SHORT COMMUNICATION INCORPORATING BIODIVERSITY CONSIDERATIONS IN POLICY Shirley Clerkin Shirley Clerkin(e-mail: ecoscape@indigo.ie), NaturalEnvironment Officer, An Taisce, Tailors' Hall, Back Lane, Dublin8, Republic of Ireland. INTRODUCTION We all participate in natural processes, which are facilitated by biodiversity. Changes in lifestyles, farming practices, infrastructure and the way we work and live over the last half-century or so have resulted in dramatic changes in the state of Ireland's biodiversity. The need for policy to incorporate biodiversity considerations is now more urgent than ever before because our ability to cause change is much greater. The 1998 EuropeanCommunityBiodiversityStrategystated, 'Given the projected growth in economic activity, the rate of loss of biodiversity is farmore likely to increase than stabilise' (Commission of the European Communities 1998). The excellent and informative Ireland's environment: amillennium report, published by the Environmental Protection Agency, also demonstrates the links between the growth of GDP and environmental pressures, rating the need to protect our natural resources as an urgent priority (Stapleton et al. 2000). The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has produced an important evaluation in a global context of Ireland's performance in biodiversity protection. Ireland is listed by the IUCN and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD 1996) as the worst achiever in the OECD, protecting the smallest amount of national territory for biodiversity of all 28 developed nations. In fact, Ireland protects only about 1% of the national territory to strict intemational standards (that is, with national parks, nature reserves and other such stricdly protected areas) (OECD, updated to the year 2000), whereas the average in the developed world is 12% of the national territory (OECD 1996). Special areas of conservation (SACs) and natural heritage areas (NHAs) are not included in these figures because they are not accorded strict protection. Because of the small percentage of national parks and nature reserves in Ireland, NHAs and SACs are at the forefront of the measures that will be put in place to ensure nature conservation and must be carefully managed to maximise their contribution to biodiversity. Support is required, however, from a wide range of other policies, so that protected areas do not become 'islands' in a bio-monoculture. Despite the lack of coverage of national parks and nature reserves, the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands recently commissioned a report, via the Heritage Council, on the possibility of lifing the hunting ban on state-owned lands within the minister's control. These lanjs aremainly nature reserves and national parks. Independent UK consultants Just Ecology recommended that the ban not be lifted because of the lack of baseline data on biodiversity in national parks and because the main aim of these areas is the conservation of natural heritage, not recreation or hunting. Biodiversity must be considered in all projects and plans through a combined approach of communication, policy, legislation and sectoral policy integration. The European Commission recommends (1) the development of national strategies, plans or programmes for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity and (2) the integration, as far as possible, of the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity into relevant sectoral and cross-sectoral plans, progranunes and policies (environment, agriculture, forestry and fisheries polices are generally perceived to be the biggest priority). With regard to the development of national strategies, the National Biodiversity Plan (NBP) was published by the Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands (DAHGI) in April 2002, just before the general election. Itwas published in final form without the wide consultation that An Taisce had recommended. The NBP states that a National Biodiversity Forum, representative of all stakeholders, will be established to provide a mechanism for consultation. The plan contains 91 actions but no specific timeframes or lead agencies and is, in An Taisce's opinion, weak on specifics. The NBP was produced in accordance with Article 6 of the Rio Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). This convention, signed by 156 countries concerned about threats to biodiversity, contains the central set of international rules on biodiversity. Its parties commit themselves to (1) the conservation of biological diversity, (2) the BIOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENT: PROCEEDINOS OF THE ROYAL IRISHACADEMY, VOL. 102B, No...

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