We've had a roller-coaster year at An Taisce. Advocacy was as intense as ever with major consultations, policy reviews, planning applications and proposed legislation coming left, right and centre.

Our team has been hard work providing expertise on water quality, peatlands, intensive agriculture, marine protection, build to rent developments, historical buildings, fossil fuel plants, COP and more!

Check out some of our highlights from 2021.

In January, An Taisce called for actions on smoky peat, coal and wood burning, air particle polluting vehicles and animal agriculture ammonia.

We outlined that these actions needed to be advanced as a public health and legal imperative in our submission on the National Air Pollution Control Programme.

Policy measures and actions should not be limited to bare compliance with EU legal minimum obligations. The more stringent, health-based guidelines provided by the World Health Organisation (WHO) are in fact the metric against which public policy should be measured. The WHO’s clean air standards place evidence-based public health and well-being at their heart, and this should be the bedrock foundation of all public policy in this arena.

Effective clean air policy also has multiple important co-benefits for nature and climate action. The improvement of ambient air quality requires a rapid transition to the following policy objectives, all of which are important aspects of climate action as well:

πŸ‘‰ Efficient home heating from renewable sources

πŸ‘‰ A major shift from the dominance of private car use, towards cycling, walking and mass transit;

πŸ‘‰ A more plant based diet, facilitating a transition in the agricultural sector toward less pollutant and more sustainable activities.

Read the full submission here

In February we celebrated when farmer Pat McKenna was nominated for a Farming for Nature Award πŸ₯³

Farming for Nature recognises farmers that work to enhance the countryside through their work practices. Pat farms the An Taisce lands at Sliabh Beagh on the Monaghan/Tyrone border, operating an eco-grazing system with his herd of Dexter cattle.

This is a low-impact method, using a breed of cattle that is well-suited to that environment. It also reduces fire risk in the area as the grazing breaks up large swathes of grass.

Pat has been working closely with the Collaborative Action for the Natura Network (CANN) project, funded through Interreg, to ensure that activities are in line with habitat information and conservation actions through this initiative. He is also looking at other aspects of the environment such as protecting the local hen harrier population, and conserving water in the area.

Pat was nominated for this award by Shirley Clerkin, Heritage Officer at Monaghan County Council. Photo (by CANN) shows Dexter cattle being introduced to Sliabh Beagh in 2020, with Ian Lumley, An Taisce Head of Advocacy observing (far left).

In March, we launched our Hope Floats video 🚣

The video was a call to action, and a statement on the importance of community as we face the challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss. It remains as relevant as ever for 2022. Watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xjqeUcjXZnY

In April, we welcomed new fox cubs in the Morehampton Road Wildlife Sanctuary in Dublin, locally known as the Grove. 🦊

The Grove is an example of conservation management in urban setting and potential for environmental education as a demonstration of an urban wildlife garden.

The site was donated on the premise that it would be preserved and maintained as a green area and a nesting place and sanctuary for birds and an amenity for people in Dublin. It was never built on because of the Swan River which runs underground nearby.

The site is one of the few examples of woodland in the Dublin City area with much of the other green spaces being used as parks. Despite its small size the property supports a wealth of wildlife including bats, sparrowhawks, frogs and foxes.

In May, we gave a presentation to the Joint Committee on Agriculture and the Marine on the Climate Action Plan and sustainable agriculture. We explained the ethos behind our work and our vision for the future of agriculture. Watch the presentation back here or read highlights below.

Ireland should be a global leader in emissions reductions in every sector: heating, energy, buildings, transport and agriculture. No sector should be off the hook. An Taisce strongly opposes the Mercosur deal, which is bad for Irish farmers, indigenous communities in the Amazon, and destructive to the environment.

Our policy statement, Towards a New Agricultural and Food Policy in Ireland, sets out a positive vision for the future of rural Ireland. There must be serious engagement with the threat facing rural Ireland from continued dairy intensification.

Polluting Irish airways and waterways on the basis that if we don’t do it someone else might, is not a road that we should go down. The State has also made too many misdirected investments, for example in redundant peat extraction infrastructure. Anything that is investing in an increasing emission profile in any sector is problematic. Agricultural activities are the most significant source of pollution for Irish waters.

The Common Agricultural Policy is forcing landowners to burn land, which is then extremely difficult to control. Let’s look at this as a historic opportunity to rethink our approach to agriculture and food security. despite the size of our agricultural sector, Ireland has very poor food security. Our food production must be diversified to prepare for the tests climate change will present. Critique has come from wide and far in relation to the Origin Green scheme.

All the funding in the world can’t change the science, branding won’t change that. An Taisce’s advocacy for the environment, for a just transition for workers and communities, and for the public’s right to be consulted in planning issues will continue.

In June, An Taisce was delighted to receive funding through the Community Monuments Fund to assess and plan for works to conserve Babe's Bridge. This will be done in partnership with Meath County Council.

Babe's Bridge, situated on the River Boyne, is the oldest surviving, authenticated stone bridge/arch in Ireland, dating back to the 13th century. Babe's Bridge is on what's known as the Boyne Navigation in County Meath. Part of Boyne Navigation in County Meath was donated to An Taisce in 1969. An Taisce's Local Association in Meath help monitor and manage these sections with the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland and Meath County Council.

