Public urged to raise climate change with politicians seeking their vote

‘Vocal minority’ leaving politicians ‘running scared’ from issue, World Earth Day event told

Politicians are “running scared” from climate action due to a “vocal minority”, with voters urged to raise climate change with those seeking their vote, a climate change conference has heard.

Those attending the Friends of the Earth conference at the Royal College of Physicians in Dublin heard that the next five years will be “pivotal” in reducing emissions amid upcoming local and European elections as well as the looming general election.

Speaking at the conference to mark World Earth Day, Oisín Coghlan, chief executive of Friends of the Earth, said “the mood has changed” on climate action within the political sphere while there are also fears that the next government and those thereafter could “downgrade” climate action.

“Politicians are running scared from a vocal minority,” he said before urging voters to air their views on climate action.


However, Irish public opinion has not significantly shifted on climate change, according to research conducted by Ireland Thinks for Friends of the Earth and published on Monday.

The poll, involving 1,704 people, found the Irish public still “solidly supportive” of Government policy to cut emissions, despite changes in public sentiment in some parts of Europe.

Mr Coghlan said the 25 per cent saying “the Government is doing too much, too fast, to cut Ireland’s pollution” is one point less than gave that answer last year, so there is no sign of an upsurge in anti-climate action sentiment.

Hannah Daly, professor of sustainability at University College Cork, said disinformation and misinformation are contributing to Ireland’s lack of progress on climate action.

She said unless there is an “urgent course correction”, the State will miss its climate targets while distraction caused by “false solutions” such as nuclear energy is causing “inertia” among politicians and businesses.

Green Party leader and Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan said there has been a “clear change” among politicians in the last few months, at an EU level initially.

He described the stalling of the EU Nature Restoration Law after negotiations had concluded as a “hugely significant and worrying development”.

Speaking to reporters at the conference, Mr Ryan said a politics of “division and fear” is arising across Ireland, one which depicts the green transition as being a problem that must be stopped.

“The local elections are going to be very important, people voting people on to councils who are out to stop the progress in public transport or renewable energy or greening our communities.

“That will be, in my mind, the worst of all worlds and worst of all outcomes but that is a prospect because there are people running on that ticket and we’re running at the other extreme in favour of this green transition,” he said.

Mr Ryan’s keynote address at the conference had been interrupted about halfway through by two pro-Palestinian protesters who asked him to “stop granting exceptions” to US aircraft at Shannon Airport.

“We cannot be allies to Israel and the United States,” the protester shouted.

“We are not allies of Israel or the United States in this – in fact, the opposite, I’d argue. We’d be the first and strongest to condemn what’s happening,” Mr Ryan replied.

Though there is a process for US soldiers in transit, Mr Ryan said the State does not approve the transfer of weapons to anywhere in the Middle East.

Separately, Mr Ryan said locals in Connemara, Co Galway are entitled to raise concerns regarding a large offshore wind farm proposed off the coast, on Sceirde Rocks.

A photomontage showing how the project will look from various onshore locations prompted locals who are “shocked” at the extent of the project to set up a petition, which had over 1,200 signatures as of Monday afternoon.

Mr Ryan said all stakeholders will get an opportunity to make their views known through the planning process, adding that he hopes consultation with locals from developers will help get the project through the planning process.

“I am supportive of the project and of all the offshore projects we have through the planning system and I believe it’s essential we do develop our offshore winds to meet our climate targets,” he said.