August 2016 eZine

15th August 2016

Guided Walk - “Nature - From Seashore to Woodland”

Local Association Event
Tuesday, August 16, 2016
Rathmullan Beach, Co Donegal

Meet at 7 p.m. at the Flight of the Earls Statue beside Rathmullan Beach Car Park. Guide: Aengus Kennedy, NatureNorthwest

The walk will follow a route from the “Flight of the Earls” sculpture, down to the seashore, (identify sea shells and other shore creatures) from the sea shore through the beach, through the high tide line (see what the tide brought in), to the sand dunes,to the dunes being colonised by shrubs and walk through the adjacent woodland. Duration :c2 hours An Interesting and Entertaining Evening’s Stroll - Suitable for all ages

Everyone Welcome. Free

Cost An Taisce Members: 
Free
Cost Non Members: 
Free

Annual Bat Meeting

Local Association Event
Wednesday, August 24, 2016
The Inn at Dromoland

10th Annual Bat Meeting - especially for children

Wednesday 24th August
Heritage Week event starting 7.30 pm Walk to follow
The Inn at Dromoland, Dromoland Castle, 9.pm

Heritage Week: Birds & Ecology Talk - Wild birds, plants, low tide and Stephen Dedalus

Local Association Event
Sunday, August 28, 2016
Booterstown Nature Reserve

National Heritage Week runs from the 20-28th of August this year. To mark this special annual week, Dún Laoghaire Local Association are holding an afternoon of bird and ecology talks about the Booterstown Marsh on Sunday the 28th of August. We are very lucky to have expert birder Séan Hogan - among others - talking to us and helping out with bird identification on the day. The vent will kick off with a reading from Ulysses of Stephen Dedalus's and his Sandymount walk followed by a wild bird and wild plant walk and talk. - See more at: http://heritageweek.heritagecouncil.ie/whats-on/event-details?EventID=286#sthash.8iW8X8Y9.dpuf

The group will meet at the viewing area opposite Trimleston Avenue traffic lights on the Merrion Road at 3pm.

This afternoon of fascinating talks delves into the creation of Booterstown Marsh, its historic use, development and near destruction. The marsh is a key nature reserve within the Dublin Bay Biosphere, providing habitat for overwintering light-bellied Brent geese, ducks and waders. There is also a rich birdlife in the summer as well and with Séan and the other guides we will all improve our identification skills!

This is a free event and all are most welcome on the day.

For further information, please contact Rebecca Jeffares at reb.jeffares@gmail.com

Times/Venues 28th August 14:00 PM to 17:00 PM Venue Name: Booterstown Nature Reserve View Point Address: Rock Rd, Dublin, Ireland County: Dublin - Dun Laoghaire Rathdown Longitude: -6.19497674295269 Latitude: 53.30968929039455 - See more at: http://heritageweek.heritagecouncil.ie/whats-on/event-details?EventID=286#sthash.8iW8X8Y9.dpuf

Cost An Taisce Members: 
FREE
Cost Non Members: 
FREE

Cabra Schoolchildren Visit Booterstown Nature Reserve

Independent Event
Sunday, August 28, 2016
Booterstown Nature Reserve Viewpoint beside Booterstown DART station

On Sunday the 28th of August at 3pm schoolchildren from Cabra will visit Booterstown Nature Reserve.

This Heritage Day will encompass a range of bird and ecology walks and talks.

Boyne Navigation Open Day

Local Association Event
Sunday, August 28, 2016
The Sealock, Oldbridge

Boyne Navigation Branch of the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland Open Day at the Sealock, Oldbridge. All are welcome. Boat trips available.

Cost An Taisce Members: 
No Charge
Cost Non Members: 
No Charge

DATE CHANGE: Visit to Martry Mill & Annesbrook Mill

Saturday, September 17, 2016
Martry Mill, on the Navan-Kells Road

The date of our visit to Martry and Annesbrook Mills has been changed to Saturday 17th September. We will meet at Martry Mill at 1 o'clock and picnic (self-provided). James Tallon will then give a guided tour of the mill. Following this we will procedd to Annesbrook Mill for afternoon tea and guided tour courtesy of Ronan and Odette Jacob.

Cost An Taisce Members: 
€10

Dublin City Association BBQ

Wednesday, September 14, 2016
Tailors' Hall

The committee of the newly-constituted Dublin City Association having an end-of-summer barbecue in Tailors' Hall on 14th September.

All DCA members welcome.

RSVP dublincityantaisce@gmail.com

Sculpture Trail at UCD, Belfield

Local Association Event
Friday, October 7, 2016
UCD, Belfield

On Friday the 7th of October, An Taisce Dún Laoghaire will travel to UCD, Belfield for a tour of the Sculpture Trail. Meet at the Student Centre in the Belfied Campus at 2pm for guided tour.

The public works of art found along the sculpture trail are an integral part of the urban fabric of UCD, which enrich the sense of place and the physical beauty of the natural environment. Showcasing various styles and materials, the collection is representative of national and internationally renowned artists, including: John Burke, Jason Ellis, Thomas Glendon, James Hogan, Kevin O’Dwyer, Bob Quinn and Giorgio Zennaro.

For more information, please contact Margaret McGahon on 01 2888025

Cost An Taisce Members: 
€5
Cost Non Members: 
€5

Building Up the Bog: A Overview of the Successful ‘Keep it in the Bog’ Event

23rd June 2016
News Item

This past weekend, Alannah Ní Cheallaigh - Mhuirí (An Taisce - Climate Intern), in association with An Taisce and the Irish Peatland Conservation Council, put on the Keep it in the Bog! Event to great success. On Sunday, volunteers came together to help block up drains in a part of Girley Bogs in Kells, County Meath. The turn out was double as expected, and 42 volunteers of various ages came out to get mucky and help restore the bog.

Despite the rainy atmosphere, the volunteers’ upbeat attitude prevailed at the event sponsored by a Patagonia environmental grant. The aim of the event was to help restore the high water table natural to Girley Bog; to prevent CO2 emissions from it and to encourage more of Girley Bog to become an active carbon sink again.

A healthy bog is 98% water. When the water table drops because of draining, plants and animals native to bog habitats cannot survive and the peat exposed to the air becomes an emitter of CO2. Healthy bogs add to the overall health of the greater environment. According to a strong body of evidence provided by the EPA, healthy bogs remove carbon dioxide from the air and traps it in the water-soaked peat as carbon. The drain-blocking efforts made during the event hosted on Sunday, June 19th helped to make the bog ‘active’ again, thus causing it to act as a Carbon sink.

While great strides were made in the preservation of this particular bog, An Taisce Climate and Energy Intern and Project Manager of Keep it in the Bog, Alannah Ní Cheallaigh - Mhuirí indicated that the bog was not the only thing impacted that day. She came up with the idea to put on this event a few months ago after becoming impassioned by seeing many different sides to the story surrounding the circumstances facing modern bogs. She was tired of waiting for politicians and legislature, and wanted to help make a change herself, starting with her local area.

Ní Cheallaigh – Mhuirí stated:

*“I wanted this to be an educational opportunity as well as a positive action for the preservation of the bog. Many people learn best by doing. This event perhaps expanded people’s understanding of bogs, but they decide how this understanding informs their own choices in the future.” *

She noted that the terms ‘climate change’ and ‘climate action’ have negative connotations for many people:

“Being afraid or feeling guilty are natural reactions, but they inhibit us from responding best to an issue like this. I wanted to create an opportunity for people to be part of a climate action where they achieved something and left feeling empowered to achieve more.”

While the grant from Patagonia covered the practical conservation done by the rewetting of the bog, Alannah made sure to tie in education with the event’s overall work.

This educational outreach came from two different sources. The first being the involvement of St. Brigid’s National School, Cortown. Local primary school children came out to help survey the bog before and after the action to see the ecological differences between a drained and rewetted parts of the bog. After seeing these differences first hand, some of the students then returned the day of the event to help rewet the bog.

