PJ Cunningham examines Ireland’s all-party response to humanity’s ‘greatest challenge’.
All Ireland’s major parties took a break from fighting tooth and nail for votes in the Euro and local elections to declare, with one voice, a climate and biodiversity emergency.
Ireland is the second country, following the UK, to make such a move. The EU has also put it at the top of its agenda for the next five years.
Ireland’s announcement was welcomed as a major development by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish girl who has galvanised young people across Europe to publicly protest, demanding more urgent action by governments.
She tweeted: “Great news from Ireland! Who is next?”. Ms Thunberg’s comments were supported by environmental groups who suggested the declarations by Britain and Ireland that we are in the midst of a climate emergency could be an important turning point.
— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) May 9, 2019
Ireland’s Climate Action Minister Richard Bruton echoed the widespread sentiment that climate change is the greatest challenge facing humanity.
“Things will deteriorate very rapidly unless we move very swiftly and the window of opportunity to do that is fast closing. It is justified that a level of urgency be injected into this debate,” he said.
The Minister said that an emergency often led people to think that something could be resolved in a short time if there was a sustained effort.
“This is a much more challenging emergency in that we must change our behaviour in profound ways and do so on a sustained basis,” he pointed out.
“We are reaching a tipping point in respect of climate deterioration,” he added.
The united declaration by the major Irish parties came after other opposition parties and the government agreed, without a vote, to a Fianna Fáil amendment to the Oireachtas report of the Climate Change Committee to declare an emergency.
Committee chair Hildegarde Naughton TD called on her own government to fast-track new laws so that action could be taken as soon as possible.
The FF spokesman on the issue, Timmy Dooley, warned that unless emissions are cut significantly in the next decade or so, there will be dire consequences for all.
Biodiversity loss, he said, is “an existential threat” was fundamentally linked to climate change. Deputy Dooley said that if Ireland implemented the committee’s recommendations it would help Ireland get back on track.
At the moment Ireland is far behind introducing measures towards tackling climate change.
Mr Bruton said there is no ‘silver bullet’ on this issue and Ireland could not cease existing explorations for fossil fuels. But, he said, there is a commitment to lower the level of dependence on those fossil fuels from 70 per cent to 30 per cent by 2030.
The challenge ahead, he said, is to get change in every home, farm, enterprise, travel, building and power system.
“We have to get buy-in from the community,” he said.
Green Party TD Catherine Martin said young will be most affected by today’s political leaders’ ‘short-sightedness’.
There is little or no value in just declaring a climate emergency and then not doing anything about it, she said.
Sinn Féin said Ireland now has an opportunity to create a more sustainable economy for all.
Brid Smith of Solidarity/People Before Profit, called On Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to support her own Climate Emergency Bill next month which seeks to cap oil and gas exploration.
Cliona Sharkey of the Stop Climate Chaos group said there is now a clear message from the Dáil that if the Irish government is serious it needs to incorporate the 41 recommendations of this plan into its own policy and implement them.
The Dáil also accepted an amendment for a Citizen’s Assembly to consider a biodiversity emergency and how best to respond to such a loss.