Apr 18th 2018 99 Comments
The Citizens’ Assembly discussing climate change last OctoberImage: Sam Boal via RollingNews.ie
THE CITIZENS’ ASSEMBLY has approved and published a report which makes a number of recommendations on how Ireland should tackle climate change, such as higher taxes and increased public transport.
The “How the State can make Ireland a leader in tackling climate change” report has been laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas today.
The recommendations were reached by majority vote of the Assembly members following two weekends of deliberation which focused on a broad range of issues, including the science of climate change, current efforts to tackle it in Ireland and internationally, transport policy in Ireland and current agriculture policy.
The Assembly made the following 13 recommendations by majority vote:
- 98% of members recommended that to ensure climate change is at the centre of policy-making in Ireland, as a matter of urgency a new or existing independent body should be resourced appropriately, operate in an open and transparent manner, and be given a broad range of new functions and powers in legislation to urgently address climate change. *
- 100% of members recommended that the State should take a leadership role in addressing climate change through mitigation measures, including, for example, retrofitting public buildings, having low carbon public vehicles, renewable generation on public buildings and through adaptation measures including, for example, increasing the resilience of public land and infrastructure.
- 80% of members said they would be willing to pay higher taxes on carbon-intensive activities.**
- 96% of members recommended that the State should undertake a comprehensive assessment of the vulnerability of all critical infrastructure (including energy, transport, built environment, water and communications) with a view to building resilience to ongoing climate change and extreme weather events. The outcome of this assessment should be implemented. Recognising the significant costs that the State would bear in the event of failure of critical infrastructure, spending on infrastructure should be prioritised to take account of this.
- 99% of members recommended that the State should enable, through legislation, the selling back into the grid of electricity from micro-generation by private citizens (for example energy from solar panels or wind turbines on people’s homes or land) at a price which is at least equivalent to the wholesale price.
- 100% of members recommended that the State should act to ensure the greatest possible levels of community ownership in all future renewable energy projects by encouraging communities to develop their own projects and by requiring that developer-led projects make share offers to communities to encourage greater local involvement and ownership.
- 97% of members recommended that the State should end all subsidies for peat extraction and instead spend that money on peat bog restoration and make proper provision for the protection of the rights of the workers impacted with the majority 61% recommending that the State should end all subsidies on a phased basis over 5 years.
- 93% of members recommended that the number of bus lanes, cycle lanes and park and ride facilities should be greatly increased in the next five years, and much greater priority should be given to these modes over private car use.
- 96% of members recommended that the State should immediately take many steps to support the transition to electric vehicles.***
- 92% of members recommended that the State should prioritise the expansion of public transport spending over new road infrastructure spending at a ratio of no less than 2-to-1 to facilitate the broader availability and uptake of public transport options with attention to rural areas.
- 89% of members recommended that there should be a tax on greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. There should be rewards for the farmer for land management that sequesters carbon. Any resulting revenue should be reinvested to support climate-friendly agricultural practices.
- 93% of members recommended the State should introduce a standard form of mandatory measurement and reporting of food waste at every level of the food distribution and supply chain, with the objective of reducing food waste in the future.
- 99 % of members recommended that the State should review, and revise supports for land use diversification with attention to supports for planting forests and encouraging organic farming.
In her introduction to the report, the chair of the Assembly, Mary Laffoy, said: “It was implicit in the mandate in the Oireachtas Resolution that climate change was real, happening and must be tackled. The deliberations of the Assembly, therefore, focused on how the State could best meet that challenge.
“The members’ interest in the topic was clearly demonstrated when they decided they should dedicate a second weekend to it.”
Just over 1,200 submissions were received by the Assembly on this topic, according to Laffoy.
The Green Party has welcomed the publication of the report, saying that the findings endorse the urgent need for strong climate action, led by the government.
Speaking today, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan called on the government to address the issues raised in the report.
“The report highlights the benefits that going green would mean for our country. All that’s lacking is the political will. The longer the government stalls on taking radical action, the worse it is for the economic and environmental future of our country,” Ryan said.
Meanwhile, Irish Farmers’ Association president Joe Healy has said the carbon tax proposal is a “no-go”, but there are other recommendations that could reduce carbon in the national economy.
Healy said increasing carbon charge on farming would just continue a “failed policy” of more taxes without delivering any reduction in national admission.
He has called on all stakeholders to move on from the calls for Irish farmers to reduce their emission efficient model of dairy and beef production, something the IFA has called divisive and unrealistic.
“Farming has a real role to play in the carbon debate and the decarbonisation of the energy sector, through the mobilisation of our land resources for renewable heat, transport and electricity production,” Healy said.
*: Any increase in revenue would only be spent on measures that directly aid the transition to a low-carbon and climate resilient Ireland: including, for example, making solar panels more cheaply and easily available, retrofitting homes and businesses, flood defenses, developing infrastructure for electric vehicles.
**: An increase in the taxation does not have to be paid by the poorest households (the 400,000 households currently in receipt of fuel allowance).