The second source of educational outreach came from the large amount of local people who came to the event. Alannah claims that perhaps the biggest impact made that day came from the involvement of the local community, as over half the volunteers lived within close proximity of the bog. For many of the participants, this was their first experience associating bogs with climate change. While it can be hard to changes people’s traditional perspective of associating bogs with fuel or employment alone, Alannah hoped that through allowing people to experience the bogs for themselves, they would be able to gain a new appreciation for their ecological importance. The goal was to allow different people and communities to see what protection efforts we were pursuing, and then bring that information home with them to help spread it even farther.

When asked about what her future hopes were for members of An Taisce and other volunteers and participants of our programs, Alannah stressed the importance of maintaining community engagement as a priority:

“Climate change is an issue which could be extremely divisive if we allow it, but if we look ahead only a little we can find the common ground that will allow us to work in our different ways for the benefit of all. For instance, ‘active’ bogs also help attenuate floods and are a great recreational resource. The Girley bog Meitheal exemplify how working together can create a much loved local amenity with immense ecological and climate value. I hope that other communities may feel inspired to create climate action appropriate to their local area.”

Alannah and An Taisce want to thank the following people for contributing to the success of the Keep it in the Bog! Event:

• Patagonia – for the sponsorship provided through their environmental grant scheme

• Irish Peatland Conservation Council – for their support as well as their excellent demonstration of creating dams the day of the event.

• Ben Malone – for his invaluable assistance in the surveying and implementation of the event.

• Causey Farm – for their support, the use of their hall and the lovely scones!

Updates on Food, Agriculture and Climate Change

3rd July 2016
Report

An Taisce's Natural Environment Office and Climate Change Committee continue to produce reports on the interaction between Food, Agriculture and Climate Change:

Combating Light Pollution: A Look at the Success of the Mayo International Dark Sky Park

4th July 2016
News Item

In our world today, a majority of our light shines back at us. This is a scientific fact, as increasing light pollution has made it so more than 1/3 of the planet's population can no longer visibly see the Milky Way galaxy in our night-time skies [Note 1]. By letting our excess of artificial light cloud our skies, we have, in effect, created our own little bubble in which our human-centered world is the only world and nothing else matters.

Except, here is the problem; everything else matters.

Lord Martin Rees, astronomer royal, said that “The night sky is the most universally-shared part of our environment.” Plants, animals, humans, even other stars and galaxies. We all share and rely on the night-time sky. Yet, through increased use of artificial light, we break those ties.

What is light pollution?

Light pollution comes in two different forms. Astronomical light pollution occurs when our ability to view the night sky is diminished due to atmospheric scattering of artificial lights. Ecological light pollution occurs when the alteration of light patterns has a detrimental effect on flora, fauna, and human health [Note 3]. The effects can be seen across the board. It has been estimated that 60% of Europeans and 80% of North Americans no longer can view the Milky Way due to light pollution, whereas places like Singapore and Kuwait have 100% diminished viewing capabilities [Note 4].

Other detrimental effects include changes in the circadian rhythms in healthy adults. The human body relies on changes in light to help calibrate its internal 'clock.' The increased brightness has also affected many insects, who rely on light for mating purposes, as well as prey species that use darkness as cover. Whether we choose to see it or not, everything is slowly changing due to the increases in light pollution.

For a recent example light pollution caused changes, take a look at a study, published on June 29th, 2016, on light pollution and its effects on several species of deciduous trees around the UK. Scientists conducted research over a 13 year period, from 1999 to 2011, looking specifically for effects of photoperiod on four types of deciduous trees: European sycamore, European beech, Pendinculate oak and European ash. Using night satellite images to quantify the amount of artificial light, the study looked at the change in bud bursts for each of the trees. Three of the four species had negative effects due to light pollution. The most dramatically affected was the European ash, a typically late blooming tree, for which the difference between bud bursts of trees in the darkest rural areas and the brightest urban areas was 7 days [Note 5]. The artificial light had caused the ash tree to bloom a full week early.

In the report, the researchers claim; “the results highlight, for the first time, to our knowledge, at a national scale, a relationship between the amount of artificial night-time light and date of budburst in deciduous trees.” They have also hypothesized that smaller plants growing below the level of the street lights are more likely to be affected.

So, what can we do to stop this rapid change?

There is no denying the benefits of artificial lighting, such as illuminating hazardous areas or making it safer to drive during night-time hours [Note 6]. The key is marrying the benefits with less polluting strategies. For example, a large amount of light pollution arises due to streetlamp illumination. Most street lights now operate with a Cobrahead model which emits 6% of its light upwards. By transitioning to a Helios model, a cut-off street light which emits only 1% of its light upwards, we could foreseeably cut artificial light emissions in certain regions where implemented [Note 7]

Another way to help stop light pollution is to protect areas where dark skies remain unpolluted. An excellent example of this is the Ballycroy National Park and Wild Nephin which is also known as the Mayo International Dark Sky Park. The Mayo International Dark Sky Park has achieved the incredible gold-tier classification, which is only awarded to the most exceptional dark skies and stunning nightscapes. The defensibility of this nightscape is enhanced by its proximity to the Atlantic coast, which allows for more limited influences of light. The area, which spans 15,000 hectares, or 110 sqaure kilometers, is especially important because it contains one of the largest remaining blanket bog habitat in Western Europe [Note 8].

The application for dark sky status was project managed by Georgia MacMillan, resident in Newport Co. Mayo.

MacMillan has her honours degree in Outdoor Education from Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, and given her interest in the ceiling of starry skies visible in the west of Ireland, she started researching the impact of light pollution when preparing her dissertation for her degree. As part of her dissertation, she put together a case study of a potential dark sky in County Mayo, and the rest, as they say, is history.

The Success of the Mayo International Dark Sky Park

When asked about how the steering group was able to get Dark Sky recognition for the Ballycroy National Park and Wild Nephin, she will tell you that it started from small beginnings. She will tell you about the arduous submission process for getting approval as a Dark Sky park, for which the application is 150 pages long. She will tell you about the letters of support the park received upon its application to be considered a Dark Sky Park, which An Taisce, along with other organizations, contributed to. And she will tell you it wouldn't have come together without the support of the local community and the national park.

And it is truly impressive how much the local community has embraced the new Dark Sky status. The community has since come together to create a citizen scientist project, as well as to send letters of support of Dark Sky initiatives to council members. Two local astronomy groups have also been formed since the designation of the park, one located in Ballycroy and one in Newport. The national park has also agreed to help foster the program and keep the area protected from future risks of light pollution.

All of this development really excites MacMillan. “Light pollution is a pollution that people aren't really aware of,” she states. Her hope is that through community involvement, more people will gain an awareness of light pollution and its detrimental effects.

For example, when speaking of educating the public, MacMillan talks of helping raise communities' awareness of their individual contributions to light pollution along with community wide contributions such as street lights. One of the ways she suggests people cut back on their light pollution is through reconsidering how security lighting is used.

“People have a tendency to over-light their homes, causing glare and often hiding what they intend to reveal,” she says. Strategies such as thinking critically on what in your home needs to be lit versus what you want to be lit as well as changing lightbulbs in favour of those with lower wattages are only some of the suggestions she makes for those hoping to help lower their light pollution.

As for the Mayo International Dark Sky Park, it is revelling in its precious darkness. In order for the park to have Dark Sky status, the park is required to have at least 4 educational outreach events per year. MacMillan happily reports that the Mayo International Dark Sky Park will have at least 10 outreach events this year thanks to events put on by both the community and events hosted by the national park.

Along with outreach programmes, the park has also seen an influx of astro-photographers, many of whom are based in Mayo. The park hopes to increase its astro-tourism in the future. There are plans in place for a Dark Sky festival to be hosted at the Mayo International Dark Sky Park this coming October.

The Mayo International Dark Sky Park is incredible for a plethora of reasons, but perhaps the most important is the fact that it helps marry land and night heritage together in one of the most spectacular of settings. With the newly designated Mayo International Dark Sky Park, it seems we might finally be heading in the right direction when tackling light pollution.

