THE climate change emergency was firmly back on the map this week with the Minister responsible for taking action to mitigate its effects, Richard Bruton, attempting to ‘sell’ his All-of-Government Climate Action Plan to farmers and others attending the National Ploughing Championships in Carlow. He led a discussion on the recently-published plan on Wednesday, encouraging buy-in to it ‘to ensure that our homes, our enterprises, our farms and our communities will be resilient in a very challenging and fast-paced world.’
He made a very pertinent point that, while agriculture is Ireland’s largest single source of greenhouse gas, it is also Ireland’s single greatest carbon sink – although the latter has been disputed by An Taisce. The discussion centred on how new farming methods and new opportunities in the bio economy ‘can strengthen the resilience and sustainability of our land use.’
Practical measures are the way to go and, in fairness to the agricultural community, its members acknowledge and are prepared to play their part in the cutting back, with a view to their eventual elimination, of practices that are harmful to the environment, otherwise their farms won’t be sustainable to pass on to the next generation. Every generation wants to pass on what they have inherited to the next one in a better condition than they received it, but there is a new definition emerging of what ‘better’ is and it revolves around sustainability.
Such engagement by Minister Bruton, cajoling people to do the right thing, and illustrating to them the tangible long-term benefits of doing so, is the way to go. People need to be encouraged along the path to sustainability and not hectored and intimidated as if they are criminals of some sort.
The more overt wing of those campaigning for radical and systemic action on the climate crisis were due back on the streets of towns and cities around the country on Friday. Just back at school after their summer holidays, young students, outraged that the government is not taking the vital steps necessary to limit the effects of climate change and who say that this inaction will greatly impact the lives of future generations to come, were skipping school to forcefully make their views known, inspired by the actions of Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg and her #FridaysForFuture movement.
In New York next week, Greta will be addressing heads of government from around the world – including our Taoiseach Leo Varadkar – at a UN Climate Action Summit. While all of them will be flying there and back, the 16-year-old Swede has made the journey across the Atlantic by an emissions-free yacht to set a good example as she prepares to tells the leaders: ‘It's an emergency, act like it!’
As well as inspiring students to take to the streets to highlight the climate emergency, Greta wants adults on board too, saying ‘We need everyone, to change everything.’ The first international School Strike for Climate in March saw 1.6 million young people take to the streets worldwide, including 15,000 here in Ireland, and a similar response was expected on Friday.
It comes against the background of the publication of a disturbing new in the journal ‘’ that summers in Europe are much hotter than they used to be and winters aren't nearly as cold as they once were. And, more alarmingly, that the continent is warming much faster than climate models had once projected.
Stop Climate Chaos Coalition co-ordinator, Oisín Coghlan, has accused the government here of hypocrisy, saying that the Dáil declared a Climate and Biodiveristy Emergency in May, but as yet is not acting like it: ‘Just days later they issued new licences to Exxon and the Chinese to search for more oil and gas in Irish waters.’
And, months later, they still haven't sat down with the trade unions to discuss the plight of the workers in the midlands who are facing ‘a disorderly exit’ from the peat industry, because ‘for 20 years, Irish politicians have refused to plan for a Just Transition away for fossil fuels.’
There is still a lot of talk going on about what can be done to reduce out greenhouse gas emissions, but actions speak louder and, in this regard, every individual should look at his/her own carbon footprint and see what actions they can take in mitigation and carry them out as best they can. That would be a start.