Following two weekends of deliberation, the Citizens’ Assembly voted on Sunday last for a radical overhaul in how the Irish State tackles climate change.
The vote in support of 13 recommendations included proposals for a carbon tax, the phasing out of peat subsidies and increased spending on sustainable public transport. Members of the Assembly proposed that farming activities that emit greenhouse gases should not be incentivised while those that store carbon or create renewable energy should be encouraged and supported. Likewise they agreed that electric cars should get greater subsidies while cars that use fossil fuels should have higher taxes on them.
The Citizens’ Assembly heard from various climate and energy specialists. In the EU, Ireland is among the highest emitters per person of damaging greenhouse gases. They were told that, unlike Ireland, Scotland is on target to generate all of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. They also heard that Ireland should also learn from countries like Denmark and Japan – the most energy efficient countries in the world.
The 13 recommendations were prepared following consultation with the Assembly’s Expert Advisory Group and feedback from the 75 Assembly members. Members also voted for the establishment of a new well-funded independent body with a broad range of functions and powers to urgently address climate change. This body would propose ambitious five-year national and sectoral targets for emissions reductions and, importantly, have the power to legally challenge the State if it fails to “live up to its legal obligations relating to climate change
The Stop Climate Chaos coalition described the outcome as “a clarion call for the Government to immediately step up climate action”. Commenting on the outcome, Oisin Coghlan, Director of Friends of the Earth said: “These common-sense, practical recommendations for climate action will not get us from laggard to leader. But they will allow us to catch up with our European neighbours. If implemented by Government they will end nearly a decade of dithering and delay”. Niamh Garvey, Head of Advocacy at Trócaire commented: “Climate change is here, it is now, and it is everywhere. It’s impacting most profoundly on those who have done least to cause it. For the communities that Trócaire works with, the impacts of climate change are already too much.”
Recordings of the presentations on climate change at the Citizens are available at citizensassembly.ie. For a useful report on outcome of the climate change debate at the Assembly see at Greennews.ie.