Biodiversity & Human well-being in Ireland

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Algal bloom off Ireland’s Atlantic coast
Photo: European Space Agency (ESA)

The Secretariat of the COHAB Initiative has been based near Galway City on Ireland's west coast since 2007.

During its "Celtic Tiger" period of rapid economic growth from 1995 to 2007, Ireland changed dramatically from being one of the least wealthy countries in Europe, to one of the richest countries in the world, based on per capita income (Galway was named Europe's fastest growing city in 2005). Buoyed largely by a boom in construction, employment surged and Ireland's population jumped by almost 20% (from 3.6 million in 1996 to 4.2 million in 2006). The standard of living in Ireland increased dramatically, and economic and social studies indicate that up to 2008 Irish people had as good or better quality of life as people in any other country. However, the benefits of this remarkable growth were not evenly distributed, and the pattern of Ireland's development was massively unsustainable - socially, economically and environmentally.

Since 2008, Ireland's fortunes have been reversed, and today it is struggling to exit from a deep recession, a result of the global economic downturn and an over-dependence on the construction sector. Other legacies of past economic strategies have been a significant rise in greenhouse gas emissions and degradation of natural resources - Ireland has failed to meet the 2010 biodiversity target, and is unlikely to meet its targets for climate change mitigation - which has subsequently had negative effects on public health. However, the recession has also provided a vital opportunity to reassess the direction of strategic economic and land use planning, and prompted government departments to look for a new and more sustainable direction for the country.

The COHAB Initiative Secretariat is working with the Irish Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and other Irish partners, to help them identify the social and economic aspects of biodiversity and ecosystem services in Ireland, and to devise best practice guidance for integrating ecosystems thinking into the decision making processes across all sectors. The aim is to promote a greater awareness and understanding of the links between biodiversity and human well-being, particularly in the forward planning process, and to provide guidance on how these relationships should be factored into sustainable land-use policies. (See "Biodiversity, Well-being and Planning in Ireland; also "Practical Approaches").


The Secretariat wishes to acknowledge the invaluable support of the Irish Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, the Department of Health and Children, and the Department of Foreign Affairs for their support in developing the Initiative. We are particularly grateful to colleagues at the National Parks and Wildlife Service in Dublin for their support.


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