Biodiversity, well-being and planning in Ireland
The COHAB Initiative Secretariat is working with the Irish Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to prepare a set of guidance notes for mainstreaming biodiversity and ecosystem goods and services into the forward planning process in Ireland. As part of our programme of work in Ireland for the International Year of Biodiversity in 2010, the publication of this guidance aims to promote cross-sector cooperation on biodiversity issues in land use planning, and to ensure that the benefits of biodiversity to human well-being are understood by local and national planning authorities, their agents, and consultants.
Physical development and land use change is a major driver of biodiversity loss in Ireland. Under the Convention on Biological Diversity, Ireland is required to integrate the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity into relevant sectoral and cross-sectoral plans, programmes and policies. Current EU policy on biodiversity also calls for the integration of biodiversity into all relevant sectors, and highlights the importance of ecosystem goods and services to social and economic development policies. However, recent reports on the state of biodiversity in Ireland have highlighted the continuing loss of biodiversity as a result of land use change and a failure to account for the social and economic aspects of biodiversity within the scope of development planning.
In preparation for this project, a review was conducted on fifty-five Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) reports completed in Ireland between 2005 and 2010. This review determined that none of the reports (0%) appropriately addressed biodiversity or acknowledged its true meaning (i.e. the diversity of species and habitats, including between- and within-species diversity and genetic variability). Furthermore, none of the SEA reports addressed the critical issues of ecosystem functioning, ecosystem sustainability, or ecosystem services, and very few acknowledged the links between biodiversity and human well-being. Indeed, in many of the reports reviewed, the policies and measures adopted with the aim of conserving “biodiversity” would not decrease the risk of biodiversity loss, and could potentially lead to significant negative impacts on ecosystem goods and services, some of which were considered essential to human health and well-being within the geographic area under consideration. Many of these reports related to county-level development planning, and the shortfalls in dealing with biodiversity could negatively affect national and local efforts to implement the Convention on Biological Diversity and other policy instruments in Ireland. In some cases, specific public health threats linked to ecosystem changes arising from planning policies were not recognised, and went unaddressed.
A draft of this guidance will be published for piblic consiltation in December 2010.
For further information, please contact the Secretariat.