References:

Note 1: Davis, Nicola. "Milky Way No Longer Visible to One Third of Humanity, Light Pollution Atlas Shows." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 10 June 2016. Web. 29 June 2016. 2. Katz, Yali, and Noam Levin. "Quantifying Urban Light Pollution — A Comparison between Field
Measurements and EROS-B Imagery." Remote Sensing of Environment 177 (2016): 65-77. Web. 3. Davis, Nicola. “Milkey Way No Longer Visable to One Third of Humanity, Light Pollution Atlas Shows.” 4. Richard H. ffrench-Constant,Robin Somers-Yeates,Jonathan Bennie,Theodoros Economou, David Hodgson, Adrian Spalding, Peter K. McGregor. Proc. R. Soc. B 2016 283 20160813; DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2016.0813. Published 29 June 2016. Web. 5. Bradley, Tomas. “Protecting the Night Sky on the Urban Fringe of Dublin.” 6. Aubé, Martin, and Johanne Roby. "Sky Brightness Levels before and After the Creation of the FirstInternational Dark Sky Reserve, Mont-Mégantic Observatory, Québec, Canada."Journal of Quantitative Spectroscopy and Radiative Transfer139 (2014): 52-63. Web. 7. “First International Dark Sky Park in Irealand Recieves Accreditation” http://darksky.org/ Web.

What is a Saxifrage?

7th July 2016
News Item

The Irish Times recently reported that there are thousands of the rare golden saxifrages growing in Oweninny Bog Nature Reserve. Since the fen is protected by An Taisce, here is a quick overview of what these spectacular little flowers living in the fen are, and why they are important.

The yellow marsh saxifrage, known scientifically as Saxifraga Hirculus, is one of Ireland and Europe's rarest wildflowers. According to a monitoring study on the species, there are nearly a dozen colonies of saxifrage located predominately in Mayo and Sligo, although there is one location in Co Antrim. In total, its range throughout Europe has been reduced dramatically due to loss of habitat through avenues like degradation, fragmentation, afforestation, and drainage [Note 1].

The saxifrage is a flowering shoot, which can extend anywhere from 4-35cm up with up to 7 flowers, although anywhere from 1-3 is more common. The petals are a bright yellow and orange colour, and the leaves alternate and are oblong in shape with long stalks on the lowest leaves. Although it can be easily recognized for its distinct colour when flowering, during other times in the life cycle of the plant it can be overlooked, and thus field training is required for undertaking surveys out of the flowering season [Note2]. During flowering season, the density of the rosettes varies, ranging from areas where flowers can be seen carpeting the bog floor to areas where their bloom is more sporadic.

The plant has a circumpolar distribution in the northern hemisphere, however, the distribution has been growing smaller and smaller over the years. Currently, the saxifrage is extinct in Austria, the Czech Republic, and the Netherlands. Previously in Ireland, it was widespread throughout the country with blooms in counties including Tipperary, Westmeath, Offaly, Laois, and Meath, however these colonies have since disappeared. Today its location is limited to Mayo, Sligo, and Antrim [Note3].

Saxifrages are restricted to mineral flushes in blanket bog habitat. The ground water in these bogs form small streams which are sources of electrolytes as well as minerals for the plants. These mineral flushes allow plants not normally found in an ombrotrophic bog to flourish. Along with requiring the flush to exist, the plant also needs the landscape mosaic. Oweninny Bog also known as Bellacorick Fen, protected by An Taisce, is one such blanket bog with mineral flushes that provides a suitable habitat for saxifrages [Note4].

The saxifrage have been threatened over the years. This is due to an amalgamation of things, with large contributors being draining and peat harvesting. Water quality also plays a big role in the health of saxifrages. At its current situation, saxifrages are threatened throughout their range [Note5].

So, what makes it necessary that we protect these flowers?

Aside from being protected under Annex II and Annex IV of the EC Directive (EU Habitats Directive) as well as being protected nationally under the 1999 Flora Protection Order, these plants play a role in bog conservation [Note6]. Although they may not do something specifically 'for' humans, like act as food or fuel, the plants help soak up carbon along with other flora in the peatland and help hold back floods. These actions not only help preserve the bog, but the climate as a whole, and therefore us as humans as well.

The fact is many plant communities, similar to the community of the saxifrage, act as carbon sinks, which helps offset carbon emissions. However, it is hypothesized that over the course of the next few decades the effects of climate change will have a serious effect on these plants. This means many terrestrial sinks may become sources, for example the bogs[Note7].

According to a monitoring study in the Republic of Ireland, an assessment should be required every 5 years to help keep track of the plant's progress, as well as to help prevent any threats to the plant. At the moment, so long as no damaging activity takes place, the saxifrages have a favourable outlook on future populations [Note8]. It is hoped that monitoring the rare saxifrage will in turn aid in the preservation of flushes. When monitoring the plants, the study suggests three things should be checked:

  • Population

  • Habitat for the species

  • Future prospects [Note9]

Overall, these flowers are incredible plants that are native to boglands across the country. They play an important role in the overall health and well-being of the bog they inhabit. It is our job to help them continue to benefit our climate by protecting them from the threats present in their habitats today.

References:

Note 1: Muldoon, C.S., Waldren, S. & Lynn, D. (2015) “Monitoring recommendations for Marsh Saxifrage (Saxifraga hirculus L.) in the Republic of Ireland.” Irish Wildlife Manuals, No. 88. National Parks and Wildlife Service, Department of the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Ireland

Note 2: “Monitoring recommendations for Marsh Saxifrage (Saxifraga hirculus L.) in the Republic of Ireland.”

Note 3: “Monitoring recommendations for Marsh Saxifrage (Saxifraga hirculus L.) in the Republic of Ireland.”

Note 4: Viney, Michael. "Another Life: 1,000 Golden Saxifrages amid Sruffaunnamuingabatia’s Turbines."The Irish Times. The Irish Times, 2 July 2016. Web. 06 July 2016.

Note 5: “Understanding Water for Wildlife.” Environmental Agency. Almondsbury, Bristol UK. Print.

Note 6: Silva, João Pedro. Justin Toland, Wendy Jones, Jon Eldridge, Edward Thorpe, Maylis Campbell, Eamon O’Hara. “LIFE and Endangered Plants: Conserving Europe's Threatened Flora.” European Commission. Luxemborg, Belgium. Print.

Note 7: “LIFE and Endangered Plants: Conserving Europe's Threatened Flora.”

Note 8: NPWS (2013) The Status of EU Protected Habitats and Species in Ireland. Species Assessment Volume 3. Version 1.0. Unpublished Report, National Parks and Wildlife Services. Department of Arts, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht, Dublin Ireland.

Note 9: “Monitoring recommendations for Marsh Saxifrage (Saxifraga hirculus L.) in the Republic of Ireland.”

An Taisce Submission on National Risk Assessment

12th July 2016
Submission Summary

Executive Summary

Our society and economy are entirely reliant on preserving environmental integrity, maintaining biodiversity and ensuring climate stability. Climate change is the critical planetary boundary being crossed in the world today and over the coming decades. As climate change is a threat-multiplier in all policy areas, so continued greenhouse gas emissions should be upgraded to a top-priority risk in the National Risk Assessment. In fact, climate change is a superordinate threat which is sui generis, unprecedented, implying impacts of a magnitude that exceed all other risks. In signing the Paris Agreement and as a high per capita emitter of greenhouse gases, Ireland has agreed to restrict total future emissions to a decarbonisation pathway aligned with “well below 2ºC” average global warming above pre-industrial levels in accord with science and equity. Ireland urgently has to address both the economic mitigation risks of achieving a stable pathway and the national responsibility for past and future emissions causing escalating climate risk already for poorer tropical nations and for future generations globally. Global warming causing climate change is essentially irreversible but can be stopped and stabilised if net emissions go to zero as soon as possible. Risks that are expected to be exacerbated by greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change include:

  • Extreme weather events leading to involuntary migration. Especially droughts in vulnerable regions, are likely to add to political instability leading to mass involuntary migration and unrest causing social and political tension affecting Europe and Ireland.

