January 2016 eZine

20th January 2016
Please see the Press Release at the end of this newsletter on 7 questions you might ask any canvassers/political parties you come across.

Jamestown Nature Reserve Hedgelaying Course

Independent Event
Saturday, February 27, 2016
Jamestown Nature Reserve

Jamestown Nature Reserve are running a one day, hands on, hedgelaying course on Saturday the 27th February, They have a very expert instructor , Owen Donnelly, who has many years experience with the craft. Starting time 11am and finishing about 4pm, with tea to follow. Subsidised cost €25 for the day. For further details contact An Taisce member Will Warham on 087 205 22 66 and on the website http://jamestownnaturereserve.com/

Cost An Taisce Members: 
25 Euros
Cost Non Members: 
25 Euros

Report 7 from #CoP21 Paris - Monday 7th December

7th December 2015
Press Release

An Taisce has a few members attending CoP at various times over the next two weeks. We are bringing you a frequent series of background reports on what is (or is not) happening on the ground.

You can see them all at http://www.antaisce.org/articles/whats-happening-on-the-ground-at-cop21

Our seventh from Paul Price, a member of An Taisce's Climate Change Committee. Paul is a conservation carpenter with a MSc in Sustainable Development.

We really recommend you read these for the quality of Paul’s pen pictures of CoP21 as seen by a NGO participant

Report 7 #CoP21 Saturday 6 December 2015

On Saturday I learned a bit more about the negotiations but I can only add some hearsay on the state of them beyond what you can read in the media. In the unlikely event that you want something beyond that and want to launch yourself into the detail a good place to start is http://www.iisd.ca/climate/cop21/ Note[1]. That said I’ll report the hearsay.

From what I understand Saudi Arabia and Argentina are two nations that are noted as blocking progress. Overall, the temperature limit (2ºC or 1.5ºC) is still not decided and there may not even be one. Worse, neither the associated percentage likelihood of staying under either limit nor the associated remaining carbon budget, of emissions that can ever be emitted in future, has been agreed. As of the end of Saturday, France and the French environment minister Laurant Fabius have taken over negotiations and this week sees the arrival of the environment ministers of the nations, including our ministers Alan Kelly (who doesn’t seem to understand or care much about climate change as an issue), and also Alex White (who does). So far there is nothing close to an agreed text.

Despite the pressing top down physics of the Earth system’s response to humanity’s global greenhouse gas emissions, the negotiations are now fixed on a ‘bottom-up’, near voluntary, mode of response. It is hard not to see this as perilous delay but unfortunately, where the EU seems to be on the sidelines when it could be an alliance builder for stronger action – for example with the least developed countries and small island states,.

In my understanding of the climate science, some of the calls from nations or coalitions are simply not coherent. Much as I would prefer otherwise, it is hard to see how limiting warming to a high likelihood of less than 1.5ºC is even technically possible (let alone politically or socially) simply because the required average global rate of emission cutting needed is already very high. Even limiting to a good chance of 2ºC is very difficult indeed without global action by all nations starting now (see this short paper by lead IPCC climate scientist Thomas Stocker for example) Note [2].

Also, equitably limiting to 2ºC requires richer nations or regions like the EU to act sooner to cut emissions much faster than poorer developing nations, meaning starting right now. Certainly, the EU’s current declared pledge of a 40% cut in emissions by 2030 falls far short of an equitable target that would be in line with the declared ambition agreed to at the UNFCCC. Far faster cuts or far greater wealth and technology transfers are needed from richer nations like our own. But the simple fact is that neither real action nor fairness are really concerns compared to the appearance of action. Even the EU’s claim of cutting domestic emissions by an impressive sounding 23% since 1990 rings very hollow when net emissions (based on consumption) have actually fallen by only 4% and are likely to rise with increased economic activity. All that has really happened is that much high emissions industry has been exported to China and we are buying the goods back.

If we really think that is addressing a global commons problem then we are just fooling ourselves or trying to fool others. I guess that’s the big question for us to answer (quickly): just how foolish is humankind?

One of the controversial topics in the negotiations is so-called ‘loss and damage’, the idea that vulnerable peoples who are in areas most exposed to climate change (those, often in the tropics who have done least to cause the problem) will need to be supported and compensated for losses and to pay for adaptation as a result of impacts from unmitigated global warming. Such climate justice was the topic of an expert panel on Saturday. A report on the major fossil fuel companies Note [3] describes their emissions and their poor business practices, suggesting a carbon levy on all production in order to pay for the unpaid costs of their activities. Even a small levy of $2 per tonne of CO2 emitted by burning the fuel could raise $50 billion a year collected at the minehead or oil/gas well, which would go a long way to alleviating loss and damage.

Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 ($10 billion cost), the 2008-2011 Kenyan drought ($12 billion cost) and the low but continual annual damage cost and ultimate migration from of low lying Pacific islands were all identified as having partial climate change causes due to emissions. Attribution of single events may be difficult but the science is getting ever stronger to say that a certain averaged percentage of events can be authoritatively stated to be due to climate change. From this point it may not be long before courts are prepared to agree that nations or companies bear some share of legal liability.

Financial loss is not the only issue of course because many things do not have any definite financial value. The speaker from Tuvalu (an eight island nations north of Fiji) told us that the 10,000 people live highly communally on coral atolls surrounded by a huge ocean. They celebrate, sing and mourn together. The placenta from a new birth is placed in the ground and a coconut palm is planted to celebrate new life and connection to the land. Asked about what the likely loss of that culture and traditions would mean (if sea level rise continues to accelerate) “death”, he answered, “simply death”. Another speaker said, seeking to put an economic value on nature as so-called ‘ecosystem services’ is a slippery slope to thinking all nature can be valued in this way. Indeed, how do you put an economic value on the Earth surface compared with say the surface of Mars.

A panel on marine emissions was an eye opener for me. In one way shipping is a very efficient method of transport in carbon emissions per km but it is nearly 3% of global emissions – more CO₂ than Germany. Every sector must play a part in cutting emissions from now on yet those from shipping are projected to more than double by 2050 with rising trade. A strongly evidenced case was presented by the UK funded science group that shipping could cut its climate pollution but the industry has been completely obstructive even though large improvements are technically possible. One problem is that there are 39,000 deep ocean going ships and a large number of owners who often do not benefit directly from investing in better ships because operational profits are kept by the operators who lease or rent the ships. Somehow like all other sectors shipping will have to make cuts in pollution.

Coming back to the big problem of how we somehow begin to limit global warming, a panel discussed local level and possible global level solutions. In California, clean solar and wind energy plus energy efficiency initiatives are strongly implemented giving consumers the choice of renewable energy and the incentive of saving money. The trouble with this kind of scheme is that all such efforts will be wasted if we continue to extract fossil fuel carbon and burn it. Somehow the pollution must end quickly so the only option is some kind of reducing cap on emissions.

An ambitious idea was presented by Cap Global Carbon, an idea driven by the Irish group Feasta for a global ‘cap and share’ programme. Total future emissions would be capped in line with the science of a limited global carbon budget for 2ºC and this total would be annually distributed over an emissions pathway to zero net global emissions. This is key because to stop global warming at some point the pollution must end. Permits to allow carbon pollution would be auctioned and the funds would be distributed by a new institution, whether outside of within UNFCCC, on an equal per capita basis driving a large transfer of wealth from the richer nations to the poorer, at the same time as cutting emissions.

As the presenters noted, such a scheme is unlikely be taken up any time soon. Nonetheless it is very difficult indeed to see how limiting global warming can be achieved unless such a top-down scheme, based on the physical reality we face, can drive the radical level of change in our energy systems and consumption that is ever more needed as we speed over the ground between here and 2ºC. It is a deep irony for human beliefs that the only conservative path now is to act radically to cut emissions fast, while the extremist path is to carry on as we are toward a profoundly, likely catastrophically, damaged commonwealth. If our belief systems and lifestyles are not in line with the physical reality of our Earth then it is they that need to alter.

ENDS

For further information, please call:
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
www.antaisce.org

Note [1] IISD Reporting Services Coverage of UNFCCC COP21 http://www.iisd.ca/climate/cop21/
Note [2] Short paper by lead IPCC climate scientist Thomas Stocker http://www.climate.unibe.ch/~stocker/papers/stocker13sci.pdf
Note [3] Who pays the real costs of Big Oil, Coal and Gas? http://climatejustice.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Making-A-Killing-FINAL-webversion.pdf

Report from Prof. John Sweeney #Cop21Paris

8th December 2015
Press Release

An Taisce has a few members attending CoP at various times over the next two weeks. We are bringing you a frequent series of background reports on what is (or is not) happening on the ground.

You can see them all at http://www.antaisce.org/articles/whats-happening-on-the-ground-at-cop21

This is from Professor John Sweeney, Ireland's foremost climate scientist and a member of An Taisce's Climate Change Committee.

Start of Week 2

Many delegates consider the French Presidency have pulled a master stroke by reversing the normal sequence of events at a COP. Usually the Ministerial delegations beaver away the first week and then their bosses arrive to take the hard decisions at the end of the meeting. Not always being as clued in as their Ministers, the leaders have tended to shy away from hard choices at the last minute, prolonging the agony of the atmosphere for another year. This year the leaders came the first week and made their noble speeches.

Some appear to have escaped their ‘handlers’, causing consternation back home when their true attitude towards the climate change problem was revealed as less convincing than their rhetoric. But they’ve gone home now and the real graft can begin. It would have been too much to expect the Ministers charged with delivering an agreement the second week, however, to allow their profiles to be completely invisible back home. Accordingly the opening of the ‘high level segment’ on Monday had a sprinkling of Ministers eager to make their case to the world.

The business end of the conference is now in full swing, carefully chaired by the French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius. His approach has been to set up facilitator teams to tackle the negotiations on a thematic basis. Themes such as ‘Means of implementation’, ‘Differentiation’, Ambition and ‘Pre 2020 Action’ may sound pretty bland; but they are code words for a plethora of conflicts between the Developed and Developing World. So the Chair’s strategy has been to nominate two facilitator countries to each task, one from the Developed World and one from the Developing World. Thus Germany and Gabon are paired, Singapore and Brazil, Norway and St. Lucia, and the UK and Gambia.

The formula seems to be working, and at the Plenary feedback session on Monday night the mood music was good, with some delegates urging an acceleration of the process towards an agreement on Friday. Having now attended 5 COPS, it seems to this writer the legacy of Copenhagen has at last been consigned to history. Genuine goodwill appears to be the order of the day. The Developed World has at last shown willingness to accept its historic responsibilities for the problem and the Developing World has realised this is as good an opportunity for deal as it is likely to get. Of course the opportunities for dialogue to break down over the next few days remains, but so far the omens are good. However, the devil will be in the detail and what concessions each side is making behind the scenes is not clear.

Outside of the main negotiating halls, the carnival that is COP continues. It is impossible to report other than on only a tiny fraction of events and activities. Despite the best efforts of corporate entities to present themselves as sustainable good guys, the main impression is one of serious engagement on the part of civil society, business and a host of other actors.

Thus while the main negotiating hall had speeches from the likes of the Prime Minister of Tuvalu and the new Chair of the IPCC, Hoesung Lee, the Observer Hall had excellent talks from the head of UNEP, Achim Steiner, climate scientist Myles Allen and First Minister of Scotland Nichola Sturgeon. The latter was particularly impressive as she outlined Scotland’s target of greenhouse gas reductions of 42% by 2020, and then announced that 38% had already been achieved. For a country with a similar population and climate as Ireland, it was an eye opener as regards what well informed political leadership can do.

A word that was widely used today was ‘convergence’: convergence of positions, convergence of ambitions, convergence of interests. The convergence of interests was perhaps best exemplified by the offer of African countries to develop their electricity infrastructure along sustainable lines if the required finance and technological assistance could be obtained from the Developed World. With an inevitable increase in population of around 2Bn, failure to develop a sustainable energy infrastructure would undo any pretence of the world staying below 2degrees of warming. Developing Africa sustainably is therefore a vital interest of the Developed World. Convergence of interests in action! Maybe the Pope did hit the right note when he entitled his Encyclical : Caring for Our Common Home!

ENDS

For further information, please call:
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
www.antaisce.org

Report 8 from #COP21 - Tuesday December 8, 2015

8th December 2015
Press Release

An Taisce has a few members attending CoP at various times over the next two weeks. We are bringing you a frequent series of background reports on what is (or is not) happening on the ground.

You can see them all at http://www.antaisce.org/articles/whats-happening-on-the-ground-at-cop21

Our eighth from Paul Price, a member of An Taisce's Climate Change Committee. Paul is a conservation carpenter with a MSc in Sustainable Development.

We really recommend you read these for the quality of Paul’s pen pictures of CoP21 as seen by a NGO participant - Our apologies for this being out late

**Report 8 from #COP21 - Tuesday December 8, 2015 **

Aaagh! It’s already late Tuesday morning so this report is getting very late.

I wish I could update you what we here have been told in regular formal briefings, from the Irish delegation to the group of NGO reps, on their view of the current negotiation text, or to tell us how they are lobbying very hard to push an EU drive for a strong legally binding agreement to cut emissions deeply and quickly in line with our UNFCCC treaty pledges. But I can’t. Because there haven’t been any. I’ve heard that the Canadian delegation is giving formal briefings to its NGOs every day at 1:30, so perhaps Ireland could now learn from the refreshing change toward open climate communication that nation engages in. Or perhaps the point is that it takes an election to move things along.

