The Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht,  Josepha Madigan TD, has today welcomed new commitments agreed by Government departments, state agencies, private sector and non-governmental organisations.

The commitments – which form the basis for the National Biodiversity Conference Charter entitled ‘Our Seeds for Nature’ announced today   – were agreed at a special meeting chaired by Minister  Madigan at the first day of the conference yesterday (Wednesday 20th February).

The meeting was attended by the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Richard Bruton TD and the Minister of State for Food, Forestry and Horticulture, Andrew Doyle TD and senior leaders from Government departments, state agencies, private sector and non-governmental organisations, including:

The Department for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht; Department for Food, Agriculture and the Marine; Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment; Department of Housing Planning and Local Government; Office of Public Works; Environmental Protection Agency; County and City Managers Association; Bord na Móna; Coillte; Dublin Port Company; Gas Networks Ireland; The Irish Forum on Natural Capital; the Environmental Pillar and The Community Foundation for Ireland.

The ‘Our Seeds For Nature’ Charter comprises a suite of commitments for nature and biodiversity that go beyond the respective organisations’ current work programmes to support, scale up and fast track the implementation of the National Biodiversity Action Plan.

Speaking about the Charter, Minister Josepha Madigan, TD, said:

“It’s time to roll up our sleeves to support biodiversity conservation, enhancement and restoration in Ireland and I am delighted to work with my colleagues across Government and partners in the private and non-governmental sectors to commit to the new horizon for nature. Biodiversity in Ireland is facing significant threats and challenges. The commitments outlined in the ‘Our Seeds For Nature’ Conference Charter show that we can work together to implement a shared vision for nature, as outlined in the National Biodiversity Action Plan.” 

THE FULL LIST OF COMMITMENTS IN ‘OUR SEEDS FOR NATURE’:

The Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine will:

Agriculture commitments:
1. Co-finance – with the National Parks and Wildlife Service – the development of resources for the “Farming for Nature” project, developed by Burren Beo.

Forestry commitments:
2. Intensify the promotion and implementation of the Native Woodland Conservation Scheme and commits to increasing the uptake of the scheme five-fold during the lifetime of the current National Forestry Programme.

Marine Commitments:
3. Having 100% of the Irish trawling fleet participating in the Clean Oceans Initiative to collect marine waste and debris at sea and bring it ashore for appropriate disposal.

The Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment will:

4. Work with the NPWS on Phase II of the Observe programme to greatly improve our knowledge of protected species (especially whales and dolphins and seabirds) and sensitive habitats across Ireland’s extensive Exclusive Economic Zone.

The Office of Public Works will:

5. Develop a National Seed Bank conserving Irish flora in the National Botanic Gardens and complementing ongoing plant conservation measures. The measures already underway to protect our rarest plants will be expanded to cover all threatened plant species in the State, identified by the recent Red Data Listing.

6. Partner with the EPA on a major new research project – Slow Waters – which is a strategic assessment of natural water retention measures and with Trinity College Dublin on ecosystem services of Ireland’s forests for flood protection.

The Department of Housing Planning and Local Government will:

7. Expand the Marine Protected Area network.

8. Provide Planning Policy Guidance to support the integrated planning for green infrastructure within statutory land use plans, in line with the objectives of the National Planning Framework.

The Environmental Protection Agency will:

9. Fund 10 Biodiversity and Natural Capital Projects (2019-2023).

10. Provide seed funding to 5 community based wetland projects in 2019.

11. Include Integrated Land Use Pilot Plan in the 2020 Research Call.

12. Prepare an updated set of nature module education packs.

As was announced yesterday, the Department of Culture Heritage and the Gaeltacht will:

13. Double the fund for Heritage and Biodiversity officers to implement biodiversity actions, including action to tackle Invasive Alien Species at local level (co-delivered with the City and County Managers’ Association).

14. Work with An Garda Siochána to progress a Memorandum of Understanding that provides for a closer working relationship, particularly for combatting wildlife crime.

