Climate issues are in the air at special ‘speed dates’ with politicians

No lack of passion as 91 TDs meet constituents in Dublin to discuss climate concerns

Maire Breathnach from Mayo makes a point to Minister for Transport Shane Ross at a public meeting held by environmental group Stop Climate Chaos  in Dublin on Wednesday.  Photograph: Dave Meehan for The Irish Times

Maire Breathnach from Mayo makes a point to Minister for Transport Shane Ross at a public meeting held by environmental group Stop Climate Chaos in Dublin on Wednesday. Photograph: Dave Meehan for The Irish Times

 

A speed date with your local TD on the issue of climate change might not seem like a potentially romantic engagement. But lack of passion was not an issue when more than 350 voters from around the country availed of the opportunity at Buswells Hotel in Dublin on Wednesday.

A total of 91 TDs, including five Ministers, booked time slots throughout the day, while some sessions added up as a group affair as up to 10 constituents arrived to interrogate their representative in Leinster House.

“This is a wonderful exercise. These are real people, and they come in great numbers,” said Oisín Coghlan of the Stop Climate Chaos (SCC) coalition, which hosted the event.

Constituents could raise any climate concerns, but SCC advised any climate action sought should be scientifically based, be aligned to the Paris Agreement on climate change, envisage a world where global temperatures are not allowed to rise beyond 1.5 degrees this century and should ensure “a just transition” for those detrimentally affected by decarbonisation.

When first staged two years ago, the issues were supporting microgeneration, fossil fuel divestment and cycling infrastructure, Mr Coghlan said. Politicians had made progress on these fronts since, though “transport is not a success story yet”.

Carbon budgets

Politicians were being asked to support five-year carbon budgets setting out how much carbon Ireland will emit, and to ensure Government policies and plans are subjected to climate impact assessment.

There was big debate about the economics of climate change; how do you do it and take people with you in a fair way

Dún Laoghaire constituents engaged People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett in intense discussion, which underlined to him the essential need “to take climate change measures at a local level”. The need for improved cycle ways, better public transport and more bus lanes was made clear, while those present were “very climate aware”.

“There was big debate about the economics of climate change; how do you do it and take people with you in a fair way,” he said.

Having met Dublin West voters, Labour’s Joan Burton said it was “a meaningful exercise”.

She highlighted the case for retrofitting houses, especially for older people, and addressing diesel emissions in cities by quickly converting public transport fleets to carbon-neutral vehicles.

LNG plant

William Hederman of Futureproof Clare was waiting to meet local Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley, the party’s spokesman on climate action and environment, to press the case against a large liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant due to be built in the Shannon estuary.

He said if Ireland was to decarbonise there should be no place for Shannon LNG as it would use fracked gas transported from the US when there is a national policy against fracking.

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy and Minister for Transport Shane Ross went to bat for the Government, while Ministers of State Mary Mitchell O’Connor, Sean Kyne and Andrew Doyle fought a rearguard action.

Former minister for climate action Denis Naughten was the first dater of the day, while Climate Action Committee chairwoman Hildegarde Naughton dropped in to meet a Galway contingent during the late morning.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan believed people were up for efforts to tackle climate change in a meaningful way, and were “genuinely worried” about the threat it poses.