakeholders and the local community in a positive way to promote raptor conservation through better public awareness and habitat restoration.

  • The BurrenLIFE Programme

The BurrenLIFE Programme is a unique agri-environmental initiative designed to conserve the habitats of the Burren. The Burren is a unique place, with an array of interesting and rare flora and fauna and a wealth of archaeological and geological heritage. Farming has for centuries been an integral part of the landscape there. The practice of winter grazing has been fundamental to its biodiversity and habitats. The BurrenLIFE Project (2005-2009) pioneered a new approach to conservation and farming. The findings of this became the basis for the Burren Farming for Conservation Programme (BFCP), which started up in 2010. This then became the current BurrenLIFE Programme in 2015.
The aims are to ensure the implementation of up to 170 focused farm plans intended to ensure sustainable agricultural management of high nature value farmland, maintaining and enhancing the quality of the environment, particularly in relation to Annex I habitats under Natura 2000, helping to improve water quality and to maintain the high quality of the Burren landscape and cultural heritage. [Note 3]

The Burren also has another very successful LIFE Project, the Burren Geopark which aims to integrate tourism development and biodiversity conservation and cultural heritage.

To learn more about the LIFE Programme and European Natura 2000 Day visit the LIFE website. You can see and vote for BurrenLIFE on Green Awards here! Voting is open until the 10th May, 2017. See the shortlist here!

Notes

  1. NPWS - 'Protected Sites' - https://www.npws.ie/protected-sites

  2. European Commission, 2017, LIFE Programme - Country Factsheet - Ireland Overview - http://ec.europa.eu/environment/life/countries/documents/ireland_en_apr17.pdf

  3. NPWS - 'Burren LIFE Programme' - https://www.npws.ie/research-projects/burren-life-programme

An Taisce Submission Mid Term Review - Forestry programme for 2014 - 2020

2nd May 2017
Report

An Taisce are Ireland’s oldest and one of its largest environmental organisations. An Taisce is a charity that works to preserve and protect Ireland's natural and built heritage. An Taisce recognises the important role that the Forestry Programme 2014-2020 has to play in supporting the development of the rural and national economy. We are also aware of the potential positive and negative impacts of forestry on our environment and the negative role that forestry can play in postponing meaningful climate action in the land use sector. An Taisce welcomes the opportunity to contribute to this public consultation which should be viewed in conjunction with the views and concerns expressed in our original submission on the Forestry Programme 2014-2020. As a statutory consultee in the forestry consent system under the European Communities (Forest Consent and Assessment) Regulations 2010 (S.I. 558 of 2010) and as key stakeholders in the development of the forestry related policies such as the Hen Harrier Threat Response Plan and the National Biodiversity Action Plan 2017-2021 An Taisce are well placed to comment on the shortcomings of the current Forestry Programme.

An Taisce submission on the Consultation on the Forestry Programme 2014-2020 (2014) http://www.antaisce.org/articles/taisce-submission-consultation-forestry-programme-2014-2020

The current Forestry Programme had set out to encourage planting by private landholders in order to achieve a forest cover of 18% by the year 2046. The Forestry Programme 2014-2020 proposed the establishment of over 46,000 ha of new forests, the construction of 960km of forest roads and improved levels of support for the establishment and conservation of native woodlands. All of this had to be achieved while adhering to the overarching EU Policy Framework Europe 2020 strategy for “smart, sustainable and inclusive growth". Under the EU’s Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM), as the programming authority, must assess the likely significant effects of its plans and programmes on: “the environment, including on issues such as biodiversity, population, human health, fauna, flora, soil, water, air, climatic factors, material assets, cultural heritage including architectural and archaeological heritage, landscape and the interrelationship of the above factors” including “secondary, cumulative, synergistic, short, medium, and long-term, permanent and temporary positive and negative effects”.

An Taisce originally highlighted in the public consultation on the Forestry Programme and in numerous consultations in the mean time that we are deeply concerned that many aspects of the current programme fall short of the overarching objectives to achieve a sustainable and environmentally friendly forestry sector. Indeed many aspects of the programme are just a continuation of Ireland’s historically unsustainable forestry model whose practices over the preceding decades have negatively impacted on biodiversity, landscape, soil carbon and water quality. Commercial forestry plantations have a number of negative impacts on the environment. Non-native conifer plantations negatively impact on soil erosion and water quality and drive biodiversity loss through habitat loss and degradation. Non-native blocks of conifers sustain low levels of biodiversity compared to native ecosystems and traditional semi-natural habitats associated with High Nature Value farming systems. What has also become increasingly clear since 2014 is the negative socio-economic impact that commercial forestry is having on many parts of the country. These concerns have been raised by An Taisce with Minister Doyle himself at the inaugural COFORD Forest Policy Review Group (CFPRG) stakeholders meeting. These concerns have more importantly been repeatedly raised by affected communities in places like Leitrim within the national press and by the local Irish Farmers Association reps and by Macra Na Feirme. The Macra na Feirme afforestation policy position in particular has raised the impact which afforestation grants is having on the cost of land and land mobility. They have also highlighted their concern for the negative impact of forestry on High Nature Value farming which is shared by ourselves.