The Navigation covers a length of 31 K.M. (19 miles) from Navan to Drogheda and is partly river and partly canal. The canal was only usable for eight months of the year as there was too much water in the river during the winter months and too little in the summer. Below the sea lock at Oldbridge the navigation is subject to tidal rise and fall as well as river flow.

These factors would have reduced the commercial viability of the system. Cargos of coal and wheat were carried up river while mainly the products of the mills – wheat, flour and oatmeal were carried down river. The navigation eventually succumbed to competition from roads and railways, and was later sold off in parts. (Extract from Inland Waterways Association of Ireland)

We took part in Plastic Free July to promote alternatives to and action on single-use plastic. An incredible amount of plastic is used everyday. Recycling is not the answer.

We need to reduce our consumption and push major producers and suppliers for plastic and single-use alternatives.

The Irish Examiner reported on Ireland's plastic problem. According to Eurostat, the data analysis wing of the European Commission, each person living in the EU generated 34.4kg of plastic packaging waste, out of which 14.1kg was recycled before the pandemic began.

An estimated 41% of plastic packaging waste was recycled in the EU. However, when broken down country-by-country, Ireland fared poorly in recycling, only behind Malta and France. Ireland only recycled 28% of its plastic packaging waste.

Packaging waste generated overall was estimated at more than 177kg per person in the EU, with Ireland at the top end of the table. It ranged from 74kg per inhabitant in Croatia and 228kg per person in Ireland, Eurostat said. About 70% of Ireland's plastic is burned, according to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates.

(Extract from Irish Examiner, 27.10.21, Pádraig Hoare)

In August, we launched our Compost for Nature guide.This guide brings together essential information on why we need to stop using peat moss for gardening, and horticulture, and how we can compost at home and in our communities as an alternative.

Peatlands are important carbon sinks as well as rich habitats. Using peat-free compost is an act of love for Peatlands! The guide includes information about:

🌱 The difference between peat and compost

🌱 What are bogs/peatlands and why they are important

🌱 Why we shouldn’t use peat 🌱 Embracing soil as a living ecosystem

🌱 Benefits of home composting

🌱 The five composting essentials

🌱 What can and cannot be composted

🌱 Composting systems

🌱 Troubleshooting composting bins or holding systems ... and much more!

The guide was written by @CompostingIreland and the beautiful artwork is by Barry Reynolds. Download your copy here

This publication was produced with the assistance of the Peatlands Community Engagement Scheme, administered by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage. Dissemination of the guide was also supported by the Heritage Council.

In September, An Taisce was been granted leave to appeal directly to the Supreme Court, regarding the An Bord Pleanála decision granting planning approval for a cheese plant at Belview, Co. Kilkenny.

An Taisce sought leave to appeal as it believed the original judgment gives rise to points of law of general public importance about how the environmental impact of large projects should be assessed by planning authorities such as An Bord Pleanála.

In its determination made by Chief Justice, Frank Clarke and Justices O’Malley and Baker, the Supreme Court noted that “bringing further clarity as to the proper approach to evidence or argument in relation to relevant scientific matters in judicial review proceedings of this type is a matter of general public importance which arises in these proceedings”.

An Taisce welcomed the Supreme Court decision to accept this appeal which it believes will provide clarity on important points of law. The full hearing will take place in January 2022. Find more information on the case here

In October, An Taisce along with many other groups made submissions on two planning proposals of critical importance - the proposed Shannon liquefied natural gas plant and power station in County Kerry and a proposal for a hotel at the site of the important cultural hub, the Cobblestone Pub in Dublin.

You can read our submissions here

In November, An Taisce took part in the Dublin march marking Global Day for Climate Justice. We joined our fellow activists and groups in calling for more urgency in climate action.

Our own Natural Environment Officer Dr. Elaine McGoff was one of the main speakers and made an impassioned plea for climate to be prioritised, as well as water quality and biodiversity.

In December, An Taisce published our Top Ten Buildings at Risk for 2021. These are all buildings of importance, both intrinsically and to the heritage of their local areas; buildings that lie vacant and are in such a state of disrepair that they may be dangerous or have no identifiable new use. These buildings could be lost to future generations unless direct action is now taken to preserve them. The ‘Top 10 Most-at-Risk’ list is compiled and updated by An Taisce annually. In alphabetical order, the ten buildings deemed most at risk in 2021 are:

Aldborough House, Dublin
Bishop's Palace, Raphoe, Donegal
Canal Hotel, Robertstown, Kildare
Castle MacGarret, Claremorris, Mayo
Castle Saunderson, Cavan
Charter School, Monasterevin, Kildare
Debtor's Prison, Green Street, Dublin
Donaghy's Mill, Drogheda, Louth
Knocklofty House, outside Clonmel, Tipperary
The House by the Churchyard, Chapelizod, Dublin

Read more here.

Thank you so much for all your support in 2021. We couldn't do any of this without you. If you want to support us to continue this work in 2022, why not become a member? Join Today!