Citizens' Assembly demands urgent wide-ranging actions on climate change
While Ireland’s politicians have so far completely failed to rise to the challenge of tackling the deepening climate crisis, we have today witnessed the power of the public exercising direct democracy, via the Citizens’ Assembly, in demanding urgent, wide-ranging actions on climate change.
John Gibbons, An Taisce’s spokesperson, who attended the Assembly as an observer, stated “It is clear that once Irish citizens are exposed to an objective assessment of the threats posed by climate change, away from the misleading tactics of special interest lobbyists, there emerges a real will to make progress, rather than excuses, in addressing this critical issue”.
An Taisce had volunteer observers present throughout the two weekends that the Assembly met and commends it for its professionalism and diligence. It also warmly welcomes the outcome of the rigorous Citizens’ Assembly  process, and applauds all, both citizens and experts, who participated in this historic forum.
The Citizens’ Assembly voted on 13 Recommendations designed at stepping up Ireland’s extremely poor performance to date. Tellingly, all 13 were endorsed in a secret ballot by the 99 citizens. This should be borne in mind as efforts by lobbyists to undermine the democratic findings of the Assembly are already underway, including ill advised and inaccurate comments today by turf contractor and climate denier Michael Fitzmaurice, TD. 
The vacuum in climate leadership nationally was identified by the Citizens Assembly, when it voted by a huge margin (97%) in favour of setting up a new or existing independent body, with resources and appropriate powers, to “urgently address climate change”, including ensuring the implementation of the findings of the Citizens’ Assembly. This surely finally answers ‘Climate Action’ minister, Denis Naughten’s refrain that it is ‘not his job to tell people what to do’.
The evidence is clear: the public is asking for, in fact, demanding leadership. It is time for Mr Naughten to either step up and lead, or step aside.
There was 100% citizen support for the State taking a “leadership role in addressing climate change through mitigation measures, including retrofitting public buildings, low-carbon public vehicles, renewable generation on public buildings, as well as climate adaptation measures. There was also near-unanimity (96%) on the need for the State to carry out a comprehensive audit of vulnerability of critical infrastructure.
Importantly, some 80% of respondents stated they would be ‘willing to pay higher taxes on carbon intensive activities’, showing a genuine willingness among the public to ‘take a hit’ financially if it means a safer future for all. An overwhelming 97% of citizens voted in favour of removing all subsidies for peat-burning, favouring these to be phased out over a five-year period.
There was even stronger agreement (99%) among citizens that the State should legislate to enable the public to sell back micro-generated clean electricity to the grid at a fair price. Continued foot-dragging by the Government on this issue is clearly in defiance of the will of the people.
A very strong majority (89%) of citizens favour taxing greenhouse gases from agriculture, on condition that there also be rewards for farmers involved in land practices that sequester carbon. Revenues from agri GHG taxes should be directed into supporting climate-friendly agriculture.
An equally strong majority (92%) of the citizens favoured prioritising all future infrastructure spending to be weighted by at least 2:1 in favour of supporting high quality public transport, especially in rural areas, while there was near-unanimity (96%) on the need for the government to support the rapid transition to electric vehicles.
Some 93% of citizens voted to support a switch in transport priority towards bus and cycle lanes, and that these should be given priority over private car use. Support for organic farming (99%) was virtually unanimous, while there was strong support (93%) for specific measures to reduce food waste.
Total unanimity (100%) was achieved by citizens in favour of the State ensuring all future renewable energy projects have community participation, consultation and ownership built in from the outset.
For further information, contact:
John Gibbons, An Taisce Climate Change Committee: +353 87 233 2689
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce. Tel: +353 87 241 1995
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland i www.antaisce.org
About An Taisce
An Taisce is a charity that works to preserve and protect Ireland's natural and built heritage. We are an independent charitable voice for the environment and for heritage issues. We are not a government body, semi-state or agency. Founded in 1948, we are one of Ireland’s oldest and largest environmental organisations.