14 July 2022
By Tom O’Sullivan
MEP Grace O’Sullivan warns of need for urgent action to tackle biodiversity loss at UN Summit in New York
Ireland’s biodiversity loss is accelerating at unprecedented speeds, show recent reports. At the High Level Political Forum for Sustainable Development in New York this week (13-15 July), Green Party MEP for Ireland South, Grace O’Sullivan brought a specific call for legally-binding measures to put nature back at the centre of all political decision-making worldwide.
The UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development aims to provide a plan for countries to eradicate poverty and simultaneously tackle climate change and biodiversity loss. At its heart are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are an urgent call to act before it is too late to secure a liveable planet for future generations in the face of unprecedented crises. MEP Grace O’Sullivan, who hails from Tramore Co. Waterford, went specifically to drive home the need for legally binding commitments to protect oceans and tackle biodiversity loss in light of countless missed deadlines in the past.
This year the UN is reviewing progress made on a number of those goals, including education, gender equality, life below water and life on land. The High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development brings representatives from around the world together to review the progress made and adopt declarations.
Ireland has played a central role in developing the SDGs however a number of reports have shown Ireland lags behind most EU countries in their implementation. With the entrance of the Green Party into the Government in 2020, the SDGs were put at the centre of the Programme for Government as guiding principles.
Meeting with activists from local community groups and organisations, UN representatives as well as delegates from places like the Pacific Islands which are facing the immediate and direct impact of climate change, Grace brought up the challenges seen in Ireland also linked to global warming and pollution including the price of fuel, massive habitat loss and deteriorating water quality of Irish rivers and lakes.
Speaking from UN Headquarters in New York on Thursday, Grace O’Sullivan said; “The priority of my election campaign back in 2019 was on the basis that as an island nation known for natural beauty, we should be world leaders in the protection of our oceans, tackling biodiversity loss and restoring nature. However, over half of natural habitats in Ireland are in decline while 65% of Ireland’s coastal habitat types are considered to be in an unfavourable condition often linked to high pesticide and fertiliser use.”
“This year the UN is reviewing the progress we have made on protecting life below water so it was important to be here this week to push for higher ambition. Only eight years remain for us to meet our targets by 2030. For Ireland three measures will be key to achieving those goals: ending our dependence on oil and gas, the establishment of Marine Protected Areas covering 30% of our waters, and a more economically and environmentally sustainable model of agriculture. All of these measures will be key for both food security and to tackle rising cost of living linked to fossil fuel dependence.”
The HLPF is the main United Nations platform on sustainable development and it has a central role in the follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the global level. The Forum adopts intergovernmentally negotiated political declarations which are then taken into account in other institutions such as the European Parliament.
Grace O’Sullivan is a Green Party MEP for Ireland South, which includes Carlow, Clare, Cork, Kerry, Kilkenny, Laois, Limerick, Offaly, Tipperary, Waterford, Wexford and Wicklow. She is a former Greenpeace activist having crewed the Rainbow Warrior when it was bombed by French Intelligence in 1985. She is an ecologist by training and lives in Tramore with her three daughters.