An Taisce December 2014 eZine

Volume 6 Issue 7
24th December 2014
This is the first eZine in 5 months, so our apologies for our failures in bringing you any since then. This is a snapshot of what has happened in the last 3 months and contains some articles of interest and links to campaigns that you might want to takeup. We also have a series of interesting 'Reports from Lima', these are by our President, John Sweeney, who was there and gives us the picture as it was. One item of news is that James Nix is moving on to a serious job in Europe - We will give details and an appreciation in the next eZine. Also a number of really good interns have moved on, and we will also be giving appreciations of them.

Latest News

Irish Women Artists - from Tradition to Modernity

Local Association Event
Tuesday, February 17, 2015
The Goat, Kilmacud Road, Goatstown, Dublin 14

Illustrated talk by Dr. Éimear O’Connor, art historian. Event starts at 8pm.

Cost An Taisce Members: 
Cost Non Members: 

Human Safety Risk from Tyre Stockpiling increases during the Halloween Period

30th October 2014
Press Release

The run up to the Halloween bonfire period creates a situation of mounting urgency in addressing the human safety, and environmental risk of the current inadequately managed 2007 Department of Environment, Community and Local Government regulations for recycling of worn tyres, which came into force in 2009. In response to the 2007 Regulations, the motor and tyre industry set up TRACS (The Tyre Recovery Activity Compliance Scheme) which came into operation in January 2008. This is a voluntary compliance scheme for tyre industry operators to monitor the movement of tyres within the industry and promote legitimate reuse and recycling

In May 2010 a major Prime Time documentary exposed the large scale failure of control of tyre storage and disposal citing a large number of cases across the country. The issues highlighted were of unauthorised stockpiling and motor and tyre service operators dumping tyres – these have not been resolved.

The level of stockpiling and burning of tyres for Halloween bonfires is increasing, with consequent human safety risk as well as health and environmental damage, and threat to property. It is obvious that operators within the tyre and motor service industry are allowing significant levels of tyres to be hived off which are being stockpiled for burning. Information from the north-side of central Dublin is that motor service yards are actively giving used tyres to local children, or leaving tyres in insecure locations and passively colluding in their removal.

Already before the Halloween period two dangerous incidents have occurred where the burning of stockpiled tyres in Dublin resulted in two serious treats to human life and buildings in the north inner city.

Earlier this year Department of the Environment Community and Local Government carried out a public consultation on producer responsibility. Industry self regulation has not worked in this case. The replacement of the 2007 Guidelines is needed with an effective legal regime, administered independently of the industry, to ensure that used tyres are stored safely on secure sites with planning and fire safety compliance, and recycled appropriately.

The financial liability for monitoring and enforcement needs to be borne by the Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI) and Irish Tyre Industry Association. This would include liability of clean up and remediation cost (e.g. where fires or unauthorised stockpiles occur).

However immediate action is needed to address the threat to human life and property in the run up to the Halloween period. A targeted approach is required in the main Irish urban areas to remove tyres stockpiles in the locations which create the greatest risk and transport to authorised recycling facilities. This requires co-ordinated action by Department of Environment Community and Local Government, the Garda, Local Authorities, with the clean up and transport cost borne by the motor and tyre services industry.

An Taisce has raised these concerns with the Minister for Environment, Community & Local Government, the Acting Garda Commissioners, the main urban local authorities and the motor and tyre industry.


For further information, please call:

James Nix, Policy Director, An Taisce Tel: +353 86 8394129
Ian Lumley, Heritage Officer, An Taisce Tel: +353 1 454 1786
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce Tel: +353 87 2411995
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland

New science on carbon budgets shows we must act now to cut emissions.

2nd November 2014
Press Release

The IPCC report is clear and unequivocal. Climate change at a speed unprecedented in all human experience is happening now as a result of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. Carbon emissions continue to accelerate due to humanity’s burning of fossil fuels, including coal, peat, oil and gas. Deforestation and agriculture, especially with increasing dairy and meat production are also adding to greenhouse emissions.

New science in this fifth IPCC assessment shows that the amount of future global warming is directly related to the total amount of accumulating human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases – past, present, and future, they all add up. If our emissions continue to rise then temperatures will continue to rise, extreme weather will be more frequent, sea level will rise ever faster, and more land and sea ice will be lost. Only sustained and substantial emission reductions by all nations, especially by wealthy ones like Ireland, can limit climate change and reduce future severe risks to our future.

To date Ireland has failed to limit emissions, and only unintended economic recession has reduced them. As we are not managing our emissions the Environmental Protection Agency projects that with economic growth Ireland is on a pathway of ever-increasing carbon emission adding to increased risk for us and all future generations, a path that is Ireland’s contribution to dangerous climate change. We must choose a different path, one of rapid decarbonisation and if we act quickly and effectively we can succeed.

An Taisce calls on all of Ireland’s leaders and citizens – in government, in business, in agriculture and among us all – to jointly heed the IPCC’s ever stronger warnings. Together we must all ensure that Ireland plans to peak emissions now and decrease emissions rapidly in every year thereafter. Understanding and planning among all sectors are vital to make this in transition happen as quickly and equitably as possible within Ireland and among nations.

