Only five biodiversity officers are employed by city and county councils to work on protecting nature in their local areas despite a Government promise that at least one appointment would be made to all 31 local authorities.
Heritage Minister Malcolm Noonan said he was making more money available to local authorities to boost their biodiversity efforts but Social Democrats TD Jennifer Whitmore who sought the update said the commitment shown to date was underwhelming.
It is three years since the Dáil declared a climate and biodiversity emergency, and a two-day National Biodiversity Conference takes place in Dublin Castle this week.
Ms Whitmore said the verbal commitments to tackling the crisis were not translating into action on the ground.
“The fact that only five biodiversity officers are in place across the country is unacceptable and shows how, despite all the commitments and promises made, that Government continues to ignore this important issue,” she said.
The five are Dublin and Galway city councils and Fingal, Kerry and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown county councils.
Mr Noonan accepted that the Programme for Government included a commitment “to ensure that each local authority has a sufficient number of biodiversity officers and heritage officers among their staff”.
He also acknowledged the importance of the positions and said he was committed to supporting them.
“My department’s investment in the biodiversity officer programme, through support of local authorities, will enhance their efforts to deliver benefits for biodiversity.
“I have allocated €600,000 in 2022 towards the programme. The programme is currently under development and will be delivered by the Heritage Council and the County and City Management Association with the support of my department and the National Parks and Wildlife Service.”
Ms Whitmore questioned why more progress was not being made faster.
“Ensuring that there are biodiversity officers in each local authority should be an easily implemented policy, and yet it is not happening,” she said.
“If Government can't do the easy things, how will they ever manage to address the bigger, more complex actions needed to address biodiversity loss.”