Environmental Pillar calls for establishment of €8bn climate and nature restoration fund in budget

It says extra funding should be provided to support farmers in nature restoration and increase staff in State agencies involved in climate and ecology

Ireland’s projected multibillion euro surplus for the coming years presents a unique opportunity to establish an €8 billion climate and nature restoration fund in Budget 2024, according to the Environmental Pillar (EP).

In its pre-budget statement the coalition of 32 environmental organisations said it could serve as “a catalyst for the rejuvenation of our natural world, the revitalisation of rural and coastal economies, and provision of crucial public amenities”.

The benefits would include the prospect of warmer and more comfortable homes; the expansion of renewable energy infrastructure; and a substantial improvement in public transportation systems, it said.

The pillar called for the Government to ensure spending on nature over the next four years amounts to a minimum of €2 billion – outside of Common Agricultural Policy payments. Extra funding should be provided to support farmers in nature restoration and increasing personnel in State agencies – notably in the fields of climate, ecology and related sciences.


It said increased funding was needed for training in nature-based solutions to address the climate and biodiversity crises and to fully fund marine protected areas. The climate and nature restoration fund should come from windfall corporation taxes to finance future climate and nature infrastructural and capital investments.

The trajectory of National Parks and Wildlife Service funding and staffing must increase so it can co-ordinate the national response to biodiversity loss, the pillar said.

Budget policies should also safeguard vulnerable households from cost-of-living increases while staying committed to “a long-term vision of a sustainable and biodiversity-rich Ireland”.

The Government should concentrate resources on augmenting social protection payments, the pillar proposed, coupled with retrofitting initiatives tailored to lower-income households.

Oisín Coghlan of Friends of the Earth, a spokesman for the pillar, said: “Ireland currently finds itself at the heart of a dual ecological challenge, grappling with both biodiversity and climate emergencies. With a projected €65 billion surplus in the years ahead we feel that the Government is now in an exceptional position to begin to address these challenges through the establishment of a dedicated climate and nature restoration fund.”

Oonagh Duggan of BirdWatch Ireland, a spokeswoman for the pillar, said warnings on the poor state of biodiversity in Ireland had grown starker with a quarter of Ireland’s bird species “in danger of extinction and over 70 per cent of our peatlands” in bad status. She said the time “to invest in nature for a sustainable future is now”.

The case for investing in climate and nature makes strong financial sense, according to Caroline Whyte, economist with Feasta, the Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability. “A compelling example can be found in the business case for the Nature Restoration Law, which illustrates every €1 invested in nature restoration yields an impressive €8 to €38 through ecosystem services that are vital for human existence,” she said.

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times