Climate strikers in Cork call for end to State’s gas support

Published by Shamim Malekmian on

November 29th, 2019

Teenage climate strikers in Cork brought the city’s traffic to a standstill today, demanding the end of support for proposed gas importation projects in Shannon and Cork.

The rally was part of the global school strike in which hundreds of thousands of students around the world, anxious about their future, took to the streets of their cities to demand climate justice.

Students chanted anti-fracking slogans including “LNG? Don’t you dare Shannon, Cork or anywhere”.

In Cork, the American company NextDecade has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Port of Cork about the possibility of developing LNG infrastructure in the harbour.

Critics of the Shannon LNG project argue that the private project that has the backing of the Government would see Ireland become a key entry point for US fracked gas into the bloc.

The terminal that would import liquefied natural gas – an energy-intensive process in itself – is currently caught up in a court case over a number of environmental and planning concerns.

The Government recently put the project forward for inclusion on the EU’s latest list of priority energy projects that could see it gain access to a large funding pot and a streamlined planning process.

School strike Cork November 2019 Photo: Shamim Malekmian

Aine Vallely, a 13-year-old climate protestor told the crowd of teenage protesters in Cork’s centre that she is tired of hearing empty promises from the Government.

“The Government continues to tell us that they are trying to help, but things like Shannon LNG should not even be considered in Ireland in 2019,” she said.

Ms Vallely said that the Government’s initiative of imposing a ban on fracking in the country had given her hope but “now the discussion of importation of fracked gas raised the question of how serious is the Government about solving the climate crisis”.

“Even celebrities like Mark Ruffalo and Cher have called on our Government to abandon the project,” she continued.

School strike Cork November 2019 Photo: Shamim Malekmian

Speaking to The Green News, Saoi O’Connor, who has spearheaded Irish youth’s climate fight since last year, said that student activists will not allow the Government to import fracked gas from the United Stated, potentially harming communities in the US.

Ms O’Connor said 47 weeks have passed since she first started striking on Fridays and yet she has yet to see “any change from the Government in terms of any concrete action”.

She added, however, that she has witnessed a change in politicians’ approach toward teenage climate activists. “They are scared of us; they do see the power that we have, we will escalate to a point where they have to do something,” she said.

Theresa Rose Sebastian, 15, also said that she attended the rally to fight for the future of Irish students as well as her peers who are living in underdeveloped countries and experiencing the impact of climate change in silence.

“And in this country, our beloved Taoiseach said, that climate change will lead to fewer deaths,” she continued. “Our beloved Government is trying to pass a bill to stop local and national NGOs from bringing [environmental] cases to court.”

Ms O’Connor ended today’s climate rally by stating that she is hopeful that the Irish “generation Z” will compel the State into drastic climate action. “They call us generation Z like we’re the last generation,” she said.

“And I have to say as depressing as that is, I look at [this crowd], and I think if these are the last days of humanity, then by god, they are bright,” she continued.

Last fall, the world’s climate scientists said that to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, we need to cut our fossil fuel consumption to half by 2030 and be net-zero by mid-century.

This spring, the world set another high mark for carbon dioxide production in the atmosphere of 415 parts per million, the highest level in many millions of years.

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Shamim Malekmian

Shamim is a Senior Reporter at The Green News and a contributing writer to the Irish Examiner, Cork Evening Echo and the Dublin Inquirer.