Afforestation Policy Macra na Feirme (2017) http://www.macra.ie/system/assets/300/original/macra-na-feirme-afforestation-policy.pdf?1487860954

There is a clear lack of a national dialogue and accountability in relation to the inevitable consequences of the market pressures have been released by the lifting of the dairy quota and the payments/tax breaks available for commercial forestry. The socio-economic consequences of these actions are accepted to result in the decline of small farmers and number of farming families, the loss of traditional hill farming/marginal farming in many areas with associated impacts on the structure of rural communities. This is likely to manifest itself in the irreversible decline and collapse of social cohesion in many rural communities around the country. The negative impacts of rural decline such as emigration and an aging population will only be exacerbate by the replacement of farming with a passive land use like forestry. The long term costs/benefits of such drastic changes for the effected communities have not been adequately debated. Groups who have voiced genuine concerns such as local IFA reps in Leitrim and Macra na Feirme and eNGOs like An Taisce have been discounted. Fact based arguments about the negative impacts on water quality and freshwater ecology and farmland biodiversity have yet to be adequately addressed. The incompatibility of certain models of forestry and indeed afforestation in general in certain areas is clear from the role that forestry has played in national conservation issues such as the Hen Harrier Threat Response Plan and the Curlew Action Plan. The announcement in recent months that the European Investment Bank has announced funding of over €200m for forestry related investment in Ireland and that Dasos a private forestry investment fund is looking to buy up Irish forestry only increases the concern that communities and wildlife will be displaced by foreign investors and sitka spruce plantations.

Within the COFORD Forest Policy Review Group (CFPRG) Minister Doyle and the forestry sectoral expressed the view that the decline of farming in certain areas was due to the lack of interest from younger generations due to the hardship and poor financial returns. The forestry reps felt that forestry was stepping into the void created by other forces rather than driving the negative trends in rural decline. An Taisce accept that the forestry sector is not alone responsible for these negative trends but that it is a contributing factor which is exacerbating rural decline in certain areas. Increasing the profitability of HNV farming through agri-environmental schemes, market supports such as certification and the diversification of the rural economy through the promotion of ecotourism and the delivery of broadband where strategically feasible would breathe life back into many marginalised communities. Without a national dialogue on the social and environmental consequences of the collapse of farming in marginal areas there can be no mandate for the inevitable consequences of government policies such as the Forestry Programme 2014-2020.

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Over 258,000 Europeans call on EU Commission to radically reform EU agriculture

3rd May 2017
Media Coverage

Today a clear and strong message reached the European Commission: the EU’s agricultural policy needs to be radically changed. This is what 258,708 citizens, An Taisce and over 600 other civil society organisations including and businesses have told the Commission in the largest EU public consultation on agricultural policy, which closed yesterday (2 May).

The large mobilisation was generated by Living Land, the online campaign launched by WWF, Birdlife Europe and the European Environmental Bureau, calling for an EU agricultural policy that protects our climate and environment, is fair for farmers and consumers, and contributes to healthy and sustainable food production. Over 258,000 people and over 600 organisations and businesses representing consumers, the food sector, drinking water providers, and those promoting environmental protection, development, health, and animal welfare joined Living Land.

Fintan Kelly, Natural Environment Officer, An Taisce, The National Trust for Ireland said: “The people of Europe have stated loud and clear that they believe that the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy is not fit for purpose. In countries like Ireland agricultural intensification continues to be the greatest driver of biodiversity loss and is a major source of water pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Despite decades to intensification and increased output many farming families are less financially secure than they ever have been. It is time for a new vision for European farming which can deliver a rural environment which is socially, environmentally and economically sustainable.”

Jabier Ruiz, Senior Policy Officer on Agriculture and Sustainable Food Systems at WWF European Policy Office, said: “The message is clear: Europeans care about farming, food and nature and they do not want their food to be produced at the cost of nature. They want their public money to be invested in a different agricultural model that serves sustainable farmers and rural communities, and does not destroy our finite natural resources and species. We will see whether the European Commission is at the level of its mandate delivering a new policy that supports a truly sustainable food and farming system for the future.”

Ariel Brunner, Senior Head of Policy, Birdlife Europe & Central Asia said: “Hundreds of thousands of people from across Europe have demanded action. With this mandate, the Commission must now respond with an ambitious new policy that will restore the biodiversity that is disappearing across the continent. The time is now to transition to sustainable farming. At a time when faith in the European Union is on the decline, the Commission must listen to this major signal from the citizens of Europe and respond convincingly.”

Pieter de Pous, EEB EU Policy Director, said: “If the EU is to reinvent itself, face up to the major challenges of climate change, ecosystem collapse and fixing a broken food and farming system, a root and branch reform of the CAP – its oldest, most controversial and least-efficient common policy – is not only long overdue, it is inevitable. First we need clarity on what a future farm subsidy system should do, only then can talks on EU budget figures start.”

The EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which takes up almost 40% of the EU budget, is a major driver of unsustainable farming in Europe, as it continues to stimulate industrial food production that causes environmental degradation. Unsustainable agriculture is the single biggest driver of biodiversity loss in Europe, causing the depletion of species like farm birds and bees. Evidence shows that our rural areas have lost over 58% of their farm birds, and 24% of European bumblebees are threatened by extinction, with huge economic losses associated. The CAP also fails to address the needs of rural areas: between 2007 and 2013, about 20% of jobs in the farming sector have been lost, with more and more small farmers being put out of business.

The European Commission is expected to present the results of the public consultation publicly in a Conference in Brussels on 7 July and to publish a communication on the future of the CAP before the end of 2017. The new EU Common Agricultural Policy should be implemented in all Member States by 2021.

END

Notes:

The Living Land campaign was started by BirdLife Europe & Central Asia, the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) and WWF EU. The organisations that have joined Living Land agree that the EU’s new agricultural policy must be: • Fair – for farmers and rural communities. • Environmentally Sustainable – for clean air and water, healthy soil, and thriving plant and animal life. • Healthy – for good food and the well-being of all people. • Globally Responsible – for the planet’s climate and sustainable development around the world.

For further information: Charles Stanley Smith, Public Affairs, An Taisce, publicaffairs@antaisce.org Tel: +353 87 241 1995

Stefania Campogianni, Communication Manager, WWF European Policy Office, scampogianni@wwf.eu, Tel: +32 499 539736

Zeynep Karasin, Media Officer, BirdLife Europe and Central Asia, Zeynep.Karasin@birdlife.org,
Tel: +32 (0) 2 541 07 812 Emily Macintosh, Communications Officer for Nature and Agriculture, European Environmental Bureau (EEB), emily.macintosh@eeb.org. Tel: +32 2 274 10 86

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An Taisce Submission Re: Forests, Products and People Ireland’s Forest Policy – a renewed vision

3rd May 2017
Report

An Taisce are Ireland’s oldest and one of its largest environmental organisations. An Taisce is a charity that works to preserve and protect Ireland's natural and built heritage. An Taisce recognises the important role that the forestry sector has to play in supporting the development of the rural and national economy. We are also aware of the potential positive and negative impacts of forestry on our environment and the negative role that forestry can play in postponing meaningful climate action in the land use sector. An Taisce welcomes the opportunity to contribute to this public consultation which should be viewed in parallel with the views and concerns expressed in our submission on the Forestry Programme 2014-2020 and on the mid-term review of the same. As a statutory consultee in the forestry consent system under the European Communities (Forest Consent and Assessment) Regulations 2010 (S.I. 558 of 2010) and as key stakeholders in the development of the forestry related policies such as the Hen Harrier Threat Response Plan and the National Biodiversity Action Plan 2017-2021 An Taisce are well placed to comment on the shortcomings of the Irish approach to forestry.

An Taisce submission on the Consultation on the Forestry Programme 2014-2020 (2014) http://www.antaisce.org/articles/taisce-submission-consultation-forestry-programme-2014-2020

An Taisce Submission Mid Term Review - Forestry programme for 2014 – 2020 http://www.antaisce.org/articles/an-taisce-submission-mid-term-review-forestry-programme-for-2014-2020

The current Forestry Programme had set out to encourage planting by private landholders in order to achieve a forest cover of 18% by the year 2046. The Forestry Programme 2014-2020 proposed the establishment of over 46,000 ha of new forests, the construction of 960 km of forest roads and improved levels of support for the establishment and conservation of native woodlands. All of this had to be achieved while adhering to the overarching EU Policy Framework Europe 2020 strategy for “smart, sustainable and inclusive growth". Under the EU’s Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM), as the programming authority, must assess the likely significant effects of its plans and programmes on: “the environment, including on issues such as biodiversity, population, human health, fauna, flora, soil, water, air, climatic factors, material assets, cultural heritage including architectural and archaeological heritage, landscape and the interrelationship of the above factors” including “secondary, cumulative, synergistic, short, medium, and long-term, permanent and temporary positive and negative effects”.

An Taisce originally highlighted in the public consultation on the Forestry Programme and in numerous consultations in the mean time that we are deeply concerned that many aspects of the current programme fall short of the overarching objectives to achieve a sustainable and environmentally friendly forestry sector. Indeed many aspects of the programme are just a continuation of Ireland’s historically unsustainable forestry model whose practices over the preceding decades have negatively impacted on biodiversity, landscape, soil carbon and water quality. Commercial forestry plantations have a number of negative impacts on the environment. Non-native conifer plantations negatively impact on soil erosion and water quality and drive biodiversity loss through habitat loss and degradation. Non-native blocks of conifers sustain low levels of biodiversity compared to native ecosystems and traditional semi-natural habitats associated with High Nature Value farming systems. What has also become increasingly clear since 2014 is the negative socio-economic impact that commercial forestry is having on many parts of the country. These concerns have been raised by An Taisce with Minister Doyle himself at the inaugural COFORD Forest Policy Review Group (CFPRG) stakeholders meeting. These concerns have more importantly been repeatedly raised by affected communities in places like Leitrim within the national press and by the local Irish Farmers Association reps and by Macra Na Feirme. The Macra na Feirme afforestation policy position in particular has raised the impact which afforestation grants is having on the cost of land and land mobility. They have also highlighted their concern for the negative impact of forestry on High Nature Value farming which is shared by ourselves.