  • Food security that will be negatively impacted by climate change. Ireland’s current position as a net calorie importer due to a dependence on livestock agriculture negatively affects global food security. A diversification of agricultural production away from beef and dairy could contribute to increased global food security, reduce our dependence on export markets and cut emissions, thereby contributing to climate change mitigation.

  • Energy system change: Ireland’s inordinate dependence on fossil fuels adds to climate risk globally and for Ireland. Urgent and rapid decarbonisation of Ireland’s energy system is needed, especially so that low carbon electricity is available for transport and heating as well as power. Achieving this requires planning for immediate closure of peat burning power plants and closure or carbon capture and storage (CCS) refit of Moneypoint. Demand-side measures must also be affected in order to make carbon-neutrality feasible. Failure to implement a transition to a low-carbon economy risks a ‘hard landing’ as global fossil fuel prices rise over coming decades.

  • Land use change: Current plans for energy system change are wrongly reliant on unsustainable forestry and biomass-use, based on a misleading assumptions of carbon neutral energy from biomass and equating carbon sequestration with climate mitigation. These are high risk assumptions because both are false. In fact, biomass can produce very high emissions and continuing high emissions in agriculture and energy cannot be offset with forestry or soil sequestration.

  • Biodiversity loss is another ‘core’ planetary boundary. The safe threshold has already been crossed and biodiversity has deteriorated badly over past decades. Ireland’s terrestrial and marine wildlife is threatened mainly by unsuitable agricultural and afforestation practices.

  • Economic risks. The costs of failing to act far outweigh the investment costs of reducing emissions, investments that will pay off in long-term resilience, economic sustainability and societal wellbeing. Unfortunately, due to the large uncertainties attached to climate risk analysis, traditional cost-benefit and risk assessment fails to properly weigh the benefits of action therefore policy goals based on the precautionary principle need to be set and adhered to under all circumstances to reduce risk.

Climate change is the most significant global challenge facing humanity today. All countries are affected and facing very significant impacts.

Ireland has the opportunity to create a resilient, fair and prosperous society that contributes to global climate stability and food security. To do this seriously Ireland must act with urgency to decarbonise rapidly across all sectors. This will require Ireland to adopt society-wide, whole-economy and politically agreed approaches to reducing climate risk as a top priority.

Download PDF: 
Download PDF (794.25 KB)

New Climate Smart Agriculture Report Shows Urgent Need for Irish Agriculture to Change to Produce Healthy Food with Low Emissions

13th July 2016
Press Release

Embargoed Thursday 14th July 13:45

The new IIEA/RDS report on ‘climate smart agriculture’, was launched today by Michael Creed T.D., Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine. It shows that Irish agriculture urgently needs to transition towards producing far healthier food with far lower climate emissions. Farmers must be supported to use less polluting methods that can support increasing biodiversity and water quality.

This is a very different direction from current policy. The report shows the stark need for large changes in Irish agriculture away from its current livestock focus. A different course is needed to help address the pressing challenges of increasing global food security and ensuring climate stability.

These realities challenge directly the misleading rhetoric and misguided facts in Department of Agriculture statements and in Bord Bia’s Origin Green marketing programme, which inaccurately claim that business-as-usual, livestock-focused agriculture is climate smart and sustainable. Overall, current Irish agriculture is neither climate smart nor sustainable.

An Taisce’s Natural Environment Officer, Fintan Kelly, said:

“This report makes it clear that a healthy planet requires a shift away from large-scale red meat and dairy production and consumption and also that a healthy diet means consuming far less of highly climate-polluting and land intensive foods such as beef and sheep-meat. Unfortunately, Government policy is focused in exactly the opposite direction to this report’s analysis by programmes that increase climate emissions and detract from food security, environmental integrity and public health.”

Fintan Kelly continued

“Current policy is unfairly prioritising the profits of the major food producers that export beef and infant formula milk powder predominantly to relatively wealthy consumers.

It is failing to protect the well-being of very many farmers, the health of the public and the world’s poorest people.

It is failing to deliver reductions in emissions and to redress the serious negative impacts of agriculture and forestry on biodiversity and water quality. These policies need to change in accord with producing healthy food distributed fairly on a planet with a stable climate future.”

The IIEA/RDS report supports An Taisce’s stance that total emissions from agriculture need to fall steadily and rapidly to meet climate targets, including Ireland’s commitment to serious and urgent climate action in line with the Paris Agreement.

Efficiency gains will not lead to cuts in emissions if there are more cattle. Ireland’s herd is now expanding to over 7 million cattle with a 30% planned increase in higher emissions dairy cattle.

The new report emphasises the importance of reducing emissions to increase food security and reduce hunger and the need for coherent approaches.

Feeding fertiliser-boosted grass and feed to ruminant animals, cattle and sheep, produces large amounts of methane, a very potent greenhouse gas adding significantly to global warming. This is not climate smart agriculture.

Furthermore, the significant additional compliance costs for failing to meet EU emissions targets to 2020 and 2030 are likely to be borne by the Irish taxpayer even though most of the consumers of Irish beef and dairy are in other nations.

However, the IIEA/RDS report fails to fully detail the shortcomings in the current policy plan to allow increased afforestation and biomass energy use to make up for the projected failure in emissions reduction from continued, large-scale, livestock agriculture. This plan is contrary to climate science which shows that forestry cannot provide the essential permanent removal of carbon dioxide that forestry cannot provide. It also depends on deeply flawed EU accounting for emissions from burning biomass that are incorrectly being counted as carbon neutral when in fact it often has very high emissions.

Speaking for An Taisce, Fintan Kelly continued:

“A different food future is possible, one that supports farmers to produce more food and that genuinely addresses food security with far lower impacts on climate and the environment.

A rapid transition, away from large scale livestock production, is needed toward more mixed farming with high nature value grazing, higher value-added outputs in specialised areas where markets welcome extensive rather than intensive production systems, and increased native forestry. Ireland’s agriculture would then really begin to cut emissions and deliver for healthy diets. Farmers, the public and the environment that sustains us would benefit greatly from this change.”

Despite some confusing contradictions evident in its opening framing, in its main section this report solidly details the research-supported reasons why Ireland’s current agriculture is failing to be climate smart, and why it is not delivering for public health, global food security or for the security of farmers.

The current policy increases the likelihood of future shocks in the food system here and in much poorer nations.

ENDS

Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce Tel: +353 87 241 1995
Fintan Kelly, Natural Environment Officer, An Taisce Tel: +353 1 707 7063
email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
www.antaisce.org

Notes

  1. An Taisce’s Agri Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Plan Response http://www.antaisce.org/articles/an-taisces-agri-greenhouse-gas-mitigation-plan-response

  2. An Taisce finds Draft Environmental Analysis of Food Wise 2025 to be “fundamentally flawed and unfit for purpose” http://www.antaisce.org/articles/an-taisce-finds-draft-environmental-analysis-of-food-wise-2025-to-be-fundamentally-flawed

Unnecessary planning changes in Coveney's Housing plan.

19th July 2016
Press Release

An Taisce notes today's release of ‘Rebuilding Ireland’, Simon Coveney T.D’s, Minister of Housing, Planning and Local Government, housing and homelessness action plan. An Taisce believes there are a number of unnecessary proposed changes to planning laws and procedures.

  1. Further extension of planning permission for developments already granted an extension of time. There is currently no shortage of zoned land with full planning permission, and before the financial crash there was clearly excessive zoning which led to houses being built in the wrong places. It should be noted that according to the document there is permission in place for 27,000 residential units in Dublin alone

  2. Direct application to An Bord Pleanála of applications with 100 plus units and providing that the Board to determine these new applications within and 18 week period. There is no evidence that An Bord Pleanála is holding up development. The Board already have a procedure to expedite housing applications. Furthermore, a high proportion of appeals to the Board are developers appealing against local authority financial contributions. Expecting the Board to determine new applications within and 18 week period does not address the high level of issues for provision of further information that are likely to arise.

  3. Planning exemption for conversion of upper floors of commercial buildings for residential use and such being subject to compliance with building regulations. An Taisce is very supportive of such conversions but there is no mention of Protected Structures which would have to be excluded from this measure.

