Issues of wind turbines, pylons, fracking, energy security and zero carbon generate energetic debate

 

Over 1,200 submissions have been received by the Government in response to its call for submissions on its Green Paper on Energy in Ireland. One of these submissions was compiled by Transition Ireland. The submission calls for a National Energy Transition Plan bringing together all sectors to create one shared vision for Ireland’s energy.

 

The large number of submissions received on the Energy Policy Green Paper reflects the fact that many groups and individuals realise that we are at what Minister for Energy, Alex White TD described as an “energy crossroads”.  It is generally accepted that we have to significantly reduce our reliance on imported coal, oil and gas, while becoming much more energy efficient and further increasing our output of renewable energy. Furthermore every country needs to move to a zero carbon or carbon neutral as soon as possible in order to meet our commitments to addressing climate change. Carbon neutrality, or having a net zero carbon footprint, is about achieving net zero carbon emissions by balancing the amount of carbon released with an equivalent amount of carbon that is sequestered or captured.

 As well at the issues of wind turbines and pylons the controversial issue of possible fracking (hydraulic fracturing) in the border counties has emerged. Fracking is the process of drilling and injecting fluid into the ground at a high pressure in order to fracture shale rocks to release natural gas inside.  The issue of energy security has also come to the fore with the recent political and military developments in Ukraine and Russia which have highlighted Europe’s over-dependence on natural gas that is being imported by pipeline from Russia.  

The Transition movement has evolved to build community resilience to better prepare our communities for the inevitable environmental, societal, political and economic shocks that climate change and resource depletion are causing and will continue to cause. The aim of any transition initiative is to foster and strengthen its communityʼs resilience in light of these challenges. In this context the Transition movement has, in various countries, been involved in policy work and practical projects. A recent example has been the publication of an Energy Descent Action Plan for Co Kerry by the Transition Kerry initiative. In it the target is set out to have 100% renewable energy in Co Kerry by 2030.

 

The Transition submission on the Green Paper outlines some key elements to its proposal for a National Energy Transition Plan for Ireland. These  include  raising awareness, creating a shared vision, designing pathways for that vision and some definite proposals. The submission was co-ordinated by Theresa Carter. Theresa is passionate about sustainability and has undertaken a range of transition initiatives at national level and locally in Co Laois. The following are some of the key points in the submission.

 

Raising awareness and creating a shared vision

It is paramount that everybody has an understanding of the basic factors underpinning our national energy plans: climate change and energy security for all. There must be informed debates, discussions and conversation about all considerations for this national policy. The Aarhus Convention states that we all have a right to information relevant to our environment. The Irish Government needs to play an active role in providing impartial, factual information on all aspects of energy plans, policies and projects to its citizens at the preplanning stage.

 

Transition Ireland is calling for facilitated conversations in every town so that all considerations for national energy policy can be explored. Climate change and our over dependence on imported energy must be presented and discussed so that the challenges are understood and the solutions can be nurtured. Transition calls on the Government to set up a national public participation working group on energy policy, that can ensure public participation is given the consideration it deserves and ensure compliance with the Aarhus convention.

 

Targets and proposals

Once a vision has been created, a timeline of targets must be agreed. These need to be in line with our targets as part of the EU. However locally the targets will probably be higher as communities engage with the shared vision for a more sustainable economy and

 

Energy security is a massive threat to western society but the greatest known threat to humanity and life on earth in general, is climate change. Transition Ireland and Northern Ireland want to see:

  • Remaining reserves of fossil fuel left in the ground
  • Greater emphasis and work on carbon sequestration
  • Radical acceleration of energy conservation and storage
  • Community energy addressed and supported in line with Friends of the Earth

Community Energy Policy Position Paper

  • No further discussions or intent to license fossil fuel exploration including fracking.

 

Next steps

According to the Department of Energy, the written public consultation will be followed by detailed analysis by officials in advance of further public engagement at various events commencing this October. Drafting of the White Paper will then begin with a view to publication in mid-2015. The Department says that the new Energy Policy Framework will be “timely, in that it will be guided by Ireland’s input to the EU’s 2030 Framework for Climate and Energy policies and the preparations for the UN’s COP21 in Paris (the 21st Conference of the Parties within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) in November next year”. We await to see the extent to which the Government will take on board the suggestions put forward in submissions such as that of Transition Ireland.

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