Ireland recognises the need for environmental concerns be placed at the centre of all policy and decision making at national, regional and local levels.
In 2012 the Irish Government outlined the strategy in its framework for sustainable development , which sets out a long-term structure for advancing sustainable development and the green economy in Ireland.
But in order for it to be successful, our environmental policy and legislation needs to continue to be driven by European and world developments as protecting our planet and building a better environment requires a coordinated, global approach.
The EU as a whole has its own framework - an Environmental Action Programme (EAP) - to ensure care of the environment is taken into consideration at every stage of all EU decision making.
EU leaders have also agreed on a 2030 framework for climate and energy policies that aims to reduce greenhouse gas by 40% of 1990 levels and sets a target of at least 27% for renewable energy and energy savings by 2030.
Ireland is currently lagging behind the EU average in the areas of climate change and energy, with the share of renewable energies at 7.8% of energy consumption.
The latest EU statistics show Ireland needs to increase its share of renewables in final energy consumption by eight percentage points to meet the country’s 2020 target of 16% and put us on track to reach the 2030 goal.
The EU is now committed to reducing its emissions to 80-95% below 1990 levels by 2050 and the European Commission has set out a ‘roadmap’ detailing how this can be achieved most cost-effectively.
The EU also plans to commit up to €14 billion in grants from the EU budget and the European Development Fund (EDF) over the years 2014-2020 to support climate action in partner countries outside the EU in line with the goal of investing at least 20% of the EU’s budget in climate-relevant actions during 2014-2020.
The EU also has a strategy to stop the decline of endangered species and habitats by 2020. The centrepiece of this is Natura 2000, a network of 26,000 protected natural areas covering 18% of the EU’s land mass. Ireland has 583 protected sites, covering 14% of the total land mass.
There are concerns over Irish implementation of EU legislation that protects peat bog habitats included in Natura 2000. As well as being an endangered form of biodiversity, peat bogs are critical carbon stores and they provide important ecosystem services such as flood prevention.
The European Commission has asked Ireland to take urgent action to protect Irish peat bog habitats following reports from scientists warning that up to 35% of certain priority habitats have been destroyed since the Habitats Directive was introduced.
The Commission also believes bans on turf cutting in 56 active raised bogs introduced in 2010 and 2011 haven’t been met with an effective response and it remains a contentious issue in Ireland.
Ireland now has plans to restore some 685 hectares of raised bogs on 17 Coillte owned sites across seven counties as part of a major nature conservation project.
‘Demonstrating Best Practice in Raised Bog Restoration in Ireland’ will be jointly funded by EU DG-Environment, the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and Coillte under the EU LIFE-Nature Programme.