The only way to really keep up, wherever you are, is to read all the briefings on the internet and, if here to be part of an observer group that collates reports from reps they send to all the many side meetings on text that are open to observers. Yesterday morning a climate justice event gave the kind of hints and gossip that counts for information on the negotiations happening just a couple of hundred metres away. As in the recent OECD report’s new figure of $603 billion for developing nations the money being promised for adaptation or ‘loss and damage’ is either not new or else illusory in some other way. The Friends of the Earth speaker said that transferring wealth and funds to poorer nations in recompense for the climate impacts due to rich nation emissions but the loss and damage clauses in the treaty are being watered down. In particular, the US is willing to have such a clause but will not countenance any hint of liability.

By far the most emotional appeal I’ve heard yet at this conference came from a New Zealander representing the collected Pacific islands of Oceania. Speaking with great emotion and some tears she testified to the steady erosion of traditional culture and ecosystems that sea level rise and climate change is bringing due to human-caused global warming. Delivering a powerful plea for action to ensure maximum global surface warming of no more than 1.5ºC she stated, “We stand in solidarity with all those around the world threatened by the results of inaction”.

At the same event, Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, took the opportunity to double funding to Scotland’s climate justice fund, announcing a further £12 million over the next four years and echoing Oceania, “We stand in solidarity with all those threatened”. The contrast with our own Government’s meagre penny-pinching and self-centred ‘climate action=hands off agriculture’ rhetoric was notable.

In the afternoon I went to a climate science event on ‘short lived climate pollutants’, or SLCPs (in the acronym jargon of science and CoP’s). These are pollutants adding to the human-boosted greenhouse effect, such as black carbon soot (from burning wood, peat and coal) and methane emitted by ruminant animals, oil and gas wells and rice cultivation. The event focused on the approaches used to give some equivalence in policy between the warming effect of these SLCPs and CO₂. The Kyoto Protocol governing emissions of some nations, including the EU, used a metric that added up the total warming effect of each pollutant over an arbitrarily determined period of 100 years. However, there is no perfect metric and a better one for 2ºC suggested is one that gives a ‘snapshot’ effective temperature increase relative to CO₂. The point is that the “carbon equivalent” footprint of any SLCP producing activity (beef production for example) will increase steadily as the 2 Celsius CO₂ carbon budget is exhausted over the next 25 years (or longer if very rapid CO₂ emissions reductions begin as a matter of urgency - not currently appearing likely).

The main point is that CO₂ is fundamentally different in that it has a near permanent (1000 year) effect so it does not matter when it is emitted. To limit global warming, CO₂ emissions must go to zero. By contrast SLCPs have short-term effects - for methane about 10 years. Nonetheless, what matters in climate action, whether for CO₂ or shorter-lived pollutants, is that annual emissions must go down steadily over time. Of course, for the ruminant methane that is such a big part of Irish emissions, the problem is that the Irish Government (apparently on behalf of the Irish people - or at least that subset represented by Irish agri-food lobbyists) plan that our annual emissions should instead inexorably increase for the indefinite future. This is premised (among other things) on a presumed, utterly implacable, trend to increasing global meat consumption.

In a carbon copy of Simon Coveney, the New Zealand Minister for Climate Change, Tim Groser (from another nation with very high ruminant cattle and sheep emissions), gave us a speech boasting of high ‘climate efficiency’ yet failing to talk about increasing production. The trouble with this is that the actual carbon footprint of agriculture per year is the efficiency multiplied by the production per year, giving the total annual emissions. And, of course, for any local increase in efficiency to reduce total emissions it must not be outweighed by production increases. This should be pretty obvious to any average citizen who takes a moment to think about it although esteemed civil servants, journalists and economists seem perpetually unable to grasp that ‘efficiency’ times ‘production’ = ‘emissions’, where the key thing that matters is that total of emissions. Given how basic this is, one has to wonder whether they simply don’t get it, or don’t want to get it.

The other abundantly obvious point that is constantly missed by “experts” (or at least “pundits” and “spokespersons”) is that any efficiency actually has to be realised within some effective mechanism that will cut total emissions. At present the mechanism to realise the superior efficiency of Irish agriculture (in GHGs per unit) is domestic reduction of the ‘basket’ of Irish emissions that are not part of the EU’s emission trading scheme. But this basket has no meaning because no government has wanted to make the mechanism work to cut the total emissions. The plan is just to let the rest of us, rather than the polluters in transport and agriculture, pay the EU fines for excess emissions. (And of course, fines, no matter how large, will not undo past emissions in the slightest. The climate is not “negotiating”. And certainly not “bluffing”. It will be neither bribed nor placated. It will simply respond.)

Whenever agriculture or any sector boasts of their efficiency the immediate questions need to be: Are total emissions going down? and, What enforced mechanism are you proposing to be a part of to ensure that any efficiency “gain” is actually realised in absolute emissions reduction? As every scientist but few others here have constantly repeated, climate action requires ALL sectors to cut total emissions substantially and consistently over the coming years and decades to have any hope of limiting climate change.

No surprise then that Tim Groser did not talk about either of these points. I t was disappointing that it was up to me rather than the senior climate scientists on the panel to correct these basic points in the Q&A afterward. Outside the room though both of them agreed with my two points on efficiency and mechanism.

Like so much of the negotiations and climate change politics, rather than being clear about the problem and acting on what we know, instead we insist on fooling ourselves even at exalted levels of government, academia and media. In some quarters this is known as denial.

ENDS

For further information, please call:
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
www.antaisce.org

Impressions of #CoP21Paris - Prof John Sweeney

9th December 2015
Press Release

An Taisce has a few members attending CoP at various times over the next two weeks. We are bringing you a frequent series of background reports on what is (or is not) happening on the ground.

You can see them all at http://www.antaisce.org/articles/whats-happening-on-the-ground-at-cop21

This is the second from Professor John Sweeney, Ireland's foremost climate scientist and a member of An Taisce's Climate Change Committee.

Impressions of COP21: Instalment 2

VIPs walk significantly faster than us common mortals. As they and their entourage race from their last engagement to the relative tranquillity of the impenetrable VVIP section here at COP21, they are accompanied by a posse of photographers cantering backways in front of them with their cameras running, and frantic interviewers trying to extract the last sound bite before the doors close. Getting caught on the wrong side of this backward-running posse constitutes a pedestrian hazard. Having now been nearly mown down by Ségolène Royal’s posse and later by John Kerry’s I can recommend seeking the nearest wall and breathing in hard.

Today was a day for the big names to contribute to the various side events. Today was also Gender Day and several events were held to emphasise the importance of a gender statement appearing in the final agreement. Mary Robinson was particularly well received by a packed audience in a panel hosted by Ségolène Royal which reminded everyone that the empowerment of women is essential in tackling climate change.

A majority of the world’s farmers are women. Women farmers currently account for 45-80% of all food production in developing countries and women farmers account for more than 90% of the female labour force in many African countries. Some 40 Billion hours per year are spent by African women merely collecting water. Yet the reins of power are largely male dominated. Mary Robinson was particularly encouraging of young women to have the confidence to challenge the status quo.

The real highlight of the day for most I suspect was the inspiring hour-long talk by Al Gore. Using graphics most lecturers would give their right hand for, and an articulacy level most would envy, he held his audience spellbound and earned a standing ovation at the end. It wasn’t simply a ‘stock’ lecture, but one that was right up to date with dramatic footage from around the world, including the floods associated with Storm Desmond this week which produced a new record daily rainfall total in Cumbria in the UK of over 340mm. (In 1887 Glasnevin recorded 356mm in the whole year!) Changes in the frequency of extreme events, often with catastrophic human consequences in countries not significantly complicit in causing global warming, are now being experienced widely across the world as the climate changes.

The Pope’s Encyclical ‘Laudato Si’ was one of the key components in the ‘choreography’ leading up to COP21 and one of the key authors involved in this, Cardinal Turkson, held a press briefing today to emphasise the moral imperative of addressing climate injustice. Cardinal Turkson is the first Ghanaian cardinal and President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Many will recall his visit to Maynooth in March when he delivered the Trocaire 2015 Lenten lecture. Climate justice is the driving force for an agreement now that the science of climate change is largely settled and small but noisy demonstrations have been organised by NGOs to remind delegates of this as they shuttle between venues.

Outside of the side events above, the hard graft of negotiations continue. For small delegations like Ireland, the demands on the negotiators are many. The French President of COP acknowledged the work being done by the multiple teams involved, continuing to a late hour in most cases. The reports back from the various sub groups was in my opinion slightly less upbeat today as the initial flexibility shown by countries now begin to entail hard choices as decisions loomed for the final text. Indeed M. Fabius has begun to force the pace a bit by promising a new draft of the potential agreement by lunchtime on Wednesday.

Undoubtedly this will provoke some soul searching and discussion. The publication of such a draft is always a tricky step and was something that was partly responsible for the derailment of the Copenhagen COP in 2009. But general support for the strategy was voiced from the delegates. The negotiating blocs are represented often by one country spokespersons e.g. Angola for the Least Developed Countries, South Africa for the G77 and China, and the Maldives for the Alliance of Small Island Developing States. For the moment, these are all supportive and optimism continues to reign. Some interesting new terminology is surfacing. Countries have started referring to negotiations leading to a range of ‘landing zones’ deemed acceptable. The runway is clearly approaching. But one suspects some turbulence may still be expected if touchdown is attempted too soon.

ENDS

For further information, please call:
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
www.antaisce.org

Report 9 from #COP21 - Wednesday December 9, 2015

9th December 2015
Press Release

An Taisce has a few members attending CoP at various times over the next two weeks. We are bringing you a frequent series of background reports on what is (or is not) happening on the ground.

You can see them all at http://www.antaisce.org/articles/whats-happening-on-the-ground-at-cop21

Our ninth from Paul Price, a member of An Taisce's Climate Change Committee. Paul is a conservation carpenter with a MSc in Sustainable Development.

We really recommend you read these for the quality of Paul’s pen pictures of CoP21 as seen by a NGO participant - Laying it out clearly and starkly for us all

Report 9 from #COP21 - Wednesday December 9, 2015

Yesterday, I attended expert events conveying much information and urgency, including a high powered one on Public Health and Climate Change noting that any successful outcome here in Paris would be a major public health advance for the world.

However, the most essential information I can report from yesterday is the blunt analysis and conclusions presented by Professor Kevin Anderson of the Tyndall Centre (of UK climate scientists and climate policy experts). Today’s report then is a bullet point digest on the climate realities that continue to be ignored by those in the negotiating room and perhaps glossed over by many climate scientists reporting to policy-makers.

With apologies then for anything lost in my note taking, below are the key points from Anderson’s reality check:

  • Cumulative emissions (carbon budgets) directly determine global warming.
  • The remaining global carbon budget to stay below a temperature limit indicates the following:
    • It is too late for even a small chance of avoiding 1.5ºC without highly speculative tech, getting lucky with climate sensitivity and immediate global action with single focus on severely limiting the extremely small remaining 1.5ºC carbon budget.
    • A 2 in 3 chance of avoiding 2ºC is lost.
    • An even chance of avoiding 2ºC requires a war-like footing for action as for 1.5ºC
    • A 1 in 3 chance of avoiding 2ºC needs urgently delivered and enforced policy far beyond anything so far contemplated.
  • Every one of the 400 scenarios of the IPCC for 2ºC requires one or both of two very unlikely rabbits to be pulled out of the hat:
    1. Highly speculative negative emissions technologies that have never worked to date, are likely subject to feedbacks that limit any effectiveness and are often technically unfeasible – for example, CCS storage is not close to power plants and biomass for burning (a competitor with land for food) would be on a scale that would require a massive increase in shipping.
    2. Emissions have to peak in the past (requiring a time machine).
  • Conclusion: an outside chance of 2ºC is possible but requires:
    • Deep reductions in energy demand starting right now by all high emitting nations as there is not enough carbon budget to build our way out of trouble.
    • A massively funded Marshall Plan for 100% zero carbon energy globally by 2050, much sooner in developed nations.
    • All emission savings must be permanent, if they are ‘spent’ they don’t count. To date whatever we save, we take the cost savings and spend them on more emissions with global annual emissions up 60% in period since UNFCCC began.

In Q&A, as opinion, he noted:

  • Massive and extremely rapid emission reductions are technically possible, the only question is how quickly they can be politically possible:
    • Insisting on only best available tech and forbidding anything else in cars could reduce that sector's emissions by 50-70% within 10 years just at the current replacement rate. Same for other sectors.
    • As the Oxfam report finds, in all nations half of the total emissions are caused by the wealthiest tenth of the population. In the EU if the richest 10% reduced their emissions to the EU average there would be a 30% reduction in emissions overnight. A massive potential exists to cut emissions very fast by reducing the emissions by the wealthiest.
    • The richest nations could (and morally should) decide to leave their own coal, oil and gas [and peat] in the ground. Continued fossil fuel subsidies by these nations further undermine any credibility.
    • Agriculture is the elephant in the room on emissions.
    • The $100 billion on the table in the negotiations is a derisory sum given the scale of loss and damage that is being and will be caused by the current and historic emissions of the industrialised countries.
  • On science:
    • The role of scientists is to do research. Realism, not optimism or pessimism, is what we should expect.
    • There is a vital need for scientists to communicate their findings strongly, bluntly and vociferously, especially in an atmosphere where research is being funded focused largely on continuing the current (carbon-using) economic paradigm.