Afforestation Policy Macra na Feirme (2017) http://www.macra.ie/system/assets/300/original/macra-na-feirme-afforestation-policy.pdf?1487860954

There is a clear lack of a national dialogue and accountability in relation to the inevitable consequences of the market pressures have been released by the lifting of the dairy quota and the payments/tax breaks available for commercial forestry. The socio-economic consequences of these actions are accepted to result in the decline of small farmers and number of farming families, the loss of traditional hill farming/marginal farming in many areas with associated impacts on the structure of rural communities. This is likely to manifest itself in the irreversible decline and collapse of social cohesion in many rural communities around the country. The negative impacts of rural decline such as emigration and an aging population will only be exacerbate by the replacement of farming with a passive land use like forestry. The long term costs/benefits of such drastic changes for the effected communities have not been adequately debated. Groups who have voiced genuine concerns such as local IFA reps in Leitrim and Macra na Feirme and eNGOs like An Taisce have been discounted. Fact based arguments about the negative impacts on water quality and freshwater ecology and farmland biodiversity have yet to be adequately addressed. The incompatibility of certain models of forestry and indeed afforestation in general in certain areas is clear from the role that forestry has played in national conservation issues such as the Hen Harrier Threat Response Plan and the Curlew Action Plan. The announcement in recent months that the European Investment Bank has announced funding of over €200m for forestry related investment in Ireland and that Dasos a private forestry investment fund is looking to buy up Irish forestry only increases the concern that communities and wildlife will be displaced by foreign investors and sitka spruce plantations.

Within the COFORD Forest Policy Review Group (CFPRG) Minister Doyle and the forestry sectoral expressed the view that the decline of farming in certain areas was due to the lack of interest from younger generations due to the hardship and poor financial returns. The forestry reps felt that forestry was stepping into the void created by other forces rather than driving the negative trends in rural decline. An Taisce accept that the forestry sector is not alone responsible for these negative trends but that it is a contributing factor which is exacerbating rural decline in certain areas. Increasing the profitability of HNV farming through agri-environmental schemes, market supports such as certification and the diversification of the rural economy through the promotion of ecotourism and the delivery of broadband where strategically feasible would breathe life back into many marginalised communities. Without a national dialogue on the social and environmental consequences of the collapse of farming in marginal areas there can be no mandate for the inevitable consequences of government policies such as the Forestry Programme 2014-2020.

The Forests, products and people Ireland’s forest policy – a renewed vision report has not gone anywhere near far enough in identifying the range of environmental issues or societal concerns with the forestry sector which need to be addressed if the stated strategic goal “To develop an internationally competitive and sustainable forest sector that provides a full range of economic, environmental and social benefits to society,” is to be achieved. We hope that the following issues we wish to highlight can be addressed moving forward and that our recommendations may provide some helpful guidance in bringing about the transition to a truly sustainable and holistic forestry sector.

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An Taisce review of Origin Green

4th May 2017
Report

An Taisce made a submission to Aidan Cotter, the Chief Executive of Bord Bia on the strengths and weaknesses of Bord Bia’s Origin Green programme to date. The comments provided in this document are based on years of experience working in Ireland’s environmental NGO sector. Our appraisal of the Origin Green programme is based on our personal experiences engaging with Bord Bia, Origin Green’s PR and a number of documents published by Bord Bia including the Origin Green Sustainability Charter (2014), the Origin Green Sustainability Report (2015) and the Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme, Bord Bia (2013).

Fintan Kelly, Natural Environment Officer with An Taisce said "In summary An Taisce strongly support the Origin Green vision for 2050. Given the current trajectory Irish agriculture is on it will be a significant challenge to achieve many aspects of the 2050 vision. In the short term the best pathway to achieving the sustainability vision lies in promoting measures which ensure that the Irish agri-food sector is compliant with national and EU targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, halt biodiversity loss and improve water quality. Efforts to improve sustainability must focus on areas where Irish agriculture is currently having a negative impact on the environment rather than simply focusing on areas where we have a perceived market advantage. Origin Green must look to go beyond basic compliance with cross compliance measures if Ireland hopes to be a global leader in sustainable food and drink. Setting realistic targets and deadlines for achieving improvements in sustainability will be essential. Origin Green must look to incentivise the most sustainable producers to maintain or improve their standards. Origin Green must address the net environmental impact of the Irish food and drink industry. An efficiency based approach will not achieve this end. Focusing on improving the worst producers alone will not be an effective approach in the long run. Origin Green must review the criteria required for Origin Green membership."

