Climate Bill: Some Success Achieved by Campaigners for a Safe Climate

The Government has decided to introduce some changes to the climate change Bill, which is currently making its way through the Dáil. These amendments are being proposed following extensive debate on the Bill both inside and outside the Oireachtas, as well as following representations from environmental NGOs such as Stop Climate Chaos.

One of these is the inclusion of an explicit statement in the Bill that the Climate Change Advisory Council shall be independent in the performance of its functions. There will also be an amendment to include a specific reference to the principle of climate justice. Climate justice links human rights and development to achieve a human-centred approach, safeguarding the rights of the most vulnerable and sharing the burdens and benefits of climate change and its resolution equitably and fairly.

Oisín Coughlan of Friends of the Earth gave a guarded welcome to the proposed changes but said that they did not go far enough. He said that there is still an absence of a binding 2050 target, and that the Government still won’t commit to having a national climate action plan before 2017, by which stage we are likely to have exceeded our 2020 targets.

 

New Biodiversity Strategy for Northern Ireland

The Strategy which is entitled ‘Valuing Nature was published by Northern Ireland’s Environment Minister,  Mark H Durkan. Its overall objective is to halt biodiversity loss up to 2020 by implementing over 50 high level actions. The actions include:

  • restoring 240 hectares of ancient woodland;
  • delivering grassland conservation training to over 500 landowners; and
  • delivering peatland and wetland habitat restoration around the Lough Neagh basin.

The Strategy is downloadable at www.doeni.gov.uk/natural-policy-biodiversity-strategy-to-2020-2015.pdf.

Climate Justice Conference: More Activists & Collaboration Needed to Meet the Challenge

“It is not necessary for us to go down this path” –  the words of leading US climate activist, Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org when speaking at last week’s climate justice conference in Maynooth. He was referring to our last chance to avoid catastrophic climate change that is already affecting many of the world’s poorest people and which will hit them even harder in the coming decades. Our only hope is to immediately say ‘no’ to fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas and say ‘yes’ to renewables.   Mícheál Callaghan, Liam Murtagh and Chrissie Walker of Transition Monaghan attended the conference along with about 400 other delegates, activists, academics and religious leaders. Mícheál and Liam report on the conference. 

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Liam Murtagh & Mícheál Callaghan at the Climate Justice conference in Maynooth


The conference, which was opened by Mary Robinson, was told that the stakes couldn’t be higher for climate action, as emissions continue to rise and the window for meaningful action closes. As well as the scientific imperative, what came across was the moral and spiritual element to tackling the impending climate crisis . Later this year in Paris, world leaders will gather for a particularly important UN Climate Conference in an attempt to reach a legally binding agreement to cut emissions. This is still far from certain, and there are concerns that the agreement will fall far short of what is needed.  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change IPCC recently stated that emissions will need to be cut by 80% by 2050 and will need to fall to zero shortly after. The UK has a law requiring its emissions be cut in line with climate science, but the Irish Climate Bill currently does not have any emissions targets. Many of the speakers at the Trócaire conference appealed to delegates and to members of the public to demand strong action from our politicians.

One participant at the conference, Phil Kingston of ‘Grandparents For a Safe Earth’ read a ‘letter’ on behalf of future generations – those who do not have a voice at the negotiating table, yet will be most affected by climate change. A particularly poignant line in the poem was ‘until you develop an economy of enough we will not be safe, nor will you.’ It was recognised by Kingston, that the severity of the climate emergency, and the scale of the action required can be frightening and overpowering, such that there is a need to ‘slow down’ and look within ourselves, in an almost meditative manner. (For details about the group see http://www.network23.org/gfase)

Father Séan McDonagh, who has written extensively about the links between theology and care for the earth, noted that we also have the challenge of the onset of the sixth extinction phase in the history of the planet, this being the first caused by humans. He stated that biology tells us that we are part of the living world and that we cannot take our image of being a ‘green’ country for granted. He praised the recent papal encyclical, but said that it must be followed up by discussion and action at parish level.

Bill McKibben of 350.org who is credited with spearheading the increasingly successful ‘Divestment’ movement, spoke about his work and of the need to change the ‘social license’, so that it is no longer acceptable for governments or companies to invest in new fossil fuel projects. He noted how protests in North America have halted a highly controversial oil pipeline across the continent. Reminding us that last month was the 363rd consecutive month with above average global temperatures, his message was that everyone must do their bit and call for strong action.

The conference ended with a rousing message from Director of Policy at Trócaire, Lorna Gold. She called on everyone to go out and tell the story of climate change and to begin acting in their communities and joining in a number of upcoming national campaigning events. Full recordings and information on the conference can be accessed at http://www.trocaire.org/climate-justice-2015. A ‘Climate Justice Activists Toolkit’ is  downloadable from http://www.trocaire.org/activism.

