Wexford County Council looked at the global picture last week as members were presented with the council's Climate Change Adaptation Strategy by Gerry Forde from the Environment Section.
Mr Forde presented the members with all manner of graphs and charts showing the extent of the climate change crisis in which we currently find ourselves. Particularly noteworthy were figures that show that between 1986 and 2008, Wexford witnessed just 10 major weather events. In the past ten years alone, this has increased to 14.
Mr Forde added that water shortages in the summer months were becoming more commonplace too and the council was also having to battle more invasive pests and diseases that threaten our flora and fauna.
Another major issue is coastal erosion and the rising of sea levels which poses significant threat to Wexford's coasts.
Under the new plan the council are seeking to identify all potential impending climate hazards and analyse what their impacts would be and how to respond.
Among the areas Wexford County Council is energy performance. A major emphasis has been placed on energy performance, installing more energy efficient public lighting and retrofitting houses with the latest energy saving upgrades. In fact, it is noted that Wexford County Council has been leading the way nationally in terms of Nearly Zero Energy Buildings (NZEB).
As Chairperson of the Strategic Policy Committee (SPC) for the Environment and Climate Change, Cllr Mary Farrell welcomed the work done by the environment section and looked forward to working with them.
Cllr Malcolm Byrne said that it was important that the work being done by the environment section would inform other areas such as planning going forward and that Wexford should be willing to continue to take the lead.
One area which he brought up as a bugbear was smoky fuels, something which the members had been seeking to ban for some time. Director of Services John Carley said that the council was still looking at the legalities of implementing an outright ban on smoky fuels and while he couldn't guarantee it would be in place by January of next year, he said it would be 'as soon as possible'.
This issue was also raised by Cllr Cathal Byrne who also expressed his concern that the agricultural community 'tends to be made a scapegoat' in the discussion on climate change. He also questioned the wisdom of the carbon tax and pointed out that if there was a real push to move from petrol and diesel vehicles there needed to be more of an alternative available.
He felt that the council's strategy 'doesn't go far enough in terms of charge points for electric vehicles'.
Cllr Byrne's point on the carbon tax was echoed by Cllr Fionntán Ó'Súilleabháin.
'The carbon tax hasn't worked to date,' he said. 'It won't work unless there's alternative public transport for people in rural areas.'
Cllr Kathleen Codd Nolan questioned how the council could implement the plan within their budget while Cllr Leonard Kelly asked if the suggested actions were 'drastic enough'.
Stating that 'nobody is more aware of climate change than farmers and fishermen,' Cllr Jim Codd suggested that a deputation of both be invited to speak to the council on the matter. However, it was agreed to defer this as the Environment and Climate Change SPC intended to liaise with them in any case.
Cllr Diarmuid Devereux pointed out contradictions in relation to climate change, citing the example of a wind-farm in Ballycadden, near Bunclody.
'This wind-farm generates over €1million worth of clean sustainable electricity,' he said.
'They got their final rates certificate recently and they have gone up four fold. We're here talking about climate change strategy and yet there's a wind-farm in Wexford facing closure because it's being crippled with rates.'
'It doesn't make sense. I'd ask that someone at the top table engage with these people in a bid to come up with some solution.'
A final suggestion from Cllr John Hegarty was that the council send out MapAlerter texts regarding air quality so that the public could measurably see the impacts that their decisions are having.
Following all the discussions, the council unanimously voted to adopt the climate change strategy.