Ireland’s environmental policy is failing to meet the needs of its population, according to an independent report.
The report commissioned by Environment Minister Alan Kelly says Ireland has the fourth-highest rate of environmental damage per capita in the EU, behind Germany, Britain and France.
It also warns that the environment needs a strong voice in the government, with a clear and consistent policy to protect the environment.
The environmental report also says there are too few climate change experts in the Cabinet and the government’s stance on climate change is not well communicated.
A spokesman for the Minister for Environment Alan Kelly said the report was based on data from the Irish Water and Climate Survey, which surveyed the country’s 1.4 million households.
He said it was the fourth report from a team of more than 80 environmental professionals to be published this year.
He added: “It is a vital report for anyone who cares about the health and well-being of the environment, and who cares passionately about the future of our planet.”
The report said there was a “tipping point” for Irish society, with the population expected to reach over 7.7 million by 2050.
It warned that Irish communities are becoming more dependent on the water and electricity networks and that a “critical mass” of people were not being educated about the impacts of climate change on the environment and water.
It said the Irish population is growing faster than the rest of Europe, but the proportion of the population living below the poverty line is at a record low.
“While the overall population is ageing, there is a growing imbalance between those at the top and those at lower income levels,” the report said.
The study also said that while climate change has been identified as a “big problem”, the issue of climate disruption in the Irish economy is less of a concern.
The Government has set a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1.5% of global emissions by 2050, which is an achievable target.
However, the report warned that it was difficult to achieve such a reduction without a significant increase in investment in renewables, and that the sector was still very young.
“It is clear that investment in renewable energy, particularly in the low-carbon sector, is a priority for the Government,” the Irish Times quoted the report as saying.
“However, this is a difficult area to address given the growing importance of the renewable energy sector in the economy and the potential risks of climate-driven disruptions.”
The environmental group said it expected the report would set the ground for further action on climate disruption.
“If the Government does not act to reduce climate disruption it is clear the Irish environment is in serious danger of a catastrophic collapse,” said the group’s chief executive, Michael MacCormack.
The group said the government should set clear targets for its environmental policies and set targets for investment in the sector.
“The Government needs to set targets to reduce CO2 emissions by at least 25% by 2050 and to significantly increase investment in solar, wind and other renewable energy,” it said.
“For the Irish people, this should be a top priority.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Environment said the Government was committed to a 20% renewable energy target and had a “strong climate and energy policy”.
The spokesperson added: “[The] Government’s renewable energy plan is an important and vital part of the Government’s economic plan and its strategy to protect our environment.”
We also work with the energy sector on a range of climate and sustainability issues, including climate resilience.