For further information: Charles Stanley Smith, Public Affairs, An Taisce, publicaffairs@antaisce.org Tel: +353 87 241 1995

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Clean Air is not a Choice

6th May 2017
Press Release

Action on air pollution needed for public health and quality of life in Ireland.

Ireland faces growing breaches of World Health Organisation(WHO) air pollution standards, in particular through the increase in number of diesel cars which release fine particulate matter.

This month, An Taisce made a submission on the public consultation to inform the development of a new Government National Clean Air Strategy. This is beginning of a process that will require urgent action in enhanced public health legislation, reform of the tax system to support clean technology, and investment in efficient heating, public transport and cycling infrastructure.

Ian Lumley, An Taisce’s Advocacy Officer, stated “We can choose the food we eat and the water we drink but we can’t choose the air we breathe. We at An Taisce recognize the importance of clean air to the health of the Nation. Ireland prides itself as a healthy and green Island with prevailing winds blowing in off the Atlantic. Our natural advantages however are not enough to ensure safe levels of pollutants including PM2.5, PM10, NOₓ, SOₓ, O₃, and NH₄”.

An Taisce’s submission recommended the following:

The reconstitution of the remit and scope of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ensure effective national monitoring, regulation and enforcement on all air pollution impacts.

  • Legislative and fiscal reform to mandate and inform the actions of all Government Departments, State Agencies, Local Authorities and other decision makers in meeting World Health Organisation (WHO) air quality standards as a legal responsibility.
  • The enhancement of citizen rights to secure legal redress on Clean Air in accordance with the Aarhus Convention.
  • The progressive reduction and elimination of locations with days exceeding WHO emission thresholds and limits, focusing on traffic pollution and domestic fuel burning.
  • Resourcing the large-scale retrofitting of the national housing stock giving priority to areas with high solid fuel use.
  • Ensuring that the application of the overdue national “smoky” coal ban in 2018 should not be allowed to generate increased emissions from peat and biomass.
  • Action on diesel emissions, through the range of fiscal and other measures recommended in the An Taisce responses in the transport section of this submission, and which are supported by public health researchers and other advocacy bodies with a clear target for phasing in low emission vehicles for all transport sectors.
  • Large scale acceleration of public transport and cycling infrastructure investment.
  • The re energising of the measures set out but not implemented in the 2009 Department of Transport “Smarter Travel” policy particularity action to achieve modal shift from cars, including taxis , to walking, cycling and low emission public transport, with clear targets to be met.
  • Requiring the agricultural sector to implement effective monitoring and abatement of ammonia emissions, and to control the impact of land burning.
  • Public information programmes be primarily directed at supporting enhanced public health protection through legislation, regulation and enforcement, and redirection of taxation policy and public investment to ensure that Ireland meets WHO clean air standards.
  • The withdrawal of the proposed Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) as not fit for purpose on multiple sustainably grounds including air pollution impact.

ENDS

Ian Lumley, Advocacy Officer, An Taisce. Tel: +353 1 454 1786
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce. Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
www.antaisce.org

Notes

[1] An Taisce's Submission http://www.antaisce.org/articles/an-taisce%E2%80%99s-submission-on-the-public-consultation-to-inform-the-development-of-a-national

About An Taisce

An Taisce is a charity that works to preserve and protect Ireland's natural and built heritage. We are an independent charitable voice for the environment and for heritage issues. We are not a government body, semi-state or agency. Founded in 1948, we are one of Ireland’s oldest and largest environmental organisations.

An Taisce’s Submission on the Public Consultation to Inform the Development of a National Clean Air Strategy.

6th May 2017
Submission Summary

An Taisce’s submission on the public consultation to inform the development of a National Clean Air Strategy. (Link at bottom of page)

Ian Lumley, An Taisce’s Advocacy Officer, stated “We can choose the food we eat and the water we drink but we can’t choose the air we breathe. We at An Taisce recognize the importance of clean air to the health of the Nation. Ireland prides itself as a healthy and green Island with prevailing winds blowing in off the Atlantic. Our natural advantages however are not enough to ensure safe levels of pollutants including PM2.5, PM10 , NOₓ, SOₓ, O₃, and NH₄”.

An Taisce’s submission recommended the following:

  • The reconstitution of the remit and scope of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ensure effective national monitoring, regulation and enforcement on all air pollution impacts.

  • Legislative and fiscal reform to mandate and inform the actions of all Government Departments, State Agencies, Local Authorities and other decision makers in meeting World Health Organisation (WHO) air quality standards as a legal responsibility.

  • The enhancement of citizen rights to secure legal redress on Clean Air in accordance with the Aarhus Convention.

  • The progressive reduction and elimination of locations with days exceeding WHO emission thresholds and limits, focusing on traffic pollution and domestic fuel burning.

  • Resourcing the large-scale retrofitting of the national housing stock giving priority to areas with high solid fuel use.

  • Ensuring that the application of the overdue national “smoky” coal ban in 2018 should not be allowed to generate increased emissions from peat and biomass.

