independent

Wednesday 26 June 2019

Dáil's climate change 'emergency' rings hollow

Minister for climate action Richard Bruton
Minister for climate action Richard Bruton

Darragh Clifford - Straight Talking

At first glance, it looked like we woke up on Friday morning to a new dawn for our country, after Dáil Éireann unanimously voted to declare a 'climate emergency' becoming only the second country in the world, after the United Kingdom, to do so.

On face value, the declaration gave the impression that our TDs were suddenly world leaders in the battle against climate change. However, on closer inspection this simply wasn't the case unfortunately.

Only six TDs were present on Thursday night for this declaration of intent. It seems climate change is not high on the agenda for the remaining 160 TDs in Leinster House.

The urgent need for action on climate change is nothing new - campaigners have been banging this drum for years. That the drum beat still falls on deaf ears around the globe is both sad and terrifying.

Experts in the field of climate science are unanimous in their view that we are heading for catastrophe unless we make drastic changes now.

Ireland has some way to go to reach its targets, especially in the area of greenhouse gas emissions. In 2017, Ireland emitted almost 61 million tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere - three million tonnes above the target set out for the year.

Globally, carbon emissions reached record highs in 2018, according to a report presented at the UN climate summit in Poland in 2018.

You would think more TDs would have saw fit to be present for last Thursday's vote to declare a climate emergency. Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, one of the six in the Dáil on Thursday, was unsurprisingly dismayed at the lack of attendance.

'The fact that only nine TDs spoke, the fact that only six were there in the end is a reflection that we still need to raise our game and raise the level of the importance of protecting nature in all our politics.

'We have declared a climate emergency in our own Irish way,' he said.

Speaking on Friday, Minister for Climate Action Richard Bruton said that, despite the Dáil declaration, continued use of fossil fuels will be necessary as part of the transition to decarbonisation shows just how hollow this is.

Declarations of intent are one thing. Backing this up with actual meaningful action is another battle entirely.

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