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Protecting nature and biodiversity must be at the heart of the All of Government Climate Plan
Nature and biodiversity are our common heritage and provide the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide. If we are really serious about transitioning to a sustainable future and protecting and enhancing our natural heritage for future generations then we must make the nature and biodiversity a policy priority.
The recent Global Assessment on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform highlights the deterioration of nature and its vital biodiversity and ecosystem functions and services. This research must inform climate, environmental and agricultural policy in Ireland. At present there appears to be a strong degree of policy incoherence in pursuing policies such as Food Harvest 2020 and Food Wise 2025, and the increase in emissions that this will yield, whilst simultaneously committing to international targets for sustainable development and emission reduction.
The increased emissions from both agriculture and transport mean that Ireland will be subject to fines of €150m for not meeting our European targets. In addition to the immediate financial costs of missing our 2020 targets, the potential social, economic and environmental impacts of climate change are immense, and their cost must also be taken into account.
The transition to a low carbon and more sustainable future offers us opportunities, but we must plan for the transition and ensure that those people and communities whose livelihoods will be most impacted by these changes are supported in the transition. Ireland must start planning now. There are some policies we can begin to implement immediately and these should be nicluded as poart of the All of Government Climate Plan.
- Divert fossil fuel subsidies and any environmentally harmful tax expenditures to investment in renewable energy, retrofitting and addressing energy poverty.
- Implement policies to ensure goods reflect their environmental costs, this combined with short supply chains and local purchasing would ensure that the produce from local farms would have a significant competitive advantage over imported food produce.
A comprehensive mitigation and transition strategy is required to ensure there is public support for our domestic and international environmental and sustainable development goals. This strategy must pre-empt some of the challenges we face as we move to a more sustainable form of development. Social Justice Ireland proposes that the strategy should contain as a minimum:
- retraining and support for those communities who will be most impacted by the loss of employment related to the move away from fossil fuels;
- support and investment in the circular economy with regional strategies and targets;
- investment in the deep retrofitting of homes and community facilities;
- investment in community energy advisors and community energy programmes;
- investment in renewable energy schemes;
- policies to eliminate energy poverty;
- investment in a quality, accessible and well-connected public transport network.
The development of a national mitigation and transition strategy as part of the All of Government Climate Plan is a matter of priority if there is to be public support for the significant and fundamental changes required in the years ahead.