  • Action on diesel emissions, through the range of fiscal and other measures recommended in the An Taisce responses in the transport section of this submission, and which are supported by public health researchers and other advocacy bodies with a clear target for phasing in low emission vehicles for all transport sectors.

  • Large scale acceleration of public transport and cycling infrastructure investment.

  • The re energising of the measures set out but not implemented in the 2009 Department of Transport “Smarter Travel” policy particularity action to achieve modal shift from cars , including taxis , to walking, cycling and low emission public transport, with clear targets to be met.

  • Requiring the agricultural sector to implement effective monitoring and abatement of ammonia emissions, and to control the impact of land burning.

  • Public information programmes be primarily directed at supporting enhanced public health protection through legislation, regulation and enforcement, and redirection of taxation policy and public investment to ensure that Ireland meets WHO clean air standards.

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An Taisce Seeks Further Assurances and Clarifications on Proposed Works to National Museum

6th May 2017
Press Release

This week, An Taisce raised a number of issues with the Office of Public Works regarding the proposed occupation of part of the National Museum of Ireland on Kildare Street as part of the temporary relocation of Seanad chamber from Leinster House. .

An Taisce contends, that in order to provide a fire escape and access corridor will be required through the ‘Chinese Room’ and that no permission has been sought for the usage of a third room in the National Museum or for a change in its use.

Further, the extra security required as a result of the recent security threats in Europe and Westminster may well also require the closure of ground floor exhibition rooms and the Museum Restaurant.

An Taisce also raised its concern at the use of a Section 9 application in relation to a building that is currently in Museum use, and not seemingly covered under the 2000 Planning Act. It needs to be established if Section 9 applies to the NMI given that it is located outside the limits of the Leinster House jurisdiction. Neither the Committee of the Dáil or the OPW are the occupants or the legal custodians of the building and the NMI authorities are not the body advancing the proposed development.

Dr. Mark Clinton, of An Taisce’s Monuments & Antiquities, stated “We have great concern at the definition of ‘Temporary Use’ and the need for the attachment of time limits. One only has to remember the ‘Temporary Car Park’ imposed on the lawn of Leinster House. It was there for approximately 10 years.

ENDS

Dr. Mark Clinton, Monuments & Antiquities Committee, An Taisce. Tel: +353 1 832 2058
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce. Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
www.antaisce.org

Notes

The Planning Notice (dated the 16th of March) for changes to the National Museum of Ireland (NMI) clearly stated that the development will consist of "A temporary change of use of two first floor rooms of the National Museum of Ireland…to accommodate the Seanad Eireann chamber within the ‘Ceramics Room’ and access corridor and ante-room within the ‘Japanese Room".

While there is specific mention of ‘a new fire escape door from the National Museum of Ireland to existing external walkway in Leinster House’ it is not made clear at all that this facility, which will involve the breaching of the external wall of the NMI which is a Protected Structure, will be located in an annexe of a third room, i.e. ‘The Chinese Room’.

To access the fire escape it will be necessary to traverse this third room, ‘The Chinese Room’. This unmentioned ‘access corridor’ would be used during fire drills and emergencies. Best practice fire exit procedure requires people to be familiar with exit routes. This would equate with disruption in a room currently serving exclusively as an office for the staff of the NMI. No permission has been sought by the OPW for the usage of a third room in the National Museum or for a change in its use.

In the wake of the recent (March) security threat at Westminster it was announced by Ceann Comhairle Séan Ó Fearghail that security arrangements in Leinster House would be enhanced. Under the new procedures all staff and visitors to Leinster House will have to pass through machines comparable to those encountered at airports.

The proposed temporary Chamber of the Seanad within the National Museum will be on the 1st Floor of the building. Beneath it will be a public exhibition room (housing the Bog Bodies) and a public restaurant. The security implications of maintaining full public use to all existing exhibition and publicly accessible areas of the NMI need to be addressed.

It needs to be determined that security measures will not require the closure of the Ground Floor rooms to the public. The loss of a major public attraction – the Bog Bodies exhibition, and a key visitor facility – the Museum Restaurant, would be highly detrimental to the NMI and its service to the public.

About An Taisce

An Taisce is a charity that works to preserve and protect Ireland's natural and built heritage. We are an independent charitable voice for the environment and for heritage issues. We are not a government body, semi-state or agency. Founded in 1948, we are one of Ireland’s oldest and largest environmental organisations.

Climate fiction at the Irish Farmers Journal

12th May 2017
Press Release

The Irish Farmers Journal (IFJ) has just published a seriously inaccurate, factually flawed and deeply misleading article on climate change and agriculture.

The Journal, with a weekly readership of in excess of 250,000, is the outlet most Irish farmers turn to first for information. With that power comes responsibility. It owes a journalistic duty of reasonable care to its readers to ensure that it is not used as a vehicle for spreading ‘fake news’.

The article, by former editor, Matt Dempsey, is an unusually unsophisticated flat denial of some of the strongest international scientific consensus – on the reality and causes of climate change – ever achieved on any issue.