ENDS

Ian Lumley, Heritage 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

Climate Threat is Dangerously Underestimated in Draft National Risk Assessment - An Taisce

19th July 2016
Press Release

An Taisce, The National Trust for Ireland, finds fault with the Draft National Risk Assessment for dangerously underestimating the threats resulting from Climate Change and urges the Government to upgrade greenhouse gas emissions to a top-priority risk.

An Taisce is criticising the Government for severe and dangerous underestimation of climate change risk in the Draft National Risk Assessment. In contrast to the recent 2000 page report [Note 1] prepared by the UK Committee on Climate Change for the British government, the draft National Risk Assessment [Note 2] for Ireland afforded Climate Change a mere 4 paragraphs, with the final paragraph on compliance costs of reaching targets. This approach is defeatist, ignores current scientific understanding and misinforms policy-makers, politicians and the public. An Taisce insists that the final National Risk Assessment reflects the urgency of the risk.

In contrast, the UK climate change risk assessment, launched last Tuesday, was the culmination of over three years work by 80 experts and many more reviewers [Note 3]. It identifies the top six areas of interrelated risks for the UK:

  1. Flooding and sea rise damage to households, businesses and infrastructure
  2. Risks to health, wellbeing and productivity from heat stress
  3. Risk of shortages in the public water supply, and for agriculture, energy generation and industry
  4. Risks to natural capital/environment including terrestrial and marine ecosystems and biodiversity. Ecosystem services they provide such as storm defence, flood control, temperature regulation, CO₂ sequestration etc.
  5. Risks to domestic and international food production and trade.
  6. New and emerging pests and diseases, and invasive non-native species, affecting people, plants and animals

Ian Lumley, An Taisce’s Heritage Officer, stated:

“This [UK] report is substantially applicable to Ireland and shows up the poor consideration of climate risk in successive Irish National Risk Assessments.” He continued: “it also shows up the failure of Food Harvest 2020 and Foodwise 2025 to assess climate risks to increased food production in Ireland.”

An Taisce calls for Climate Change to be upgraded to a top-priority risk in the National Risk Assessment in its comments on the Draft National Risk Assessment. An Taisce’s comments on the Draft National Risk Assessment were submitted just three days before the publication of the UK report.

An Taisce’s comments on the Draft NRA [Note 4] included:

“As climate change is a threat-multiplier in all policy areas, so continued greenhouse gas emissions should be upgraded to a top-priority risk in the National Risk Assessment. In fact, climate change is a superordinate threat which is unique, unprecedented, and implies impacts of a magnitude that exceed all other risks.”

An Taisce notes the risks that are expected to arise due to exacerbated greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change, include:

  • Extreme weather events leading to involuntary migration
  • Food insecurity risks
  • Detrimental energy system changes
  • Wrongful land use, such as being wrongly reliant on unsustainable forestry
  • Biodiversity loss
  • Increased economic risk

Upgrading climate change risks in the NRA will help to create a resilient, fair and prosperous society that contributes to global climate stability and food security.

An Taisce recommends that in order to upgrade the risk of climate change, the NRA must:

  • prioritise climate change as a top-priority risk, given its high impact status as a threat-multiplier
  • address climate change urgently, comprehensively and decisively, this will help to reduce a number of other significant risks facing Ireland
  • incorporate uncertainty assessment, as well as risk assessment, as uncertainty should lead to a greater impetus for action
  • ensure that awareness of the risks and uncertainties are widely understood as a context for low-regret decision-making

ENDS

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

Notes

  1. UK Climate Change Risk Assessment 2017 Synthesis Report https://www.theccc.org.uk/uk-climate-change-risk-assessment-2017/synthesis-report/
  2. Draft National Risk Assessment 2016 – Overview of Strategic Risks http://www.taoiseach.gov.ie/eng/Publications/Publications_2016/Draft_National_Risk_Assessment_2016_%E2%80%93_Overview_of_Strategic_Risks.html
  3. UK Climate Change Risk Assessment 2017 Evidence Report - Key messages from the Synthesis Report https://www.theccc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/CCRA-Synthesis-Report-Key-Messages-fact-sheet-1.pdf
  4. An Taisce's submission on the Draft National Risk Assessment http://www.antaisce.org/articles/an-taisce-submission-on-national-risk-assessment
  5. Guardian article 12/07/2016 : https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jul/12/uk-poorly-prepared-for-climate-change-impacts-government-advisers-warn

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 seeks Action to protect 18th Century House at Belcamp Fingal County following Fire Damage

22nd July 2016
Press Release

An Taisce have today written to Fingal Council to take urgent action to protect the 18th century house at Belcamp.

This morning’s major fire occurred to the important 18th century house at Belcamp. The house formed part of Belcamp College School since the late 19th century. The building has been vacant since the closure of the school and acquisition by developer Gerry Gannon a decade ago.

Failure to put the building to a new use and to protect the buildings from break ins and vandalism has caused significant damage including the gutting of the late 19th century school adjoining the 18th Century house, which was left inadequately secured during the years of the property crash.

This morning’s fire has caused serious damage to the ornate plasterwork decorated interiors, which are the finest of the late 18th century period in Fingal. The extent of damage is still undetermined.

Fingal County Council must urgently intervene to establish the current ownership of the building and any continuing involvement of NAMA and to ensure that the roof is repaired and further damage averted.

Ian Lumley, Heritage 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

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.

Game-playing means Latest European Climate Targets Entirely fail to Meet Paris Agreement Goals

22nd July 2016
Press Release

An Taisce condemns the Irish Government’s prominent role in critically undermining the EU’s efforts to tackle climate change. Wednesday’s announcement on the effort sharing decision, “Proposal for 2030 non-ETS Effort Sharing Decision”, signalled the EU’s capitulation to well-funded lobbies and short term interests. Loopholes to emissions legislation were introduced to benefit countries who are unwilling to take the necessary steps to cut emissions in certain sectors such as agriculture and transport. In a move that lacks scientific credibility, countries like Ireland with large emissions in their agricultural sector will be allowed to offset emissions with forestry.

Ireland is one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases relative to our population and we have been among the most complacent at tackling emissions. The decision is a victory for the well-funded Irish and Danish agricultural lobbies who shouted the loudest in Brussels and kept the volume up the longest. The Irish approach to climate action has been defined by special pleading and arguments around the fairness of emissions reduction targets.

However, The critical thing is not Ireland’s weak individual target, but the toxic effect that Ireland’s (and others’) game playing has on the possibility of a serious EU-wide increase in ambition, in line with the Paris Agreement. Indeed, it is abundantly clear that this decision will allow many countries in the EU to avoid making the kinds of emissions cuts necessary to save future generations and the world’s poorest from catastrophe.

This proposal represents an abject failure to deliver the level of climate action agreed to in the recently adopted Paris Agreement.

Speaking for An Taisce’s climate change committee, Professor Barry McMullin said:

“Far from acting ambitiously on climate, the EU Commission and Ireland are in fact engaged in a massive and carefully greenwashed avoidance of the necessary level of climate action required to limit average global warming to the Paris target of ‘well below 2 degrees Celsius’.

The Commission’s target of a 40% cut in whole-economy EU emissions was announced last year before the Paris talks. The Commission are aware that this 40% target is not consistent with the Paris goals and yet they have not revised it. In fact, it is likely that achieving the Paris Agreement requires an 80% reduction in EU emissions by 2030 [Note 2].”

Professor McMullin continued:

“Meanwhile, the Irish government and business interests have lobbied hard to reduce the level of national action required, benefiting the agricultural sector in particular. However this will only increase the effort required by other sectors and by other nations.

By failing to grasp the scale and urgency of response now needed, the EU Commission and the Irish Government are increasing economic, health and security costs for the public now and in the future. Most immediately though it is the world’s poor who are most exposed to increasing climate impacts and who will pay the highest price for our failure [Note 3].”

Ireland has done little to achieve its existing 2020 climate targets, which the EPA projects that we will miss by a significant margin [Note 4]. Instead, Ireland has been lobbying the Commission for special treatment and the EU have now allowed Ireland exceptionally large new offsets (so called “flexibilities”) that essentially postpone the Irish national target by a further ten years.

