Citizens’ Assembly on Climate Change set to kick off this weekend

Published by Lia Flattery on

September 27th, 2017

The Citizens’ Assembly will hold its first meeting to discuss how the State can make Ireland a leader in tackling climate change this weekend.

The Assembly, which was established in 2016, is comprised of 99 randomly selected Irish citizens who consult and make recommendations to Government on key issues in Irish society.

This weekend, Assembly members will consider submissions from the public, hear presentations from experts, and partake in debates and roundtable discussions on the matter of climate change.

The second weekend of deliberation will take place in early November, to allow full consideration of the issue of climate change, according to Assembly Chairperson, Supreme Court Judge Mary Laffoy

Following the November meeting, the Assembly will vote on recommendations for Government. The Government must then provide a response to each recommendation. If it accepts a recommendation, it will provide a time frame for the holding of any related referendum.

Members of the public, representative groups and citizen organisations were asked to make submissions to the Assembly over the summer on the issue of climate change.

The Assembly received almost 1,200 submissions from the public, as well as environmental and civil society coalitions, farming groups and politicians by the August deadline.

Welcome News

Environmental organisations across Ireland have welcomed the Assembly’s focus on climate change and called for the opportunity to be used to push for concrete action from our leaders.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said in August that the Assembly could bring communities and the State together in taking necessary climate action and start a “new national dialogue” on how Ireland tackles climate change.

The Environmental Pillar, Ireland’s leading environmental coalition, 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”.

According to Jerry Mac Evilly of Stop Climate Chaos, a coalition of civil society organisations campaigning against climate change, the Assembly offers “a historic opportunity for Irish action on climate change”.

“We hope the Assembly will now shake up Ireland’s action on climate change and drive a transition to provide benefits for communities and businesses across the country,” he added.
Dr. Cara Augustenborg, spokesperson for Stop Climate Chaos member group, Friends of the Earth, said that the Assembly has the opportunity to ensure that the Government “takes positive action on this crisis”.

She praised the public consultation process for bringing in “a great selection of positive ideas” on how Ireland can respond to climate change and said that the “innovative approach” of the Assembly will be closely watched around the world.

Ireland and Climate Change

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.

According to the survey, 95 per cent of Irish respondents also said that they take personal action to tackle climate change, above the EU average of 90 per cent.

Nearly all Irish respondents thought that it was important that the government sets targets to increase the amount of renewable energy used by 2030 (96 per cent) and provide support for improving energy efficiency by 2030 (95 per cent).

While the Citizens’ Assembly has been welcomed as a positive development, Ireland has long been criticised for inaction on climate change.

Ireland is the third highest producer of emissions per person in the EU, with polluting emissions increasing by 3.7 per cent in 2015.

The county is also one of only five EU Member States set to miss their 2020 emission reduction targets.

In July, the Government’s National Mitigation Plan on climate change was met with strong opposition from environmental NGOs, aid agencies and civil society groups.

Professor John Fitzgerald, Chair of the Climate Change Advisory Council, said that the plan lacked a “framework for policy prioritisation” and that Ireland would not achieve its national transition objective for decarbonisation by 2050 without additional policy action.

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Lia Flattery

Lía is a former writer and Deputy Editor at Trinity News. She also has a BA in History and English Literature from Trinity College Dublin.