An Taisce does not believe it is the sole responsibility of NGOs to have to challenge these damaging falsehoods. Instead, we call on the relevant public bodies and statutory agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, Teagasc and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, to come forward to challenge and correct the IFJ’s explicit rejection of robust climate science.

We would also call on the relevant academic institutions with expertise in this area, including UCD, NUIM and the Royal Irish Academy to state for the record if they agree or disagree with the key statements in this IJF article.

With respect, we suggest it might be appropriate for the Climate Change Advisory Council to express a view on the matter.

We would further ask the Irish Farmers Association, which we understand is separate from the IFJ, if it condones the statements made by Mr Dempsey (and supported on the IFJ’s main editorial page by current editor, Justin McCarthy). It is probably no coincidence that Dempsey’s enthusiastic acceptance of these contrarian talking points led him to the happy conclusion that farmers “could and should continue to increase our livestock numbers subject only to the carrying capacity of the land and the availability of profitable markets”. This is nothing more than wishful thinking masquerading as analysis.

Mr. Dempsey must have been aware prior to publishing that Prof John Sweeney of NUIM, Ireland’s pre-eminent climate scientist, in a radio interview (in which Mr. Dempsey also participated) had emphatically refuted the entire basis of the presentation by a noted US climate denier, Richard Lindzen, on which Dempsey based his article.

Despite this clear red flag, he and the IFJ persisted in recklessly publishing an article they must have had good reason to believe was wholly or largely untrue. The IFJ also failed in its basic journalistic duty to caution readers as to the highly controversial and unproven nature of these views.

An Taisce strongly defends free speech and the right of the media robustly to express and defend a wide range of viewpoints. However, the corollary of this is that: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts”.

We will separately make available on request a line-by-line rebuttal of the IFJ article, but our main focus in issuing this statement is to encourage the relevant State agencies to respond in defence of the mainstream scientific consensus and its implications for Irish agricultural policy and practice.

ENDS

Phil Kearney, Chair, An Taisce's Climate Change Committee. Tel: +353 86 265 9833
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce. Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
www.antaisce.org

Notes

About An Taisce

An Taisce is a charity that works to preserve and protect Ireland's natural and built heritage. We are an independent charitable voice for the environment and for heritage issues. We are not a government body, semi-state or agency. Founded in 1948, we are one of Ireland’s oldest and largest environmental organisations.

Irish Times video interview with Ian Lumley on Iveagh Markets

19th May 2017
Media Coverage

Dublin's Iveagh Markets at risk if €100m project does not go ahead

An Taisce call for action from Dublin City Council over Temple Bar hotelier Martin Keane’s stalled project

Video interview with Ian Lumley

Olivia Kely Irish Times May 17th 2017

http://www.irishtimes.com/news/environment/dublin-s-iveagh-markets-at-risk-if-100m-project-does-not-go-ahead-1.3085252

Natural Environment Officer

30th May 2017
News Item

An Taisce - The National Trust for Ireland - is seeking to recruit a Natural Environment Officer for a 6 month contract period, subject to renewal, and based in our headquarters in Dublin 8.

Applications (comprised of a CV with a covering letter of application) should be sent to info@antaisce.org by 17:30 on Friday 9th June 2017

The Natural Environment Officer will be responsible for An Taisce’s activities involving ecology and biodiversity; water quality and catchment management; land use management and planning (including forestry, agriculture and aquaculture); climate change and biodiversity crossover; and legal and policy measures for environmental conservation and management.

The successful applicant will be a highly motivated professional with thorough knowledge and experience of environmental issues in Ireland, and will ideally have a track-record of commitment on environmental issues and advocacy. They will have:

  • experience in ecology/environmental conservation
  • qualifications in an environmental or related discipline
  • strong communication skills
  • an excellent understanding of and experience of working with environmental policy and law
  • a track record of developing and delivering project proposals and funding applications
  • experience of project management
  • ability to work as part of a dynamic team in An Taisce and the wider NGO community
  • knowledge or experience of the NGO sector

The main duties of the Natural Environment Officer include:

  • Working in accordance with the strategic objectives set out by An Taisce Natural Environment Committee
  • Creating work plans for interns of the Natural Environment Office, and management of same
  • Feeding in to international, national and local policy development
  • Monitoring and reporting on the implementation of relevant policy and legal instruments
  • Ensuring integration of biodiversity considerations into various sectoral policies and practices including forestry, agriculture, fisheries management, energy, peat extraction, flood management, climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies
  • Representing An Taisce and the wider NGO sector on various platforms and groups
  • Compiling casework to demonstrate shortfalls in management of the natural environment and liaising with state agencies and departments to develop approaches to remedying these
  • Working with other NGOS to develop combined approaches to issues of common concern
  • Explaining current natural environment issues and solutions to a range of audiences

The role of the Natural Environment Office also includes fulfilling a number of the statutory consultation roles of An Taisce on various referrals such as afforestation licensing, aquaculture licensing, IPC/IED licences from the EPA, and dumping at sea permits.