The new EU Effort Sharing Decision target for Ireland is a reduction of 30% in national emissions from transport, agriculture and buildings combined relative to 2005. However, if the proposed “flexibilities” (loopholes?) arising from forestry and Emission Trading System allowances are fully exploited/allowed, the target will effectively reduce to only 20.4% – almost unchanged from the 20% reduction target previously “agreed” to be achieved already in 2020!

Limiting global warming requires every nation and every sector to reduce total emissions urgently and progressively, yet Ireland is currently increasing emissions.

By allowing Ireland and other nations forestry offsets against agriculture emissions the Commission displays a fundamentally flawed understanding of climate science. Forestry, soils and other land-based carbon ‘sinks’ that absorb carbon dioxide cannot offset ongoing fossil fuel and agricultural emissions in any significant way because they cannot provide the permanent removal of carbon dioxide required to limit global warming. The available sink is also dwarfed by the ongoing high emissions [Note 5].

For An Taisce, Barry McMullin continued:

“Planting the right kinds of trees in the right places is good environmental policy, but carbon sequestration in forestry, soils and grassland cannot be equated with effective climate action unless radical cuts in energy and agriculture emissions are also being implemented, which they are not.”

“Claiming forestry and soil offsets while peat continues to be strip-mined in Ireland for electricity, home heating and horticulture is a deeply hypocritical and dishonest land use policy. Halting peat extraction therefore needs to be an immediate climate action priority.”

“EU and Irish climate policy continues to rely on empty rhetoric and wishful thinking rather than engaging in the level of political debate and societal engagement needed to make decisions on future policy within harsh, and non-negotiable, planetary limits. Most importantly this includes the hard limit on total future emissions to limit climate change in accord with the Paris Agreement to which Ireland is a signatory.”

“Just and effective action would require annual reductions in EU and Irish whole-economy emissions to already be of the order of over 5% per year with additional payments to poorer nations to enable them to follow a low carbon development path. This is a level of action far beyond the weak, minimal targets now being proposed for the EU and Ireland. European citizens deserve much much better from their political leaders.”

We are ignoring the physics of Earth’s climate system. The climate does not do policy or effort-sharing or bargaining. It responds inexorably to the pollutants we emit. We are pushing it beyond safe thresholds.

Yesterday’s announcement confirms that the European Commission is not prepared to take action commensurate with the scale of the threat, does not acknowledge the Paris commitments and is prepared to gamble with the future well-being of its citizens and the ecosystems on which they depend.

An Taisce reiterates the call for urgent, equitable, and collective climate action to achieve the rapid pathway to a zero carbon economy needed within the next small number of decades. The difficult choices being avoided need to be faced. By acting quickly to cut energy and agriculture emissions within our fair share of the remaining global carbon budget we can chart a far safer course. But continued procrastination, as epitomised by this ESD charade, is simply a counsel of despair.

ENDS

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. EC Proposal for 2030 non-ETS Effort Sharing Decision. 20th July 2016. http://ec.europa.eu/clima/news/articles/news_2016072001_en.html
  2. “Open Letter to the EU Commission president about the unscientific framing of its 2030 decarbonisation target.” Prof. Kevin Anderson, 13th Dec. 2013. http://tinyurl.com/oezvdbt
  3. Mary Robinson: Climate change compounds El Nino drought in Africa. Mary Robinson, 19th July 2016. http://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/mary-robinson-climate-change-compounds-el-nino-drought-in-africa-1.2726179
  4. EPA 2016. Ireland’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions to 2020 - An Update.http://www.epa.ie/pubs/reports/air/airemissions/irelandsgreenhousegasemissionsto2020anupdate.html
    1. Environmental Pillar and Stop Climate Chaos. Not So Green Report 2016: Debunking the Myths around Irish Agriculture. http://www.stopclimatechaos.ie/download/pdf/not_so_green.pdf

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.

"Not So Green" - Revealing the truth behind Ireland's green image

22nd July 2016
Press Release

An Taisce contributed heavily to the recently published, “Not So Green” report [Note 1], organized by the Environmental Pillar in partnership with Stop Climate Chaos. The report was compiled to rebut the often-misleading array of claims made in relation to the supposed climate, social and ecological sustainability of the Irish agri-food sector and to challenge the argument that afforestation presents a viable option to offset emissions from agriculture.

What are the issues?

Food Harvest 2020 and Food Wise 2025 are official policy for the Irish Government, despite being compiled by industry and lobby representatives with very little input from the Oureachtas (Ireland’s Parliament) or civil society. Policy is further supported by Bord Bia due to Origen Green, a campaign branding Irish agri-food product as environmentally friendly.

Overall, Irish agriculture in its current form is environmentally damaging. It affects climate, water quality and biodiversity. Ongoing intensification and expansion of Irish livestock agriculture is the greatest threat to Ireland achieving compliance with its climate energy responsibilities, which include legal EU responsibilities.

Why is Irish agriculture not efficient?

Currently, the methane produced per head of cattle has increased in Ireland since 1990. Ireland is also much less efficient than the European average, in terms of greenhouse gas emitter per calorie of bovine food produced.

Despite concerns about carbon leakage (i.e., production moving elsewhere), there is no support from industry members for a carbon tax on beef and dairy products that would actually recognise efficiency savings, or prevent leakage to cut emissions.

What about global food security?

On a net calorie basis, Irish food exports feed 1.4 million fewer people than food imports, undercutting the suggestion that Ireland is helping ‘feed the world.’ Therefore, there is no effect of this manner on food security.

Additionally, animal foods of all kinds are extremely inefficient in producing protein - per calorie, per kilogram of greenhouse gas produced, or per hectare. Plant-based food calories can be produced on far less land than which is devoted to beef, dairy and sheep.

Our own emissions, however, can negatively affect food security. Climate change affects food security in developing countries, particularly in agricultural production. Efforts to address gloal food security should focus on the real issue of supporting the majority of the world’s famers, most of whom are small scale producers. By allowing for our emissions to continue, we contribute to the increasing amounts of risks facing global food security.

The threat to water quality in Ireland

Phosphorous losses from agriculture continues to be the most critical impact of Irish agriculture on water quality. More than 70 per cent of phosphates reaching inland waters emanates from agricultural sources. The percentage number of high status river sites under the Water Framework Directive almost halved between 1987 and 2012. These sites are negatively correlated with agricultural intensity.

Intensive agriculture and afforestation as threats to Ireland’s biodiversity

Agricultural intensification has caused significantly negative impacts on Irish biodiversity. FOr example, one third of Irish wild bees are under threat of extinction; loss of natural and semi-natural habitat in the Irish landscape is a key factor. Additionally, ten of the 37 birds on the Red List Birds of Conservation Concern in Ireland are farmland birds. Annex 1 species of the Birds Directive, which are associated with farmland and upland habitats, have also declined due to intensive agriculture.

Similarly, forestry is a large threat to biodiversity. Forestry is considered the second greatest conservation issue after agriculture according to Ireland’s 2013 Article 17 report.

Over 90 per cent of Ireland’s internationally important habitats have ‘bad’ or ‘inadequate’ status, including semi-natural grasslands, blanket bog, wet and dry heath, and fens. These are all habitat types which are at risk of agricultural intensification or afforestation.

What is wrong with afforestation?

Government and industry claim that the high level, and projected increase, of emissions from livestock can be off-set by an increase in afforestation. This argument is scientifically flawed, and lacks any support from a climate science perspective, given that such method of sequestration is impermanent, highly uncertain, and subject to rebound as indicated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Widespread afforestation also presents significant threats to Ireland’s biodiversity, where planted forests replace more diverse habitats.

Where do peatlands come in to the argument?

Although forestry and soils are regarded by the Irish government as viable land-use options for offsetting agricultural emissions, wetlands and peatlands are not. Failure to include peatlands can be easily explained by the fact that our peatlands are currently being used unsustainably for the industrial scale extraction of peat for burning and horticultural purposes. Such extraction results in very large flux emissions. Purposely selecting one land-use sink to offset emissions, while continuing to actively destroy a more significant sink (i.e. Ireland’s peatlands), is unjustifiable.

Take away points:

  • Overall, Irish agriculture in its current form is environmentally damaging

  • Currently, the methane produced per head of cattle has increased in Ireland since 1990

  • On a net calorie basis, Irish food exports feed 1.4 million fewer people than food imports, undercutting the suggestion that Ireland is helping ‘feed the world.’ Therefore, there is no effect of this manner on food security

  • Over 90 per cent of Ireland’s internationally important habitats have ‘bad’ or ‘inadequate’ status, including semi-natural grasslands, blanket bog, wet and dry heath, and fens. These are all habitat types which are at risk of agricultural intensification or afforestation

ENDS

Fintan Kelly, Natural Environment Officer, An Taisce. Tel: +353 1 707 7063
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. Not so Green Report http://www.antaisce.org/sites/antaisce.org/files/not_so_green_reportdraft.pdf

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 seeks action on Vernon Mount Fire - CPO action by Cork County Council required.

25th July 2016
Press Release

An Taisce is appalled by the damage caused to Vernon Mount, Cork, in a serious fire last night.

An Taisce had written, last month to the owner seeking that they donate the house and lands to Cork County Council, so that the Council could protect the house from further deterioration and allow the surrounding grounds become a public amenity. [Note 1][Note 2]

The serious fire damage to Vernon Mount, Cork highlights the continuing failure of Irish planning legislation to enforce the maintenance of legally protected historic buildings. This is further highlighted by the burning of Belcamp in Fingal last week.

Vernon Mount is a sophisticated late 18th villa of unique geometric design with a curved facade. It was reputedly named after George Washington's Mount Vernon. The house is beautifully sited on a hill to the south of Cork City. It's interiors include painted wall and ceiling decoration of Classical figures by Cork artist Nathaniel Grogan, an elegant sweeping staircase in a. curved bow and columned lobby at first floor level.

The house was acquired by San Diego based Irish developer Jonathan Moss and left in a progressively neglected state over many years suffering repeated damage and break ins. Cork County Council had intervened to carry out roof repairs but only a few weeks ago local residents had raised concern at the continuing failure to secure the building.

Immediate action is required to protect the house from further deterioration, and for Cork Co Co to initiate a Compulsory Purchase Order CPO on the house and grounds

Vernon Mount and Belcamp are part of An Taisce’s Building at Risk Project [Note 3][Note 4][Note5], of the most significant structures at risk in Ireland.

The Buildings at Risk Register is an unfunded project by An Taisce – the National Trust for Ireland supported and maintained by its voluntary members. The Buildings at Risk Register was put in place in response to a concern at the growing number of structures that are vacant and falling into a state of disrepair. The Register provides information on structures of architectural, historical, archaeological, artistic, cultural, scientific, social or technical interest throughout the country that are considered to be at risk.

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. Letter to County Council 22/06/2016 https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxEVOTzgFnKELS1KOGdaeGFkcmc/view?usp=sharing
  2. Letter to Jonathon Moss https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxEVOTzgFnKEbC1ScldyVkF6Zkk/view?usp=sharing
  3. An Taisce's Buildings at Risk http://www.antaisce.org/issues/buildings-at-risk
  4. Building at Risk on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/68916935456/photos/?tab=album&album_id=10154816625410457
  5. Buildings at Risk - 2014 http://www.antaisce.org/sites/antaisce.org/files/23312132.pdf

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.

Government gives aid to Climate victims in Ethiopia, yet continues to contribute to climate problems by not addressing GHG emissions

27th July 2016
Press Release

€100,000 was recently distributed by the government to aid the UN FAO Emergency Fund. This is very worthy, but An Taisce urges the government to do more to help international climate victims by seriously reducing GHG emissions.

Recently, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed T.D, has provided €20,000,000 in humanitarian assistance to the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and €100,000 to the UN FAO Emergency Fund. The money, particularly the €100,000 dedicated to the emergency fund, is meant to help families in Ethiopia who are experiencing damages due to a drought that has been brought on by climate change. The minister claims “Our contribution to this project will not only help affected households in Ethiopia to resume food production, but is part of the wider role my Department plays in initiatives on climate change and sustainable agriculture at both national and international level.

In Ethiopia, three quarters of the population of 90 million depend on agriculture for survival. Due to the worst drought in 50 years however, nearly 90% of crops and 1 million cattle have been lost [Note 1].The immediate cause of the drought comes from the strongest El Niño effects ever recorded which has been coupled with increasing high temperatures due to the effects of climate change. The country now faces one of the biggest crisis it has encountered in many years due to the increasing effects climate change is having on the region.

Beatrice Mwangi, resilience and livelihoods director, southern Africa region, World Vision, noted in an article for the Guardian that "In the past it was one big drought every 10 years, then it came to one drought every five years, and now the trends are showing that it will be one every three to five years. So we are in a crisis alright, that is true.” [Note 2].

Additionally, the Guardian has recently reported “Research found that 23% of violent clashes in ethnically divided places were connected to climate disasters.” [Note 3]. An example of how climate change can act as a catalyst to war can be seen in the build up to the ongoing civil war in Syria and the rise of ISIS in the region. Climate change related drought and water shortages before 2011 is accepted as one of a multitude of complex relationships and contributing factors to the ongoing humanitarian situation in region [Note 4].

The recent aid given by the government, while effective in the short term, will not result in overall protection against climate change, if GHG emissions are not addressed for the serious threat that they are.

The Irish government has been lobbying aggressively for lower emissions reduction targets at the EU, thereby undermining EU-level climate change mitigation [Notes 5 & 6]. It seems paradoxical that Ireland is contributing large sums of aid to temporarily patch up problems that the Irish government is simultaneously exacerbating. These dual strategies, however, are both explained by a narrow-minded and short-sighted understanding of Ireland’s role and responsibility in the world today that unfortunately seems to be ingrained in the minds of our decisionmakers. This understanding attempts to deal with problems by prioritising the short-term cost-effectiveness of a ‘solution’, and fails to grasp the interconnected implications of these actions.

Catherine Devitt, Environmental Justice Officer with the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice, correctly remarks that “For a small, progressive global nation that is so outward looking in terms of its impact on the world – movement of people, charity and peace-keeping, investment, even sport – it is disappointing that our Government is so insular when it comes to tackling climate change.” [Note 7].

While the donation does some good for those suffering in Ethiopia, ultimately the most important thing we can do as humanitarians is work on reducing emissions so that those who are severely impacted by climate change have the possibility of a better future than one critically impacted by climate change.

Focus on emissions cuts also would promise a better future for Ireland, as current methods “continue to destroy our uniquely important peatlands and cultural heritage.” [Note 8].

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. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/04/23/ethiopia-struggles-with-worst-drought-for-50-years-leaving-18-mi/
  2. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/mar/16/drought-high-temperatures-el-nino-36m-people-africa-hunger
  3. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jul/25/disasters-linked-to-climate-can-increase-risk-of-armed-conflict
  4. http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/WCAS-D-13-00059
  5. http://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/editorial/climate-change-targets-are-eased-for-ireland-the-land-of-slow-learners-1.2731464#.V5Nbbp2zjoA.mailto
  6. http://www.antaisce.org/articles/game-playing-means-latest-european-climate-targets-entirely-fail-to-meet-paris-agreement
  7. http://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/letters/time-to-look-outward-on-climate-change-1.2735169
  8. http://jcfj.ie/news/65-environment-news/577-jesuit-centre-says-ireland-s-lenient-2030-climate-targets-do-little-for-climate-justice

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 Look at the Cloncannon Biofarm and its Sustainable Agriculture

27th July 2016
Report

Cloncannon Biofarm, located on the beautiful western slopes of the Devil’s Bit mountains in Co Tipperary, is a one of a kind farm. This is due to the fact that it is staunchly committed to the principles of organic food production and protecting the natural habitat.

