Ireland found in breach of EU biodiversity laws

Ireland found in breach of EU biodiversity laws

Ireland has failed to fulfil its obligations under EU biodiversity conservation laws, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has ruled.

The court yesterday handed down its judgment in the case C-444/21, brought against Ireland by the European Commission with support from the German government.

The case concerns the implementation of the Habitats Directive, transposed into Irish law through the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011.

In yesterday’s ruling, the CJEU declared that Ireland had breached the Directive by failing to designate 217 of 423 sites in the Atlantic biogeographical region identified by the European Commission as special areas of conservation within at least six years of the law coming into force.

Ireland also failed to define detailed site-specific conservation objectives for 140 of the sites, and failed to adopt conservation measures corresponding to the ecological requirements of the nature habitat types covered by those sites.

As a result, the court held that Ireland had failed to fulfil its obligations under Article 4(4) and Article 6(1) of the Habitats Directive.

Responding to the ruling, Malcolm Noonan, minister of state for heritage and electoral reform, said: “I am studying the judgement carefully with my colleagues in the National Parks and Wildlife Service and in consultation with the Attorney General, and do not propose to comment in detail immediately, other than to say that we recognise the importance and the significance of the judgement and the findings of non-compliance with the Habitats Directive.

“It is important to note that the court’s findings refer to the position in January 2019.

“This government has made very considerable progress in recent years: we are transforming and renewing the National Parks and Wildlife Service and have created a dedicated directorate to lead on the implementation of conservation measures across all of Ireland’s Natura 2000 sites.

“I am confident that we will respond to this judgement swiftly with positive and constructive actions in order to bring Ireland into full compliance.”

Niall Ó Donnchú, director-general of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, added: “The judgement in this case was anticipated, and we are all aware that across Europe there is a huge effort required in relation to the protection of nature and biodiversity.

“This is something that the National Parks and Wildlife Service takes extremely seriously — our mission is to protect nature, and we are committed to delivering on this. As the minister has noted, the judgement reflects the position prior to January 2019.

“The NPWS is currently studying it in detail and we will engage with the EU Commission on a roadmap.”

He added: “We have come a considerable distance since January 2019: more than 95 per cent of all Natura 2000 sites are now covered by statutory instrument; 100 per cent of sites are now covered by published site-specific conservation objectives and we are making significant progress with regards to conservation measures.

“It is our firm intention that the judgement will spur NPWS on to further action. Our natural world is at the core of everything we do, and everything we produce as a country. We need to work together to ensure that it is healthy, protected and thriving long into the future.”

Share icon
Share this article: