The Citizen’s Assembly of 99 met on the weekend of 4-5 November for the second of two weekends. Its brief – to identify how the State can make Ireland a leader in tackling climate change. The recommendations made by the Citizens’ Assembly, combined with some 1200 submissions, have the potential to achieve the kind of societal transformation necessary for Ireland to play its part in countering the worst effects of global warming caused by humans spewing out CO2 into the Earth’s atmosphere. But the right decisions and sustained actions that win the broad support have to come first.
The Assembly identified 13 recommended actions to raise Ireland’s profile up the European league table, some of which are highlighted here.
1. Government Involvement:
They identified gaps in public policy and the absence of investment from Government on the kind of strong initiatives adopted elsewhere aimed at achieving substantial behavioural change. In addition, they reinforced them with tight timelines and a mechanism for regular independent assessment of progress. The introduction of such a mechanism with targets was removed from climate legislation by the government before it was passed in 2015.
2. Cross Party Agreement:
It was outlined how resolve on this battleground could quickly be defused by easier short-termism in the shape of other inevitable political distractions and limited resources. Unless cross-party agreement is agreed in advance, he predicted, it just won’t happen. A key platform for change would be sunk within a year in spite of an unprecedented mandate for action.
3. Carbon Tax:
The testing of politicians’ mettle will however come quickly, notably in the next budget. The key agent of behavioural change should be a robust, widely applied carbon tax, counter-balanced by rewards for those who pursue the route to decarbonisation.
On top of indicating a willingness to pay higher taxes on carbon-intensive activities, the Assembly suggests that any increase in revenue would be spent on measures that directly aid the transition to a low-carbon and climate-resilient Ireland. These would include, for example, making solar panels more cheaply and easily available; retrofitting homes and businesses, providing flood defences, and developing infrastructure for electric vehicles.
5. Green Ag:
The members advocate a balanced approach of rewarding farmers for cuts in emissions and pollution, with the carrot of supports and incentives for smarter farming and use of renewable energy. Appropriate land use policies and flexibility on sequestering carbon – the use of carbon sinks through forestry, for example – are essential.
6. Public Transport:
The assembly has recommended the dominance of the car and investment in roads give way to sustainable public transport, cyclists and walkers in our cities.
7. Fossil Fuels:
It calls for the ending of peat-fired power generation in a much tighter timeframe. Actioning such big measures requires political bravery combined with long-term vision rare in the Irish context, but which is evident among leader cities around the world.
Many will contend that even if all the assembly’s recommendations were adopted, it would merely amount to Ireland moving to a mid-table position in the EU league. But given our current standing, one of just four EU member states set to miss 2020 emission reduction targets, it would be a worthy first play in restoring Ireland’s environmental reputation. We at Glas Éireann Solutions pride ourselves on the fact that we are helping businesses reduce their Carbon footprint, whilst also helping reduce their energy bills by up to 60%. Find out more about what we do right here.