Young Friends of the Earth and Environmental Pillar’s election debate on the environment sets twitter alight with #GE16Environment

Published by Dave Brooks on

February 18, 2016

In an effort to break the silence on the topics of environment and climate change thus far in the general election campaign, Young Friends of the Earth and The Environmental Pillar hosted a hustings at Wynn’s hotel in Dublin, last night. If achieving trending status on twitter is anything to go by, this was certainly achieved and #GE16Environment finally made it onto the agenda.

The parties that were represented at the debate were Fine Gael (Senator Cáit Keane), Sinn Féin (Lynn Boylan MEP), AAA-PBP (Richard Boyd Barrett TD), Green Party (Eamon Ryan), Fianna Fáil (Mary Fitzpatrick) and Labour (Robert Dowds). The event was chaired by Sylvia Thompson of The Irish Times and was attended by well over 100 people.

On the agenda were the issues of fracking, peat burning for electricity, meeting our climate targets, protecting nature and wildlife, agriculture, job creation in the circular economy, and sustainable rural communities.

Nevertheless, other topics that would have an impact on environmental protection were brought up, such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which would affect EU regulations currently in place to enhance environmental protection.

Discussion of a more sustainable transport sector was called into question given the shortage of funding for cycling infrastructure, and the current dependence of ‘clean’ electric vehicles on fossil fuels.

Throughout the discussion, representatives made proposals of solutions to many issues, such as creating jobs in renewable energy, establishing rainwater harvesting systems in new-builds, and subsidising the retro-fitting of homes, but their commitment to following through on these and the effectiveness of these policies were called into question by members of the audience.

While the level of action from the next government to protect the environment and act on climate change remains to be seen, the candidates’ engagement with these critical issues and the public’s response may be enough to display that there is a strong desire for change.

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Dave Brooks

Dave works as Communication Assistant with the Environmental Pillar. His background is in psychology and he has a masters in Environmental Psychology from the University of Surrey.