February 23rd 2016
It feels like the election campaign has been going on for an age.
But sadly there has been a total lack of coverage of the environment, climate change and sustainability issues.
Last Thursday the Environmental Pillar and Young Friends of the Earth sought to change that by hosting the one and only Environmental Hustings event.
Representatives from all the major parties were there: Mary Fitzpatrick of Fianna Fáil, Eamon Ryan of the Green Party, Richard Boyd Barrett of People before Profit, Lynn Boylan of Sinn Féin, Senator Cáit Keane of Fine Gael, and Robert Dowds of the Labour Party.
Highlights – Here are the Questions and Answers
Question on Fossil Fuels
The new White Paper on Energy sets a goal of a zero-carbon energy system. The International Energy Agency says we will have to leave at least 2/3 of the proven reserves of fossil fuels in the ground to contain climate change. In that context:
Will you ban fracking? Will you end peat-burning for electricity by 2020? When will you end coal-burning in Moneypoint?
Question on Climate Targets
The EPA projections state that Ireland will overshoot our annual EU targets by 2018, at the latest. Even more challenging targets for 2030 will be set by the EU this year. And the new climate law underpins the national policy position of reducing emissions across electricity, buildings and transport by at least 80% by 2050.
Specifically, how do you intend to reach these targets? What mitigation measures will you adopt in the next five years?
Question on Climate impacts of Agriculture
Ireland’s agri-sector accounts for one third of our greenhouse gas emissions but for only 4.7% of Irish jobs. How will you tackle the agri-sector’s disproportionate contribution to climate change?
Do you support the proposed expansion of the national cattle herd? And if yes, how will you achieve the national policy of moving towards carbon neutrality in agriculture and land use?
Question on Nature Protection
Since the economic crash we have seen a massive reduction in support for those working to protect our natural environment with, for example, a 70% cut in funding for the National Parks and Wildlife Service. Also, we have recently seen an attempt to allow hedge-cutting and scrub burning a month earlier into the bird nesting season. More than 15,000 Irish people recently signed a petition opposing this proposed change to the Wildlife Act.
Will you oppose any extension of the cutting and burning season? And will you prioritize the restoration of NPWS funding to at least pre-crisis levels?
Question on Sustainable Rural Communities
Rural towns across Ireland are dying. Poor planning for urban centres, poor public transport links, one off housing, the closing of essential services, and a lack of employment opportunities are contributing to this decline.
How will you ensure the life is kept in our communities across the country in a way that is socially, economically and environmentally sustainable?
Some members of the audience and environmental activists took part in a discussion at the end and gave their reaction to what they heard.