Environmental Protection in our Constitution?

the citizen assemblyThe Citizens’ Assembly must call for a referendum to give a constitutional right to environmental protection to the people of Ireland, says the country’s leading environmental coalition. The Environmental Pillar – a coalition of 26 national environmental organisations – outlined its view in a submission for the Assembly’s upcoming session on ‘How the State can make Ireland a leader in tackling climate change.’

 environmental pillarAccording to the Environmental Pillar the Citizen’s Assembly now has an unparalleled opportunity to use its unique position to propose amendments to the constitution and fill the gap left by Government inaction on climate change. The statement from the Groups says that giving the people the constitutionally protected right to live in a healthy environment would encourage politicians to take real long-term actions and ensure that those actions are not diluted with the change of guard at Dáil Éireann every five years. They claim that a constitutional amendment “is the only way to ensure we drop our embarrassing moniker of climate laggard and move up the international leaderboard.”

A number of spokespeople for the Environmental Pillar have indicated their backing for the call for a referendum. Donna Mullen, spokesperson for the Environmental Pillar, and a former cardiac physiologist for 25 years said: “This constitutional approach will yield benefits to our economy, society, and most importantly, health. Already 1,200 people are dying prematurely from air pollution in Ireland each year, with over 150,000 deaths across the globe already attributed to climate change every year.

John sweeny
John Sweeney, NUI Maynooth

John Sweeney, Emeritus Professor at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth and a spokesperson for the Environmental Pillar added his voice: “Every Irish government since 1990 has endorsed the findings of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on the serious implications of climate change. Yet the State has failed to deliver a meaningful response. This shift is needed now more than ever. Without action today, Ireland will soon suffer the impacts of climate change such as increased flooding, sea level rise, increased storm intensity, and summer drought.”

Attracta Uí Bhroin, Facilitator of the Environmental Law Implementation Group at the Irish Environmental Network also voiced her support: “Yes, there are some specific climate actions across key sectors which are needed, but the task before us as a nation with our assembly of citizens calls for a paradigm shift in Ireland’s approach to climate change. Let’s use tools which have proven themselves as effective mechanisms to guide our courts and our legislature across many issues – let’s use the Constitution to set the bar for environmental protection essential to climate action.”

On the weekends of 30th September & 4th November, the Citizens’ Assembly will deliberate on the topic of ‘How the State can make Ireland a leader in tackling climate change’. The Assembly’s recent call for submissions from the public on the climate issue closed on Friday last. The submissions can be viewed www.citizensassembly.ie

Events on in August and September can be found here

One comment

  1. Good to see a national discussion being encouraged on the issue of climate change, but I can’t help feel it’s a case of “kicking the can down the road”: The government knows well tough decisions need to be made, and there is enough scientific knowledge and advice out there to guide those decisions, but this is a way to delay making them. It’s also a way to delay angering various interest groups who will be forced to change how they do things to tackle this issue. Climate change is already causing problems upon Ireland, and the floods that just ravaged Donegal are likely just the start by the natural disasters to come. And it’s not just climate change that needs to be addressed: floods and mudslides also result from how the land has been treated: overgrazing, upland burning and deforestation is also to blame. I think we need to look at climate change and the environment together, and not delay any further in taking on these challenges.

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