Submission to the Citizens' Assembly The Greening of Ireland

Submission to the Citizens' Assembly

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Summary

I am very pleased that the Citizens’ Assembly will have the opportunity to discuss the State’s response to climate change. I submit here the Labour Party’s recently published position paper The Greening of Ireland which provides a number of key practical actions which if we take now would significantly decrease Ireland’s fossil fuel emissions while allowing our society to transition to a more equitable and green economy. Climate change demands systematic action from all areas of State and climate action needs to get communities, both rural and urban, all involved. We need to mitigate against the worst impacts of climate change while also adapting to a carbon-free world.

The Paris Agreement of December 2015 marked a significant moment at which 196 world leaders signed an accord to work together to limit global temperature rise to below 2C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts for a 1.5C target. We committed along with our EU partners to a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Yet, by 2020 Ireland will only have achieved a 5-6% reduction in emissions, with greenhouse gases from transport and agriculture actually rising. It is now more important than ever that we in Ireland do not shirk from our responsibility on climate leadership. The welcome ambition of the National Mitigation Plan must be met with substantive action and infrastructure to follow through on the government’s commitments.

This submission takes as its starting point the principle that we cannot afford to extract and burn any more fossil fuels including gas, coal, oil and peat. The “Leave it in the Ground” movement successfully banned on land fracking through legislation passed this year, but offshore fracking is just as harmful to the climate. As was set out in the government’s 2015 White Paper, we need to adjust to carbon neutrality in agriculture, and take bold steps towards zero carbon emissions in energy and transport. Ireland has the potential to become a leader on renewable energy, but we need to begin now on transitioning those workers in the fossil fuel industry to renewable energy.

Finally, these adjustments need to made in such a way that includes our communities, and that makes the benefits of renewable energy, public transport, cycling infrastructure, and warmer homes, available to all of our citizens. The State needs to do far more to facilitate the transition to a carbon-free economy and society. The Earth’s climate has been changing rapidly, and its impact can be seen on a local and global level. There is a window of opportunity available to us, which we must act on now with a vision to create a greener, healthier, and more sustainable Ireland.