Legacy4LIFE Project Comes to an End

Mar 12, 2024 | Green Architecture

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the number of pristine water courses in Ireland have declined from 575 to just 20 over the last 30 years, with approximately half of our rivers, lakes and estuaries not considered to be in good ecological health. 30% of private wells are now contaminated with E. coli arising from animal and human waste, and, not surprisingly, Ireland has the highest incidence of VTEC (a specific group of the bacterium Escherichia coli.) in Europe. In Ireland, the number of premature deaths attributable to air pollution is estimated at 1,300 people. This is principally as a result of particulate emissions both from domestic and transport sources. Ammonia emissions have exceeded the EU National Emissions Ceiling Directive since 2016 and Greenhouse Gas emissions have only plateaued at a time, we are legally committed to a reduction of 51% on 2018 levels by 2030.

Addressing these serious trends needs the full implementation of the EU Green Deal with the support of key stakeholders. This is particularly the case with respect to biodiversity, agriculture, and the mobilisation of public opinion. Accordingly, the specific objectives of An Taisce’s Legacy4Life (LGL) project were as follows:

(i) Enhancing the role that ponds can play as biodiversity refugia by supporting capacity development and expertise in pond creation, management, and conservation. In addition, the project addressed the need for enhancing public awareness and mobilising community consciousness regarding the amenity value these small wetland habitats possess for biodiversity, water quality and climate adaptation.

(ii) Promoting the implementation of Farm to Fork as a strategic direction for the future of Irish agriculture. This focussed on an examination of barriers to the uptake of more sustainable farming models such as organic agriculture.

(iii) In accordance with the Green Deal objective of incorporating an ambitious Greening Plan for certain urban areas by 2030, the project also sought to establish the stakeholder interactions and practical steps necessary to establish low carbon town centres.

In each case, considerable progress was made. For ‘ponds’, a number of local authorities have collaborated in establishing a network of demonstration sites and the team have been engaged in workshops, surveys, citizen science exercises and efforts to get pond establishment into local authority planning objectives. A 100-page handbook for pond establishment and management, and illustrative pamphlets, have been produced. Dissemination is occurring also through the Green Schools system.

Having an established organic farmer on the team was especially valuable in investigating the barriers to entering organic farming, and field visits to a wide range of different enterprises has been undertaken with ‘best practice’ documentation being produced. This consisted of a 30-page booklet reporting on 10 farms who made the switch to organic farming. This was designed to inform farmers of what opportunities exist and how organic farms thus far have prospered. A survey of what improvements can be made to encourage further uptake was also completed. Educational resources, including a 32-page lavishly illustrated children’s book, was also published, and will also be distributed via the Green Schools network. An Taisce L4L team members also participated at the National Ploughing Contest and in various conferences, including BioFarm 2023.

A second element of the project aimed to clarify the scientific evidence-base informing the urgent need to move away from our current intensification-driven agricultural model to a more sustainable food production system.  Central to this was a study to model the potential trajectories for carbon emissions from the agricultural sector under different scenarios, emphasising the need for accurate measurement of emissions and legitimate reductions, if our binding targets are to be achieved. A report on the potential vulnerability of Irish agriculture to current international events such as trade deals and policy changes was also produced in the context of the Farm to Fork initiative.

Climate change ultimately has to be tackled at local level, and the third strand of the L4L project sought to provide a template for how town communities can choose a low carbon future. This part of the project selected Maynooth as its test case, partly because a university town is rich in data sources but also because it was also the choice of Kildare County Council with whom cooperation on a variety of fronts has proved fruitful. Using high resolution census data to work out housing characteristics such as age, heating types, occupancy, and other sources to map Building Energy Rating data, traffic, land use, commercial and agricultural emissions, a spatial model of emissions was constructed and a detailed methodology for the creation of a Low Carbon Plan was developed. Going beyond this, however, requires community and stakeholder consultations, and the team developed a ‘user friendly’ carbon calculator that enabled community choices regarding their priorities for reaching emission targets to be ascertained. Of course, the priorities in a large town in eastern Ireland may be very different from that of a small town in western Ireland and the team also applied the tool in a case study of Ballyvaughan in Co. Clare. With some further development the project will have established a useful tool that can be applied elsewhere in Ireland by local authorities to help meet their obligations.

Legacy4LIFE has made a useful contribution in support of the Green Deal in key areas to tackling the climate and biodiversity emergencies.  Find out more here.

Source of text and images: Legacy4LIFE

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