An Taisce welcomes new Department of Climate Change
An Taisce welcomes the establishment of the new department of Climate Change, Communications and Natural Resources. “Climate change has been the Cinderella issue in Irish politics for the last five years."
The recent passing of Ireland’s first ever Climate Change Act should have been a cause of celebration, but the Act is woefully weak on targets while being long on aspirations for the distant future.
An Taisce earnestly hopes that today’s elevation of climate to being central to a new government department, headed by Denis Naughten TD, may mean this critical issue may at last receive the ongoing political attention it so desperately requires.
We note that among Minister Naughten’s areas of concern are the flooding of the Shannon, as well as the cutting of peat in the midlands. Bringing climate change under the remit of a new minister whose own constituents are already bearing the brunt of extreme weather events fuelled by climate change should be seen as an opportunity for real engagement, according to An Taisce’s climate change spokesman, John Gibbons.
“The fact that the damaged peat bogs in the midlands further contributed to last winter’s severe flooding event in the Shannon basin, means we need to look at issues like our energy policy, planning for extreme weather events and longer term adaptation and mitigation strategies through a single lens."
As an opposition deputy, Denis Naughten has spoken in favour of Bord na Mona and the ESB extending the life of three uneconomic and highly polluting peat-burning power plants which are being propped up by subsidies to the tune of well over €100 million a year, while also hugely contributing to Ireland’s spiralling greenhouse gas emissions.
We hope that, as minister with national responsibility for climate change, deputy Naughten will revisit this position, and be open to alternate policies that protect local jobs, improve regional air quality and offer a stepping stone away from 19th century industries involving burning non-renewable dirty fuels to create energy and improve the health, lives and future well-being of the Irish public.
“The new department of Climate Change, Communications and Natural Resources can be a vital and overdue first step towards truly joined-up thinking on these critical topics”, Gibbons added.
There is, according to An Taisce, a long list of urgent steps the incoming government needs to consider around climate change. One of these is to ring-fence a budget to run a clear, consistent campaign across traditional and new media to properly inform the Irish public on the scale of the threat posed by climate change, as well as the many economic and social benefits that can flow from a greener, more energy-efficient and independent future.
The well-publicised outburst by deputy Danny Healy-Rea earlier this week is a timely reminder on how much work remains to be done by the incoming government to ensure the public debate on climate change focuses on the very real challenges and solutions that exist, rather than foolishly denying the basic scientific facts.
An Taisce wishes the new administration every success and look forward to engaging constructively with minister Naughten and his officials in the fledgling climate change department.
John Gibbons, An Taisce Climate Change Committee Tel: +353 87 233 2689
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce Tel: +353 87 241 1995
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland