LETTER: Must take personal responsibility for our CO2 emissions

December 16th, 2017 5:08 PM

By Southern Star Team

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SIR – The report in The Southern Star of comments by the chairman of IWFA (Meitheal na Gaoithe) contains some startling assertions, not least its equating of wind energy generation to CO2 emission reduction (

It is a savage indictment of existing Irish policies and practices that the 2018 Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) ranks Ireland 49th out of 56 countries, a drop of 28 places from last year. As a nation we have accepted the need articulated by the IPCC panel of experts that we must cut anthropogenic CO2 emissions to avoid devastating the planet by temperature induced climate change.

Anthropogenic means that which is caused by human activity. The calculus is plain; the totality of CO2 emissions is the product of the CO2 emission intensity of each activity multiplied by the number of people partaking of that activity. 

People of course are you and me. We have the option to curb our CO2 emissions. It's called taking personal responsibility.

This demands sacrifices by each and every one of us, and the question is whether we are prepared to make these in the interests of the collective sustainability of the planet.  Some examples, however unpalatable, include:

  • Smaller families reducing the amount of human activity;
  • Cooking with local produce to reduce transport emissions;
  • Holidays at home to avoid aircraft emissions on foreign holidays;
  • Ceasing the use of smart phones and tablets (data centre emissions).

The rise of Irish CO2 emissions by 3.5 percent over the past year have been attributed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to increased activity in the dairy and energy industries and the transport sector. This is a direct consequence of the Irish CO2 mitigation strategy to date of focussing all effort into increasing wind generation and largely ignoring all other factors.

It is the easy option, as developers will build wind farms provided they make enough profit. The profit is guaranteed by the Renewable Energy Feed-In Tariff (REFIT) which subsidises the wind farm for a 15 year contract paid out of the PSO Levy on each electricity bill. But electricity generation (the energy industry) only accounts for 19.6 per cent of our CO2 emissions.

Even if all Irish electricity was to be generated by wind farms, we still have to tackle the remaining 80 per cent of CO2 emissions from other human activities. And that does not take into account that the wind does not always blow, and when it does it may not coincide with electricity demand.

We must take personal responsibility, and we must do so right now. The alternative is to pass the legacy of unsustainable living to the next generation.  The issue is too important to allow it to be trivialised by nuclear and big oil conspiracy theories, or subsidy-milking commercial entities.

Yours sincerely,

Nigel de Haas,




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