As the Dáil rose, Climate Case Ireland [CCI] has written to An Taoiseach Micheál Martin stating that the Government’s more than two-year delay in setting a date for the Citizens’ Assembly on the Biodiversity Crisis is “hugely disappointing”.

On 10th June 2021, CCI and more than 20 other civil society organisations wrote to the Government calling on it to treat the biodiversity crisis like a real emergency and announce the date for the long-promised Citizens’ Assembly before the beginning of the summer recess.
“The Citizens’ Assembly on the Biodiversity Crisis was promised over two years ago,” Emer Slattery from CCI said, “yet the government still has not set a date for it to convene. The Dáil declared a Climate and Biodiversity Emergency on 9th May 2019 – so the pandemic can’t even be used as an excuse. Declaring an emergency and then delaying taking any action for years is a statement in itself. Having lived through almost 18 months of Covid, we all know what emergency action looks like – this is not it.”

CCI has copied the letter to the Green Party’s Malcolm Noonan, Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, who, in response to the CCI-led campaign seeking the establishment on the Citizens Assembly on Biodiversity, admitted in a tweet that the Citizens’ Assembly on Biodiversity “was a key Programme for Government commitment”.

However, he went on to explain that “Work is ongoing via the UN Convention on Biological Diversity [CBD] on a new Global Biodiversity Framework that will set out targets and actions for the next decade. It’s due to be presented at [the UN Convention on Biological Diversity’s] COP15 in China” from 11th-24th October 2021 “for agreement by the Parties – including Ireland. Our next National Biodiversity Action Plan will be informed by these global objectives. It’s due to be published in 2022.”
In their letter, CCI has told the Taoiseach that “Our next National Biodiversity Action Plan should be generated by the people, and the way to do that is to convene the Citizens’ Assembly without any further inexcusable delay. The point of citizens’ assemblies is to ensure that the public’s views and concerns are the basis of policy, not to act as a rubber-stamping for pre-ordained policy. The Citizens’ Assembly should be convened immediately after the Global Biodiversity Framework is agreed on 24th October. The outcome of the Citizens’ Assembly should inform the new National Biodiversity Action Plan, not the other way round.”

Climate Case Ireland also cites in its letter the observation by Supreme Court Chief Justice Frank Clarke in his judgment striking down the Government’s National Climate Mitigation Plan as inadequate that the potential and the precise type of a constitutional “right to the environment” could be the “subject of debate and democratic approval” and “express incorporation into our Constitution” rather than relying on a decision of our courts.

“The forthcoming Citizens’ Assembly would be the appropriate forum for the debate and the consideration of the incorporation of a right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment in our Constitution, as has been done by more than 100 countries worldwide,” noted CCI.
“The success of the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan testifies to the public’s willingness to play their part in addressing the biodiversity emergency”, the CCI letter concluded. “While we can see the sense in the Global Biodiversity Framework informing the Citizens’ Assembly’s discussions, to delay the establishment of the Assembly beyond the end of October would long-finger an existential crisis. The proper sequencing should be: Global Biodiversity Framework, Citizens’ Assembly, National Biodiversity Action Plan – and the Citizens’ Assembly should be planned now to dovetail with the conclusion of the UN CBD’s COP15 on 24th October.”