A third of adults regard climate change as most pressing environmental challenge

People rank climate change, waste, water quality and pollution as biggest issues – poll

EPA director general Laura Burke said they were ‘pleased to see so many people recognise the importance of our environment as an asset to the country’.

EPA director general Laura Burke said they were ‘pleased to see so many people recognise the importance of our environment as an asset to the country’.

 

Just over a third of adults (37 per cent) regard climate change as the most pressing environmental challenge facing the country, according to an opinion poll on issues of environmental concern commissioned by the EPA.

Overall, 86 per cent of adults recognise the value of the environment to Ireland, while climate change figures in the top three most pressing environmental issues facing Ireland among 61 per cent of 1,009 adults surveyed by Red C last November.

The EPA released the findings on Thursday to coincide with the launch of its EPA Year in Review 2018 report.

Oisín Coghlan, director of Friends of the Earth Ireland said the 37 per cent figure was “surprising given how stark and serious the climate challenge is facing the world – and how far Ireland is behind in addressing the issue”.

That said, he noted people often felt climate change was remote and hard to get a handle on. In contrast, the waste and plastics issue was more tangible; people want to do something about plastics and felt they were being blocked by Government, product manufacturers and retailers, he said.

That attitude, he believed, was summed up by the view, “I hate waste plastics in particular – and it’s someone else’s fault” – 19 per cent of respondents said waste was of most environmental concern.

With climate change, it was more complex, related to one’s own behaviour and “we are all part of the pollution when it comes to climate”, Mr Coghlan added.

EPA director general Laura Burke said they were “pleased to see so many people recognise the importance of our environment as an asset to the country”.

“It is clear to us ...the public, business and broader society have a greater understanding of the link between reduced emissions and a clean environment, and our health, our wellbeing, our economy, our very culture,” she added.

Respondents ranked climate change, waste, water quality and pollution as the biggest environmental challenges facing the country. “The EPA has key roles in addressing each of these challenges and our 2018 review report highlights progress in several areas, such as enforcement, licensing and air quality monitoring.”

Ms Burke said its system of national priority sites for enforcement was driving environmental compliance at licensed industrial and waste facilities. Agri-food and waste sectors accounted for the majority of the 15 sites listed for further enforcement action during 2018.

Two companies were convicted in 2018, five more have cases before the courts and three others are under consideration. A total of 15 prosecution cases were concluded, with fines and costs totalling €229,483.

The EPA was continuing to strengthen the air quality monitoring network, and to provide more comprehensive, localised, online information linked to public health advice. The number of its air monitoring stations increased from 19 to 45. “Our reporting showed that home heating and transport choices directly influence the level of pollution in the air, affecting people’s health and life expectancy.”

On global warming, Ms Burke said: “We experienced an extraordinary year in 2018 where nature reminded us who is in charge; climate change is now with us and it is affecting us all. While Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions decreased slightly in 2017, EPA projections show that, at best, Ireland will only achieve a 1 per cent reduction by 2020 compared to its 20 per cent EU reduction target.”

Meanwhile, the campaign group Extinction Rebellion Ireland (ERB) has announced it is to stage a protest on Sunday next to coincide with World Wildlife Day. Hundreds of people will publicly mourn the loss of tens of thousands of animal species due to human activity with a symbolic memorial service at The Spire, O’Connell Street, Dublin (at 1pm) a spokesman said.