More sustainable approach to green economy needed

IRELAND must impose a more sustainable approach to “green economy” plans if the country is to adequately address the financial crisis and the “early warnings of potentially catastrophic climate change”, it has been claimed.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s annual report for 2008, released today, has warned that despite recent improvements in putting green issues on the agenda the “significant economic opportunities” for 0the country are still under threat from more immediate financial concerns.

According to the EPA document, while the start of 2008 showed no indication of the depth of the downturn, the resultant months have thrown the country into financial turmoil.

And coming in an era when climate change is becoming a mainstream issue to address, the EPA has called for long-term budget policies focusing on the importance of “natural capital resources” if the dual issues are to be adequately addressed.

“Early warnings about the potentially catastrophic effects of climate change must be heeded and a more sustainable approach to natural capital must be adopted,” warned Dr Mary Kelly, director general of the EPA.

“Fundamental changes will be required to ensure that economic recovery, when it comes, is low carbon economic recovery, which is sustainable both economically and environmentally.

“There are also significant economic opportunities for Ireland in becoming a low carbon and greener economy. The Smart Green Economy must be pursued.

“Dealing with these challenges will be made all the more difficult due to the economic downturn, but failure to do so would be extremely shortsighted and will repeat failures of the past, which have left Ireland with many legacy issues to address.

“We need to stop playing catch-up on the environment,” she added.

According to the group, if Ireland is to include green policies at the heart of any economic recovery it must overcome a series of hurdles, including:

*Reversing environmental degradation, particularly in relation to water pollution and the conservation status of habitats.

* Complying with existing environmental legislation and international agreements.

* Mainstreaming environmental considerations across all sectors of the economy.

* Adapting future policies to acknowledge the depth of the climate change crisis.

While progress has been made on these issues, the EPA has said that there needs to be sustained investment in environmental infrastructure — with particular focus on waste water and drinking water treatment, river basin management and waste management — if the difficulties are to be adequately addressed.

“In more straitened economic circumstances, it becomes even more important to ensure that investment goes where it is most needed.

“Sustained investment in critical environmental infrastructure is essential even in these more difficult times,” said Dr Kelly.


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