October 1st, 2017
In her opening address yesterday morning, the chair of the Citizens’ Assembly, Ms Justice Mary Laffoy, lauded the public’s engagement in the run-up to this weekend’s discussion on how Ireland can lead on tackling climate change.
She said that the level of citizen engagement has been “unprecedented in an Irish context”, that the quality of the 1,200 submissions was “very impressive” and that they will help “inform the national conversation on climate change”.
And she was equally astute to praise the 99 Assembly members at the Grand Hotel Malahide for their detailed and precise questions to the experts on hand to present the science behind climate change and the impacts we face in the future.
While it was encouraging to watch the excellent presentations of the majority of the experts, what was most impressive was the level of questioning and opinion from a clearly engaged Assembly.
The Assembly members proved themselves astutely capable of very sophisticated analysis of the science and of putting forward very fearful recommendations for the way forward to tackle climate change.
And they certainly took advantage of this major opportunity to send a strong message to the State on behalf of the Irish people that they want the Government to finally start taking real action.
Irish Attitude to Climate Changing
The opinions of the Assembly appear to reflect a wider opinion developing across the Irish populace about the serious nature of climate change and the need to act now.
A new European Union (EU) survey released earlier this month revealed that more than 90 per cent of Irish respondents consider climate change to be a serious issue.
Nearly all Irish respondents said that it was important for the State to set targets to increase levels of renewable energy (96 per cent) and to support energy efficiency by 2030 (95 per cent).
All too often our environmental NGOs are accused of putting words in citizens’ mouths about what they want our government to do to act on climate.
However, the feedback from this weekend makes it clear – the people want genuine leadership from the Government on climate.
They also want better communication of the climate science and genuine joined-up thinking across government bodies.
After listening to the experts, members also said that investment should be stepped up in renewable energy and transport, as well as better engagement with rural communities in the future rollout of renewables.
Members said that ordinary people are noticing climate change at a very basic level in their everyday lives through the likes of changing flowering seasons and bird migration patterns and that the science reinforced what they are seeing.
Clear Message to Government
It is hoped that our politicians will take note that the people are far ahead of them in their thinking and their readiness for action on climate change.
While the Irish citizen has failed in the past to push our politicians to lead on tackling climate change, the message is now clear that the average Irish citizen is clued in on the causes of climate change, the threats to Ireland now and in the future, and importantly, that the buck stops with the Government to lead.
Climate change is going to lead to more extreme weather patterns in Ireland by mid-century and cause headaches for our politicians from the likes of sea-level rise, flooding and drought.
However, if our TDs don’t listen soon, they may also find climate change becoming a problem for them at the ballot box.