Bill from Senator Alice-Mary Higgins would give Coillte and Bord na Móna a “Mandate for Nature”

Alice Mary Higgins Climate Action And Biodiversity Bill
Alice Mary Higgins Climate Action And Biodiversity Bill

The Bill from Independent Senator Alice-Mary Higgins and her colleagues in the Seanad Civil Engagement Group would amend the Turf Development Act 1946 and the Forestry Act 1988 to change the outdated mandates of Bord na Móna and Coillte and insert new language on climate action and biodiversity.

In the case of Bord na Móna, this would strengthen the protection and restoration of bogs and in the case of Coillte the development and protection of native woodlands.

Speaking ahead of the debate, Senator Higgins said: “My Bill seeks to amend the outdated mandates of Coillte and Bord na Móna, which are currently framed in narrow commercial terms, when we know they can, and should, also be playing a powerful transformative role in the achievement of our national biodiversity and climate action goals.”

“Both organisations are responsible for a huge amount of the lands, bogs, waters and soils of our country, with Coillte alone controlling 7% of land in the Irish state. Managing that land in a way that genuinely prioritises and delivers for biodiversity and climate action would be a major step forward. It would also reflect recommendations from the Citizen’s Assembly on Biodiversity and specific commitments in the Programme for Government to update the remit and objectives of Coillte and Bord na Móna”.

While public sector bodies are subject to the Public Sector Climate Action Mandate, which requires a 51% reduction in emissions by 2030 under Irish law, semi-state companies are currently not. That is why getting the legal mandates right is so important

Senator Higgins concluded.: “By going to the heart of the legal mandates underpinning Coillte and Bord na Móna, this Bill empowers and requires those bodies to act in the best public interest, the best interests of our environment and the best interests of our collective future. Our Bill also ensures just transition for workers and communities is properly reflected within Bord na Móna’s objectives.”

The Bill, which is being supported by a wide range of NGOs including the Irish Environmental Network, will be debated at second stage in the Seanad at 6:30 PM on Tuesday 16th May.

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Senators Alice-Mary Higgins and Frances Black co-sign letter from 1,000 parliamentarians calling on European leaders to take a stand against annexation and protect the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins, Senator Frances Black, Senator Lynn Ruane and Senator David Norris and more than 100 other Irish Oireachtas members have joined over 1,000 other parliamentarians from across Europe, in co-signing a letter calling on European leaders to act decisively against plans for illegal annexation of Palestinian territories by Israel which have the potential to undermine peace negotiations and further destabilize the region.

The joint letter, initiated by Avraham Burg a former speaker of Israel's parliamentary assembly, the Knesset, underlines the importance of a "rules based global order" and calls for a lasting solution to the conflict that meets “legitimate aspirations and security needs and guarantees equal rights of both Israelis and Palestinians.” It emphasizes that “Europe has the diplomatic tools to promote this just goal, and we stand ready to support such efforts.”

Senator Higgins said: “Europe has a responsibility to follow through on its long-stated commitment to a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to take a firm stand against attempts to undermine core principles of justice, human rights and peace. Europe must make strong use of its diplomacy to oppose any proposed new settlement or annexation and Ireland, in particular, needs to show leadership”

Senator Black said: “With the threat of annexation, the international community must recognise one thing above all else: Condemnation is not enough! It has not stopped decades of settlement expansion. We need real accountability and action before it’s too late. “

“I introduced The Occupied Territories Bill into Seanad Éireann in 2018, it prohibits the importation of goods from illegally occupied lands, including the illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The international community has an obligation to oppose annexation & the expansion of illegal settlements: we can start by refusing to support them economically.”

The letter, signed by 1080 parliamentarians, is addressed to EU Foreign Ministers and EU High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell. It calls on Europe to “take the lead in bringing international actors together to prevent annexation and to safeguard the prospects of the two-state solution and a just resolution to the conflict.”