Greenhouse gas emissions are going in the wrong direction and Ireland will fail to meet its climate change commitments by 2030, the Citizens’ Assembly has heard.
Environmental Protection Agency chief executive Laura Burke said emissions rose 4.7% in 2021 compared to 2020. This was to be expected due to the impact of Covid-19 on emissions in 2020, but the 2021 figure was also higher than the 2019 figure.
Ireland fell short of its EU 2020 targets and had to buy carbon credits from other countries – money that could have been used to invest in climate reduction in Ireland, she said. declared.
She told the 100 citizens gathered for the assembly on biodiversity loss that the climate change debate was “over”. Record temperatures across Europe during the summer demonstrated that climate change is happening.
This is already showing in the timing of life cycle events – daffodils that bloom too early and then are killed by frost are an example of this.
The Citizens’ Assembly on Biodiversity Loss, chaired by academic Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin, is holding two days of plenary sessions this weekend to consider recommendations to government.
Dr Liam Lysaght, director of the National Center for Biodiversity Data, said a quarter to a third of all species that have been assessed are threatened with extinction.
“We are not able to provide living environments. We cannot co-exist with these species to the extent that we cannot even allow them to survive in the environment we have created,” he told the gathering.
“Our legacy to the next generation is that we present them with a much less diverse landscape and some of the species will go extinct because of our actions in Ireland. I think it’s a really sad legacy.
Places protected by the Habitats Directive are not improving. There has been a 90% drop in herring gulls over the last 30 years in Ireland. Its natural sea habitat has been so disturbed that it moves into human populated areas and creates a nuisance.
The gray wagtail population decreased by two thirds between 1998 and 2016, the stock fell by almost 60% during the same period.
There have been notable decreases in the populations of butterflies such as the green-veined white, the little copper and the little heather.
Species at risk in Ireland include the European eel, freshwater pearl mussel, Atlantic salmon and the great yellow bumblebee.
The great yellow bumblebee was once widespread throughout Ireland. Now it is only confined to the Belmullet Peninsula and a few other places, he said.
He warned that we may end up not being able to grow enough fruit or vegetables due to loss of pollinators.
A total of 54 (25.4%) of all bird species in Ireland are now threatened with extinction. At the same time, many invasive species are spreading across the country due to climate change, he said.
The Great Spotted Woodpecker was once only visible on the east coast, but can now be seen as far away as Cork and Kerry. The emperor dragonfly has spread from the southern coasts and east to almost all of southern Ireland.
Ms Burke warned that even if all proposed mitigation measures are implemented, including 1 million electric cars on the road by 2030, Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions will still only decrease by 28%. The state has committed to a 51% drop from 2018 levels by 2030.
Ms Burke pointed out that Ireland had committed under the 2015 Paris Agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% below 1990 levels.
In September 2020, the European Commission updated these targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels.
The state could find itself sued for failing to meet the climate targets it set itself.
She described the closure of peat-fired power plants as a positive outcome of the previous Citizens’ Assembly on Climate Change.
Restoring Ireland’s unique bogs has been a ‘win-win’ for the environment. Peatlands store carbon while providing a habit for many species.