As Anderson has noted elsewhere, the very difficult path to avoiding warming above 2 degrees is no reason not to start acting urgently. On the contrary it is a clear and explicit signal of the need to act fast to avoid the escalating consequences of the extreme risks of global warming above 2 degrees that humanity continues to fuel.

Glen Peters from Cicero followed Anderson and confirmed the above carbon budget analysis also saying that USA/EU etc must go to net zero emissions fast but also India and China will have to get quickly on track for zero carbon if the rest of the world is to have any emissions space at all after 2040.

Later, New Zealand MP Kennedy Graham cut through an economic event’s diversion into ‘policy credibility’ to point out that limiting the remaining global carbon budget is the only credibility that the Earth’s climate will respect. As he said, the test of our collective morality will be whether we can do this and, above all whether we can do it equitably. It remains to be seen what, if any, concrete action (as opposed to high flown rhetoric and aspiration) the “Paris Agreement” will actually trigger, and whether that action will bear any serious relationship to the implacable physical science realities of our predicament.

ENDS

For further information, please call:
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
www.antaisce.org

A Double Helping from #CoP21Paris

9th December 2015
Press Release

An Taisce has a few members attending CoP at various times over the two weeks. We are bringing you a frequent series of background reports on what is (or is not) happening on the ground.

You can see them all at http://www.antaisce.org/articles/whats-happening-on-the-ground-at-cop21

This evening, Wednesday 9th December 2015, a double dose. The first from Professor John Sweeney, Ireland’s premier climate scientist and the second from Ian Lumley our Heritage Officer

John Sweeney - The Fault Lines Emerge

By this stage in the second week, COPs usually enter a crucial stage where the negotiations hit a wall. The issues are always the same, namely how the principle of Historic But Differentiated Responsibility(CBDR) is handled. Essentially, how much mitigation by the Developed Countries will occur and how much climate finance will they guarantee to the Developing World to aid their sustainable development and climate adaptation strategies. How should rapidly developing countries such as China, Brazil and South Africa be accommodated in a new world order of climate governance? Positive sentiments often give way to hard realities at this stage, and so it was today.

The culmination of the consultations thus far was expressed in a Draft Agreement document circulated by the COP President this afternoon. It is always the crucial Presidential action in all COP meetings. For the first time the noble statements of intent are crystallised in print and countries see who has had their concerns acknowledged, and who has not.

Thus it was today (Wednesday). The late night session of the Paris Committee was quite a brutal affair with country after country criticising the draft text offered by the Presidency. Of course trying to satisfy the demands of 194 countries is an impossible task and the language of the draft ultimately had to be vague enough to keep countries on board, and specific enough to be meaningful. For the first time this week countries used language such as ‘red line issue’ and ‘not negotiable’.

How much is posturing and how much is genuine is difficult to ascertain, but for the first time this week the mood turned rather pessimistic. Many countries interpreted the text offered as unbalanced, but from different perspectives. Indeed the Malaysian delegate took the interpretation further by claiming the text could be considered balanced on the basis that it antagonised everyone to some extent. The issue of targeting not a 2oC rise in temperature over pre-industrial levels, but rather a 1.5oC rise, has emerged as a major issue for many developing countries. The issue is especially considered a national priority for the Small Island Developing States. Of course this is understandable, given their inevitable demise should warming beyond this level continue. The reality however is that the world has already warmed by 1oC and there seems to be a disconnect between the science and the policy on this issue. To avoid a further 0.5oC of warming would probably require global peaking of emissions to have happened a decade ago and net negative greenhouse gas emissions to occur within the next decade. The insertion of such an aspiration in the final agreement is likely, but how operationalising it would occur in the context of a legal agreement seems not to have been thought out.

A similar issue arises for Loss and Damage which has also re-emerged as a major issue for the Developing World. How this would be operationalised in the context of financial transfers is extremely difficult to envisage. If the final agreement has legal status, can we envisage litigation efforts targeting countries following?

For all negotiations a point comes where a risk of overplaying your hand. This point is being approached with the risk that the Developed Countries could walk away from any agreement if compromise does not occur tomorrow. This would be a failure that is not currently being considered and the active intervention of the President to force compromise may yet be required.

Ian Lumley – An Taisce’s Heritage Officer

The experience is being an observer at the Paris #COP21Paris is overwhelming, with 45,000 reportedly accredited in different categorises in a vast complex of buildings.

The entire objectives to reach an agreement is happening in closed negotiations by national Governments, with progressive amendments emerging on line and through information filtering out as to where the points of disagreement are centred, and presented in evening plenary meetings to observers.

The lessons of Copenhagen 2009 where observers were left for hours queuing in the cold have been learned in the impressive French organisation of transport access and venue at Le Bourget. Arriving at the venue there is a central covered area forming a street between enormous hangar like buildings Within there is extensive use of mainly unpainted rough plywood partitioning subdividing the interior spaces into Government delegation meeting rooms and pavilions, press and media, general meeting and conference rooms, and NGO exhibition stands including the International National Trust Organisation of which An Taisce is part (photo attached)

For an observer the options of how best to constructively engage are huge. The key role of observers is in following the progress on the emerging agreement text and through their organisations, and wider networking, lobby national delegations to support or reject amendments. Today provided the opportunity for the Irish NGO contingent with includes representatives of Oxfam and Trocaire to meet Minister Alan Kelly and the Irish Government team

Parallel to the main negotiations are what are innocuously called "side" events. This is a continuous daily programme of presentations many of which would rank as significant international gatherings in their own right. Over the last three days I have been able to attend presentations and discussions on Climate Justice, the Carbon Budget, renewable energy, energy efficiency, integrating climate action with public health, new technologies, the City Mayors initiative and financing. Most moving have been the pleas of the people of the Pacific Island nations facing immediate threat.

The calibre of the meeting platform presentation is impressive with national politicians and big city mayors , leading climate scientists, climate campaigners, representatives of and advocates for the countries most at risk, and Directors General or senior figures in so many global bodies like the International Energy Agency and the World Health Organisation.

The climate scientists Bill McKibben from the US and Kevin Anderson for the Tyndall Institute Manchester delivered an uncompromising message on the need for rapid immediate emission cuts, and the untenable justification for fracking. The Scottish Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced developing country support and other initiatives by Scotland on top of that of the UK government. I was at a number of events led by the French Environment and Energy Minister Segolene Royal. Yesterday she hosted an inspiring platform with Mary Robinson and Vandama Shiva on the role of women which was given wide media converge.

The presentations on linking climate action with public health have been particularly impressive. Leading health experts and professionals are now treating climate instability and food insecurity as the systemic public health risk for the coming century. The overlap between climate emission impact and public health threat extends for from air pollution and respiratory damage to floods compromising sewage treatment and drinking water supplies. It was so relevant today to learn the news from Ireland today on the rising Shannon flood threat

The public health case for climate action on mitigation and adaptation, achieving the benefit of cleaner air and the need to mitigate health risk, is a potential breakthrough in advancing what has been to date the inadequate public and political support for climate action . An Taisce was able to raise this as a specific issue in discussion with Minister Alan Kelly today

ENDS

For further information, please call:
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
www.antaisce.org

Note 1: The INTO (International National Trusts Organisation) stand at CoP21 https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxEVOTzgFnKEekJuaDNNRTk5bFk/view?usp=sharing

Ian Lumley reports from #Cop21Paris

10th December 2015
Press Release

An Taisce has a few members attending CoP at various times over the two weeks. We are bringing you a frequent series of background reports on what is (or is not) happening on the ground.

You can see them all at http://www.antaisce.org/articles/whats-happening-on-the-ground-at-cop21

This evening, Thursday 10th December 2015, a report from Ian Lumley our Heritage Officer

Ian Lumley – An Taisce’s Heritage Officer

Today provided the opportunity to focus on what was going on in the national pavilions with had nearly continuous "side" events on top of the back to back press conferences and seminars in the 10 general conference rooms.

For an observer at COP21, it is worth comparing the public image projected by individual countries in their pavilions and participation in the side events with their political negotiating position, and the action or lack of it on climate.

It is a feature of international events of all sorts to have ostentatious exhibition stands with laminated surfaces and elaborate instillations with graphic and visual images which are discarded as waste afterwards. The Le Bourget venue has huge open high ceilinged spaces used for exhibition and trade fairs. The French organisers provided a modular design for the subdivision and spaces needed for the overall event using unpainted plywood for pavilion stands and enclosed areas to project an eco-chic image, with the sheeting, to be "recycled", whatever that means, afterwards. Most of the national pavilions and delegate meeting room spaces followed this model.

The US has a spacious open pavilion in red white and blue inside the main entrance. This has an active programme of talks and videos, with very good presentations on climate science and new technologies. However, despite the presence of President Obama last week and Secretary of State John Kerry this week, Congress remains in the control of vested coal oil and big agri business interests.

The China pavilion follows the simple plywood sheet design with no graphics to convey a message. Inside is a continued sequence of very focused seminars and presentations focusing on investment and technology use. However, China is now the leading global climate polluter and wants to continue increasing emissions to 2030.

The Indian pavilion ignored the French plywood guidelines with a complex instillation in a multitude of materials and giant video screen with the main message "Promoting Clean Energy". The stand as well as the presentation of India’s Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar presents a vision of renewable investment, but avoids mentioning the massive programme of coal mining expansion and power plants. The simple Japanese pavilion just bears the message "Japan Transformation to a Low Carbon and Climate Resilient Society". Both Japan and Korea maintain active meeting spaces for presentation.

France, as host, has a large central and well-designed multi space pavilion with simple use of unpainted plywood and the slogan "We have the solutions" It has an actively used meeting, press and event space with the very visible presence of Environment and Energy minister Seglonie Royal. The exhibition area has simply and effectively communicated information about a wide range of climate actions and initiatives, which would take some time to absorb and appreciate properly.

Germany’s pavilion bears the slogan "Below 2 Degrees Together We'll Make It". It is designed as a café conveniently opposite the EU delegate meeting rooms. This is combined with an enclosed seminar room with a high focus on energy efficiency presentations The other larger EU countries have plywood enclosed delegation rooms and did not invest in pavilions. Ireland along with the remaining EU countries, shares delegate and meeting places.

The pavilion of the Gulf Co Operation Council, comprising the Emirates and Saudi Arabia is in the style of a flashy hotel lobby with video screens. One provided by Amoco the Saudi state oil company presented a computer generated model of petrol cars "capturing" and compressing CO₂, which would then be offloaded into compressed thanks when the car bought petrol which would then be transferred to an elaborate carbon processing facility.

Brazil did not have a pavilion but their communications at the side events are marked by the promotion of its ethanol biofuel industry. The Sate Brazilian Investment Bank presented an alarming video with massive multi line highways magically rebranded as sustainable because of ethanol fuel content switch.

Morocco which is the host the next summit COP22 next year, has a prominently sited pavilion which regrettably failed to communicate any message. It is designed of laminated red glass in the colour of the national flag more like an expensive instillation from a contemporary art museum. An enquiry revealed that it had been specially commissioned for COP21, but would as least be reused.

So many presentations were going on simultaneously today, as they have done for the last two weeks, that it was only possible to get a flavour of the activity. However I did make time to addend what was a comprehensive presentation by the lead OECD and other researchers on the annual 600 billion euro global fossil fuel subsidy for producer to consumer, including Irish peat bogs.

ENDS

For further information, please call:
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
www.antaisce.org

John Sweeney and Paul Price report from #Cop21Paris

10th December 2015
Press Release

An Taisce has a few members attending CoP at various times over the two weeks. We are bringing you a frequent series of background reports on what is (or is not) happening on the ground.

You can see them all at http://www.antaisce.org/articles/whats-happening-on-the-ground-at-cop21

This evening, Thursday 10th December 2015, another double dose. The first from Professor John Sweeney, Ireland’s premier climate scientist and the second from Paul Price

John Sweeney - The Levelling Down Process Continues

The language of a UN agreement is virtually impenetrable to the average person. Lengthy preambles and legalistic jargon make it hard to decipher where the key bits are unless one is skilled in international legal matters. Notwithstanding this, almost all of the countries that spoke on the draft agreement issued on Wednesday found fault with it and packed the negotiators off for a night’s work to redraft it. They did so until around 7 am, after which an unusual silence descended on the COP. Those who turned up in the morning had little news to learn as the secretariat assembled the new draft and the legal people scrutinised it. So the press conferences and updates throughout the day mainly consisted of rumour and speculation. It was after 9 pm before Ms. Fabius revealed his new draft.

The new streamlined text reduces the area of indecision considerably and meets some of the criticisms voiced concerning the earlier draft especially by the developing countries and small island states.

A stronger statement of intent to restrict warming to 1.5oC is the main addition, though what precisely this will entail in terms of policy efforts is not at all clear. A stronger commitment to achieving the finance target of $100B set for the Green Climate Fund to assist developing countries to adapt to climate change is also evident. Though this sounds like a lot of money it is still only one sixth of what is currently used to subsidise fossil fuels.

However some omissions do raise concerns. Ironically today was International Human Rights Day and reference to human rights and gender equality seem to have slipped down the agenda in the new draft. This is strange given the strong representations made by many countries and especially by Mary Robinson, a former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The inclusion of a Loss and Damage section was flagged as vital by the developing countries and this does feature in the new draft. But routeways towards compensation and liability appear to have been closed off by some powerful developed countries. Similarly the concerns expressed by the EU that the rapidly growing emissions from shipping and aviation be incorporated in any agreement also have not been recognised and would seem to have been dropped altogether as an issue. This is a serious issue as emissions from these two sources, occurring outside national boundaries, amount to the equivalent of Germany and South Korea combined. Ironically the Marshall Islands, likely to be an early casualty of sea level rise, is also the world’s third largest shipping registry after Panama and Liberia. Despite this it is in the vanguard of efforts to include shipping emissions in any agreement. Other countries could learn from such willingness to place global community good before narrow national self interest.

