20/02/19

Speech by Minister of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan TD to National Biodiversity Conference 2019

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A dhaoine uaisle,

Tá gliondar croí orm fáilte a chur romhaibh ar maidin agus chun chéad Chomhdháil Náisiúnta Bhithéagsúlachta na hÉireann a sheoladh. Tá súil agam go mbeidh an chomhdháil seo ar an gcéad cheann de go leor comhdhálacha amach anseo.

The Chinese have a saying that is particularly apt for this morning, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

We are all aware of the monumental challenges facing Ireland’s biodiversity. We are the first generation that has a clear picture of the value of nature. We are also terribly aware of the impact we have on it.

There is much work to do, and urgently. We are here this morning to say that now is the time for action.

This conference is titled ‘New Horizons for Nature’. That is what we need if we are to protect, conserve and restore Ireland’s biodiversity. Now is the time to look to a new horizon for nature.

Envisioning that new horizon demands that we do things differently: communicate better. Listen harder. Think deeper, and broader. Engage constructively. Identify common ground and speed up the implementation of solutions that allow us to move forward together.

Only 10% of the estimated annual expenditure on biodiversity comes through my Department, and we own only a small portion of the land and waters that need our protection.

This situation demands that we collaborate with farmers, foresters, fishers, local authorities, businesses, communities – everyone.

There are many leaders in this room. I call on you, each and every one, to lead within your own sphere of influence for a new horizon for nature in Ireland.

For me, leadership means advocating for nature with my colleagues in Government and in the Oireachtas. For the National Parks and Wildlife Service, it means doing the same with their colleagues across Government. And for you, it means working with all of us, and with stakeholders across society.

Our rivers, our kingfishers, our woodlands, our salmon, our pollinators, our meadows, our eagles, our whales and dolphins, will not thrive without that leadership. Some of them may not survive at all.

The Government has articulated its vision in the National Biodiversity Action Plan, and we have organised this conference and brought you all together here at Dublin Castle so that we can listen and learn from your vision too.

But I didn’t come here today to just talk and listen, I’m here to lead. And that means doing more. So let me roll up my sleeves.

My Department runs six national parks and 79 nature reserves across Ireland. We implement the Habitats Directive, the Birds Directive and the Wildlife Act around the country every day. And we work with other sectors to progress nature conservation.

We’re continuing to rebuild the National Parks and Wildlife Service and are in the process of filling long term vacancies, particularly conservation rangers around the country, ecologists and scientific staff.

We’re restoring bogs and working to halt the decline of the curlew. We run education programmes, carry out extensive scientific investigation and monitor habitats and species.

A huge amount is being done but more is required. Today I am making the following new commitments:

  • I will double annual funding from my Department for biodiversity actions by local authorities’ Biodiversity and Heritage Officers to €1m by 2021. I will also double funding to tackle invasive species by 2021;
  • I will establish a Climate Action Programme within my Department to improve understanding of the impact of climate change on biodiversity;
  • I will bring a Memo to Government on Natural Capital, raising awareness across Government of economic and societal value that nature provides;
  • I will create an Irish Business and Biodiversity Platform with the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation and a range of Irish businesses including Gas Networks Ireland, Eirgrid, Kepak, Dawn Meats, Coillte and Bord na Móna;
  • I will enact legislation to create a Biodiversity Duty on public and local authorities to improve implementation of the National Biodiversity Action Plan 2017-21;
  • I will improve surveillance, detection and prosecution of wildlife crime with a Memorandum of Understanding with the Gardaí;

Today marks the official launch of my department’s public consultation for our Climate Change Adaptation Plan for Biodiversity. The consultation document is available on our website and there will be a session at the conference on this tomorrow.

I am also hosting a high-level lunch here at Dublin Castle in a few hours with fellow Ministers, senior representatives from State Agencies, CEOs and the NGO sector to ask them to roll up their sleeves too and go beyond their current programmes to make additional commitments for biodiversity. The new initiatives that Minister Burton, Minister Murphy and Minister Doyle are due to announce today are evidence of this Government’s commitment to step up to the plate on biodiversity,

My team will report back on the outcomes of this meeting, and the commitments made will form part of the charter for this conference – our Seeds for Nature – which will be announced in full on Thursday afternoon.

I encourage you to have the conversations that enable you to work together to commit to solutions for biodiversity. Then share your plans with our team – no matter how small, they all count – and they will be incorporated into our Seeds for Nature; seeds that I hope will take root, and grow, and flourish.

Before I conclude, I’d like to thank a number of people.

This fantastic event has been made possible through the partnership of the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, in particular our National Parks and Wildlife Service, and the Irish Forum on Natural Capital. In particular, Hannah Hamilton, Niall O’Donnchí, Dr Ciarán O’Keeffe and Dr Deirdre Lynn – I think they deserve a round of applause.

We should acknowledge the work of my predecessor Minister Heather Humphreys who planted the seed for this event in 2017.

Finally, a number of bodies have provided the funding for this event including: the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; the Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment; the Office of Public Works; the Environmental Protection Agency, Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, Dublin Port Company and Coillte. Thank you all for your generous support.

Tá súil agam go mbeidh an rath ar an gcomhdháil agus go mbeidh sé áisiúil daoibh, agus táim ag tnúth leis na torthaí a thabhairt faoi deara.

Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, 23 Kildare Street, Dublin , D02 TD30. Tel: 01 631 3800 / LoCall: 1890 383 000

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