Minister Noonan this morning sought Government approval for Ireland’s second “Prioritised Action Framework”. This document sets out Ireland’s priorities for habitat and species protection and restoration in Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas in the period 2021-2027, for formal submission to the European Commission in line with Article 8 of the Habitats Directive.
In accordance with Article 8.2 of the Habitats Directive, the European Commission is required, in agreement with Member States, to assess the financing – including the co-financing – that is required to maintain or restore protected habitats and species listed in the EU Nature Directives. This is to be reflected in Prioritised Action Frameworks for each Member State, which in turn are to have regard to the available sources of funding under relevant EU funding instruments.
A Prioritised Action Framework has been prepared for Ireland on foot of reports on: the ‘Status of EU Protected Habitats and Species in Ireland’ submitted in 2019 to the European Commission, under Article 17 of the Habitats Directive, and on the ‘Status of Birds in Ireland’, submitted in 2019 to the European Commission, under Article 12 of the Birds Directive.
The estimated costs for the delivery of the suite of prioritised measures for the 2021-2027 period would be circa €163 million per annum, or €1.138 billion over the seven year period. It should be noted that the estimated costs in the Prioritised Action Framework are not commitments to funding. Rather, they are estimates of the overall level of investment that would be required to manage and restore habitats and species in the Natura 2000 network to the status required under the Habitats and Birds Directives.
This Framework was prepared in consultation with other Departments, and bodies under their aegis: the agriculture, forest, fisheries and aquaculture sections of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications (DECC); the Office of Public Works (OPW); Inland Fisheries Ireland, the EPA, Coillte, Local Authorities, and the Heritage Council. Farming organisations, environmental NGOs and the wider public were also consulted.
Minister Noonan reaffirmed his commitment to continue working with colleagues in Government to ensure that Ireland maximises the opportunities to utilise EU funding instruments in assisting to meet the requirements of the Birds and Habitats Directives, in line with the priorities set out in the Prioritised Action Framework. He also thanked colleagues for the support already expressed for the Framework and looks forward to working with them in moving forward with its implementation.
Commenting on the Prioritised Action Framework, Minister Noonan said:
“These habitats are the jewels in the crown of Ireland’s natural heritage and there are many compelling reasons to protect, conserve and restore them: environmental, social, economic, reputational, ethical… but perhaps the most compelling is the fact that – now more than ever before – the Irish people want us to. There has never been greater public demand for healthy nature – in towns and cities, forests, bogs and agricultural landscapes, rivers, lakes and oceans, in the skies and in the soils. It is through the collective efforts of this Government that we will maximise the benefits of biodiversity action for rural economies, tourism, public health and wellbeing, and for nature itself, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to advance this work.”
Notes to editors:
- The Prioritised Action Framework (PAF) is a strategic multiannual planning tool, aimed at providing a comprehensive overview of the prioritised measures that are needed to manage the EU-wide Natura 2000 network (which comprises Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas) and its associated green infrastructure. In 2014, the Government approved Ireland’s first Prioritised Action Framework for Natura 2000, and it was sent to the Commission for adoption.
- This Framework was prepared in consultation with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and other bodies under its aegis, namely Teagasc and the Marine Institute; the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications (DECC), and other bodies under its aegis, namely the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Inland Fisheries Ireland; the Office of Public Works (OPW); other sections in DHLGH, and Local Authorities (via the County and City Management Association (CCMA)) and the Heritage Council, which are under its aegis.
- Farming representative bodies and environmental NGOs, via the Irish Environmental Network (IEN), were also invited to give feedback on a draft of the document.
- The Framework went through a period of public consultation from the 24th of July to the 18th of September 2020.
- The Prioritised Action Framework for Ireland identifies the financing needs for prioritised measures for the period 2021 -2027, and links them to the relevant EU funding programmes. The Framework identifies potential funding instruments but does not make any determination as to what particular source might be used. It is therefore a strategic planning document and not a national commitment to expenditure.
- The Commission have stated however that the information contained in the Prioritised Action Framework will be used when reviewing Ireland’s CAP Strategic Plan, associated framework documents, and other programmatic plans and funding requests relating to the next operational period.
- In this regard there is an obligation of all sectoral areas to comply with the requirements of the Birds and Habitats Directives in their sphere of activity, as well as a need to maximise all possible EU co-financing resources to meet the significant investment required for proper implementation.
- Furthermore, Ireland has been referred to the Court of Justice of the European Union in regard to the designation and management of Special Areas of Conservation.
The PAF and its Main Actions
The Prioritised Action Framework is structured to a template provided by the Commission under the following headings
- Summary of the priority financing needs for the period 2021-2027
- Current State of the Natura 2000 network
- EU and national financing of the Natura 2000 network during the period 2014-2020
- Priority measures and financing needs for 2021-2027
- Further added value of the prioritised measures