15. Run a Communications Campaign to inspire and motivate Irish citizens to take action for nature.

16. Establish an Irish Business and Biodiversity Platform with the Minister for Business, Heather Humphreys T.D. The Platform will promote best practice and seek commitments for biodiversity action and reporting from the private sector. Founding members (in principle, subject to Terms of Reference) include Gas Networks Ireland, Eirgrid, Kepak, Dawn Meats, Coillte and Bord na Mona.

17. Establish a Climate Action Programme within my Department. Provide funding for research to improve our understanding of the impacts of climate change on biodiversity and also for assessing the potential of nature-based solutions for mitigating and adapting to climate change. We will join forces with the EPA to support a bid for transnational funding on these important societal challenges.

18. Promote draft legislation introducing a biodiversity duty which will place a requirement on public bodies to embed biodiversity in carrying out their functions as to promote or restore nature.

19. Undertake a Financial Needs Assessment for biodiversity to determine what we need to spend to achieve our national targets and work towards a resource mobilisation strategy for the National Biodiversity Action Plan.

20. Provide a small grant scheme to help specialist biodiversity recorders carry out field surveys on some of our most under-studied species.

21. Make a proposal to Government on Natural Capital to raise awareness across Government of the natural capital approach to valuing and accounting for the benefits that nature provides to people and to the economy.

22. Fund the work the Biodiversity Forum in overseeing the delivery of the National Biodiversity Action Plan.

23. Continue to fund the National Biodiversity Data Centre and its citizen science programmes.

The City and County Managers’ Association will: 

24. Provide appropriate match funding (i.e. 15% or more) to the funding to Biodiversity and Heritage Officers to implement biodiversity actions, including action to tackle Invasive Alien Species at local level (Relates to #13 above under DCHG: Double the fund for Heritage and Biodiversity officers to implement biodiversity actions, including action to tackle Invasive Alien Species at local level).

The Community Foundation for Ireland will:

25. Launch a €250,000 Environment and Nature Fund in 2019. CFI hopes to grow this further this year and in the coming years.

Bord na Mona will:

26. Rehabilitate 20,000 hectares of cutaway bog to wetland and woodland mosaics by 2025 – €2m.

27. Restore a further 1,000 hectares of raised bog habitat by 2025 – €500k.

28. Fund Green House Gas research on Birch woodland habitats on rehabilitated cutaway bogs.

29. Continue to deliver on the actions set out in the Bord na Móna Biodiversity Action Plan 2016-2021.

30. By 2025 we will develop the necessary plans for the rehabilitation of all Bord na Móna bogs.

31. We will explore the use of the United Nations SEEA (System of Environmental and Economic Accounting) to develop Natural Capital approaches to rehabilitation outcomes.

32. Continue to work with statutory bodies, including state agencies and ENGOs, to ensure compliance and benefits are realised by a wide range of stakeholders.

Coillte will:

33. Restore Hazelwood Forest, a 130 ha woodland in a Special Area of Conservation on the banks of Lough Gill. The work will take 2-3 years to complete at a cost of around €500,000.

Dublin Port Company will:

34. DPC will develop a Natural Capital Policy for Dublin Port to provide a framework for the Port to achieve sustainability, complementing the implementation of Masterplan 2040 (reviewed 2018) as part of which €1 billion will be invested in port infrastructure in Dublin over the next ten years.

Gas Networks Ireland will:

35. Manage all infrastructure, asset base and office locations on the island of Ireland and in Scotland in line with biodiversity best practice by 2025.

36. As part of our renewable gas strategy, support the All Ireland Pollinator Plan and the promotion of Red Clover (which is good for bees and the soil) by encouraging farmers to grow this as a feedstock crop to be used for the production of biogas.

37. Strive for Net Positive Impact on biodiversity on all works and to engaging with the communities in which it operates and seeking to enhance biodiversity in collaboration with those communities.

The European Commission (DG Environment) will:

38. Work in partnership with Ireland to optimise investments for biodiversity under EU funds for the next financing period and commits to a stakeholder workshop in Ireland to explore these opportunities in May 2019.

The Irish Forum on Natural Capital will:

39. Continue to work with Government, financial institutions and corporates to develop natural capital accounts and to further integrate biodiversity in natural capital accounting.

The Heritage Council will:

40. Expand the Heritage in Schools Programme to Second Level, with a particular emphasis on biodiversity.