President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins ceremonial planting of a native Irish oak tree to commemorate Ireland’s launch of International year of Plant Health IYPH 2020 in Dublin’s Phoenix Park

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Today President of Ireland Michael D.Higgins planted a Native “Sessile Oak” tree in the Phoenix Park to commemorate Ireland’s launch of International Year of Plant Health 2020.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has chosen the year 2020 to raise awareness on how protecting plant health can help end hunger, reduce poverty, protect the environment, and boost economic development. Plants make up 80 percent of the food we eat, and produce 98 percent of the oxygen we breathe. Yet, they are under constant and increasing threat from pests and diseases. Climate change and human activities are altering ecosystems, reducing biodiversity and creating conditions where pests can thrive. At the same time, international travel and trade has tripled in volume in the last decade and can quickly spread pests and diseases around the world causing great damage to native plants and the environment.

The importance of protecting plants, wildlife and our natural environment has been a constant theme throughout the Presidency of Michael D. Higgins. The President has particularly highlighted the impact of climate change, stating that contemporary society will be “judged by future generations as to whether we averted our gaze from the vulnerabilities of our planet or had the empathy necessary to celebrate our interdependency”.

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine, Andrew Doyle T.D with responsibility for horticulture and forestry, who attended the event stated “Ireland has been a strong supporter of the United Nation’s initiative from the start of this process, and stressed the significance of President Higgins planting our native tree to launch Ireland’s  International Year of Plant Health. The Minister went on to say that the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine will roll out the key messages of the initiative at appropriate events throughout the year, such as Bloom and the National Ploughing Championships.”

Minister Doyle also referred to the recently published new Plant Health and Biosecurity Strategy for Ireland, which supports aims of the initiative and provides a roadmap for protecting our environment, both cultivated and wild.

Following the planting of the native oak tree,  the Minister  concluded that “the International Year of Plant Health 2020 will have significant impacts on the realisation of several of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, as well as the FAO strategic objectives. Ireland has already shown a clear commitment in this regard.”