How Ireland can play its part in the global fight against climate change

John Reidy's Castleisland

Presentation Secondary School, Castleisland Transition Year student Siobhán Brosnan was invited to Brussels recently to meet local MEP Seán Kelly.

As part of the 'Meet Your MEP Programme 2018' Siobhán submitted an entry in a Climate Change essay competition and she was one of the lucky few students to be selected for this trip of a lifetime.

During the three-day trip to Brussels, Siobhán was shown the workings of the EU and learned about the work of an MEP.

The agenda also included meetings and tours in the European Parliament and the European Commission; free time in Brussels; and several climate change-related activities.

The following is Siobhan's trip-winning essay:

The global fight against climate change impacts every single person on Earth. It matters to everyone, old and young, rich and poor.

Every single nation must participate in this battle. Ireland may be a small nation, but the global fight against climate change is greatly important to each citizen.

We as a nation must play our part in the fight to combat climate change. But how should we go about this?

Before we examine what further action can be taken in this fight, we must remember what we are already doing. Ireland has ratified several actions on climate change with the EU as part of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement (PCA).

These actions are the main way in which we can help in the global fight against climate change.

These actions include reaching a range of targets before 2020, such as reducing our greenhouse gas emissions to 20 per cent below our 2005 levels, and generating 16 per cent of our energy from renewable sources. However, we are failing to meet these goals. A European Commission-supported report suggests that Ireland is only 21 per cent compliant with the PCA. So, how can we improve?

Increasing the solid fuel carbon tax (SFCT) is one way in which Ireland can play its part.

The SCFT is a tax on solid fuels that stands at rate of €20 per tonne of CO2 emitted by the fuel concerned. If this tax were doubled, importation of peat and coal would be discouraged, and the surplus money could be funnelled toward building renewable energy sites.

Renewable energy is a great tool in the global fight against climate change.

Ireland has yet to embrace solar energy, which could greatly reduce our CO2 emissions.

If every household in Ireland used solar panels, emissions would drop by a staggering 17,571,970 tonnes yearly.

This is equal to 30 per cent of Ireland's annual emissions! Tidal energy is also an untapped resource.

If Ireland set up two tidal power stations equal to South Korea's Sihwa Park, energy levels equal to 1,724,000 barrels of oil could be generated.

Doing all of this would ensure Ireland is actively reducing its contribution to the world's CO2 emission levels.

But how can we help other nations?

The answer is to be found in planting trees.

A single tree can absorb just under a tonne of carbon dioxide in 40 years. If Ireland increased its number of trees by 10 per cent, 70,900,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide could be absorbed in 40 years, or 1,700,000 tonnes annually. This would be a great aid in the global fight against climate change.

We must meet the agreements set out in the PCA and fight further. Ireland must take action. We must utilise our natural resources and spurn fossil fuels, plant trees and harness our seas. Above all, we must work together, every citizen of Ireland in conjunction with every nation in the world, to ensure a healthy, safe future for the children of tomorrow. We must play our part in the global fight against climate change."