EPA calls for action as Ireland’s environment is ‘not what it should be’

25 Nov 2020

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The latest report from the EPA warns that unless drastic action is taken, Ireland’s environment faces a worrying future.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has warned that Ireland is already losing much of what is important in its environment and that unspoilt areas of the country are being “squeezed out” due to human actions across all level of society. The agency’s latest report warned that such actions now put Ireland’s environment under significant threat.

“The overall quality of Ireland’s environment is not what it should be, and the outlook is not optimistic unless we accelerate the implementation of solutions across all sectors and society,” said EPA director general Laura Burke.

The report said that with almost 90pc of Ireland’s energy generated by fossil fuels, air quality in some urban areas does not meet World Health Organization standards. Additionally, 85pc of EU-listed habitats in Ireland are now categorised as being in an unfavourable condition, and wetland bird species, such as curlews, are now among those now under threat.

In 35 towns and villages, raw sewage is being discharged into water supplies, and the number of pristine river sites has fallen from more than 500 to only 20 in the last 30 years. The EPA estimated that more than 1m tonnes of food waste is generated each year in Ireland and littering is a significant issue with thousands of complaints being made to local authorities.

‘A decade of action’

The absence of an overarching national environmental policy position is negatively impacting multiple environment-related plans and policies, the agency said.

“Environmental issues and challenges such as climate change, air quality, water quality and biodiversity cannot be looked at in isolation, as they are complex, interconnected and need to be tackled in an integrated way,” Burke added.

“Now is the time for an overarching environmental policy position for Ireland – to be clear on our ambition to protect Ireland’s environment in the short, medium and long term and on our commitment to live up to the image of a clean, green island. We need to see a decade of action in the 2020s.”

Dr Michael Lehane, director of the EPA’s office of environmental assessment, said the Covid-19 pandemic has shone a light on the importance of protecting natural areas as people have increasingly turned to outdoors activities.

“Unspoilt areas are being squeezed out and we are losing our pristine waters and the habitats that provide vital spaces for biodiversity,” he said. “Now, more than ever, Ireland’s green and blue spaces, which include urban parks, coasts, lakes, rivers, forest and bogs, are essential components of our health infrastructure.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic