An Taisce calls on Bruton to stand up for the European Green Deal

22nd June 2020
Press Release

An Taisce has written today to Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Richard Bruton TD on the eve of what may be his final EU Environment Council meeting.

Political party members will vote whether to accept or reject the proposed Programme for Government in the next few days here in Ireland. Many of these will be waiting to hear how the current Government exercises its voice to influence the direction of travel of Europe on the recovery and the environmental agenda, and how the credibility of future commitments can be viewed in that context. With this in mind, An Taisce has written the attached letter to Minister Richard Bruton detailing the areas where his support is essential to underpin and improve on the environmental impact of proposals from the Commission.

The European Green Deal has now been integrated with two overlapping strategies published by the Commission: Farm to Fork and EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030. Just one week before the Commission’s budget (MFF) and Recovery Fund proposals were unveiled, the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 promised to allocate €20bn per year from EU, national and private funds for nature protection and restoration and which was touted to serve as a central plank in the EU recovery plan. Regrettably, the Commission budget proposal failed to explicitly earmark EU funding for direct investment in nature with the exception of a commitment to mobilise €10bn for 10 years under the InvestEU programme. This must be corrected as a matter of urgency.

An Taisce Chairperson Philip Kearney said:

"There is real potential for transformative action in response to the climate and biodiversity emergencies in the formulation of the European Green Deal, the EU Farm to Fork Strategy and the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030. The foundations for radical climate ambition and action and arresting biodiversity loss have been laid in these plans by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans. But we must remain vigilant. It is vital that Heads of Government and Environment ministers in all Member States embrace and develop these plans, both in their participation in European Councils and in increased ambition in their respective countries' policies."

The increase in funding to CAP (including Pillar 1) is not coherent with the European Green Deal. The proposal to provide an extra €15bn to fund the most effective policy instruments under pillar 2 of the CAP, the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, would have been a good signal, but the Commission did not tie it explicitly to current environmental ringfencing nor to the new objectives stated in the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies. Payments for intensive farming that harms the environment have been left untouched and might even increase in the future.

An Taisce Head of Advocacy Ian Lumley said:

"Farm to Fork and the Biodiversity Strategy set out targets for our conversion to organic agriculture, the restoration of nature, a reduction in the use of toxic chemicals and fertilisers and the enhancement of water quality. The continuing Irish expansion of export driven industrial beef and industrial dairy production is incompatible with these objectives and needs to be reversed. We need to produce healthy, diversified food from healthy land."

We have specifically urged the minister to advocate strongly for the strengthening of governance and transparency on the distribution of the recovery funds, which are so monumental that they will determine whether we succeed or fail in our bid to mitigate the risk of climate breakdown and biodiversity loss. It is vital that recovery funds are targeted at the creation of green jobs, and ecologically resilient business activities of the future that are compatible with the European Green Deal. Funding should not target investments that risk undermining the EGD or EU resilience - e.g. fossil fuels or intensive agriculture, nor aviation without strict conditionalities for a green transition.

Attracta Ui Bhroin, An Taisce Rep. and Vice President at European Environmental Bureau, said:

"Conditionality to stimulate transition toward sustainability must be the underlying agenda for the recovery. Conditionality, measurement, oversight and ambition must be the key watchwords across all EU instruments, policies and agendas. We cannot afford to fail. Not only is our recovery at stake - but our future."

Media Contact: Ian Lumley, Head of Advocacy - 083 153 2384

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Letter to Minister Bruton 22 June 2020