August 15th, 2017
The Citizens’ Assembly has received over 1,200 submissions from the public, as well as environmental and civil society coalitions, farming groups and politicians ahead of its session on tackling climate change.
Submission for the topic – ‘How the State can make Ireland a leader in tackling climate change’ – surged in the days before the August 11th deadline. The total number of submissions will be available once all the submissions have been published on the Assembly’s website.
The Assembly, which is comprised of 99 randomly selected Irish citizens, was formed in 2016 to consult and make recommendations to government on key issues in Irish society.
Climate change is the third topic that the Assembly has been tasked with considering. Previously, it has deliberated on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution and how Ireland could best respond to the challenges and opportunities of an ageing population.
Members of the public, representative groups and citizen organisations were invited to make submissions to the Assembly on all matters relating to climate change, particularly on the topics of Ireland’s energy, transport and agriculture sectors.
The Assembly will now meet over two weekends at the end of September and start of November to consider the submissions, hear presentations from experts and civil society groups and vote on recommendations for the Government. The Government must provide a response to each recommendation of the Assembly. If it accepts a recommendation, it will provide a time frame for the holding of any related referendum.
In July, Chairperson of the Assembly, Supreme Court Judge Mary Laffoy, recommended that the Assembly meet for an additional weekend to allow full consideration of the issue of climate change.
According to the Assembly: “The submissions play a key role in helping develop the work programme on the topic and a summary will be prepared for the Members of the Assembly in advance of the September meeting.”
Prominent organisations within the Irish environmental sector made submissions, as well as many individual citizens. While the submissions offer a wide range of opinions on actions that Ireland could take to tackle climate change, most conform to a broad consensus that urgent action must be taken.
The Environmental Pillar, a coalition of 26 national environmental organisations, said in its submission that the Assembly must call for a referendum to give a constitutional right to environmental protection to the people of Ireland. The Pillar said that the Assembly offered “a unique moment for the people of Ireland to decide the basis for a framework that reflects the significance of climate change and its impacts”.
Stop Climate Chaos, a coalition of 33 organisations, also made a joint submission with the Environmental Pillar recommending eighteen actions on climate change in Ireland that would “bring the years of inaction to an end, move Ireland to the level of most of our EU partners, and take a leadership role in certain areas”.
Actions include setting an end date for peat burning and coal-fired electricity generation, putting concrete support in place for small-scale community renewable projects, and providing significant funding for deep retrofitting of Ireland’s housing stock.
Thomas Pringle TD, who put forward the Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill 2016, said in his submission that the government should divest public funds from the fossil fuel industry. “I believe divesting public money from fossil fuel companies as part of the wider global fossil fuel divestment movement would help shape Ireland as a leader in climate action,” he said.