The mission of Cloncannon Biofarm is* “to engage visitors to the farm in activities that inform and stimulate their interest in healthy soil, animals, plants and society."* And they truly adhere to their mission. Currently, Cloncannon is doing a lot to help promote eco-tourism, as well as promoting healthy farming choices. The farm even has ‘visit itineraries’ that are specially tailored for primary school, secondary school, and active retirement groups on their website, although they can accommodate many other types of groups.

This past May, a group of participants, who visited as part of National Biodiversity Week, were able to take part in one of these incredibly educational and personalized tours. National Biodiversity Week, which was held from May 14th-22nd this year, is designed to entertain, inform, and inspire people to get interested in nature and take action to protect Ireland’s native plants and animals.

Participants toured the biofarm and were able to see firsthand how it is possible to cherish and enhance farmland biodiversity in a natural food production system. The event was one of many designed to help people of varying backgrounds become involved with nature around them. In this particular case, participants spent the afternoon learning how the farm utilized different techniques to maintain biodiversity throughout the premises.

During the tour, farmer Sean O’Farrell demonstrated biodiversity work on the farm. Participants were shown a large amount of flora and fauna at Cloncannon, which included observing a variety of different types of flowers and butterflies. In the organic garden the soil is nurtured and fed with compost, farmyard manure, seaweed and compost teas. Techniques such as crop rotation, companion planting, mulching, green manuring and manual weeding are used to grow highly nutritious potatoes, vegetables and soft fruits. Native trees, nettles, wildflowers and deadwood all contribute to enhancing biodiversity and finding the correct balance for a great harvest bounty. Currently, the farm produces honey, organic chicken (broilers), organic beef, and organic soft fruits, potatoes and vegetables. For this particular event, participants were able to sample organic fruits grown on the farm versus store-bought fruits as well as take part in some of the farming practices listed above.

When speaking to Mr. O’Farrell on how he designs his tours and education activities for his visitors, he spoke of the importance of interconnectivity. He says he wants to do whatever will get the group involved and engaged while also maintaining a more personal relationship between the visitors and nature around them. O’Farrell has implemented a number of different projects to help facilitate this at the farm.

Science Foundation Ireland - Discover Primary Science Centre

Cloncannon Biofarm became certified as a Discover Primary Science Centre in July 2015. This is seen as a great recognition of the hands-on outdoor activities relating to nature and also science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) delivered for Primary School students. School tour programmes are also tailored to the school needs, with a main focus on nature and growing and eating healthy food. The ringfort (history), beautiful landscape (geography) and farm animals each provide a very engaging learning experience for any visitor to the farm.

Secondary School Students.

Sean and his staff of qualified ecologists have been very busy delivering curricular related ecology field study programmes to Leaving Cert Biology and Ag. Science students in a catchment from Limerick City to Portlaoise to Kilkenny and Tipp Town. Transition Year students can evaluate initiatives on the farm under the modules on Sustainable Development, Enterprise and also Care of the Environment. In the new Junior Cycle programme topics such as Evolution (Darwin), Inheritance, D.N.A, Microorganisms, Conservation of Biodiversity and also healthy food feature in the Biological World Strand. Students can gain a good understanding of these subjects during a science/ecology tour at Cloncannon Biofarm.

Eco-Tourism

The evolving attractions and activities at the farm are making the venue a fun stop over for visitors, and O’Farrell hopes to increase the amount of eco-tourism the farm sees every year. And interest in the farm’s practices is picking up. Recently, 32 Swiss farmers enjoyed a farm tour, and their neighbouring farmers in Austria are scheduled to visit in August.

Initiatives to enhance biodiversity, such a planting native woodlands and creating pond habitats will raise the profile of Cloncannon Biofarm as a eco-tourist destination. Quality natural food is also a magnet of attraction.

The Importance of the Biofarm

O’Farrell explains that when you work on a organic farm there is always a lot happening, and when the visitors get the chance to actually participate in the farm’s daily activities it helps them engage with nature and connect to their world.

At a time when many farming practices take advantage of the natural environment around them, it is a great asset to have a farm like Cloncannon that is not only working sustainably, but also working to help educate our generation and future generations on the importance of our environment.

In a recent report titled “Not So Green,” which was released by the Environmental Pillar in association with Stop Climate Chaos, it is noted that intensive agricultural practices contribute negatively to the biodiversity in Ireland. In the past, farming practices used to co-exist alongside healthy ecosystems and were often instrumental in the maintenance of semi-natural habitats [Note 1]. Due to today’s agricultural practices, this cooperation between agriculture and the environment is gone.

The report notes that since the 1960s, due to changes in the way we farm, farmland bird populations have decreased. The report continues “declining farmland bird populations are indicative of wider impacts on biodiversity… [and] reflect losses in habitat extent and quality and often equate to losses in ecosystem services which are an essential asset to society.” [Note 1].

The report calls for support of farmers who support farmland biodiversity. The Cloncannon Biofarm exemplifies this support of biodiversity, and is doing a lot to not only help the biodiversity on their farm, but contribute to teaching the next generation about the possible cooperation between agriculture and the environment.

Notes: Note 1. http://www.antaisce.org/sites/antaisce.org/files/not_so_green_reportdraft.pdf

Consultation on the Statement of Strategy (2017-2019) for the Dept. of Transport, Tourism & Sport

9th August 2016
Submission Summary

An Taisce are pleased to note that the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport is currently preparing a new Statement of Strategy for 2017 – 2019. This key policy document will define the "strategic direction, high level goals and objectives" on which the Department will focus for that period and “It will also identify key performance indicators to help the Department monitor its progress and ensure that what is set out in the document is being delivered.”

Since the previous strategy was adopted there is renewed imperative for decarbonisation and international leadership by Ireland on climate following the Paris Agreement 2015 and the passing of the Climate and Low Carbon Development Act 2015.

An Taisce have outlined in their submission a broad range of actions for immediate implementation that can and need to be taken by the DTTS. Allowing continuation of current levels of car use, even if full e-car conversion were to be achieved in the next decade is unsustainable because of congestion, generation and inefficient resource and land use. An Taisce note that 'Smarter Travel-A New Transport Policy For Ireland 2009-2020', published by the DTTS, set out 49 actions for sustainable travel modes through the reduction of car dependency. It is now time that these progressive, low-carbon emission actions be implemented.

The full range of issues raised in An Taisce's submission can be read in the pdf.

Download PDF: 
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Update on AGM

15th August 2016
Report

The AGM will be held on Saturday 10th September in Tailors' Hall - you should have just received your Magazine, Annual Report, AGM notification, Financial Statements, Agenda, Nomination Forms for Council and proxy-form in the post.

As previously reported, John Harnett tendered his resignation as chair and from the board at the end of May. The council meeting of June 11th decided to appoint Charles Stanley-Smith to the position of chair on a temporary/rotating basis until the next council meeting - where it would reconsider the position of chair.

Charles Stanley-Smith, a former chair of An Taisce, has stated that he will happily work with the board, council and staff to ensure that An Taisce continues to do its best work in these difficult times for Environmental NGOs. Charles states that this situation is to get us to the AGM and in the meanwhile to let us look for a new chair to take us forward from the AGM. He has no ambition to stand as chair after the AGM - he's done it once and has the T-shirt.

Being chair is an important but challenging position and the council decided to create a Nominations Committee which would look for a new chair and new Board members in general, to present to the council in the normal way. It should be clear that council members in general still retain the right to nominate and second officers of An Taisce and people for the board. Current members of the board would attend only as required and not be full members of the Nominations Committee.

Judy Osborne has agreed to chair this Nominations Committee and has created a draft report on how we should go about seeking a new chair. The Board intends to bring this to the AGM.

Previously chairmen, each bringing their own skills, have come from diverse backgrounds: business, academia, heritage, the environment, NGOs,etc. Any links into these sectors could identify potential new supporters and any suggestions will be treated discreetly.

There has been much talk of the 'Governance' of charities in recent days. An Taisce supports the five principles of the 'Governance Code' and signed up last year and is working through the process to complete the code. An Taisce is a type C organisation. More details can be found at www.governancecode.ie

With Best Regards
Charles Stanley-Smith
charles@r495.com
+353 87 2411995