March 2016 eZine

6th March 2016

Upcoming Events

Keep Ireland Open AGM

Independent Event
Saturday, April 2, 2016
An Oige's HQ 61 Mountjoy St Dublin 7

Keep Ireland Open's AGM is on Sat Apr 2 at An Oige's HQ 61 Mountjoy St Dublin 7.

Registration at 11.am.

Free off street car parking available.

Cost An Taisce Members: 
Free to AT Members. Bring your card.
Cost Non Members: 
Non AT members will need to be Keep Ireland Open Members.

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

Public access and the integrity of Westport House need to be maintained, say An Taisce

4th February 2016
Press Release

The report today that Westport House is proposed to be sold by the Browne Family threatens the future of a major heritage and tourism asset.

The furure of Westport should be secured by a partnership solution to secure the future and integrity of the house, grounds and contents.

An Taisce’s Heritage Officer Ian Lumley stated:

‘Public access to Westport House and grounds has been available for more than 50 years and its sale threatens a major part of heritage tourism in the region. So we want a resolution that means people can continue to view and appreciate this historical house and its grounds.'

‘The future of Westport needs a resolution which would secure the long term future of the house, grounds and woodlands and remaining amenity land. This should be based on a cooperative solution between the Browne Family, NAMA, State Heritage and Tourism Agencies and Mayo County Council.’

ENDS

Ian Lumley, An Taisce Heritage Officer 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

Young Intern wants to make Climate Change a Doorstep Issue.

8th February 2016
Press Release

An Taisce's young Climate Change intern Alannah Ní Cheallaigh - Mhuirí has just launched a campaign to make Climate Change a Doorstep issue.

Alannah Ní Cheallaigh - Mhuirí stated

"I have set up a facebook page (my own initiative) about having put a sign up on my door for canvassers about climate change. The idea came to me from coming home after work to find little dockets saying canvassers had missed me. I was missing opportunities to express my views on Climate Change!"

She continued

"I had to do something. So I put my a notice on my door to make canvassers aware that Climate change is a doorstep issue, and is a priority for many Irish people. I took photos and today I made a facebook page for people to do the same."

In a message, echoed my many young people she said

"If we don’t start to decarbonise our economy immediately, we will be contributing to climate change and all of its physical and social ramifications, which we and those after us will be powerless to reverse. Our forbears wanted their children to grow up in a world better and fairer than the one they had been born into. In pursuit of supposed progress we have drifted off course of that aim."

"Climate change will materially alter the lives of every person of this country over the coming decades. I, being 24, hope to see a few more of those yet and if I have children I want to believe that they will not be born into a world plummeting blindly towards climate chaos."

Please support Alannah by printing her notice, attaching it to you door, taking a photo of it and posting it on the facebook page? https://www.facebook.com/mydoorstepissue/

A copy of the notice is here https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxEVOTzgFnKEVzRmYk9lS0tMNXM/view?usp=sharing

An Taisce has a set of 7 Climate Change questions that you can ask the canvassers http://www.antaisce.org/articles/an-taisces-questions-to-political-partiescanvassers

ENDS

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's submission to the Commission for Energy Regulation's Review of Connection and Grid Access Policy

9th February 2016
Submission Summary

Please see the attached document for An Taisce's submission to the Commission for Energy Regulation's Review of Connection and Grid Access Policy (CER/15/284).

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Climate Change the Cinderella issue of the 2016 Election campaign.

20th February 2016
Press Release

Climate change is, once again, the Cinderella issue of the 2016 Election campaign. Given the latest Irish flooding disaster, and with the historic Paris Agreement on Climate Change signed barely two months ago, it has required a quite extraordinary effort at reality denial for this crunch issue to have been completely overlooked by all the main parties as well as the mainstream media

The two Leaders’ Debates, hosted by TV3 and RTE, both completely ignored even a passing mention of climate or environmental issues [Note 1]. RTE’s decision to refuse the Green Party access to its Leaders’ Debate meant there was an onus on the national broadcaster to ensure that environmental concerns were included in the debate. This they signally failed to do. The fact that RTE flagged its first Leaders’ Debate as being about the “issues that really matter” speaks volumes for the station’s deepening crisis in both the quality and paucity of its climate coverage.

An Taisce understands that environment/climate change will again be ignored when RTE hosts the third and final Leaders’ Debate this week. Will a last minute plea change that?

