The Citizens’ Assembly’s final report on biodiversity loss called for encouraging the public to switch to a “more plant-based diet”, while recommending that the government review the role of the semi-state body Coillte. This call has been welcomed by the Irish Green Party who have worked to ensure that the Citizens’ Assembly was included in the Programme for Government as a crucial means for the public to have their voice heard on this vital issue. The report made 159 recommendations to protect biodiversity in Ireland.
Among the recommendations approved by the Citizens’ Assembly are increasing the use of renewable energy, reducing our use of pesticides by 50% by 2030, and a referendum to enshrine biodiversity protection in the constitution. Three-quarters of participants said they were willing to pay higher taxes to make these proposals a reality.
Malcolm Noonan, Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, welcomed the report;
“I warmly welcome the release of this report and look forward to considering its recommendations. The Citizens’ Assembly on Biodiversity Loss was a key program for government engagement and I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved in bringing it to fruition, including members of the Assembly, who invested a considerable time and energy in this vitally important process. Their dedication and commitment are to be commended.”
The Minister of State for Regional Planning and Biodiversity, Pippa Hackett, also commented on this report.
“The Citizens’ Assembly has spoken loud and clear about the need for swift, decisive and urgent action to ensure that future generations have a safe, clean and healthy environment. A quarter of our bird species are in danger of extinction, a third of our protected species are in decline and nearly 50% of freshwater systems across the country are in poor condition and deteriorating. People are looking to the Green Party in Government to take leadership in protecting and enhancing our biodiversity, and we must respond by committing to the Assembly’s recommendations and continuing to design and implement a policy aimed at reversing the trend of biodiversity loss,” She said.
The group also voted to recommend ‘urgent increases’ in funding to Irish Water to build new water treatment plants and upgrade existing ones, to prevent the ‘unacceptable’ discharge of raw or partially sewage. treated in lakes and seas.
Penalties for polluting rivers and lakes were to be “substantially increased and their enforcement substantially improved”, the report said.