EPA survey shows climate change remains the most pressing environmental issue facing Ireland

  • For the 4th year in a row, climate change is seen as the most pressing environmental issue facing Ireland.
  • 86 per cent of adults agree that the environment is a valuable asset to the people of Ireland. 
  • Four in five adults found that having a clean, unpolluted environment and access to nature or the environment was important for exercise and their mental health during the Covid-19 pandemic. 
  • 73 per cent of adults say they have made changes or taken steps personally to help the environment.

The EPA has published its Year in Review highlighting achievements during 2021. Published with the report are the results of an EPA/Red C survey gauging public attitudes toward the environment. For the fourth year running climate change was identified by the public as the top environmental issue facing Ireland.
The survey finding that 86 per cent of people agree that the environment is a valuable asset underscores the work of the EPA in protecting Ireland’s environment. Four in five adults surveyed found that having a clean, unpolluted environment and access to nature or the environment was important for exercise and their mental health during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Commenting on the report, Laura Burke, Director General of the EPA said,
“One lesson from the past two years is that well-communicated science can successfully inform policy, perception, and behaviour, even when the challenges are daunting. There is the opportunity now to build the foundation for a green recovery to protect and restore Irelands environment. The EPA supports actions at every level – government, business, and individual –to be informed by science, which is targeted and focussed on changing our current unsustainable consumption and production patterns.”
During 2021, the EPA published research detailing how global climate changes are reflected in Ireland’s atmosphere, oceans and landscape. In preparing and analysing Ireland’s data on greenhouse gas emissions the EPA identified only a small reduction due to Covid-19 restrictions. This highlights the scale of action required to reach the 51 per cent emissions reduction target by 2030.  However, in the first report from the EPA’s Climate Change in the Irish Mind  project, the public were found to have very high levels of awareness, are informed and understand the implications of a changing climate and they see that opportunities exist for jobs, innovation and wellbeing in taking climate action.

Laura Burke continued by saying:
“Throughout the pandemic the essential work of the EPA continued to ensure that the protection of human health and the environment was not diminished. As an environmental regulator we adapted to circumstances, responding to complaints, incidents and emergencies, carrying out site inspections and engaging with licensees in a risk-based and proportionate manner.”Licensing and permitting decisions undertaken by the EPA in 2021 included high profile facility expansions and greenfield investment activities in the pharmachem, food & drink, waste, information technology and power sectors.

The EPA invested almost €2 million in 2021 in driving the national circular economy and launched the Circular Economy Programme which will help businesses, citizens and the public sector reduce resource use, prevent waste and achieve sustainable economic growth.
During 2021, the EPA expanded its air quality network which provides information linked to public health advice. Furthermore, the radiation monitoring network, which provides an alert in the event radioactivity reaches Ireland through the atmosphere, is currently being upgraded.

Analysis of water quality in rivers, lakes, groundwaters, estuaries and coastal waters continued in 2021 and identified high nutrient levels from agriculture, and waste water discharges, as the main threats. While the quality of drinking water in public supplies remains high, delays in delivering public water improvements continues to put water quality and the public’s health at risk. Similarly, the pace of delivery of essential improvements in waste water treatment is too slow to bring all deficient systems up to standard.

Laura Burke concluded by saying:
“The environmental problems Ireland faces can only be addressed if citizens and stakeholders are engaged and empowered. We place a high value and sense of urgency on this engagement to foster a greater understanding, a genuine sense of ownership and hope for the future. Indeed, we were encouraged by the survey findings that 73 per cent of people have made changes or taken steps to help the environment.”The EPA 2021 Year in Review  report and the Red C survey are both now available on the EPA website. You can follow the EPA on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram through @EPAIreland where you can find up to date information on the Irish Environment. 

Red C Opinion Poll:  The results are from an opinion poll of a Nationally Representative sample of 1,005 adults aged 18+ conducted online by RED C between the 29th November and 2nd December 2021.

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