The new benchmark year from which emission cuts would be measured was specified yesterday as 2010 and not 1990. This would have been a disadvantage to several countries who increased their emissions substantially between 1990 and 2010, especially Russia and some eastern European countries. But dates and reduction targets are not detailed as specifically in the new version. The Developed countries would seem to have obtained ‘wriggle room’ in return for concessions elsewhere.

And so the negotiators headed off into the night for another marathon session. Undoubtedly some of today’s draft will be modified. But the clock is ticking down now and injecting more ambition into the agreement will prove difficult. The dilemma of whether a weak agreement is better than no agreement will undoubtedly dominate the next 24 hours. But as with most previous COPs, rabbits can be pulled out of the hat in the closing hours.

Paul Price – An Taisce Climate Change Committee

Report 10 from #COP21

Wednesday December 9th, 2015, at the Paris climate conference

On Wednesday Bill McKibben of 350.org started my day off at a “Stop Fracking” event spelling out that expanded use of natural gas cannot be a ‘bridge’ between phasing out coal use and expanding renewables. Instead he said, “natural gas is more like a creaky pier to failure” (an observation backed up by this UK analysis by Prof. Kevin Anderson Note [1]). Even more snappily, he noted, “If we wanted to release massive amounts of potent greenhouse gas into the atmosphere you could not do it better than to poke holes in the ground everywhere and carry out the equivalent of underground pipe bombing to release the methane”.

Unfortunately, I had to slip out of that event to go off to the welcome briefing by the Irish delegation to those of us from Irish NGOs -- the kind of briefing which I had been bemoaning the lack of a couple of days ago. Despite the detailed answers from the Department of Environment team given to our questions I cannot say I came out of the meeting knowing a great deal more than I did before.

I asked, given the extremely limited, known remaining 2ºC global carbon budget, whether our officials had any knowledge of any negotiation being based on limiting it or achieving its equitable distribution. On this, the essential question now facing humanity, the answer was simple: No.

As to Ireland’s climate negotiations here, on the one hand we know that Ireland is only acting within the EU (which in turn is only one of many groups of nations at this conference), and on the other hand this means that Ireland can essentially keep its head down and look after its national interests without being very obvious about it.

Having artfully directed the EU Council of Ministers statement on agriculture last year, especially on agriculture and forestry Note[2], the main government aims here on behalf of that favoured sector would seem to be: to keep carbon sequestration in forests and soils in the agreement, in hopes of cancelling out some livestock emissions; and to exclude land-use, to ensure that land sources of carbon emissions like peatlands would not count as agricultural sector emissions. So far it seems that all is going to plan.

Alan Kelly, our Minister of Environment, joined the meeting towards the end, particularly expressing his concern about the Shannon flooding, a topic not unrelated to climate change, but offering little on the state of negotiations other than agreeing that the next stages would be more difficult. We just don’t know to what extent Ireland even has its own climate policy other than achieving the short-term gains desired by special interests. That’s the special beauty of being hidden within the EU at these negotiations, it makes it even easier to hide than if speaking as a separate voice.

Later on Wednesday an event on delved into the effects of meat production and consumption on climate. Showing a 2 degree emissions reduction pathway compared to the projected rise in livestock emissions, a Chatham House thinktank speaker showed that livestock production could amount to as much as half of all global emissions by 2050 unless supply and/or demand were slowed. The healthy level of meat consumption is thought to be about 30 kg per year, whereas in the USA the annual amount of meat eaten is over 100 kg per year, and in Ireland it’s about 80 kg per person per year. Chatham House’s research shows that if people are aware of the climate impacts due to their diet then they are much more likely to change their diet toward eating less meat.

Other speakers also emphasised the overconsumption of meat in industrialised societies, the increasing meat-eating in rapidly developing countries like China, and the very low meat consumption in the poorest nations. They also noted that the production of high emissions food from livestock is often heavily subsidised (in the EU by the Common Agricultural Policy). Meanwhile China is now planning to limit to low carbon food and act against increased consumption, something that Ireland’s expansionary food industry export plans might not have reckoned on.

One key point made was that ruminant meat is a very inefficient medium of food calorie production that also comes with high greenhouse emissions. For smaller farmers practicing low density, extensive (often biodiverse) agriculture, livestock emissions per hectare are relatively low and some meat can be an important part of diet. However, subsidised intensive production of livestock-derived food has very high total emissions and mostly feeds existing rich-world consumers and an expanding middle class in the developing world rather than the world’s poor.

As the event moderator, Johan Rockstrom, planetary boundaries scholar Note[3], noted: cutting ruminant numbers and increasing low GHG, non-meat production would be a quick win for climate, by reducing potent greenhouse gas emissions due to methane from cattle, and a win for nutrition security by increasing available food calories.

Given the analysis from this event it is very difficult to see how Ireland’s continued beef production and expanding dairy industry meets the repeated claims of Bord Bia, Teagasc, the IFA and the Department of Agriculture to be either ‘climate smart’ or ‘feeding the world’. Neither claim appears to be remotely accurate.

ENDS

For further information, please call:
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
www.antaisce.org

Note 1 this UK analysis by Prof. Kevin Anderson http://kevinanderson.info/blog/why-a-uk-shale-gas-industry-is-incompatible-with-the-2c-framing-of-dangerous-climate-change/
Note 2: http://capreform.eu/an-agricultural-perspective-on-the-european-council-2030-climate-and-energy-framework-conclusions/
Note 3: http://www.ted.com/talks/johan_rockstrom_let_the_environment_guide_our_development?language=en

Historic Global Climate Agreement will require ramping up of efforts by all.

12th December 2015
Press Release

History has been made at the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris.

Delegates from 195 countries worked around the clock in the latter stages to hammer out an agreement that can be unanimously accepted.

An Taisce endorses its commitment that the previous climate ‘red line’ of +2C above pre-industrial levels is in fact unacceptably dangerous.

As a result of Paris, and in line with the best scientific evidence, the global community must now pursue +1.5C as the absolute maximum ‘upper limit’ that global average temperatures can be allowed to increase by before severe and irreversible impacts occur. The Paris Agreement provides a roadmap for tackling the worst extremes of global climate change. The future pathway to sustainability has been laid out for 195 countries, essentially the entire global community, to offer present and future inhabitants of Earth hope that human-induced climate change can be contained.

However, based on current pledges, the agreement will not avoid the threshold of 2 degrees C of warming which governments and scientist have defined as “dangerous climate change”. Indeed the lengthening of the time scale for implementation and lack of specificity of reduction targets are regrettable.

The hidden power of the Agreement lies in its requirements for 5-yearly stocktaking to ensure countries are delivering on their commitments. Reviews of their pledges are also required to be made on a no ‘backsliding’ basis. The agreement thus provides a ratchet for ensuring progressively stricter actions over time.

However, the greater ambition in this Agreement will necessitate a very significant ramping up over time of national and regional climate targets. As a party to the agreement, Ireland is committing to advocate for such ramping up of ambition. If this is more than mere hypocritical lip service, it must mean that Ireland will exert its full diplomatic weight within the EU to support - on the basis of science and justice - much stronger emission reduction targets for 2030. Of course, such diplomacy can be credible only if Ireland immediately signals its own commitment to aggressive national emission reduction goals; as opposed to current perceptions that it is one of the member states least willing to contribute fully or fairly to this shared challenge (and thus implicitly opposed to any ratchet up to a scientifically defensible level of ambition).

In the words of UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon: “Bold climate action is in the national interest of every single country represented at this conference. The time for brinksmanship is over.” Regrettably, there is little evidence that the current Irish government sees tackling climate as a key national interest or that it is prepared to face down special pleaders and interest groups to act for the common good of this generation and the next.

We earnestly hope that, given the strength and weight of the Paris Agreement, Taoiseach Enda Kenny will at last listen to the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence that concludes that the greatest gamble with Ireland’s social and economic well-being is failing to address climate change.

The latest severe flooding event, fuelled by record rainfall from a climate-changed atmosphere, has badly affected much of our western seaboard. This is a timely reminder that nature, to be commanded, must first be obeyed.

Every year Ireland fails to act, every year we continue to burn our peat bogs for fuel and import billions of euros worth of coal and oil, is another year in which more and more additional greenhouse gas-induced heat energy is pumped into the ocean that surrounds us and the skies above. This is leading to ever more acute weather emergencies that devastate homes, farms and businesses and risk rendering many parts of the country uninsurable.

An Taisce earnestly hopes that COP21 represents the necessary change in how global politics should engage with climate change, ushering in an era of international solidarity in acting to address this grave and growing threat to our way of life, and moving beyond sectional interests and short-term thinking.

ENDS

For further information, please call:
John Gibbons, An Taisce Climate Change Committee Tel: +353 87 233 2689
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
www.antaisce.org

Last report from #CoP21Paris - Paul Price

13th December 2015
Press Release

An Taisce had a few members attending CoP at various times over the two weeks. We are bringing you a frequent series of background reports on what is (or is not) happening on the ground.

You can see them all at http://www.antaisce.org/articles/whats-happening-on-the-ground-at-cop21

This is the eleventh report from Paul Price, a member of An Taisce's Climate Change Committee. Paul is a conservation carpenter with a MSc in Sustainable Development.

We really recommend you read these for the quality of Paul’s pen pictures of CoP21 as seen by a NGO participant.

Report 11 from COP21 - Saturday Evening, 12 December 2015 at the Paris climate conference.

It's odd to be sitting here in a vast plenary room out at Le Bourget on the evening when a global climate change agreement is concluded. We sit UN-style, in serried, packed ranks of desks all of us with headphones delivering translated words, all watching four big video screens, and many among the crowd supplying rounds of heady applause. And this with the praised speakers actually in the similarly enormous room next door. It's like watching sport on television in an enormous and very dull pub.

Just before coming in, three of us from Ireland were outside scanning the agreed draft text attempting to discern its meaning, to see whether it has any commitments or any mechanisms to ensure its delivery. Given only a quick run-through there seems to be a very large divide indeed between the vague text, which rarely strays beyond the aspirational, and the excitement and emotion so evident in these halls.

I've no doubt that many people, our own Irish delegation included, have worked very hard to achieve this agreement. Certainly by the standard of past climate conferences this one has been a resounding success.

But we are getting far too far down the carbon road for 31 pages of laudable aspiration to be to be treated with such reverence – we have been travelling far too fast and we’re still moving ever faster. I think we all deserve a great deal more than this from the leaders of both the wealthy and the rapidly developing nations, but they have yet again failed us despite the mood music here and the massed desire for action expressed by the “red lines” protesters (ourselves included) in central Paris today.

If all of the 196 represented nations go home now and all act immediately to cut emissions radically, year-on-year from now on then perhaps, just maybe "this could be a turning point in our story, a turning point for all of us", as the young woman from the Marshall Islands hopes.

However, the Earth's climate system will only react to what we actually do or don’t do. If we want to drive on as we are doing, then more emissions on this path means much more warming. Global emissions must not only peak but they have to fall to zero very fast indeed to limit warming to 2ºC above pre-industrial levels; even faster, probably impossibly faster, to stay within 1.5ºC. At this point perhaps some nations just have to stand up and act unilaterally and shame others into doing the same. What else can we do and still act morally?

Would Ireland, for example, immediately commit to sustained year-on-year emission cuts of at least 3% per year starting now as is needed for 2ºC? That's actually only an average so a richer nation with capacity and responsibility like ours needs to be cutting emissions immediately far faster.

Or to limit to 1.5ºC, which Ireland now supports thanks to Minister Alan Kelly, emissions in Ireland would need to drop like a stone starting immediately. That would mean that transport and agriculture would have to be a big part of some national or EU system that accepts immediate cuts in demand. Government policy to date has been to grow the economy so raising emissions even though climate action demands that emissions must fall.

Failing to understand the physics is either: extreme wishful thinking, due to a level of ignorance of the science surely at this point inexcusable in any government officials; or else, the "1.5 to survive" is knowingly intended as a distracting statement of high ambition that will only be buoyed up briefly by platitudes that will be all too soon punctured by insufficient action. If immediate action does not match the rate of emission cuts aligned with the chosen warming limit then we are simply borrowing from our own (and our children’s) future, ensuring far more demanding cuts to come in the years ahead or far more risk.

I dearly want us to hold to 1.5ºC of warming (1ºC would have been better) which means we as humans do need the inspiring visions and aspirational words embodied in this agreement. But pressing reality determines that we need to start braking very hard now to slow down rapidly and stop moving down this carbon road altogether.

None of this is pleasant to think about. We’d all rather, I certainly would rather it wasn’t so. After two weeks at this climate conference though it seems the world’s negotiators would rather not really think about it too deeply either, especially tonight. Even if the urgent threat we face has influenced this agreement’s rhetoric, there are no guarantees at all in it for anything substantive to be done.

Is that good enough? I don’t think so, do you?

Paul Price

ENDS

For further information, please call:
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
www.antaisce.org

Last post from John Sweeney at #CoP21Paris

15th December 2015
Press Release

An Taisce had a few members attending CoP at various times over the two weeks. We are bringing you a frequent series of background reports on what is (or is not) happening on the ground.

