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vert bar 8th Conference of the Parties, 3rd Meeting of the Parties
13th–31st March 2006
Curitiba, Brazil

Ireland recently played a major role at the 8th Conference of the Parties to the CBD, as well as at the 3rd Meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.

During the MOP3 meeting Ronnie Devlin (Assistant principal, Environment Policy Section, Dept. of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government – seen far right at a European Union co-ordination meeting) served on the Bureau, representing the European Union. In addition he served as Scrutineer of Credentials.

During COP8, Minister Batt O'Keeffe attended the High Level segment, which was attended by 93 ministers from around the world. Minister O'Keeffe also took the opportunity to address the entire conference on Wednesday 29th March (left).

Matthew Jebb served on the Bureau, representing the European Union during the two week COP meeting. In addition he served as Scrutineer of Credentials and chaired one of the two working groups.

The Irish team comprised Mr. Christopher O'Grady, Dr. Ciaran O'Keeffe, Mr. David Kelly and Dr. Colman O'Críodán.

Statement of Ireland to the Ministerial Plenary made by Batt O’Keeffe T.D., Minister of State with Special Responsibility for Environmental Protection
Wednesday, 29 March, 2006

Madam President, distinguished delegates

It is a great pleasure for me to be here today to make this statement on behalf of the Government of Ireland. It seems particularly appropriate that this 8th Conference of the Parties should take place in Brazil, one of the most biodiversity-rich countries in the world and indeed in Curitiba, recognised internationally as a model for good environmental planning. I would like to express my warm appreciation of the hospitality which has been so courteously conveyed to the delegation of Ireland by the host country in these beautiful surroundings.

Madam President,
I wish to briefly highlight some of the activity which has been taking place in Ireland as we work to meet our obligations under the Convention on Biological Diversity and to contribute to the achievement of the Convention’s 2010 target.

Ireland’s economy has undergone significant change since our adherence to the CBD in 1996. Over the last decade alone, unprecedented economic growth has seen the level of Irish real Gross Domestic Product almost double, and we are now one of the fastest-growing economies of the developing world.

Of course, economic growth and development leads to its own challenges, notably in relation to increased pressures on the environment. Nevertheless, I am pleased to be able to report to this COP that Ireland is making significant progress in the implementation of the Convention, driven by our own National Biodiversity Plan.

Our first National Biodiversity Plan was published in 2002, and contains 91 actions, with responsibility for the actions spread across both the State sector and wider civil society in Ireland. In 2005, my Department – fully informed by an independent review carried out by our National Sustainable Development Partnership – carried out its own comprehensive review of progress on implementing the National Plan. This Review, which was approved by Government decision last July, demonstrated a good level of progress in implementing the Plan, with no less than 83 of the 91 actions of the Plan being either implemented or undergoing implementation. Among the achievements reported in this Review were:

  • the ongoing designation of protected areas to the point that they now account for 11.5% of the land mass of the State, as well as some 420,000 hectares of marine areas, thus ensuring a strong network of protected areas both on land and at sea;
  • the production of almost 300 draft management plans for these sites;
  • the roll-out of a new system of management planning for Ireland’s six landmark National Parks;
  • the establishment of a National Biodiversity Research Platform;
  • the increasing integration of biodiversity considerations across the State sector;
  • the completion of more than 4,000 commonage framework plans designed to eliminate overgrazing by sheep;
  • solid progress towards meeting our target of 30% of broad leaf planting by end-2006; and
  • the introduction of specific environmental measures under our tax regime – for example, in the areas of farm pollution control and sulphur-free fuel.
In Ireland, sectoral integration and joint ownership of biodiversity considerations is key to the implementation of our National Plan. To this end, a cross-governmental Steering Group is in place at official level to oversee its implementation and to devise future strategies. Moreover, we have recently announced the establishment of a Biodiversity Fund, a Biological Records Centre and an independent, stakeholder-led Biodiversity Forum to provide independent monitoring of our progress in achieving the goals set out in our National Plan. The membership of the Forum includes representatives from industry, the NGOs, academia and community organisations. The Forum will also contribute to the development of our next Plan, which will take us from 2007 to the 2010 target date, thus clearly demonstrating Ireland’s continued commitment to both the objectives and the 2010 target of the CBD.

Madame President, Ireland believes that increasing public awareness of the importance of biodiversity is vital to the achievement of the Convention’s goal. Following the Interim Review of our National Plan, the Irish Government has approved the development of a public awareness campaign on biodiversity to highlight its importance for human well-being. This campaign will be launched later this year.

Of course, biodiversity does not take account of national borders, and trans-boundary cooperation is also vital for the effective implementation of the Convention. In this regard, a particular feature of Ireland’s National Biodiversity Plan is the active promotion of cooperation with our colleagues in Northern Ireland. Under the Plan, a number of important activities have taken place, notably the production of an all-island study on Invasive Alien Species and the preparation of joint species action plans, including for the Irish Hare and the Pollan, a freshwater fish. I am pleased to report that officials from both jurisdictions meet regularly to consider other programmes of work of mutual benefit.

Ireland’s National Biodiversity Plan not only aims to conserve and enhance Ireland’s biodiversity but also to contribute to the conservation of biodiversity overseas. The conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity is vital if we are to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Our National Plan includes a commitment to make biodiversity a specific objective of Irish Aid and to provide specific funding for biodiversity in developing countries.

In this regard, I am pleased to report that Irish Aid – which provided €545 million in development assistance in 2005 and some €730 million in 2006 – now applies a policy for environmentally sustainable development which will help to ensure that support, through aid, will take account of biodiversity in recipient countries. Ireland is also committed to the Paris Declaration, which strives to increase aid effectiveness and is based on the principle of country ownership, whereby developing countries are responsible for elaborating their own development priorities.

Madame President, can I say that Ireland is committed to providing the necessary technical and financial support for biodiversity conservation. However, the achievement of this objective is dependent on Ireland’s partner countries including this as a priority in their national development and poverty eradication strategies, and I am happy to take this opportunity at COP 8 to invite them to do so.

Also at the international level, I believe it is appropriate to mention here that Ireland – jointly with the European Commission – took the opportunity of its position as Presidency of the EU to organise a major conference in Malahide, Dublin in May, 2004, under the title “Biodiversity and the EU – Sustaining Lives, Sustaining Livelihoods”. This Conference was attended by representatives of 22 EU Member States and a wide range of Stakeholders. The Conference was an important step in the evaluation and review of the EU’s Biodiversity Strategy and resulted in the Message from Malahide. This will now be taken into account in the publication of a new Communication and Action Plan by the European Commission which is intended to achieve the 2010 target within the EU and to strengthen the EU contribution to the achievement of the global target.

Finally, Madame President, it was with great personal interest that I noted the intention of the new Executive Secretary to the CBD, Dr. Ahmed Djoghlaf, to establish a Museum on Nature and Culture of the Convention on Biological Diversity and his invitation to Contracting Parties to contribute a work of art to this new venture. Ireland is very pleased to accept this invitation and to make a permanent loan of a piece of sculpture by an Irish Artist, Michael Thatcher, which I will now illustrate on the screen before us (right).

This sculpture is in bog oak, preserved wood obtained from buried trees, which are common in Irish peat bogs. It is estimated that the wood used in this sculpture is between 4,000 and 7,000 years old. This sculpture truly showcases the splendour of nature and all of its diversity and is made up of natural materials indigenous to Ireland. Interestingly, it was originally purchased by the Irish Government from an auction in aid of UNICEF and it gives me great pleasure, therefore, that it will find a home at a UN location, at the CBD Headquarters in Montreal.

Thank you, Madame President, for your kind attention