General Election: the week for the climate to shine?

Published by Niall Sargent on

February 3rd, 2020

This general election, candidates are confronting a much more climate conscience electorate than it did in 2016. After a year of school strikes, Extinction Rebellion and green waves, our political landscape has changed dramatically in its view toward tackling the climate and biodiversity crisis.

To date, however, it appears that climate has been largely relegated to a footnote in media debates and doorstep discussions. This week, as we gear up for Saturday’s vote, things appear to be heating up with a prime time slot on RTE’s Claire Byrne show this evening billed as the climate debate.

This evening’s debate has most likely come about following pressure on the broadcaster to host a standalone leaders’ debate on climate change raised in a petition that attracted thousands of signatures.

Hopefully, the discussion will run the gamut of climate policy possibilities across a range of sectors and will hopefully strike a more positive and solutions-oriented tone than the leaders’ debates have so far.

For example, when the issue of the sacred suckler cow is inevitably raised, hopefully there will be time for discussion about the positives that can come from a Just Transition that places the family farm front and centre as part of the solution to the climate and biodiversity crisis. Let’s see tonight.

Before the debate at 7PM, a grouping of civil society groups are coming together to host a climate hustings in the capital as the Mansion House opens its doors to youth, farmers, activists, asylum seekers, and people of all stripes to evaluate party stances on climate change.

Organized by Growing Together – a pan-European youth-centered agricultural project – this event will open up a space in which candidates, organizations, and individuals from across the political spectrum can engage in an open conversation on the world’s biggest problem.

RTE election debate

Moderated by Anja Murray of EcoEye and youth activists from Fridays for Future, the event will also take open-floor questions for the candidates regarding agriculture, energy, transport, and climate justice.

Confirmed candidates include the leader of the Green Party Eamon Ryan, Fianna Fail climate spokesperson Jack Chambers, and Eoghan O’Ceannabháin of Solidarity-People Before Profit.  

According to Alex Tone of Growing Together, the hustings will provide young people concerned about the climate crisis with a platform to outline their position on key environmental and climate issues before polling stations on Saturday.

“We hope that the public’s response makes the candidates think long and hard about the kind of elected officials they want, for they will determine if Ireland will be at the forefront of progressive and climate policy,” she added.

Then tomorrow morning, the Rediscovery Centre in Ballymun will host a climate forum with Dublin North West candidates. The event will be moderated by The Irish Times environment editor Kevin O’Sullivan who will press candidates on topics around climate change, biodiversity, the circular economy and the environment.

Members of the public will also have the opportunity to ask their candidates about environmental related questions and to also hear their responses to questions pre-submitted by email.

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Niall Sargent

Niall is the Editor of The Green News. He is a multimedia journalist, with an MA in Investigative Journalism from City University, London