You can see them all at http://www.antaisce.org/articles/whats-happening-on-the-ground-at-cop21

This is the last report from Paris by Professor John Sweeney, Ireland's premier Climate Scientist and a member of An Taisce's Climate Change Committee.

Historic Agreement Reached on 12/12/2015

The last session of each COP is usually marked by a prolonged exchange of hugs and kisses on the platform, irrespective of how successful the two week negotiation has been. Often this is for local domestic political consumption to show the world what a good job the host country has done, and how high the esteem of the presiding Minister or senior politician is with his peers.

On Saturday night, however, things were very different. As news of the agreement was confirmed, the few thousand delegates in both the main Plenary Hall (La Seine) and the overflow hall (La Loire) began to exhibit the kind of euphoria usually seen at a world championship sports event. Seasoned politicians, and even some hard bitten journalists, became quite emotional. The sight of the chief US negotiator (Secretary of State John Kerry) hugging his Chinese counterpart (Xie Zhenhua) is not something one sees normally, and replicated several such interactions around the hall. In truth, some of the individuals had been trying for such a historic deal for the previous 20 years and had witnessed the rocky road to Paris via many setbacks and arguments along the way. The failure at Copenhagen when similar optimism had prevailed prior to the meeting, weighed heavily on their minds. Many also realised that the agreement they were making was not delivering much of what they wanted, but did represent a giant step forward in the fight to bequeath their children a sustainable future.

The last few days were a test of stamina for the negotiators, with some 65 hours of continuous talks, translation and legal proofing. Both round table and bilateral meetings were hastily arranged and negotiators called their bosses at home and Presidents called other Presidents to achieve the final compromises necessary. But it was not all high level power plays by the big countries and some tiny countries, most notably the Marshall Islands, showed leadership and ambition which was absent from some of their bigger colleagues.

The Agreement signifies the beginning of the end of the fossil fuel age, with each of the 195 countries committing to limit their greenhouse gas emissions progressively over coming decades with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C above pre industrial levels, ideally below 1.5°C. Scientifically the latter lacks credibility, and is more a symbolic gesture to the small island developing states and least developed countries who are most vulnerable to any further temperature/sea level rise. No sanctions are envisaged for countries not complying with a requirement to renew their pledges every five years on a progressively more demanding basis. However the ‘no backsliding’ requirement is seen as a way of progressively tightening the noose around profligate polluters and working towards a decarbonised world after mid century. For the developing countries a guaranteed fund of $100B is to be created by contributions from developed countries to help foster a sustainable development trajectory and encourage them to not replicate the fossil fuel based economies of the developed world which has produced the problem in the first place. Historic but differentiated responsibility was a catch phrase widely used to differentiate the actions required from different groupings of countries.

The omissions from the agreement are many. Aviation and shipping escaped mention. For such emissions in international waters and air, the national jurisdictions found it difficult to agree on. This is a serious omission since together these sources currently account for emissions on a scale of Germany and South Korea combined. Human rights received much less attention than it should have (some countries objected strongly to its inclusion) and ‘climate justice’ was also not incorporated at the request of some countries. Attempts by the developing countries to insert a ‘Loss and Damage’ section were successful but only at the cost of a negating sentence which expressly forbade compensation or liability issues to arise as a consequence. Timetables and emission reduction figures were vague and generally the EU would have welcomed greater ambition in several areas.

The Paris Agreement now goes for a signing ceremony in April and countries have a further year to ratify it before it becomes operative in 2020. 55 countries comprising 55% of global emissions are required for it to become functional. Not all of the agreement is legally binding and it is conceivable that the main parts would not have to go for example before the US Congress for approval.

A great deal of credit for the agreement must go to the diplomatic skills of the President of COP21, French Foreign Minister Lauren Fabius. While some of us had doubts that a developed world chairperson would retain the confidence of the developing countries, M. Fabius was exemplary in his transparency of operation and gained the praise of all delegates. It was remarkable that a unanimous decision involving 195 countries could be achieved and as the green gavel was brought down with a thud on Saturday night, and delegates began to filter out home, the world gained breathing space and an improved prospect for the sustainability of what Pope Francis referred to as ‘Our Common Home’.

ENDS

For further information, please call:
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
www.antaisce.org

Distant Ambitions in Energy White Paper

16th December 2015
Press Release

Today’s publication of the Energy White Paper(EWP) "Ireland's Transition to a Low Carbon Energy Future 2015- 2030" is long on ambition, but desperately short on detail as to how this radical transition can actually be delivered.

The EWP comes just days after the Paris Agreement. Both may be considered to have too distant ambitions but are a starting point for people to drive government for those needed ambitions.

At Paris, Ireland accepted a clear obligation, as a developed country, to take effective action to stay within its rapidly dwindling equitable share of the remaining Carbon Budget that could limit global temperature rise to no more than 1.5 degrees C above pre industrial levels.

An Taisce accepts that the Energy Minister is personally committed to guiding Ireland on the pathway to a sustainable, energy-independent future, but we remain unconvinced that this EWP can deliver what Minister White clearly intends.

The EWP launch also comes just after yesterday’s publication by the EPA of Ireland's 2014 emission figures. These show a continuing trend from 2013 of rapidly rising Transport emissions at 2.5% over the previous year. While heating emissions declined by over 10%, this was in part resulting from a reduction in solid fuel, but was mainly because of a warmer winter, and not any action to improve national efficiency.

The EWP states that it "does not set out detailed proposals". However, the document, while claiming to cover energy policy for the period 2015 to 2039, lacks a 2030 target. The only target set out is a distant one that "emissions from the energy sector will be reduced by between 80% and 95%, compared to 1990 levels by 2050, and will fall to zero or below by 2100”. There was no mention of the fact that this is utterly inconsistent with the 1.5C goal that Ireland supposedly endorsed only last Saturday in Paris.

It was acknowledged at the launch that the “challenging” EU 2030 proposed 40% target would need to be met. Again, there was no mention of the fact that this EU target is also utterly inconsistent with the supposed 1.5C goal. More importantly there was no mention of how, exactly, Ireland proposes to act to “enhance ambition” - as solemnly agreed in Paris - to address that goal; for example, by immediately lobbying, at EU level, for the early adoption of stronger emissions reduction targets for 2020 and 2030.

The EWP is devoid of any commitment to effective carbon pricing. It puts, what should be the overarching consideration of sustainability, in equal place with “competitiveness”, thus projecting a continuing and significant gas dependence.

The EWP provides a welcome new commitment to promote community engagement via the concept of "energy citizens" and the promotion of intermediaries, like the Tipperary Energy Agency, to “combine expertise with local leadership and knowledge to engage citizens and support project development that delivers long term benefits for communities.”

We also welcome the formation of a National Energy Forum, which we trust will be allowed to undertake its remit of having “representatives of community and environmental groups … It will also work to simulate constructive and informed national debate on energy-related issues”.

The EWP is set out in the form of a range of policy objectives but, for instance, there is no exit date for peat electricity generation and subsidies, thereby leaving Bord na Mona’s plan to continue burning peat to 2030 to prevail. For a zero carbon future, the replacement of Moneypoint remains one of the most critical decisions and we concur with the statement that “Key decisions on the future of Moneypoint will be taken before 2020.”

In terms of energy security, the acknowledged fact that in order to meet global targets, we must keep at least 80% of fossil fuel in the ground makes exploration to meet rising demands and the possibility of using natural gas as a bridging fuel impossible.

The EWP also provides for continued support of "Smarter Travel" objectives. However, the publication of Smarter Travel in 2009 was not accompanied by the Interdepartmental Working Group, which is needed to achieve many of its measures.

ENDS

For further information, please call:
John Gibbons, An Taisce Climate Change Committee Tel: +353 87 233 2689
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
www.antaisce.org

An Taisce welcomes proposed Prohibition of Fracking Bill.

17th December 2015
Press Release

An Taisce welcomed the introduction by Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett of a bill to prohibit Hydraulic Fracturing (fracking) for both gas and oil in Ireland and in its territorial waters. The Bill was developed jointly by An Taisce, Friends of the Earth, and Deputy Boyd Barrett.

“This is a climate friendly measure” said Attracta Uí Bhroin - Vice Chair of An Taisce.

She went on to say:
“This bill will prohibit any minister or state agency, or any body acting on behalf of the state from issuing licenses or permission for Fracking or exploration within the state. It will also prohibit the processing or disposal of fracking waste within the state.”

"We recently made commitments in Paris to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and it would be acting against all of these commitments to even contemplate fracking to happen in Ireland."

"Fracking is one of the most destructive methods of obtaining gas. Not only does it lay waste to land and scar the countryside but it is it highly carbon intensive and generates millions of litres of polluted water and waste materials - even when operated properly."

"Given the nature of the environmental and regulatory concerns there are with fracking, it is vital that we have a clear and unequivocal prohibition on fracking."

"Following the Paris climate agreement - this Bill will show Ireland is committed to a major re-think on energy."

ENDS

For further information, please call:
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
www.antaisce.org

Notes:

The Bill will prohibit the issuing of licences to frack or explore for gas in Ireland and its Seas. It will also prohibit the disposal of fracking waste. Fracking is second only to tar-sands in the amount of destruction and damage that is done to land in the production of oil or gas. Although fracking is short-term as the gas is exhausted within 7-8 years, fracking leaves a permanent scar on the landscape.

Publication of planning investigations of six Local Authorities by Department of Environment Community and Local Government

18th December 2015
Press Release

This week's publication of the investigations carried out by the Department of Environment Community and Local Government on the planning functions of six local authorities Carlow, Cork City and County, Dublin City, Galway County and Meath found that all of the complaints made raised legitimate public interest concerns.

In its response the DOECLG stated:

“The report found that all the complainants raised issues of public interest and as such have served the common good in raising these matters. It also highlighted that the planning authorities reviewed have, by and large, and over a period of time, responded positively in addressing the issues identified."

The findings of the review and the recommendations made fully vindicates the complaints made by An Taisce and our vital role in independently monitoring the Irish planning system. In the absence of An Taisce’s important prescribed status, we would have been unable to gather all of the evidence to mount these complaints in the public interest. The independent review concludes that:

“that certain systems and procedures need to be reviewed and enhanced to achieve the standards of transparency, consistency and accountability that a modern society expects and that is what the Government will focus on. By and large these can be addressed through circulars and guidance rather than legislation, albeit there are some legislative proposals upon which the Minister will advance following consultation with the Attorney General.”

As highlighted in the recent RTE Investigates programme, corruption, cronyism and poor practices are major corrosive factors in the Irish planning systems and we are satisfied that, if implemented, the recommendations made on foot of the review will make a significant contribution to restoring public confidence in the planning system.

An Taisce calls on the government to implement all recommendations as a matter of urgency and, in particular, to immediately legislate for the recommendations of the Mahon Tribunal report and to establish an independent regulator for the planning system, as the Minister has initiated.

ENDS

For further information, please call:
Ian Lumley, Heritage Officer, An Taisce. Tel +353 1 454 1786
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce. Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
www.antaisce.org

Notes:

The Independent Planning Review is here http://www.environ.ie/en/Publications/DevelopmentandHousing/Planning/FileDownLoad,43873,en.pdf

The complaints were made by a number of parties including An Taisce which raised issues on a number of decisions made by Cork and Galway Counties and Dublin City.

The Minister for Environment Community and Local Government commissioned planning consultants McCabe Durney Barnes to carry out the investigations. Their report now published makes a range of findings in relation to each local authority and specific recommendations in each case.

An important overlapping recommendation was made in relation to what is the current loose provision only Requiring a Planning Authority only to “have regard” to its Development Plan in making decisions

“Examine the wording in Section 34(2) of the Planning and Development Act and consider whether the words ‘regard being had’ are too permissive (in the light of the High Court’s interpretation of similar phraseology) with reference to the provisions of the development plan. This could be achieved by amending Section 34(2) (a) requiring decisions to be ‘consistent with’ the provisions of the development plan.”

In relation to the three local authorities on which An Taisce had made complaint the findings and recommendations were as follows:

CORK COUNTY

The complaint made was in relation to the role of a Cork Co staff member acting as a “Liason Officer” operating outside the provisions set out in the Planning Regulations having undocumented communications with persons or agent lodging planning applications and local authority members, and influencing the outcome of panning decisions.

The investigation concluded that:

“There was a lack of transparency in relation to meetings and/other contacts between the Liaison Officer and applicants and/or their agents and public representatives during the period under examination”

And recommended that the Minister

“Advise Cork County Council that the Department considers that the Liaison Officer role is not appropriate within the planning system.”

DUBLIN CITY

The Dublin City Council area complaint related to the significance and extent of decisions refused or significantly varied by An Bord Pleanála in relation to decision determinations by the Council for large scale or sensitively located developments in the city centre

The findings for this category of development stated:

“the percentage of cases reversed or varied on appeal and the reasons for those reversals/variations appears to indicate a poorly balanced application of all Dublin City Development Plan 2005-2011 policies and objectives…”

In relation to zoning:

“Having regard to An Bord Pleanála decisions in a very limited number of cases, the Planning Authority erroneously interpreted the zoning provisions of the Dublin City Development Plan 2005- 2011 and, as a consequence, did not initiate the procedures required for a material contravention prior to granting permission.”

In relation to pre planning consultations:

“Dublin City Council did not properly categorise all consultations under Section 247 of the Act or maintain appropriate records of these 247 consultations during the period 2005-2011.”

