Climate change needs to be an election issue, say An Taisce

Photo, Eoin Campbell, 2015                                                                                                          February 2nd 2016

It is expected that the date of the general election will be announced in the coming days, but the past few weeks have seen political parties laying out their stalls concerning the issues that will be central to their campaigns. An Taisce have released a statement, urging that parties incorporate action that deescalates Climate Change into their general election campaigns. logo_antaisce

The charity, which works to preserve Ireland’s natural and built heritage, sets out seven key areas that must be acted upon to reduce carbon emissions and prevent runaway climate change. They appeal to the electorate to “question canvassers and candidates vigorously”, as well as directly seeking political parties’ policies on the issues.

Investment in sustainable and energy-efficient infrastructure features heavily in the plan, put together by An Taisce’s Climate Change Committee comprising of academics and experts in various fields of sustainability. Considering that the majority of Ireland’s homes fall into the C and D BER (Building Energy Rating) categories, it is no surprise that the plan calls for incentivising or legislating to increase efficiency in both new and retrofitted builds. The plea to vastly increase the share of renewables in electricity generation is vital to cutting CO2 emissions, as is moving away from private, oil-fueled transport. In their comprehensive plans for a low carbon transport system, there is a bid for more responsible planning, as well as investment in public transport.

On communications, they request that the importance of acting upon climate change be more effectively communicated to the public. Indeed, the support of an informed and engaged public is critical to advancing the progressive policies now needed to avert dangerous climate change. Referring to The Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act, which they say falls short of committing Ireland to the appropriate rate of decarbonisation, they appeal for more ambitious legislation in the next session of the Dáil.

Given that current global temperature increase of 1° is disconcertingly close to the goal of not exceeding 1.5 ° laid out in the UN’s COP21 agreement of December 2015, the bottom line of this appeal is to reduce absolute carbon emissions. Spokesperson for An Taisce, John Gibbons said: “As one of the countries with the highest per capita greenhouse gas emissions in the world, we have a responsibility to do our fair share in the transition to a sustainable global society.” However, Enda Kenny and others have repeatedly sought an exemption for the Agricultural sector, Ireland’s most carbon intensive sector accounting for 1/3 of our national emissions. An Taisce addresses this elephant in the climatic room by asking how will mandated cuts in the sector be ensured to meet the EU’s 2020 and 2030 emission reduction targets.

What is clear from these questions is that Ireland currently has very little to show as an integrated carbon reduction strategy. The question “what approach will you take to managing emission reductions fairly across all sectors?” highlights the need for a national conversation regarding how the next government should intervene to stimulate progress on this pressing issue. An Taisce have sparked off this conversation, and it will be spreading to doorsteps around the country in the coming weeks.

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