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Ireland needs to end apathy to climate change

As we approach 2050, the world has significant challenges that need to be tackled to ensure food and environmental security. With the global population set to increase to 9-12 billion the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation predicts that food production must increase by 70% to meet demand. At the same time increased temperatures, rising sea levels and occurrences of extreme weather events will result in reduced availability of arable land and crop productivity.

Fossil of the day

We need to take action at policy and community level to ensure we adapt and mitigate the impacts of climate change. However, not all countries seem to be on the same page in regards to what commitments should be, this includes Ireland.

At the 20th Conference of Parties (COP 20) in Lima last December, where groundwork for a global climate deal was put in place in advance of the Paris conference, Ireland received the ‘Fossil of the Day’ award for having made no contribution to the Green Climate Fund.

This fund is intended to support adaptation and mitigation efforts in developing countries.  Belgium, Austria and Australia, who also received the ‘Fossil of the Day’ award were shamed into making a contribution. Ireland still has pledged nothing to this fund.

Climate Bill

In early 2015, the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Bill was published by Minister for the Environment, Alan Kelly; three years late, and woefully inadequate. The bill does not include any specific targets with regards to reducing emissions, nor does it include any of the recommendations from the Oireachtas Committee on the Environment.

Mr Kelly said, “In bringing forward this proposed national legislation, Ireland will also contribute – and be seen to contribute – its fair share of mitigation effort.”

The key word here, seen, as this government has no ambition in relation to climate change, and
is happy to do the absolute minimum.

Increasing emissions

With dairy quotas abolished, Ireland is set to increase milk production by 50%. This will significantly increase our Green House Gas (GHG) emissions. A recent lecture hosted by Teagasc looked at Ireland’s agricultural adaptation to climate change, with an emphasis on GHG emissions. The representative explained that Ireland cannot do anything more to lower GHG emissions without reducing production. When challenged on this, the representative explained that in order to increase production to meet future demand, somebody was going to have to increase GHG emissions, so why shouldn’t it be Ireland?

I spoke with Oisin Coghlan, Director of Friends of the Earth Ireland about Ireland’s attitude towards climate change. He explained that agriculture accounts for over 30% of Irish GHG emissions and the Irish government makes the case that agriculture is ‘special’, in that it relates to food availability and the enhancement of human well-being, in an attempt to get agriculture off the hook, meaning that Ireland will have to take less action.

When asked why Ireland lacked ambition when it came to climate action, Coghlan highlighted that the government is unwilling to risk putting itself at a disadvantage economically by taking more than the minimum action required.

The truth is climate change is now a reality, it is not a case of if it will happen, but by how much it will change. It is time that Ireland got to grips with this reality, and engaged constructively in the process that will ultimately impact all of us.

Public pressure over the next few months leading up to the climate conference in Paris in December will be hugely important if we want our leaders to reach a meaningful agreement. Time is indeed running out, the opportunity to ensure a safe future for our planet is still within our grasp, but only just. It is time to stop looking the other way, and get involved in ensuring our own future.

Find out more about getting involved in campaigning for climate justice and a safer future:

National University of Ireland, Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security Society

Adopt a Negotiator Program

Author: Colm Duffy

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