On use of further information requests:

“Examination of relevant cited cases indicates a level of incorrect use of Article 33 of the Planning and Development Regulations 2001 (as amended), which allows planning authorities to seek further information in order to determine a planning application. Dublin City Council has used Article 33 to seek modified plans, when it should have used Article 34.“

On the templates for planners reports:

“There are weaknesses in the standard planner’s report template in that it does not ensure a systematic and comprehensive consideration of all the main provisions of the Development Plan.“

A range of recommendations was made including examination of the Planning Act provision only to “ have regard “ to Development Plans , on pre planning consultation ,the use of further information requests and to “revise planner report templates”

GALWAY COUNTY

The complaint on Galway Country related to the quality on of decision on ecologically and landscape sensitive sites, and development affecting National Roads

In relation to development affecting European protected sites the findings were

“There was evidence of an uneven application of requirements in terms of Appropriate Assessment in relation to designated sites in the cases cited”. The Planning Authority did not always demonstrate comprehensive systematic assessment of impacts arising from development on or near sites designated under the Habitats and Birds Directives. Furthermore, it did not always show in its reports that it adequately assessed the submissions of the NPWS during the period referred to in the complaints.” and “Conditions designed to rectify problems associated with developments proposed on designated sites were attached in some cases contrary to the contents of the Department’s letter PD 2/07.”

NATIONAL ROADS AUTHORITY

In relation to National Roads the findings stated:

“There was an absence of consideration in written form of submissions made to the Planning Authority by the NRA in some planning reports which may have led to the pattern of a favourable weighting of local considerations in relation to developments on or near National Roads.”

In cases where the planners report recommendation was varied in the decision issued by Management

“Notifications of Decisions in relation to relevant planning applications did not include an explanation stating the main reasons why the decision maker did not accept the recommendation in the planning report.”

A range of recommendations was made including examination of the Planning Act provision only to “have regard to” Development Plans, assessment of impact on European Sites and Ministerial Guidelines

CONCLUSION

The outcome of the investigations are an important vindication of An Taisce’s public interest role as consultee in the planning process. The active implementation of the range of legislative and procedural recommendations set out must now be a priority

DONEGAL

The Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly has just appointed Rory Mulcahy (Senior Counsel) to prepare a review into certain planning decisions by Donegal County Council.

Significant Water Management Issues for Ireland (An Taisce's Submission)

18th December 2015
Submission Summary

Please see attached PDF for An Taisce's submission to consultation on Significant Water Management Issues.

Download PDF: 
Download PDF (1.12 MB)

An Taisce refused leave to appeal the Dingle N86 Case

22nd December 2015
Press Release

Yesterday, An Taisce was refused leave to appeal the judgement of the High Court in October on the Dingle Road. An Bord Pleanála had granted permission for the road in 2014 and An Taisce sought to judicially review the decision earlier this year.

Reacting to the judgement today Charles Stanley-Smith Spokesperson of An Taisce stated:

"This is not only a deeply disappointing decision - because of the iconic importance of the landscape on the Dingle peninsula and the visual impact of this proposed road development, but also in terms of the law and how this road project was handled by Kerry County Council and An Bord Pleanála in particular."

He continued:

“We believe that the Aarhus Convention and the EIA Directive require judicial review procedures to be fair, equitable and not prohibitively expensive. It is very disappointing that we will not be able to appeal the judge's finding to the contrary.

It is also very disappointing that we cannot appeal the Judge's finding that we are precluded from raising the issue of project splitting, even though this was addressed by both the Inspector and the Board after the period identified by the Judge as the time limit applicable to An Taisce. We believe that this approach is inconsistent with the right to a judicial review to consider the procedural and substantive legality of planning decisions subject to the Directive.

The case was being watched very closely by the European Commission who are already in the process of infringement proceedings against Ireland on a range of alleged breaches and failures in respect of how Ireland provides Access to Justice to review certain environmental cases. We expect this judgement and the earlier judgement to feature in infringement action by the Commission against Ireland and indeed also in front of the UN Compliance Committee of the Aarhus Convention who investigate alleged breaches of the Aarhus Convention."

ENDS

For further information, please call:
Ian Lumley, Heritage Officer, An Taisce. Tel +353 1 454 1786
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce. Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
www.antaisce.org

Minister Humphreys gives an early Christmas present to the IFA as Ireland’s wildlife once again takes the hit

23rd December 2015
Press Release

An Taisce is deeply disappointed by the announcement today by the Minister for Arts Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphries that hedge cutting will be allowed in August, even if this is under a 'controlled' pilot scheme. Under the Wildlife Acts, hedgerows traditionally are not cut during the period from 1st March to 31st August each year, in order to protect birds during the nesting season.

Ireland has the second lowest forest cover in Europe and of this only a paltry 1% is native species. Hedgerows are vital in that they support woodland plants and animals and are a vital refuge for Ireland’s wildlife. The extension of the cutting season into August is difficult to justify as hedge cutting is already allowed during the nesting season in cases where there is a legitimate health and safety issue. There is ample time during the existing system between September and February to manage hedgerows.

This announcement is another blow for Ireland beleaguered farmland biodiversity. Birds like the yellowhammer for example have declined by 61% since the 1970s. Other once common birds are also undergoing shocking declines in their long-term breeding distribution: Corncrake (92%), Curlew (89%), Whinchat (77%), Grey Partridge (74%), Lapwing (56%), and Red Grouse (52%). One third of our 97 wild bees are currently threatened with extinction. This is terrible news for Ireland’s biodiversity but also humanity as we are reliant on the natural world to an extent many people fail to realise. 50-80% of the world's food supply for example is directly or indirectly affected by bee pollination.

Minister Humphries has given an early Christmas present to the IFA having once again caved to their demands. €2.18 billion has been given to farmers in Ireland under CAP environmental schemes between 1994 and 2006, these schemes, have failed to deliver sufficient protection for Ireland’s biodiversity. This situation makes a mockery of Ireland’s current branding of our food and drink sector as “green” and sustainable under Bord Bias, Origin Green marketing campaign.

Fintan Kelly, Natural Environment Officer, An Taisce, stated:

“The current levels of farmland biodiversity loss are nothing short of catastrophic. This backward step by the Minister and the ongoing intensification of Irish Agriculture will unquestionably hasten the demise of many of our most cherished wild birds and animals. The statement from the Minister that this decision will benefit rural communities is frankly insulting.”

For further information, please call:
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce. Tel: +353 87 241 1995
Fintan Kelly, Natural Environment Officer, An Taisce. Tel +353 85 129 5849
email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
www.antaisce.org

An Taisce Lodges Complaint to RTÉ on ‘PrimeTime’ Climate Change Debate

3rd January 2016
Press Release

An Taisce has lodged a formal complaint with RTÉ regarding the Prime Time programme broadcast on December 3rd, 2015, entitled “How much will climate change cost Ireland”. This has been done because RTE’s flagship current affairs programme completely failed to reflect the overwhelming expert consensus on the core findings of climate science.

RTE Prime Time has, in our view, once again misled the public on the crucial issue of climate change by failing to present a scientifically credible and informed debate on the essential decisions for the future of the Irish economy including agriculture.

The full complaint can be found at the link below, see Note 1. (Please note: this Complaint does not relate to the short, pre-recorded video introductory segment or its reporter, but to the extended ‘studio panel debate’ that followed).

An Taisce fully supports RTÉ’s key role in enabling free and open debate and to “operate in the public interest, providing News and Current Affairs that is fair and impartial, accurate and challenging” (see Note 2). In our view though, these values were ignored in much of the programme’s panel discussion, breaching both the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) rules and RTÉ’s own Journalism Guidelines (2012). This complaint follows similar concerns regarding a previous Prime Time programme on climate change that was aired early last year (Note 3).

The December 2015 programme’s discussion topic was the possible economic effects on Irish agriculture arising from the national policy aiming to reduce national greenhouse gas emissions in line with Ireland’s declared United Nations and EU commitments. However, Prime Time misleadingly introduced a complete non-expert in this field (a specialist in atmospheric meteorology) as an agricultural policy expert.

This panelist was then allowed to divert discussion into areas of climate science on which neither the presenter nor the other panelists had sufficient knowledge, so allowing serious misrepresentations of the expert findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to occur. Personal views were therefore aired without any “forceful questioning” (Note 4), despite the fact that Prime Time knew full well in advance that this panelist represents a tiny ‘contrarian’ minority among scientists. At least two Irish academic specialists had refused invitations to participate in the panel, clearly stating their concerns regarding the potential ‘false balance’ presentation of climate science that, regrettably, did indeed result.

An Taisce believes that normal editorial and presenter preparation could easily have accessed and noted the necessary key statements of the IPCC climate report (Note 5) to properly rebut misleading statements but clearly this did not happen. Indeed, such a shortage of journalistic rigor and basic climate understanding is far too often seen in climate change coverage in our media. Here, this lack of rigor resulted in Prime Time allowing personal advocacy, aimed at promoting climate inaction, being presented under cover of supposed scientific authority, having been introduced as such by the presenter. Free speech must be respected and a scientist is, of course, fully entitled to advocate for a personal view on policy, but it is important that both they and the presenter make clear that they are doing so. This did not happen.

In the complaint, An Taisce urges RTÉ and the BAI to consider introducing appropriate policies and procedures on the accurate reporting of climate change science and policy. As seen in the past, in the tobacco industry’s long running campaign to delay action to control tobacco sales, vested interest efforts to delay action to control greenhouse gas emissions have aimed to create public doubt by misrepresenting science and minimising potential harmful impacts (Note 6). RTÉ and other media need to be far more aware of basic climate science in order to avoid being manipulated in this way.

Clearer guidelines specific to climate change reporting, as have already been introduced by the BBC and other media organisations would help RTÉ editors and presenters further to “maintain a balance of opinion that reflects the weight of evidence”. Regrettably, this “weight of evidence”, was noticeably absent from RTE Prime Time in both its March 2014 and December 2015 segments on climate change – and these were the only segments Prime Time dedicated to this crucial topic in the last two years.

An Taisce looks forward to a detailed and comprehensive response from RTÉ Prime Time regarding this complaint, and, if requested, we are prepared to engage constructively with RTÉ in helping to draw up evidence-based guidelines on environmental and climate-related reporting. We would urge all media editors and reporters working in all sectors – including economics, energy and transport as well as agriculture – to be far more aware of core IPCC climate science and policy guidance so that they can report climate change more accurately and objectively, and so be better equipped to deal with ‘special pleading’ from powerful interest groups opposing action on climate change.

The core finding of the overwhelming consensus, of scientists and experts, from all fields of climate science and policy, is that acting immediately and strongly to cut our national and personal greenhouse emissions will be far safer and far cheaper than delaying decisions and acting later. Knowing this, we and our media need to critically question those who argue otherwise.

Acting on climate change quickly and deeply will be required to meet the extremely challenging 1.5C and 2C targets set out in the recent Paris Agreement, as is necessary to prevent catastrophic climate change in the coming decades. Any and all debate now needs to reflect the very challenging arithmetic of carbon budgets and emissions pathways now needed by every nation, including Ireland.

The results of failing to act to cut emissions are already becoming abundantly evident in extreme heat and drought events around the world, and specifically right now, in the extreme flooding and storm events now directly affecting Ireland.

An Taisce strongly supports the right of the media to act independently and free from censorship from any source in its reporting; this in turn right carries clear responsibilities, the most crucial of which, we contend, is not ‘balance’ but accuracy.

We can limit the very worst effects of climate change if we act now. We urge our media to reflect this reality.

ENDS

For further information, please call:
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce. Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
www.antaisce.org

NOTES

  1. Link to full complaint document. http://www.antaisce.org/sites/antaisce.org/files/prime-time-complaint-2015-12-03-final.pdf
  2. RTÉ Journalism Guidelines (2012) p.2
  3. RTÉ Prime Time programme March 18th, 2014. See discussions: http://www.thinkorswim.ie/a-prime-lesson-in-how-not-to-cover-climate-change/
  4. http://www.irishexaminer.com/viewpoints/columnists/victoria-white/prime-time-and-rte-are-in-denial-of-the-truth-about-climate-change-264064.html
  5. See BAI Rule 22: “It is an important part of the role of a presenter of a current affairs programme to ensure that the audience has access to a wide variety of views on the subject of the programme or item; to facilitate the expression of contributors’ opinions – sometimes by forceful questioning; and to reflect the views of those who cannot, or choose not to, participate in content.”
  6. IPCC (2015) Video summary of the AR5 Synthesis Report. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TrF042fGfQM
  7. Authoritative reports presented at all levels from simple to complex are available from http://www.ipcc.ch
  8. Oreskes N, Conway EM (2010) Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming. Bloomsbury Press.

Dredging the Shannon is not the solution to Shannon Floods (2)

5th January 2016
Press Release

The recent flooding which has devastated so many communities around the country was record breaking for many reasons. The flooding came at the end of the warmest year globally on record. A very strong El Nino super charged by climate change [Note 1] has pummelled Ireland with six storms resulting in an entire winter's worth of rainfall falling during December alone.

These conditions are unprecedented with many weather stations around the country recording their highest levels of rainfall on record according to Met Eireann.

Even with a reprieve in storms Ireland’s swollen rivers and flooded towns and countryside will continue to receive normal levels of winter rainfall. These kinds of extreme flooding events are to be expected according to climate change scientists and indeed they will only increase in frequency in line with increasing global greenhouse gas emissions.

What steps should be taken to alleviate the problem?

