The 99 members of Ireland’s latest Citizens Assembly – this time on Biodiversity Loss – has published its Recommendations and Report. Over seven meetings between May 2022 and January 2023, the 99 members agreed on 73 high-level recommendations and 86 sectoral specific actions and priorities. Central to the report is the expectation that the State will act decisively and urgently to address biodiversity loss and restoration and to protect Ireland’s biodiversity for future generations. The members express their concern that current levels of investment and enforcement do not match the necessary action.
The report does not only propose major shifts in government policy, but also changes to the Constitution to ensure people have a right to a clean, healthy, and safe environment, including specific protections for nature. As the Chair Dr Ní Shúilleabháin commented:
“The Assembly’s recommendations are a call to action. They ask us all to re-evaluate our current practices across the whole of society and in industry, agriculture, social enterprise, local government, national agencies and government departments. Future generations are depending on us to act now. Some sectoral interests and lobby groups may resist attempts to address biodiversity loss, but it is urgent that our policy makers, in particular our politicians, are supported in making bold decisions to protect, conserve and restore the natural environment in the interest of all of the people, present and future, of the island of Ireland… Things must change.”
The commissioning of the Citizens’ Assembly on Biodiversity Loss can be traced back to the climate recommendations from the Citizens’ Assembly 2016-2018 giving us a sense of the salience of assemblies within Irish politics. It is also the first assembly that has produced such an extensive range of proposals. The tradition within Ireland is for assembly recommendations to be considered by a joint committee of the houses of parliament before the government responds. How this committee deals with this number of recommendations is to be seen. KNOCA will ensure that it follows the process closely, sharing any learnings across the network. We will also arrange a learning call on the Assembly in the Autumn.
See KNOCA’s summary of Ireland’s Citizens’ Assembly on Biodiversity Loss.