The Environmental Protection Agency has said that the outlook for Ireland's environment is not optimistic, unless the implementation of solutions across all sectors of society is accelerated.

EPA Director General Laura Burke said now is the time for an overarching environmental policy position providing a national vision, and that a decade of action is needed to put things right. 

Speaking to RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Ms Burke said that there is an issue with compliance and although Ireland is good at signing up to directives, the aspiration does not really meet the reality.

"We need to speed up, we need to scale up and we actually need to deliver," she said.

The key message in the EPA's 'State of the Environment Report’ is that the overall quality of Ireland's environment is not what it should be, and the country needs to rapidly implement solutions to a range enduring and systemic challenges. 

It highlights that 90% of Ireland’s energy is still being generated from fossil fuels; air quality in some urban areas does not meet World Health Organization standards; 85% of Ireland’s EU-listed habitats are in an unfavourable condition; raw sewage is being discharged to water from 35 towns and villages; and there are only have 20 pristine river waters left, compared with over 500 in the 1980s. 

Ms Burke said that an investment in the environment is also an investment in people’s health. 

She is calling for a new overarching national Environmental Policy Position on our ambition to protect the Environment and on commitment to live up to the image of a clean green Island. 

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Ms Burke said a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions last year was a really important first step, but cautioned that this is just one year.

She pointed out that Moneypoint power plant in Co Clare was not burning coal last year while a warmer winter meant we did not heat our homes as much as usual.

Ms Burke said alternative jobs need to be found to replace those that have become redundant in plants like Moneypoint.

This, she said, will involve significant investment in green jobs.