A number of ‘self-styled’ experts are appearing on the media telling us how to control the flooding on the River Shannon. An Taisce is not claiming such expertise but the answer must be based on the entire Shannon Catchment and must allow for the fact that climate change will increase the problems over coming years. The best answers will come from the Shannon CFRAM (Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management Study) being undertaken by the OPW although as yet climate risk is not included.

The CFRAM assessment treats the Shannon on a River Basin basis and will ‘Identify measures and options for managing flood risks, both in local high-risk areas and across the whole study area’.

Today’s Press Release from the European Commission [Note 2] explains the actual wording of Nature Directives and Natura Sites, and the limited usefulness of of dredging. It states:

" EU Nature Directives (Birds and Habitats) do not prevent measures being taken to protect lives and property. In particular they provide for situations of 'over-riding public interest' to permit activities that might damage a Natura 2000 site but which are necessary for human welfare. The Directives do however require an assessment of the options available before a conclusion is reached that such damage is unavoidable.

Dredging is not always the solution for flooding. It may help to sort out a local problem but it may also transport the problem downstream, sometimes from rural to urban areas where the damage on properties and economic activities can be much higher. Therefore the basin-wide approach included in EU policies is essential to find effective and long-term solutions."

An Taisce first called for a single authority for the Shannon river basin over 30 years ago, it is the basic step required for coherent flood management and now, with climate change, it is even more urgently required. Any Task Force or Single Authority that is formed must also allow for proper Public Participation in the form of Social, Community and Environmental groups.

One of the first reports of the Shannon CFRAMs is a Jacobs report [Note 3] that summarises the current knowledge and references the many previous reports.

The important points of those reports are:

  • There is no single, simple solution to prevent flooding along the River Shannon, and a combination of works would be required to reduce flood levels by a significant degree.
  • The ESB Regulations for managing Loughs Derg, Ree and Allen provide, on balance, optimum management of floods within existing storage and land control capabilities.
  • The effects of high Lough Derg levels do not extend upstream above Meelick Weir.
  • Localised dredging upstream of Meelick Weir was not found to have a significant impact on flood levels.
  • The extent of aquatic and riverside vegetation has increased over the last 50 years, and at constricted locations such growth will have some affect on flood levels.
  • The River Shannon and its callows are, over much of their length, considered to have environmental significance on an international scale.
  • There is a case for one organisation being responsible for overseeing all flood management operations on the River Shannon prior to, during and after a flood event.
  • The principal cause of flooding between Meelick and Athlone is the shallow gradient of the river and the limited channel capacity along this reach. Channel works along this reach would be critical to the success of any general scheme.
  • The issue of siltation has repeatedly been identified as a potential problem, but has never been quantified or proven as a problem.
  • Enhanced management of storage in Loughs Derg and Ree (and possibly Lough Allen) could form part of a scheme for relieving flooding from short duration floods, but would not eliminate major winter flooding as a standalone option.
  • The use of embankments as a general flood relief option is not likely to be viable due to local soil types, but may have localised applications.
  • The use of river diversions for flood relief would either be entirely uneconomical or offer no significant benefit.
  • The development of an effective storage area above Roosky Weir would be uneconomical due to significant inundation of infrastructure, properties, etc.
  • The impacts of any scheme would need to be assessed in relation to the economic benefit, environment, navigation, fisheries, tourism, etc.

Given the nature of the Shannon basin and the languid flow along the majority of its length, increasing the speed with which water enters the river through drainage works will only exacerbate flooding along the main river and in the Shannon’s lower stretches.

We need to slow down the speed with which water is moving into the Shannon and that will require change on a landscape/catchment basis. The drainage of our bogs and wetlands by Bord na Mona and through the arterial drainage scheme and various forestry programmes over the preceding decades have unquestionably exacerbated this winter’s floods.

The restoration of dredged and canalised tributaries can help to slow down flood waters and reduce the Impact of flooding by reducing peak flows within the main river.

Natural flood plains will need to be restored. Agri-environment schemes may need to be tailored to help farmers reduce surface run-off by blocking drains, planting native woodlands and reducing over grazing and burning in our uplands.

We will also need to improve the accuracy with which we can predict the approach of storms and pre-emptively increase flow through Ardnacrusha and Parteen Weir ahead of their arrival.

Apparently simple quick-fix flood protection measures such as dredging and 'hard engineering often have short-lived usefulness or unintended negative consequences. As communities in the UK are finding out, 'soft engineering', working with nature is often far more effective and, in the long-run, far less costly. [Note 4]

ENDS

For further information, please call:
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce. Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
www.antaisce.org

Note 1 Extreme weather linked to El Niño and climate change – Irish floods from Storm Desmond rendered 40% more likely by global warming http://www.irishtimes.com/news/environment/extreme-weather-linked-to-el-ni%C3%B1o-and-climate-change-1.2477954
Risk of extreme storms on west coast up 25% due to climate change - study http://www.rte.ie/news/2015/0311/686391-extreme-storms/ Prof. Conor Murphy, NUIM giving details of forthcoming, accepted journal paper: doubling in likelihood of these sort of winters over past 100 years; over past 140 years, precipitation intensity has increased markedly in more recent years; flood events are likely to become up to 8x more frequent with continued high emissions; 1 in 100 year events can become 1 in 30 or 1 in 40 years. Interviewed on RTE News, 04/01/2015. video starts at 23m:20s. http://www.rte.ie/player/ie/show/six-one-news-30003249/10512472/?ap=1

Note 2 http://ec.europa.eu/ireland/press_office/news_of_the_day/flooding-statement-on-behalf-of-the-european-commission_en.htm

Note 3 http://shannoncframstudy.ie/docs/River%20Shannon%20Level%20Operation%20Review%20Report.pdf

Note 4 http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/uk-flooding-how-a-yorkshire-flood-blackspot-worked-with-nature-to-stay-dry-a6794286.html

An Taisce applauds winners of BT Young Scientist Award

15th January 2016
Press Release

Congratulations to Sarah Denby, Louise Egan and Fiona Molloy on coming first place in the Biological and Ecological (intermediate group) section of this year’s BT Young Scientist Awards.

An Taisce applauds the girls from Athlone Community College for their exemplary research on 'Rewetted and degraded bogs: Carbon emissions and botanical composition’; and their teacher Leo Smith for supporting them to do this topical research. In addition to winning first place in its group, the project was the recipient of the Environmental Protection Agency Special Award.

To help understand the background for the project, here are some of the Basics of Bogs:

  • Ordinarily, plants release CO₂ into the atmosphere during respiration and take in CO₂ for photosynthesis. Photosynthesis turns this Carbon into new plant material. In a healthy undrained bog, when plants die, the plant material (Carbon) is unable to fully decompose in the anaerobic environment created by the high water table. The Carbon is then stored as new peat - a form of carbon sequestration. Since healthy bogs take in and store more CO₂ than they emit, they act as Carbon Sinks.

  • Disastrously, drainage for the purposes of peat extraction, agriculture and commercial forestry is taking a huge toll on the health of our bogs. The BOGLAND Research Project, 2011, found that less than 1% of our raised bogs can actively store carbon. Draining bogs lowers the water table and exposes the peat to the air. This allows the stored carbon to be oxidised to CO₂ and released to the atmosphere. In this way our natural carbon sinks have become a carbon source, because they are emitting more CO₂ than their plants can take in. Renou-Wilson* et al *(2011) estimated that Irish peatlands emit ~2.64 million tonnes of carbon per year as a result of irresponsible mistreatment.

However, there is hope! The purpose of the Young Scientist project by Ms. Denby, Ms. Egan and Ms. Molloy was to ‘explore whether rewetting drained bogs is a suitable method of reducing carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions from drained Irish raised bogs and ensuring rare plant species survive.’ The study was conducted predominantly on Moyarwood Bog, county Galway; a raised bog which had previously been drained by Bord na Móna but not extracted. In 2012 peat dams had been installed in part of the site which meant that some of the bog became rewetted, while another area remained drained. Thus comparison of CO₂ emissions and botanical composition could be carried out between the two areas.

The girls concluded that the lower water table created by draining did result in increased CO₂ emission. Their results confirmed that during the growing season the drained area of the bog acted as a carbon source and that the rewetted bog acted as a large carbon sink. Another critical result was that increased soil temperature had a significant impact on the emissions of CO₂; higher peat temperatures were correlated with increased CO₂ emissions. This is an important factor to bear in mind given projected temperature increase we will encounter as a result of climate change. Botanical composition was also found to be markedly different at the two sites; the drained area being biodiversity-poor with non-native (for bogs) heather and the rewetted site having abundant sphagnum mosses, ‘the building blocks of peat’.

They project that during the winter, the storage of carbon by the rewetted area sink would be less as less CO₂ would be taken in for photosynthesis but that the drained area would be an even greater carbon source as it would have extremely low levels of photosynthesis given the absence of sphagnum mosses.

The Young Scientists are not coy with the scale of the issue; they assert that “it has taken 10,000 years for bogs to develop but it’s only taken us two hundred years to destroy a large percentage of them.” Neither are they reluctant to spell out what we can do with this understanding - they reference the recent Climate Action and Low-Carbon Development Act, an objective of which is to reduce our carbon emissions by 80% by 2050, and suggest rewetting the bogs as being one doubly effective step; firstly in preventing ongoing emissions from peat and secondly by allowing them, over time, to become carbon sinks again.

Alannah Ní Cheallaigh-Mhuirí, the Climate and Energy intern for an Taisce and member of An Taisce’s Climate Committee visited the Athlone Community College stand at the event and stated that she was “hugely impressed by the quality of the research and the clarity of the girls’ presentation and message. They are inspiring examples of Ireland’s young scientists taking on the challenge of the day by finding ways for their local area to reduce Carbon emissions.”

An Taisce feel that it is important not just to give a pat on the back, but to recognise the knowledge gained from such a study, by airing their findings and seeking to have them implemented on the ground.

ENDS

Reference: Renou-Wilson F., Bolger T., Bullock C., Convery F., Curry J. P., Ward S., Wilson D. & Müller C. 2011. BOGLAND - Sustainable Management of Peatlands in Ireland. STRIVE Report No 75 prepared for the Environmental Protection Agency, Johnstown Castle, Co. Wexford. (Access: http://www.ucd.ie/bogland/publications/STRIVE_75_Renou_Bogland_prn_web%20(1).pdf)

For further information, please call:
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce. Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
www.antaisce.org

Gort Weigh House Appeal

21st January 2016
News Item

Dear Member,

In the past two years we focused our Christmas/New Year appeal on particular properties.

Your donations in 2014 to Tailors’ Hall have helped fund a repointing and stabilisation of the south wall of the Hall. The High Street garden project will start afterwards in 2016.

The 2015 Boyne Navigation appeal is supporting ongoing restoration of the next stretches of the canal at Staleen and Slane. See www.boyne.iwai.ie for details.

This year we’re appealing for donations for Gort Weigh House in Co. Galway. On the back you can see the restoration work we have completed in 2015 with support from the Heritage Council.

We now need to find a long-term use for the building to saveguard it for the future. To do that electricity needs to be connected and installed and the windows must be replaced. This work will require over €8,000 and needs to be finished well before the summer.

You can help by donating to the Gort Weigh House Appeal Fund. All monies donated via this form will go to a ring-fenced fund, which will only be spent on the Gort Weigh House.

Donate at www.antaisce.org/appeals or using the form at the bottom.

Yours Sincererly James Leahy | Honorary Secretary

About Gort Weigh House

The Gort Weigh House (known locally as "The Crane") is a much loved landmark, right in the middle of the market square. It sports a weighbridge, weighing scales, trough, water pump and internal balance for the weighbridge. Local research shows a Weigh House was placed on this site in the 18th century, but the current building and equipment probably dated to the 19th century (c. 1880).

It was for a time used as a tourist office and, for some years now, the Burren Lowlands group has wanted to use it during the summer for their tourist information office.

Thanks to grants from the Heritage Council and from the Galway Association of An Taisce as well as stalwart conservation work by builder Laurik Mathieu of Mathieu & Mitchell Ltd. and Tim Ryan, acting as engineer for the project, Peter Wise managing the project and the support of a number of people and organisations in and around Gort, like J. P. Corry Ltd., the work of limiting water ingress and making the building safe has been achieved.

Peter Wise Clare Local Association

Gort Weigh House Page

http://www.antaisce.org/properties/crane-gort-weigh-house

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An Taisce calls for Department of Climate Action

22nd January 2016
Press Release

Given that climate change is now widely acknowledged as the number one economic, political and societal challenge of the 21st century, isn’t it time Ireland had a government department to reflect this reality?

With Ireland’s Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015 now on the statute books, and with the establishment in recent days of the new Climate Change Advisory Council chaired by Prof John Fitzgerald, An Taisce believes now is the time for the incoming government to commit to forming a new Department of Climate Action.

With the announcement in recent days by NASA that 2015 was by far the hottest year globally since records began, and the likelihood that 2016 will be even hotter, the message from the scientific community is clear. Time is fast running out to have any realistic chance of preventing the very worst effects of climate disruption. Ireland cannot afford another electoral cycle of fudge and inaction. 2016 must be the year for Climate Action.

In 2008, the UK government, under then prime minister, Gordon Brown, established the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) as a government department to take over some of the functions related to energy of the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and those relating to climate change from the Environment Department.

This step put down a clear marker that climate change is a permanent part of the UK political landscape, and the two governments since Labour left power in 2010, both the Tory/Lib Dem coalition and the current Conservative government, have left the UK’s DECC in place as a symbolic hub of unified government thinking on climate change.

