Government proposals on climate action must be ‘inclusive’

Environmental coalition calls for extra effort to involve rural and underrepresented people

‘The Government needs to take radical action so that people in Ireland can easily live in a way that’s good for their health and the health of the planet.’ File photograph: Getty

‘The Government needs to take radical action so that people in Ireland can easily live in a way that’s good for their health and the health of the planet.’ File photograph: Getty

 

Public consultation by the Government on proposed climate actions must go beyond focussing on individual behaviour change and feature more systemic social change and enable genuine dialogue, according to an environmental coalition.

Stop Climate Chaos (SCC) welcomed the opening of public consultation on the new 2021 Climate Action Plan being drawn up over coming months including measures in the revised Climate Action Bill published on Tuesday – notably its recognition “the voices of ordinary people must be at the centre of climate action”.

It encouraged members of the public to participate. To aid this process, SCC is to host a series free webinars “to explore actions Ireland can take to reduce its polluting emissions urgently, in a way that is fair, leaves no one behind and creates a better Ireland for all of us who live here”.

Theresa O’Donohoe of An Taisce said “it has been four years since the last formal opportunity for the public to contribute to the shaping of climate policy in Ireland . . . extra effort must go into engaging everybody in rural Ireland and underrepresented communities in order to facilitate their inclusion in the decision making process.”

For many households, reducing emissions and living sustainably is not an easy or affordable choice, said Áine O’ Gorman of SCC.

“The Government needs to take radical action so that people in Ireland can easily live in a way that’s good for their health and the health of the planet. This consultation is an opportunity for people to tell the Government what they need them to do,” she added.

Among the issues likely to be included, she believes, are ending reliance on fossil fuels and increasing public transport in rural Ireland.

SCC expressed concern, however, about the short duration – consultation is open for eight weeks until May 18th. “It is challenging to support people to participate meaningfully in such a short time. [We] have particular concerns that if youth, rural and underrepresented communities are not meaningfully engaged with, critical time will be lost getting buy-in from these communities for ambitious climate action and may result in legal battles.”

Valery Molay from the National Youth Council of Ireland said young people would bear the brunt of climate effects over the coming years. “It is essential they are equal partners in this consultation . . . and are involved in all processes related to this issue.”

She is concerned that not all young people who wish to be involved will be able to participate given some of the age and consultation restrictions. “For those young people who have the opportunity to, we would actively encourage them to engage with this consultation.”

Energy sector

The SCC webinar series to support engagement with the consultation will cover topics such as the rural economy and climate action, making retrofitting accessible to all, tackling fuel poverty, just transition for all workers, greening the energy sector and pollution and public health – details are available at www.stopclimatechaos.ieConsultation on the Bill being hosted by the Department of Climate and Communications has two elements: one for the general public and another for experts and business.

Meanwhile, Jerry MacEvilly, policy adviser for Friends of the Earth, has called on the Government to respect their commitment in February to give statutory effect to ending new licences for exploration and extraction of fossil gas.

He noted this had not yet been addressed in the Bill as promised. “But it is welcome that the Government has confirmed that this will be provided for later in the legislative process.”

He said Minister for Climate Eamon Ryan had promised to bring forward a policy statement within six weeks to ban fracked gas imports. The Government should also take the opportunity at committee stage to give certainty, taking into account recent legal analysis of trade rules, and address the Oireachtas recommendation to consider using the Climate Bill to “ban the importation of fracked gas and specifically to ban LNG terminals in Ireland”.