Wicklow County Council declares climate emergency

Published by Kayle Crosson on

May 2nd, 2019

Wicklow is the first county in Ireland to declare a climate and biodiversity emergency.

A motion on the issue passed unanimously in Wicklow County Council on Monday evening with a number of local students from the school strike movement present.

The motion also calls on the Council to publish a climate action plan, declare a county-wide biodiversity emergency, and publish an updated biodiversity action plan.

Also included in the motion is a call for the Council and each municipal district to join the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy and to report regularly on action plan progress.

The Council also agreed to acknowledge and support the demands of the school strike movement “driven by the young people and families” in Greystones, Bray, Arklow and Carnew.

Greystones Councillor and ecologist Jennifer Whitmore told The Green News that was delighted” that Wicklow is the first council to take this step. “I hope other councils across the country follow suit,” she added.  

“It’s been very exciting seeing how engaged the young people of Wicklow have been on this, as it is their future that it will impact. It was a good example of democracy in action,” she continued.

The passage of the motion should allow for the Council’s work to be done “through the prism of the climate and biodiversity emergency”, according to the Irish Wildlife Trust’s Pádraic Fogarty.

“When they’re preparing a budget, putting forward development plans, and looking at planning applications – all of these should be geared towards the climate and biodiversity emergency,” added Mr Fogarty, who joined a small crowd of activists outside of the local authority on Monday evening.  

Dr Ciáran Ó’Carroll of Extinction Rebellion Ireland told The Green News that the Council’s move should act as a catalyst for change across all public institutions in Ireland.  

“Now is the time for all levels of government in Ireland to finally show the leadership we desperately need and to declare a climate and ecological emergency across the entire country and to start reversing biodiversity loss and reducing our greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2030,” he said.

Similar declarations have also been made this week in Scotland and Wales, and most recently in Westminster on Wednesday evening following last month’s international week-long Extinction Rebellion action.

Last Sunday, the Minister of Scotland Nicolas Sturgeon declared a climate emergency at the Scottish National Party’s spring conference, promising that Scotland would “lead by example”.

The Walsh administration followed suit with their own declaration last Monday that Welsh rural affairs minister Lesley Griffiths told the BBC will cause a “wave of action”.

Finally, on Wednesday evening MPs in Westminster passed a motion declaring a climate emergency put forward by the British Labour Party.

The motion also calls for the Government to aim for net-zero emissions by 2050, regenerate the UK’s natural environment, and deliver on a “zero waste economy” within the next six months.

The declarations follow protests led by Extinction Rebellion last month, an environmental civil disobedience group that rose to prominence in the UK in November 2018 when thousands blocked bridges and superglued themselves to public buildings.

Last month, the group held a week of International Rebellion which held numerous peaceful civil disobedience events in over 40 countries.

Approximately 1,000 Extinction Rebellion protesters were arrested during the week-long action in the United Kingdom.

Amongst the group’s set of key demands is the official declaration of a climate and ecological emergency by governments around the world.

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Kayle Crosson

Kayle is a multimedia journalist focused on climate and environmental issues and contributes to The Irish Times and The Green News.