At the moment, climate change falls under the brief of Ireland’s Department of Environment, Community & Local Government, and it has been widely seen as being reactive, rather than proactive, on climate issues. There has little evidence of the political leadership needed to drive short, medium and long-term mitigation and adaptation strategies and to firmly embed this thinking at the heart of all government strategy.

These are urgently needed to deal with the unavoidable impacts of climate change while working to reduce future impacts by reducing carbon emissions across every sector of society.

John Gibbons, spokesperson for An Taisce's Climate Change Committee stated: “we are calling on each of the political parties who will be vying to form the 32nd Dáil to back our proposal to have a dedicated new department of Climate Action established”. If setting up an entirely new department proves unachievable, An Taisce urges the incoming government to commit, as an absolute minimum, to the establishment of a ‘Department of Energy, Communications & Climate Action’.

This will send out a clear signal at home and abroad that the new government is ready to tackle the grave threats climate change pose to national prosperity and security, now and in the future. The people living in the Shannon basin need little reminding that climate-fuelled extreme weather events are already playing havoc with their lives and livelihoods.

What the Irish public is looking for now is a clear sign that our politicians and our public sector is up to the challenge, and what better way to signal this resolve than by setting up a new government department with relevant responsibility?

Gibbons concluded: “We can no longer afford to simply stumble from one climate disaster to the next. It is time to accept scientific reality and put Ireland on a war footing in the long battle ahead against the impacts of climate change”.

For further information, please call:
John Gibbons, An Taisce Climate Change Committee Tel: +353 87 233 2689
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
www.antaisce.org

Cyclists set out their political demands ahead of General Election 2016

27th January 2016
Press Release

Press Release from Cyclist.ie – the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network, Dublin Cycling Campaign and An Taisce

Bicycle users from all around Ireland have called on all political parties to prioritise everyday cycling in both transport and public health policies as they finalise their political manifestos.

Cyclist.ie – the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network (www.cyclist.ie) maintains that the normalisation of everyday cycling will address several key high level aims in achieving a fairer society, a better functioning economy and dealing meaningfully with the ever increasing CO₂ emissions from Ireland’s transport sector.

We note that:

  • 26% of 9 year olds in Ireland are overweight or obese. Note [1].
  • Transport accounted for 19.5% of Ireland’s Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions in 2014. Note [2]
  • #COP21 is a game changer – we need radical reductions in CO₂ emissions from the Irish transport sector!

Our vision is for everyday cycling to be normal part of life for all ages and abilities (the ‘8 to 80’ cohort as it is sometimes put) – very similar to the ways it is in many northern European countries. We want all political parties to commit to these two overarching aims:

  • Allocate at least 10% of transport funding to cycling. Note [3].
  • Implement in full the National Cycle Policy Framework (NCPF, 2009). Note [4].

Additionally and more specifically, we must:

  • Achieve at least 10% of all journeys by bike by 2020. It is currently only approx. 2% at national level and 8% within Dublin City (CSO, 2012).
  • Appoint a National Cycling Officer in the Dept of Transport. This is a crucial step in being able to implement the NCPF effectively.
  • Make 30km/h the default urban speed limit. Graz in Austria was the first city in Europe that introduced a city wide 30 kph zone. Around 800 km’s of a total 1000 km’s of city streets have been calmed. After the first 6 months there was a 24% reduction in serious accidents. Note [5].
  • Introduce a legally enforced 1.5-metre gap for overtaking cyclists. Note [6]
  • Provide for contra-flow cycling on one-way streets. This improves the ‘permeability’ of cities for cyclists. Note [7].
  • Retrofit the top 50 most dangerous junctions in Ireland. Note [8].
  • Fund high quality cycle infrastructure and cycle-friendly schemes. For example, schemes with design quality that enables people of all ages and abilities to make their journeys by bikes. The new National Cycle Manual (Note [9]) is a step in the right direction here.
  • Upskill An Garda Síochána to understand cycling so as to address (1) dangerous overtaking (2) illegal parking in cycle tracks. Note[10].
  • Introduce compulsory certificate of professional competence (CPC) for all taxi/hackney drivers by end of 2017. This is currently mandatory for bus drivers who share their buses with bicycles in bus lanes.
  • Provide mandatory cycle training in all primary and secondary schools.

In Summary

Dr. Damien Ó Tuama, the National Cycling Coordinator for Cyclist.ie, stated:

" while Ireland has had a sophisticated National Cycle Policy since 2009, the implementation of it over the last 7 years has been piece-meal at best. We need to recognise that many northern European countries with high standards of living have put the bicycle at the centre of the public health and mobility policies, and now they are benefitting from far lower levels of congestion, lower C02 emissions and a far healthier population which saves their taxpayers countless billions of Euro in health care costs."

Dr. Ó Tuama has asked that

“over the coming weeks, when election candidates will be knocking on doors, please explain why everyday cycling makes so much sense and why we need a national cycling officer in the Department of Transport to oversee the implementation of the NCPF”.

ENDS

For further information, please call:
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
www.antaisce.org

Image: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxEVOTzgFnKEb044Qlk1al9GaEE/view?usp=sharing

Notes:

  1. http://www.growingup.ie/fileadmin/user_upload/documents/Second_Child_Cohort_Reports/Growing_Up_in_Ireland_-_Overweight_and_Obesity_Among_9-Year-Olds_Executive_Summary.pdf
  2. http://www.epa.ie/pubs/reports/air/airemissions/GHG_1990-2014_Provisional_11122015.pdf
  3. It is currently below 1% and the Capital Programme for 2016-2021 commits to just €100M for Active Travel out of €10,000M for transport projects – see page 21-25 of http://www.per.gov.ie/en/building-on-recovery-infrastructure-and-capital-investment-2016-2021-statement-of-the-minister-for-public-expenditure-and-reform-mr-brendan-howlin-t-d-on-29-september-2015/
  4. http://www.smartertravel.ie/content/national-cycle-policy
  5. http://en.30kmh.eu/2013/04/22/the-power-of-30k-speed-limit/
  6. http://www.safecyclingireland.org/stayin-alive-at-1-5/
  7. https://ec.europa.eu/energy/intelligent/projects/sites/iee-projects/files/projects/documents/presto_fact_sheet_contra_flow_cycling_en.pdf
  8. For a list of such junctions in Dublin, see our submission to Dublin City Council: http://www.dublincycling.ie/cycling/10worst
  9. http://www.cyclemanual.ie
  10. http://www.dublincycling.ie/cycling/illegal-parking-cycle-lanes-freethecyclelanes-campaign

An Taisce's Questions to Political Parties/Canvassers

30th January 2016
Report

An Taisce’s 7 questions:

  1. Policy:
    • What will your party do to improve Ireland’s record in climate policy-making?
  2. Emission Reduction Plan:
    1. What approach will you take to managing emission reductions fairly across all sectors?
    2. How will you ensure that sectors with excess emissions pay for reductions in emissions elsewhere?
  3. Agriculture:
    1. How will you move to a more sustainable and lower emission pathway for agriculture?
    2. How will you mandate cuts in agricultural emissions for 2020 and 2030?
  4. Buildings:
    1. How do you intend to incentivise/legislate for increased efficiency in buildings, in relation to retrofitting and new builds?
    2. What plans do you have for a substantial programme for retrofitting buildings?
  5. Transport: Do your plans to reduce transport emissions include:
    1. Investment in public transport in urban and rural areas;
    2. incentivising the use of alternative travel modes;
    3. urban planning policy situating essential services within walkable communities;
    4. adapting the national grid to cope with increased uptake of electric vehicles.
  6. Electricity:
    • How do you propose that Ireland develops a sustainable electricity system?
  7. Communications:
    • How do you intend to communicate the importance of acting upon climate change to the public?

Background to Questions:

  1. Policy Question: In October 2015, The Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act was passed. The act requires that Ireland works towards becoming a low-carbon society, but it has been criticised as lacking ambition given the urgency of the climate crisis.
  2. Emission Reduction Plan: As a nation we must develop a plan that reduces total national emissions across our economy in a fair and planned way. This plan will have to address the fact that not all sectors are equally carbon intensive, meaning that we face tough decisions regarding the division of the burden inherent in this challenge.
  3. Agriculture: Agriculture is responsible for one third of all national emissions (Note 1). Agriculture is 45% of the non-traded emissions sector in Ireland, also consisting of transport and heating buildings, and together they have a target of cutting emissions by 20% relative to 2005 by 2020 (with cuts of 30% by 2030 likely required) (Note 2). However, there is no policy to cut Irish agricultural emissions - if anything emissions are likely to rise. Currently, Irish agriculture is largely based on maintaining a herd of over 6.5 million cattle of which much of the beef sector is uneconomic for food production (Note 3). The sector claims to help “feed the world” yet Ireland imports far more nutritional energy than it exports with very large greenhouse emissions that will soon be subject to very large financial penalties for failure to meet emission targets. So far the taxpayer is picking up the tab.
  4. Buildings: Securing a well-insulated and efficient building stock not only ensures good health and lower electricity bills for citizens, it also means less fuel is burned for heating.
  5. Transport: In 2013, transport contributed 19.1% of Ireland’s GHG emissions, making it the third largest contributing sector (Note 4). The EPA projects that the transport sector’s absolute emissions will grow by 20% between 2020 and 2035, with a private car fleet of 2.6 million in 2035 (Note 2).
  6. Electricity: The generation of electricity accounts for approximately 20% of Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions (4). In 2014, 80.8% of Ireland’s electricity was generated using fossil fuels (excluding the source of imported energy) and only 14.5% was produced with renewables (Note 5). The transition to sustainable electricity production is a steep one, compounded by Bord na Móna’s intention to continue burning peat until 2030, and the resistance to many wind farm proposals. Meeting a 2ºC pathway implies extremely rapid decarbonisation of the electricity system.
  7. Public Awareness and Engagement: Implementing the necessary policies for preventing dangerous climate change requires the support of the public, and in international treaties Ireland has agreed that preventing climate change is a matter of social justice, intergenerational equity, and stewardship of the planet. However, the evidence shows that climate change is low on the public’s list of national priorities (Note 6).

Sources:

  1. https://www.agriculture.gov.ie/ruralenvironment/climatechangebioenergybiodiversity/agricultureclimatechange/
  2. http://www.epa.ie/pubs/reports/air/airemissions/irelandsghgemissions2014-2035.html#.VlML0Xh59US
  3. Hennessy, T. & Moran, B. (2014). Teagasc National Farm Survey 2014 Results. Teagasc, Oak Park.
  4. http://www.epa.ie/pubs/reports/air/airemissions/GHGprov.pdf
  5. http://www.seai.ie/Publications/Statistics_Publications/Energy_in_Ireland/Energy-in-Ireland-1990-2013-report.pdf
  6. Lorenzoni, I., Nicholson-Cole, S., & Whitmarsh, L. (2007). Barriers perceived to engaging with climate change among the UK public and their policy implications. Global Environmental Change, 17(3-4), 445–459.
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An Taisce calls for Climate Action from political parties in the upcoming general election.

31st January 2016
Press Release

The threats created by Climate Change are such that Climate Action must feature prominently in the upcoming General Election campaign and in the programme for government which follows. An Taisce is calling on political parties to declare their plans for Climate Action and is urging voters to question canvassers and candidates vigorously on this topic using the proposed list of topics below.

The historic Paris Agreement, adopted in December 2015 by 196 countries, has committed countries to keeping average global temperature increases compared to pre-industrial levels well below 2° C, and as close to 1.5° C as possible. Given that average global temperature increases have already reached 1° C there is very little scope for further delay or prevarication.

John Gibbons, spokesperson for An Taisce’s Climate Change Committee stated “It is critical that all nations take the necessary action to stop climate change in its tracks. Ireland should be no exception to this”.

He continued “As one of the countries with the highest per capita greenhouse gas emissions in the world, we have a responsibility to do our fair share in the transition to a sustainable global society.

An Taisce has prepared 7 questions that cover the key requirements of a Climate Action Plan and seeks the position and proposed policies of the political parties on each of these topics.

Gibbons concluded that “For the sake of the future generations, the electorate should ask these questions of canvassers and candidates looking for their vote”.

An Taisce’s 7 questions:

  1. Policy:
    • What will your party do to improve Ireland’s record in climate policy-making?
  2. Emission Reduction Plan:
    1. What approach will you take to managing emission reductions fairly across all sectors?
    2. How will you ensure that sectors with excess emissions pay for reductions in emissions elsewhere?
  3. Agriculture:
    1. How will you move to a more sustainable and lower emission pathway for agriculture?
    2. How will you mandate cuts in agricultural emissions for 2020 and 2030?
  4. Buildings:
    1. How do you intend to incentivise/legislate for increased efficiency in buildings, in relation to retrofitting and new builds?
    2. What plans do you have for a substantial programme for retrofitting buildings?
  5. Transport: Do your plans to reduce transport emissions include:
    1. Investment in public transport in urban and rural areas;
    2. incentivising the use of alternative travel modes;
    3. urban planning policy situating essential services within walkable communities;
    4. adapting the national grid to cope with increased uptake of electric vehicles.
  6. Electricity:
    • How do you propose that Ireland develops a sustainable electricity system?
  7. Communications:
    • How do you intend to communicate the importance of acting upon climate change to the public?

ENDS

John Gibbons, An Taisce Climate Change Committee Tel: +353 87 233 2689
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
www.antaisce.org

Note: Further details are available on An Taisce’s website http://www.antaisce.org/articles/an-taisces-questions-to-political-partiescanvassers