How businesses can support the 4th National Biodiversity Action Plan

BITCI News - Feb 27, 2024

Image of 4th National Biodiversity Action Plan

Business in the Community Ireland (BITCI) welcomed the launch of Ireland’s 4th National Biodiversity Action Plan by Minister Malcolm Noonan on January 25th. The drafting of the plan was the responsibility of the NPWS, and this version is particularly notable because, for the first time, the plan will have statutory powers and a fund of €3 billion behind it. Within the plan there are 194 actions centred around five key objectives; 

  1. Adopt a Whole-of-Government, Whole-of-Society Approach to Biodiversity
  2. Meet Urgent Conservation and Restoration Needs 
  3. Secure Nature’s Contribution to People 
  4. Enhance the Evidence Base for Action on Biodiversity 
  5. Strengthen Ireland’s Contribution to International Biodiversity Initiatives 

The NPWS has summarised the plan by saying that it is ‘underpinned by an unprecedented focus on accountability, resourcing and implementation.’ This is an exciting change of direction, as for many years, nature has been largely invisible or ignored by national policy and economic activity. The Plan reminds us ‘that the economy and society are wholly embedded within the environment and biosphere, rather than separate to it.’ 

The Plan portrays a picture of a serious national emergency. There is detail in the plan which can make uncomfortable reading. The evidence shows that the country’s natural habitats, ecosystems and biodiversity are in an alarming condition, ‘scientific assessments of the state of nature in Ireland have found that 85% of our EU protected habitats are in unfavourable status, with almost half (46%) demonstrating ongoing declines.’

Because of the scale of the emergency, the response must entail nothing less than a whole of society approach. But there is hope, as the plan says, to be found in the ‘unprecedented levels of public awareness.’ This will be leveraged to mainstream biodiversity and foster greater collaboration across various parts of society. It highlights that ‘there is a role for everyone to play.’ The NBAP is also important because it is the instrument by which global agreements such as the Kunming Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework and The EU Nature Restoration Law  are implemented at a national level.  

The actions in the plan include commitments to:   

  • Expand and enhance our network of National Parks,  
  • Further strengthen action on wildlife crime,  
  • Deliver on obligations to conserve our most precious habitats and species,  
  • Strategically target efforts on invasive species,  
  • Develop a national Nature Restoration Plan,  
  • Increase collaboration on nature-friendly farming,  
  • Review nature governance across the State, and 
  • Explore the ways in which the rights of nature can be formally recognised.  

This brings us to how Businesses can get involved.  

Key considerations which will impact businesses include efforts to achieve greater buy-in, strengthening of compliance and enforcement of existing legislation, increased focus on addressing the root causes of biodiversity loss, rather than the consequences and internalising the value of nature and recognising the cost of inaction.  

There are many opportunities for businesses to get involved and contribute to the actions and outcomes within the NBAP, such as; 

  • Understand the businesses dependencies on nature and take targeted action to reduce the impacts of the business on nature. 
  • Supporting awareness raising, public engagement and behaviour change. 
  • Addressing water quality. 
  • Tackling invasive alien species.  
  • Improve pollution control, particularly around rivers, lakes, estuaries and coastal waters, and soil. 
  • Embrace more circular business models. 
  • Enhancing green and blue environments under their care. 
  • Addressing skills and research gaps. 
  • Contributing to the collection and sharing of biodiversity data.  
  • Once developed businesses can support the embedding and mainstreaming of the approach to natural capital accounting across sectors. 
  • Where possible contribute to the National Restoration Plan. 
  • Support a variety of initiatives such as the species conservation programme, seedbanks, and biobanks. 
  • Look for opportunities to collaborate. 
  • Look for opportunities to provide blended finance for nature positive projects. 
  • Use Nature-based Solutions where possible, contributing to national climate ambition and supporting biodiversity at the same time. 

Along with this list of asks of businesses, there are supports also. The All-Ireland Pollinator Plan is a good place to start if your business is not already signed up. Business for Biodiversity Ireland is highlighted by the NBAP for its role in providing guidance to Irish businesses in assessing their impacts and dependencies and in developing their own meaningful and impactful biodiversity strategies. Action 1D7 of the NBAP calls for nine hundred businesses to get involved in Business for Biodiversity Ireland by 2025. BITCI is a strong supporter of both the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan and the Business for Biodiversity Platform, and we would encourage all our members to get involved. Please get in touch if you have any questions. The DETE will also be supporting businesses to report under CSRD including biodiversity. And biodiversity will be incorporated into the activities of Enterprise Ireland and the IDA. The Department of Finance will also have an increased focus on biodiversity.  

Reaction to the NBAP 

While the 4th NBAP has been widely welcomed, with praise that it is better and stronger than previous action plans and could not have come at a more crucial time, it will not be all plain sailing. Concerns have been raised about how the funding will work and that policies and plans not covered by the NBAP might undermine the plans overall objectives. There is a feeling also that the wording is weak in places and has missed opportunities, particularly in relation to existing bodies and legacy legislation.  

One thing is clear, it is vital that we all get involved. Let us start by raising awareness and ambition. 

Article written by Eadaoin Boyle Tobin