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Monday 22 April 2019

Climate strikes: If you aren't outraged too, you're not paying attention

Clodagh Daly
Clodagh Daly

If it seems frivolous that children are taking to the streets on Fridays, instead of staying in school, let's consider what is at stake.

Just last week, the European Commission found that Ireland's climate action falls far short of what is needed. In 2018, Ireland was ranked worst in the EU on climate action performance - for the second year in a row. We have the third highest level of carbon emissions per capita in the EU. We stand to face fines of €600m per year from the EU, and responding to the shocks of climate change could cost us further billions.

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The last time there was this much CO2 in the atmosphere, sea levels were 80 feet higher than they are today. This is not just about what is economically or politically attractive. This is an emergency. That is why 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg and thousands of students across the world are walking out of school and calling on our leaders to "unite behind the science".

In April last year, The Citizens' Assembly - 99 people ranging in age, background and gender - presented 13 ambitious and considered climate action proposals calling for, among other measures, a higher price on carbon, community owned energy, affordable retrofitted housing, and huge investment in public transport.

Their findings echoed what the Government's own Climate Change Advisory Council has repeatedly affirmed is necessary if Ireland is to meet its legally binding emission-reduction targets.

Fossil fuels

Yet last year, the Department of Communication, Climate Action and the Environment issued an average of one new fossil-fuel exploration licence every month. If we are to breathe life into the Paris agreement, and stay below a 1.5°C temperature increase, this means that 80pc of all known fossil-fuel reserves have to stay in the ground. Continuing to issue new licences for oil and gas drilling is reckless and knowingly contributes to the problem.

It is not only possible that we will create jobs in moving Ireland towards a low-carbon economy - it is inevitable. There are a wealth of jobs to be found in retrofitting and deployment of renewable energy. New projects can be disproportionately invested in economically distressed areas in Ireland, as has been the case in Spain. Finally, farmers should be supported in diversifying their produce, allowing food production to become both sustainable and profitable.

As Greta Thunberg tells us, change is coming, whether we like it or not. If you aren't outraged, you haven't been paying attention. Children are taking to the streets because their lives depend on it - and so do ours. That is why I will be joining them on Friday, and why you should, too.

 

Clodagh Daly is an environmental researcher in UCD, and spokesperson for Climate Case Ireland. Climate Case Ireland is hosting a poster-making evening in Patagonia, 24-26 Exchequer St Dublin, on Wednesday from 6.30pm in advance of the strike. See climatecaseireland.ie

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