March 6th, 2019
The Taoiseach has welcomed the involvement of Irish students in next week’s global school climate strike as it is “their future that is in jeopardy”.
Speaking during leaders’ questions in the Dail yesterday, Leo Varadkar said it is positive that young people are going to protest as part of the School Strike for Climate Action on 15 March.
Since December, climate-themed protests led by school students have taken place across the country as part of the global Fridays for Futures movement inspired by 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.
“These are young people who are standing up to adults. They are children, pupils and students telling all of the adults in all parties to get their act together and do more about climate change because it is their future that is in jeopardy,” Mr Varadkar said.
The Taoiseach’s expression of support came in response to a question from Solidarity–People Before Profit’s Paul Murphy TD who asked the Taoiseach if he would listen to students views on climate action.
Mr Murphy commended the Taoiseach’s support of the students strike and said that students should “take it as the green light to walk out next Friday week in protest against climate inaction”.
“I agree [with the Taoiseach] that [climate change] is not a narrow party political issue. However, the system and policies the Taoiseach defends are incompatible with dealing with the issue of climate change,” Mr Murphy said.
Climate activist and author Dr Lorna Gold said that she was encouraged to see students’ concerns being raised in the Dáil and called for concrete action to follow. “We’d like the Taoiseach’s enthusiasm to start to translate into concrete actions,” she said.
“Today a group of students are going to Leinster House to present their demands on climate action to TDs and Senators… and we hope that those urgent demands for climate action will be taken because there’s no time to lose,” she said.
“We would really welcome a statement from the Government now on the planned strikes for the 15th of March so that schools feel comfortable with their participation in the planned rallies in Dublin, Cork, and many other towns throughout the country,” Dr Gold said.
For the second consecutive year, Ireland has been singled out as the worst performing country in Europe in addressing climate change in the Climate Change Performance Index.
The most recent data from the Environmental Protection Agency also indicate that Ireland’s emissions dropped by less than one per cent in 2017, leaving the country well off course to meet its 2020 and 2030 climate targets.
Included in the exchange between the Taoiseach and Deputy Murphy on Tuesday was the matter of free public transport as a way to reduce national emissions.
“If the Government is serious about listening to students, will it give a commitment to invest in properly funded, properly paid and proper conditions for the workers – and free public transport?” Mr Murphy asked the Taoiseach.
Mr Varadkar replied that the government was not going to introduce free public transport. “Many public transport services, particularly at peak times, are already operating at capacity; therefore, making public transport free would not enable any more people to use it,” the Taoiseach added.
By Kayle Crosson
Kayle is a multimedia journalist with an interest in energy and agriculture policy and its interaction with the environment.