Challenges to the environment and public health require aggressive, coherent and urgent action for a better future

Date released: Oct 02 2019

  • Ireland is living beyond its carbon and environmental means
  • If we begin to start the necessary change now, we can also start to imagine a better future
  • EPA‘s body of scientific evidence serves as a national asset for the public good.

Laura Burke, the Director General of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), told the 15th Annual Environment Ireland Conference today that Ireland is living beyond its carbon and environmental means. Laura Burke also said that the climate emergency we face is something that has been well flagged by evidence from scientists worldwide, including the EPA.

“It is now accepted globally that we are facing a climate emergency but it has not arrived suddenly or without warning. The build-up of pollutants in our atmosphere and waters, the gradual loss of biodiversity, the contamination of land – these are insidious, incremental challenges to our environment and health that have been borne out by scientific evidence, including that of the EPA, for many years. What we now need is urgent transformational change based on what the evidence is telling us.”

Opening the conference, the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton T.D. said,

“The Climate Action Plan is our roadmap to step up our response to climate disruption. It will ensure we meet our 2030 climate commitments. It will mean warmer homes, cleaner air and healthier lives. It will put our economy on a more sustainable path for future generations. We must now take urgent action and implement the policies we have committed to. It is a rolling plan, designed to integrate best practice as it emerges and adapt to emerging new technologies.”

Ms Burke challenged both the public and policy-makers to step up to the challenge and take action, saying by doing so we can imagine a better future.

“It is up to us – as individuals – to take ownership of environmental issues and take action, both in our personal and business lives. Actions on a personal level to reduce carbon consumption have the associated benefits of healthier lives, better air quality and more local connection and engagement. We need to use our power as individuals  to ask questions, and to support those who are addressing issues and genuinely trying to make a difference.”

On the importance of strong evidence, she said:

“One of the EPA’s primary functions is using scientific evidence to protect and improve our natural environment and human health – this knowledge is a key national resource. The EPA recognises the significant responsibility for producing such evidence. There are real implications for environmental, human health and economic outcomes determined through such responsibilities. Not least of which is our role is providing evidence-based contributions to national policy making. The EPA has, over the last 25 years, built up critical national data, which now serves as a national asset for the public good.”

Ms Burke also cautioned that the challenges remain substantial and could be considered overwhelming. She noted an enduring risk of eco-fatigue, and more worrying, a growing eco-anxiety in our youth. She challenged those in attendance to find ways to match the uncomfortable evidence with optimism for the future.

“All of us have a responsibility to not alone bring forward the uncomfortable evidence, but to also build optimism through the identification of solutions, the celebration of successes, the embracing of necessary change, and delivering on commitments. And if we can use this power to propel the change necessary, we can begin to imagine a better future for ourselves, our children and generations to come.”’

Notes to Editor

 
Environment Ireland is Ireland’s major environmental policy and management conference. Organised by BMF Business Services, in association with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, the conference is now in its 15th year.

The full programme can be viewed online