 

Court Ruling on Climate Issue

The day after the conference, a ruling was handed down in the Netherlands, in the ‘Urgenda case’ which means that the Dutch government must cut their emissions by 25% by 2020. A similar case is underway in Belgium, and this will likely encourage similar action elsewhere.

 

From Monaghan to Turkey for Insights into Sustainable Living

Jennifer McAree of Transition Monaghan was one those selected by the Tipperary Energy Agency for a green trip to Bursa in Turkey. The trip took place last month. Here Jennifer reports on the background to the project as well as the trip itself, which she describes as a “brilliant experience”.

turkey

On a Green Trip to Turkey were: (L-R) Alex Hamilton, Tipperary Energy Agency, Trisha Purcell, Drombane Village Group, Cemal Yagci, Turkish representative and guide, Jennifer Mc Aree, Transition Monaghan and David Phelan, RPS.

This exciting programme gave people involved in sustainable community projects the chance to travel to other countries around Europe to experience first-hand what is being done elsewhere and to share ideas. It was the last of several trips facilitated by the Tipperary Energy Agency and   associations from various nations that came on board for this programme. These were Belgium, The Netherlands, Italy, Romania and Turkey. A group of Belgians driving sustainability in their local region came up with this idea originally. Through receiving funding under the EU’s Grundtvig ‘Lifelong Learning Programme’ they could make it happen.

The strides being made in Belgium and The Netherlands regarding energy are especially impressive. For example in Emmen, Holland, there is growing government support for community-led energy projects, as well as strong buy-in from most local citizens. This has allowed the Dutch group to influence plans for 200m high wind turbines and a solar panel park the size of 32 football fields. It’s hard to imagine this happening in Ireland due to the current energy policies and national grid structure.

Our own Tipperary Energy Agency made us stand tall among the Northern European trailblazers due to its enlightened projects. These include guiding the completion of Ireland’s first community owned wind farm at Templederry, Co. Tipperary and working towards making the Aran Islands energy self-sufficient. (See http://www.tea.ie for details). The Italian representatives also brought some innovative ideas to the table, such as an air pollution monitoring scheme using bees, a ‘green labyrinth’ for encouraging growing local food creatively and the ‘3Little Pigs’ project which teaches people how to build straw bale houses.

Turkey is not the first country that springs to mind concerning green initiatives, but there are great projects being led by particular parties. It also has some beautiful protected natural sites like Uludag Mountain National Park and Cumalikizik Village, a 700 year old preserved Ottoman settlement (and UNESCO heritage site), both of which we visited. We travelled to Saitabat Women’s Solidarity Centre, where a presentation was given by the founding lady. It is a stunning building in the heart of the mountains where local women are employed to prepare locally sourced foods. We were served a delicious meal prepared on site which included honey, breads, cheeses and olives. This successful rural development model has been adopted throughout Turkey and beyond.

At the Bursa Energy Efficiency Association we learned how they have been educating citizens about energy sustainability through targeted programmes like ‘Energy Lady’ and ‘Energy Kids’. There were also examples of prototype pilot projects like a passive ‘Green Restaurant’ and impressive designs for solar farms. Beforehand we toured the Bursa Energy Museum, housed in a huge old textiles factory, but were disappointed that a planned trip to Marmarabirlik Olive Agricultural Sales Co-Op has been cancelled, where they will soon produce energy from olive waste. A nice touch was a stop off to see an inspirational man with cerebral palsy who has developed an idea for a solar powered wheelchair which he can use. His creation will eventually be manufactured in large numbers, for which he will gain some financial profit.

Notably, many of the green projects we saw that were rural based had some unwelcome surprises. The Mountain Park was surprisingly littered and the Ottoman Village held heavy traffic and commercial stalls, despite its fragility. The cities have some beguiling sites, but are huge and sprawling (especially Istanbul) with unbelievable traffic. Turkey is still developing in many ways. We may look up to the Dutch and Belgians of this world in sustainability terms, but on meeting the Italians, Turks and Romanians, they give the impression of admiration for the Irish because of agencies like the Tipperary Energy Agency. Overall, the trip was fantastic and a once in a lifetime opportunity. The culture is rich, the food delicious and most people we encountered were lovely. It was great to meet and discuss ideas with such diverse and knowledgeable people from both here and abroad.

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Campaigners show Government have their ‘Heads in the Sand’ on Climate Change

Over 150 people gathered on Sandymount Strand, Dublin on Saturday last to bury their heads in the sand, signifying what the organisers say is the government’s attitude towards climate change. Stop Climate Chaos, the coalition behind the event, says that with just months to go until major global climate talks, the lack of government action on climate change is of serious concern.