Friday, November 25, 2022

James Cox

The first Citizens’ Assembly in the world on biodiversity loss will hold its final meeting tomorrow and Sunday, November 26th-27th, at The Grand Hotel, Malahide, Co Dublin, where members will vote on over 150 recommendations proposed to be sent to the Houses of Oireachtas to inform and direct national policy on the biodiversity crisis.

The two-day meeting will include a closing virtual address to members on Saturday at 11am by Dame Dr Jane Goodall of the Jane Goodall Institute. One of the founders of the modern nature conservation movement, Dr Goodall’s work with chimpanzees redefined the relationship between people and animals and brought to life the existential need for nature conservation.

The Assembly, which has been deliberating since May, has heard from 75 different speakers and received 650 submissions from across Ireland and from around the world. Members are now preparing to make recommendations to address biodiversity loss in all areas impacting Irish society and economy, from agriculture to freshwater and from peatlands to cities.

The 99 randomly selected members of the public will also make recommendations on funding, education, business, and tourism. Prior to Dr Goodall’s address on Saturday, voices from the business and education sectors will share their responses to biodiversity loss.

On Saturday afternoon and continuing Sunday morning the members will discuss, deliberate, consider, and modify draft recommendations. These recommendations will then be voted on with a final outcome intended to be reached by Sunday lunchtime.

Following this vote a final report will be prepared before being formally sent to the Houses of the Oireachtas, with requested timelines for a response from the Oireachtas to the recommendations.

Speaking ahead of the final meeting the Chair of the Assembly, Dr Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin, said, “Over the last six months the 99 members of the Citizens’ Assembly on Biodiversity Loss and I, as chairperson, have engaged with the complex and challenging issue of biodiversity loss. We recognise the scale of the challenge that the State must address in ensuring that the environment and nature that we celebrate and depend on need be protected to a much greater extent. Our ability to continue to produce food, to access to clean water and to engage with this irreplaceable part of our heritage depends on it.

“It has been an immense privilege to chair this Assembly and to engage with these members who have given so generously of their time and energy to participate in this work on behalf of their fellow citizens – a ‘meitheal’ on a national scale.

“It has been such an educational experience to hear from so many volunteers, farmers, fishers, scientists and communities throughout the course of our work and it is wonderful that one of the best-known advocates for nature, Dame Dr Jane Goodall, will conclude our meetings with her address and inspirational message.

“I am confident that the members of this Assembly will produce a strong set of recommendations that will outline the steps the State should take in addressing biodiversity loss. These recommendations will ensure that generations coming after us will be able to both rely on and enjoy the world around them.

Following our vote on Sunday, I will continue to work on behalf of the Assembly to make sure that these recommendations are actively and meaningfully implemented to conserve and restore biodiversity loss in Ireland.”

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