Back to News & Media

5 worrying trends for Ireland's environment

Analysis: As COP28 gets underway, researchers have identified 5 key issues which paint a picture of the threats facing our environment

By Brian Ó GallachóirPaul Deane and Paul BolgerUCC

Over the next two weeks, the world’s nations will gather in Dubai for COP28. The main aim is to reach an agreement is to limit global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius.

COP stands for "Conference of the Parties," with the word "parties" referring to the nearly 200 countries that agreed to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992. These nations have been meeting every year since 1995 and this marks the 28th time they have met.

While this global debate occurs it is useful to also think in an Irish context. We have over 500 researchers engaged on sustainability at UCC and we reached out to them to ask what is the worrying trend for Ireland you think the public needs to know.

We received a huge volume of responses and the passion was evident as our researchers just like you worry about the future of our planet, and want to do something about it. Our researchers identified these five worrying trends for Ireland’s environment:

2 – two weather records have been broken in 2023 in Ireland, warmest June and wettest July on record.

85% - Ireland has one of the most fossil fuel dependent economies in Europe with fossil fuels meeting more than 85% of our energy needs.

€1 million - Ireland spent €1 million per hour on oil and gas alone in 2022.

63% - 63% of Ireland’s bird species are in decline.

½ - More than half of Ireland’s native plants are in decline.

These figures paint a picture in the graphic of where we stand as a nation. It is important however that we don’t lose hope and critical that we keep the environment an issue on in the public mind on the doorsteps for our forthcoming general election in 2024.

Mary Robinson recently stated that we are on the cusp of clean energy, and a healthier, safer, climate-safe world that is far fairer. "It is a moment in human history we have never had before. We have to be positive about the fact. All we have to do is go faster into clean", she said at UCC's first Sustainable Futures Forum.

Through our practice, teaching and research, we will continue to keep a focus on this issue as we believe it is incumbent on universities to do so. Although COP28 has come under criticism for being held in Dubai and chaired by the CEO of a major oil company, UCC is nonetheless sending a delegation as we believe these are reasons that it is more important than even that independent observers are present to engage, undertake research on the process, and report back.

As the first Irish university to become an observer member of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, we feel it’s important to observe the COP deliberations, to critically assess what emerges and to report back both on the discussions and outcomes. It also provides a timely opportunity to highlight significant challenges Ireland faces.

Prof Brian Ó Gallachóir is Director of MaREI Centre for Marine and Renewable Energy (MaREI) and Associate Vice President of Sustainability at UCCDr Paul Deane is Senior Lecturer in Clean Energy Futures at MaREI and the Environmental Research Institute (ERI) at UCCDr Paul Bolger is manager of the ERI at UCC.