Citizens’ Assembly report on Climate Change released this morning

Published by Niall Sargent on

April 18th, 2018

The Stop Climate Chaos coalition has called on the State to take the Citizens’ Assembly recommendations on climate change as seriously as it did its report on the Eight Amendment.

The Assembly’s report on How the State can make Ireland a leader in tackling climate change was published this morning and includes the 13 recommendations put forward by the Assembly.

The recommendations were prepared following consultation with the Assembly’s Expert Advisory Group and feedback from the 75 Assembly members following two weekends of deliberation last year.

Key recommendations include calls for the establishment of a carbon price signal for agricultural emissions, the phasing out of peat subsidies and increased spending on sustainable public transport.

Four ancillary recommendations from the Assembly members were published today for the first time, including calls for a public awareness campaign on the benefits of tackling climate change and steps to reduce plastic packaging.

The new recommendations also include support for agriculture to transition to producing lower-emission foods, and that new builds must have a zero or low carbon footprint to get planning permission.

Stop Climate Chaos, a coalition of civil society NGOs, said this morning that the Government must “respect the mandate” of the Assembly.

Coalition Spokesperson, Oisin Coghlan, called for the immediate formation of a dedicated Oireachtas Committee to show that the Government takes the recommendations “as seriously as it took its report on the Eight Amendment”.

“If implemented, the recommendations for climate action in the Assembly’s report would move Ireland from its current position as a laggard not a leader, as the Taoiseach told the European Parliament in January,” he added.

Citizens’ Assembly recently outlined its support for community-led renewable projects and micro-generation Photo: MAXWELL’S

Key Recommendations

The proposed agricultural carbon price signal could come in the form of a tax on excessive emissions or a subsidy to reward farmers who move to sequester additional carbon on their land.

Echoing the call from the Chair of the Climate Change Advisory Council Professor John Fitzgerald during the final session of the Assembly in November 2017, the Assembly recommended an end to the peat subsidy on a five-year phased basis.

Assembly members want the Government to instead use this money for peatland restoration and retraining industry workers in the transition away from peat extraction.

During the first weekend of deliberations, EPA Director, Laura Burke said that peat harvesting is a “triple negative hit” as extraction and burning releases carbon, while also diminishing our “largest store of carbon”.

The Assembly also recommended a higher carbon tax with revenue to be ring-fenced for the likes of making solar panels more cheaply available, retrofitting homes and putting flood defences in place.

Any increase in taxation would not have to be paid by the 400,000 households currently in receipt of fuel allowance.

The Assembly also voted for the state to enable citizens producing renewable energy through the likes of rooftop solar to sell additional energy back to the grid.

Members also recommended that the State set-up a new well-funded independent body with a broad range of functions and powers to urgently address climate change.

This body would propose ambitious five-year national and sectoral targets for emissions reductions and, importantly, have the power to legally challenge the State if it fails to “live up to its legal obligations relating to climate change”.

The Assembly also voted in favour of a recommendation to review and revise supports for land use diversification, in particular, for planting forests and encouraging organic farming.

The Assembly also agreed that the State should also introduce mandatory measuring and reporting of food waste at every level of the food distribution and supply chain.

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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