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A view of the last Citizens Assembly held in Ireland.

Clare activists frustrated at failure to tackle biodiversity crisis

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TWO Clare women have described the failure to set a date ahead of the Dáil summer recess for a Citizens’ Assembly on the biodiversity crisis as “hugely disappointing”. As the Dáil rose, Emma Karran from Doonbeg and Emanuela Ferrari from Ennis were among those supporting the Climate Case Ireland (CCI) group in writing to the Taoiseach to outline their frustration.
Last month CCI and more than 20 other civil society organisations wrote to the government calling on it to treat the biodiversity crisis like a real emergency and announce the date for the long-promised Citizens’ Assembly before the beginning of the summer recess.
“The Citizens’ Assembly on the Biodiversity Crisis was promised over two years ago,” Emma and Emanuela said, “yet the government still has not set a date for it to convene. The Dáil declared a Climate and Biodiversity Emergency on May 9, 2019, so the pandemic can’t even be used as an excuse. Declaring an emergency and then delaying taking any action for years is a statement in itself. Having lived through almost 18 months of Covid, we all know what emergency action looks like, this is not it.”
CCI has copied the letter to the Green Party’s Malcolm Noonan, Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage.
It has been suggested that Ireland’s revised Biodiversity Plan will be presented to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in China in October for agreement by the parties, including Ireland, and that the next National Biodiversity Action Plan is due to be published in 2022.
In their letter, CCI has told the Taoiseach that “Our next National Biodiversity Action Plan should be generated by the people, and the way to do that is to convene the Citizens’ Assembly without any further inexcusable delay. The point of citizens’ assemblies is to ensure that the public’s views and concerns are the basis of policy, not to act as a rubber-stamping for pre-ordained policy. The Citizens’ Assembly should be convened immediately after the Global Biodiversity Framework is agreed on October 24. The outcome of the Citizens’ Assembly should inform the new National Biodiversity Action Plan, not the other way round.”
They state that the forthcoming Citizens’ Assembly would be “the appropriate forum for the debate and the consideration of the incorporation of a right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment in our Constitution, as has been done by more than 100 countries worldwide.”
“The success of the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan testifies to the public’s willingness to play their part in addressing the biodiversity emergency”, the CCI letter concluded. “While we can see the sense in the Global Biodiversity Framework informing the Citizens’ Assembly’s discussions, to delay the establishment of the Assembly beyond the end of October would long-finger an existential crisis. The proper sequencing should be: Global Biodiversity Framework, Citizens’ Assembly, National Biodiversity Action Plan – and the Citizens’ Assembly should be planned now to dovetail with the conclusion of the UN CBD’s COP15 on October 24.”

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