And while the outgoing government makes much play of having introduced a Climate Act, its real priorities were made clear with the announcement this week that the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources has just awarded 14 new licences for offshore oil and gas drilling [Note 2].

Given the imperative for all economies to rapidly decarbonise their energy systems in order to avoid the IPCC’s projected ‘severe, pervasive and irreversible’ impacts of climate change, how does the Irish government justify more drilling for oil and gas at the very time we need to fully commit to a low-to-zero carbon energy future? [Note 3]

Labour’s Election manifesto describes climate change as “the biggest single challenge facing humanity” [Note 4]. Its manifesto adds that Labour was part of “the first Irish Government to commit to a zero-carbon energy future for our country”. How exactly is the largest ever licensing round for Irish offshore fossil fuels compatible with “a zero-carbon energy future”?

An Taisce welcomes the commitment by Fianna Fail to the establishment of a new Department of Climate Change. According to its manifesto, “this new department will head up our climate change policy [Note 5]. It will bring together the current departments of Environment, Flood Defence, Energy, Transport, Natural Resources, & Heritage”. An Taisce recently issued a statement calling on all parties to commit to the establishment of a full government department of Climate Change [Note 6].

However, Fianna Fail’s manifesto also commits to “fully realising Food Harvest 2020 and Food Wise 2025” (as does Fine Gael). Both these plans trample over Ireland’s EU-mandated emissions reductions commitments and make a mockery of any commitment towards decarbonising and climate-proofing Ireland. They also ignore the huge opportunity to build a new, resilient, Irish agri-food system that prioritises climate-smart diets, global nutritional security, and the genuine long term well being of Irish farming communities..

Outgoing Taoiseach Enda Kenny told the UN in September 2014: “The hand of the future beckons, the clock ticks and we have no time to waste…Global warming is a stark reality that can only be dealt with by a collective global response. We are all interdependent and interconnected … we share a common humanity… and each of us must play our part.” [Note 7]

We have no time to waste if political rhetoric is to be translated into real action commensurate with the existential crisis posed by climate change. Supporting parties who are sleepwalking into the catastrophic reality of climate change is probably the riskiest step any voter can take next Friday.

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

Summary of all parties’ positions on climate/environment by Dr Cara Augustenborg of UCD http://www.caraaugustenborg.com/news/election-2016-climate-manifesto-analysis

Notes:

  1. Colum Kenny Irish Times Wednesday 17th February 2016 http://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/colum-kenny-rt%C3%A9-leaders-debate-missed-the-point-and-the-greens-1.2537097
  2. RTE News Friday 12th February http://www.rte.ie/news/business/2016/0212/767424-oil-licences/
  3. Concluding instalment of the Fifth Assessment Report: Climate change threatens irreversible and dangerous impacts, but options exist to limit its effects https://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/ar5/prpc_syr/11022014_syr_copenhagen.pdf
  4. Labour's election manifesto https://www.labour.ie/download/pdf/labour_manifesto_2016.pdf
  5. Fianna Fail's election manifesto https://www.fiannafail.ie/download/An-Ireland-for-all-Fianna-FaCC81il-Manifesto.pdf
  6. An Taisce calls for Climate Action from political parties in the upcoming general election. http://www.antaisce.org/articles/an-taisce-calls-for-climate-action-from-political-parties-in-the-upcoming-general-election
  7. Address by the Taoiseach to UN Secretary General's Climate Change Summit, New York, 23 September 2014 https://www.rte.ie/documents/news/kennyclimatespeech.pdf

Some Environmental thoughts for the 2016 General Election

22nd February 2016
Press Release

Charles Stanley Smith, a leading member of An Taisce, sets out his personal vision for another way. The statement below was distributed to thousands of Right to Change marchers last Sunday.

He stated "I felt it important to provide an Environmental Voice".

Environmental thoughts on Election 2016

By Charles Stanley-Smith

The right to a sustainable environment is often forgotten but is our most important right. After all, our economy resides within our society, which is entirely dependent on our environment, our one shared earth. The most pressing threat to this right is climate change. We are currently putting our future and that of the next generations at risk.

We need a Department of Climate Action to be established by the next Government. Our politicians must show they understand that not all sectors are equally carbon intensive. We face tough decisions on how to divide the reduction of Green House Gas emissions, fairly across sectors.

