Ireland’s Environment – An Integrated Assessment 2020 report provides an assessment of the overall quality of Ireland’s environment, the pressures being placed on it and the societal responses to current and emerging environmental issues.
This is the seventh state of the environment report published by the EPA since its first such report in 1995. These reports are important
milestones for Ireland, as they provide a snapshot of the environment at a particular point, as well as showing trends and changes in the environment over time. The reports assess progress in meeting the main environmental challenges facing the country and evaluates how national policies are being implemented and if they are operating and delivering as intended. The evidence base and assessments provided by our State of Environment reports facilitate policymakers and decision-makers across all sectors of the economy to review developments in their areas, so that changes to their policies and approaches can be taken to address the main environmental priorities for Ireland in 2020.
This latest assessment indicates that 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. The environmental challenges that Ireland faces are giving rise to complex and systemic issues. They cut across different environmental topics, such as climate, air, soil, water, biodiversity and waste, and across organisations and sectors, business and all levels of society. Ireland is already losing much of what is important in its environment. Unspoilt areas are being squeezed out and we are losing our pristine waters and the habitats that provide vital spaces for biodiversity. Climate change, and the disruption that will flow from it, is impacting the established economic, social and natural structures of
our world. We seem unable to stem the tide of nature’s destruction and may not fully understand its full impact until it is too late.
Protection of our waters, air, soil, ecosystems and biodiversity is not to be considered as merely an ambition driven by altruism, as these systems and species provide essential supporting services for our wellbeing and our economy.
There are lots of national plans and programmes that address individual environmental challenges, with many notable successes. To deliver the full intent and potential of these policies we need, however, to close gaps in implementation. These multiple plans also suffer from a coherence challenge as they are devised in the absence of a single, overarching, national environmental policy position.
A key message from our assessment is that Ireland needs an overall integrated national environmental policy position, or it risks existing environmental protection measures failing or competing with each other. Such a policy position could set out an ambition for protecting Ireland’s environment in the short, medium and long-term with the aim of having a clean, healthy environment, that is valued and protected by all. It should be a national vision to which all government departments, agencies, businesses, communities and individuals can
sign up to play their part in protecting our environment. In addition to such a policy position, our report also calls for better implementation and delivery of existing legislation and policies. There are many plans and programmes already in place for many areas, which, if fully implemented, would go a long way towards resolving persistent environmental issues. Full implementation of, and compliance with,
legislation is a must to protect the environment. While overall many of the national environmental indicators are going in the wrong direction this does mask good actions at local level in many areas. There are notable positives too in the report that point towards
what can be achieved. Landfill operation has improved dramatically; integrated industrial regulation is highly successful; there has been an expansion in recent years of Ireland’s renewable energy share; we have a wellfunded and active environmental research programme;
the integrity and monitoring of drinking water supplies has improved; national monitoring programmes for air and water have been greatly enhanced; and we are consistently amongst the top-performing EU states for reporting on environmental data.
Source – EPA