An investment of €233m to fund 12 European environmental and climate projects was announced by the European Commission on 22 February 2024. As part of the EU’s long-term LIFE programme, Ireland is to receive €15.14m of funding to expand and enforce a network of marine protected areas (MPAs) with its waters.

The 12 Europe-wide strategic projects will be working to support the implementation of the EU’s environmental climate ambitions under the European Green deal. For Ireland, its project is targeting marine ecosystems by developing plans to designate at least 30% of its marine territories as MPAs by 2030, aligning with the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030 aims to protect 30% of its seas by 2030. Titled “MPA-LIFE_IRELAND” the MPA network will aim to minimise the impact of human activities on the designated bodies of water, thereby becoming areas where marine ecosystems can prosper.



MPAs to reach a minimum of 30% coverage of the Maritime Area by 2030

In recent years the environmental stress on Ireland’s coastal waters has been on the rapid increase with continued biodiversity and habitat loss, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The continued reported decline in the overall health of Ireland’s marine ecosystem led to a group of environmental NGOs openly criticising the Government in 2023 for failing to publish a bill in 2023 that would see the Government committing to EU’s Biodiversity Strategy of 30% protected by 2030. With the addition of the LIFE funding, the overall aim of the new funding will work to “achieve and maintain Good Environmental Status in Irelands Marine Area by expanding and greatly improve Ireland’s network of MPAs to reach a minimum of 30% coverage of the Maritime Area by 2030, delivering a network of objective-driven, well-managed, monitored and enforced MPAs”.

Maroš Šefčovič, Executive Vice-President for European Green Deal, Interinstitutional Relations and Foresight said:

The LIFE programme is a concrete example where EU funding successfully helps restore our nature and ecosystems and face climate change by cutting emissions and becoming more resilient. With these twelve projects, 10 EU countries will progress on those efforts on the ground and support the implementation of the EU environmental and climate legislation.

Due to start in July 2024 the project’s parties, The Department of House, Local Government and Heritage, the University of Cork, the University of Galway and University College Dublin will be working closely marine Irish marine stakeholders and citizens. The use of participatory Ecosystem-based Management will include co-design, co-production and co-delivery, to establish the network and achieve the project’s goals. The project is to conclude by June 2033.

View the project description on the LIFE Public Database here

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