NEW EU laws to restore nature would see wilder places, greener cities and chemical-free lands in all EU countries.
The proposed Nature Restoration Law would slash pesticide use in half, protect pollinating insects, preserve trees and restore struggling habitats on land and at sea.
It would set legally binding targets, make every country develop a national restoration plan and require annual reports to Brussels on its implementation.
Every town, city and suburb would have to preserve existing urban green space and work to expand it, ensuring a minimum of 10pc tree cover.
Pesticides would be banned from all public places, including parks, schools, playgrounds and sports fields, and their use on crops would be a "last resort" when no environmentally friendly alternatives were available.
River barriers would be reduced so that at least 25,000km of rivers would run free, re-wilding would be encouraged and environmentally friendly farming, fishing and forestry practices would be required.
The law aims to nurture back to health the 80pc of European habitats that are in poor condition.
It is an attempt to halt the dramatic decline in nature and essential pollinators, and boost ecosystems that help tackle climate change such as peatlands, forests and healthy seas that absorb carbon, and flood plains that can soak up water.
It goes further than the current Habitats Directive as it applies to all lands and marine areas, not just those with special designations.
The law must be approved by the EU parliament and member state governments but environmental groups in Ireland have warmly welcomed it.
Some 85pc of Irish habitats are classified as being in unfavourable condition, a fifth of Irish bird species are in long term decline and a third of the country’s bee species are threatened with extinction.
The Irish Environmental Pillar, a coalition of environmental groups, said the law was an unprecedented chance to address the climate and biodiversity crises simultaneously.
“Through the Nature Restoration Law we have the tools we need to rise to the challenge and rebuild our failing ecosystems,” spokesman Fintan Kelly said.
“This is an opportunity that we literally cannot afford to miss.”
Oonagh Duggan of Birdwatch Ireland said a national nature restoration fund should be set up to finance implementation of the law.
“Restoring habitats and ecosystems will not only be critical to reverse the decimation of wildlife, water quality, and addressing climate, investing in nature makes financial sense,” she said.
Earlier this month, Minister Malcolm Noonan, who has responsibility for parks and wildlife, said he expected the targets would be very ambitious and he warned Ireland was not ready for the challenge.
“These are going to be binding targets on member states. It is going to require a major nature restoration programme over the next decade,” he said.
“We need to be equipped for that. As it stands, we’re not.”
His parent department, the Department of Housing, said discussions would need to take place with all departments on the law.
“This is a cross-governmental issue, so dialogue will be required across Government to agree relevant roles and responsibilities with regards to the Nature Restoration Law and the preparation of a National Restoration Plan,” it said.