Deadline for applications is 17:30 on Friday 9th June 2017 with a view to interviewing week of 18th June 2017. Please apply by sending a CV with a covering letter of application to info@antaisce.org . Please include ‘Natural Environment Officer’ in the subject line. The job will be based in Tailors' Hall, Back Lane, Dublin 8. Salary will be dependent on skills and experience.

An Taisce ‘Living Limerick’ Engagement & Outreach Officer

30th May 2017
News Item

An Taisce - The National Trust for Ireland - is seeking to recruit an ‘Engagement & Outreach Officer’ on a Part-time Flexi-time basis based in County Limerick. It is a 3 year position with initial 6 month probationary period, followed by one year appointment and renewal subject to performance.

Applications (comprised of a CV with a covering letter of application) should be sent to livinglimerick@antaisce.org by 17:30 on 12th June 2017

The Project
‘Living Limerick’ key objectives are to promote local pride and appreciation of the natural environment among communities in west Limerick and Limerick City Environs and to facilitate and encourage positive local community engagement with biodiversity, climate, energy, water and resource consumption issues as well as promoting wider heritage issues and promoting community spirit. The key action of the project is to provide a programme of events with particular focus on outdoor family friendly educational events in Coillte Curragh Chase Forest Park, as well as in the Limerick City environs and west Limerick, at weekends and particularly during school holiday periods.

The Role
The Engagement & Outreach Officer will be responsible for the development and operation of a natural environment engagement programme based in County Limerick. The Engagement & Outreach Officer will work with a wide range of local civil society organizations and voluntary groups in order to run events and engage communities in enhancing natural and cultural heritage appreciation of west Limerick and Limerick City environs.

The role will involve reaching out to potential project partners; garnering community engagement; organizing and running events; running citizen science initiatives; promoting An Taisce membership; event promotion through in local newspaper, radio and social media.

The role requires ability to work evenings and weekends to reflect meeting times of voluntary organizations and a wide range of project partners.

The successful applicant will be a highly motivated professional with the following skillset and experience:

  • experienced in organizing events and outreach activities
  • a strong interest and good working knowledge of the natural environment
  • excellent communications and organizational skills
  • experience managing, promoting events including through social media
  • experience of project management
  • enthusiasm to bring communities on board
  • ability to work with a wide range of stakeholders and interest groups

Deadline for applications is 17:30 on 12th June 2017 with a view to interviewing week beginning 19th June 2017. Please apply by sending a CV with a covering letter of application to livinglimerick@antaisce.org.
Please include ‘Engagement & Outreach Officer’ in the subject line. There will be no office base provided with this position. Salary will be dependent on skills and experience.

Minister Humphreys must act to save the Bronze Age roadway at Mayne Bog.

31st May 2017
Press Release

An Taisce has written today to Heather Humhpreys TD, Minister for Arts, Heritage Regional Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs calling on her to act immediately to preserve the Bronze Age Oakwood built Roadway at Mayne Bog [1].

Dr. Mark Clinton, An Taisce’s Antiquities and Monuments Officer stated “Officers of the National Monuments Service recently noted 45 small pits in adjacent areas of the bog to the location of the Bronze Age Oakwood-built Roadway. This is an Internationally important monument that is still capable of being saved from total destruction. These pits would have been dug by illegal metal-detector operators. 45 'hits' could have equated with 45 ancient objects of antiquity.

He continued “How much longer is the Minister going to stand idly by while this monument of International importance is destroyed?”.

In today’s letter, An Taisce called on the Minister to:

  1. Place the Roadway on the RMP List to afford it immediate statutory protection
  2. Preserve the section located in the High Bog
  3. Undertake a licensed metal detector survey of the route of the Roadway
  4. Undertake a Probe Survey to determine the full extent and trajectory of the roadway on the remaining un cut section of High Bog.
  5. Undertake an archaeological excavation of the exposed roadway in the cut-bog area before it is destroyed. A number of oak timbers, especially those with interesting features, to be retrieved and properly preserved for future public display.

Dr. Clinton concluded “It is totally unacceptable that a monument of such clear International significance, discovered as far back as 2006, is still not fully protected by the laws of the Irish State.

ENDS

Dr. Mark Clinton, Monuments & Antiquities Committee, An Taisce. Tel: +353 1 832 2058
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce. Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
www.antaisce.org

Notes

[1] An Taisce’s letter to Minister Humphreys 30/05/2017 https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxEVOTzgFnKEU3J5RW5peFM4NW8/view?usp=sharing

Images of the trackway:
https://drive.google.com/a/antaisce.org/file/d/0BxEVOTzgFnKELUhFOUZBbUQ0MjQ/view?usp=sharing https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxEVOTzgFnKEUE1JdEFrc2IxYjQ/view?usp=sharing

About An Taisce

An Taisce is a charity that works to preserve and protect Ireland's natural and built heritage. We are an independent charitable voice for the environment and for heritage issues. We are not a government body, semi-state or agency. Founded in 1948, we are one of Ireland’s oldest and largest environmental organisations.