Agriculture is responsible for one third of our national emissions. Currently, Ireland imports far more nutritional energy than it exports, yet the sector claims to help “feed the world”. Agricultural emissions are likely to rise. We already face large financial penalties for failure to meet emission targets. Will the taxpayer have to pick up the tab for Government’s failure to act?

We must cut the energy requirement of our buildings by increasing their efficiency and introducing a major retrofitting programme that will also deliver many new jobs. We need to reduce our transport emissions by investing in public transport, both urban and rural. We need planning policies that deliver essential services within walkable communities.

On January 20th 2016, NASA released its latest figures showing that the Earth’s 2015 surface temperatures were the warmest in modern times. They stated that Globally-averaged temperatures in 2015 shattered the previous mark set in 2014 by 0.13°C. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said “Today’s announcement is a key data point that should make policy makers stand up and take notice - now is the time to act on climate.”

The recent 2015 Paris Climate Conference (CoP 21) will produce a legally binding and universal agreement on climate. This aims to keep global warming below 2°C and ideally below 1.5°C. The Agreement means the end of the fossil fuel age. Decarbonisation is the only way to cut greenhouse gas emissions progressively over coming decades to meet those targets.

This means no peat, no coal, no oil, no gas by 2050 (or even earlier). A 2015 study revealed that we need to leave at least 80% of the world’s known remaining fossil fuel reserves in the ground. That means we must move towards a renewable energy future. We need to cease burning peat, coal, oil and gas in our power stations and rapidly decarbonise our electricity. Renewable energy must be produced, with full involvement and agreement of communities.

There are other environmental crises that a new Government must also prioritise. Rampant over usage of resources by the first world, is putting the lives of everybody on the planet and future generations at severe risk. There is a man-made crisis for each of: clean water, clean air, nutritious food/food security, biodiversity, soil fertility, pollinators, energy security, ocean desertification and acidification and many more.

When people get to define their personal ‘sufficiency’, it is inevitably much more reasonable than you would expect, certainly, if you believed everything in advertising. We need to get away from the concept, promotion and advertising of ‘Stuff’. People can cut their consumption. We need to move to a ‘Circular Economy’, one where there is no waste, because we have designed things not to produce waste or their output is the raw material for some other process.

We need to protect our biodiversity because everything on the planet is interlinked and if we destroy any part, we are in great danger of destroying something that is inherently required to support life on earth.

We need another economy, one that is not based on growth. Modern economic strategies depend on growth. They do not take into account resource usage. We are already using too much of the worlds resources. In 14 years’ time, at 5% growth, we will be using twice the amount of resources, resources we actually don’t have.

This is a matter of social justice, intergenerational equity, and stewardship of the planet. We need to get away from the arrogant stance that the world is there to provide our every whim. There are no technocratic solutions that we can or should rely on. These crises undoubtedly unfairly affect the poor and those in developing countries most. They will lead to increased conflicts, if not war, over the remaining resources. Urgent action is required; the event horizon is not 2100 or 2050, it is far closer at 2020 or 2030.

The earth continues to be the only planet capable of supporting us. We need a Government that recognises this in policy and practice and we need a popular mobilisation to reflect this imperative.

ENDS

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

Draft New Constitution of An Taisce

5th March 2016
News Item

As Honorary Secretary I would like to apologise for the cancelled EGM in February, to consider the draft Constitution.

It had not been the practice of An Taisce to include a proxy form with the agenda for General Meetings in the letters sent to members. I became aware that this is requirement in the new Companies Acts a short time before the meeting. I reviewed the situation with the other officers of the charity and the company solicitor and we decided that we had no option but to reschedule the meeting. We emailed all members and endeavoured to contact directly anyone who we knew might be attending. I understand how this caused confusion and disruption to members' plans and apologise for it. I am designing a standard proxy form for General Meetings in the future which I will put to Council for approval in April. This will be published on www.antaisce.org/governance and included with future mailouts.

A number of members got in touch with constructive comments on the draft constitution. I will be communicating directly with them. I would also like to invite any other members with comments to make contact with me on secretary@antaisce.org or to write to Honorary Secretary, Tailors' Hall, Back Lane, Dublin, D08 X2A3, Ireland. I will bring these comments to An Taisce's Council, which is the consultative and deliberative body that has developed the Draft Constitution. Finally, I will be bring proposals to the An Taisce's Council meeting for rescheduling the EGM, and notifying members of the process, and how they can contribute to it. I will write again about this once Council decides.

Yours Sincerely James Leahy Honorary Secretary