We urge Ireland and the EU to push for a global agreement at Paris in 2015 to limit global cumulative total emissions. Without such an agreement our ‘emissions savings’ will likely be spent elsewhere or in the future. By urging agreement on a global carbon cap in Paris, and in cutting emissions rapidly from now on, we in Ireland can make a difference. The IPCC and science has given us due notice.

To create hope for the next generations, we in Ireland must respond.


For further information, please call:
John Gibbons, An Taisce Climate Change Committee Tel +353 87 233 2689
James Nix, Policy Director, An Taisce Tel: +353 86 8394129
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce Tel: +353 87 2411995
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland

Dublin's Architectural Heritage

3rd November 2014
News Item

Check out this photo album on An Taisce's Facebook with some fine examples of Dublin's Architectural Heritage.

Irredeemable failure to address climate - A Strategic Framework for Investment in Land Transport

5th November 2014
Submission Summary

An Taisce has made a submission to the consultation on Investing in our Transport Future - A Strategic Framework for Investment in Land Transport.

The entire document reflects either ignorance or indifference to the global scientific consensus on climate, the Copenhagen Accord and Irish Government commitment to a low carbon future by 2050 in proposed new climate legislation. References to climate are tacked on and not integrated with the evaluative process and concluding principles.

The only way to reconcile the Draft Strategic Framework with the National Policy Position is to re-write the framework bringing the former into line with global scientific consensus on climate. This requires an overarching objective to achieve the objective of the Copenhagen Accord and the September 2014 UN Climate Summit objectives, and to meet the imperative of climate science in the cumulative carbon budget which is available to Ireland.

The document does not assess the fuel source and emission impact of existing and future transport infrastructure. It does not address the fact that climate change is already occurring and adaptation is required to protect coastal road and rail infrastructure from increased exposure to storm conditions. The absence of integration of the principles of the Draft Strategy with climate mitigation and adaptation is startling. This undermines the scientific and economic credibility of the entire process on which the framework’s concluding principles were based

See full submission:

Download PDF: 
Download PDF (531.56 KB)

From Bike Week to a One Car Family

18th November 2014
News Item

"On a very sunny afternoon during Bike Week June 2014 I returned to the office from a school visit. Some staff were busily preparing for the Bike Week Lunchtime Cycle event, blowing up balloons to decorate their bikes and donning Green-Schools Hi-Vis vests. Getting caught up in the excitement I decided to go too! I used to commute by bike about 10 years ago, more out of necessity than anything else, and I haven’t really cycled since, until that day....

I borrowed a bike from a colleague who wasn’t attending the event and off we set. I was a little nervous I have to say; I have never cycled in Dublin City Centre before and presumed it would be a terrifying experience. However to my surprise the journey down to the starting point of the 5km cycle was very enjoyable. I was glad to have my experienced co-workers with me too! The lunchtime cycle was brilliant fun and the crowds of cyclists taking over the streets were fantastic. It really got me to love cycling all over again. After that day I decided to try commuting to the office by bike for the rest of the summer.

I got my old mountain bike fixed up by a local bike shop and set off one morning for my 19km round trip. I live in Stillorgan and it was a really enjoyable cycle in to the office...sure it’s practically all downhill! No bother at all! Coming home of course was very tough, I had to stop a few times to catch my breath and have some water. I did think: "is this worth it?" but I had made a commitment to myself. Plus my husband had started to cycle to work since April this year and I could see how much he loved it. So I carried on with the commute, and it did get easier and now I absolutely love it. I hate when I can’t take the bike for some reason! It is the best feeling in the world flying past the rows of traffic in the morning and getting in to work in just 30 minutes, half my usual travel time from when I took the bus and walked.

We have since gotten bike seats for our two children and regularly go on family cycles at the weekend. The kids love going out on the bikes. The biggest change has been the decision to move from a two car family to a one car family and really it hasn’t had much of an impact on our lives, we just have to be a little bit more organised and the financial savings and health benefits we are making far outweigh that extra effort!"

Have you changed your commute to school or work to incorporate cycling, walking or other active forms of travel? Share your story with us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram!

Heritage Conservation in Action at the Ellison Awards Ceremony

26th November 2014
News Item

The Ellison Awards ceremony which took place on November 1st was opened by Jean Carr, Chairperson of the Meath Association, following a walk round the castle grounds by Mary-Rose Carty author of ‘Killeen Castle’ who later spoke about its ancestry.

This year’s projects were of such a high standard that the independent judges architect Philip Geoghegan and architectural historian Kevin Mulligan had to award joint first prize to Michael McMahon and John Bentley-Dunne of Collon House and Jean and Jeff Young for the Rokeby Hall Conservatory project. Philip commented that both nominations were of national significance and that the exceptional design and restoration work made it impossible to distinguish one from the other.

Second prize was also jointly awarded; the winners were Barbara and Georg Heise of the Old Mill House, Rosnaree and Paddy Conneff (ex-President) representing Martin Kearney Chairman of the Kilbride Anglers Club for their spawning project on the River Blackwater on the Bloomsbury Bridge to Liscarton section.

John Harnett Chairperson of An Taisce presented the plaques and certificates, stating that it was wonderful to see people from both Meath and Louth bringing life back into old buildings and preventing them from falling into total dereliction, thereby protecting our heritage for future generations.

Please see the attached pdf for a fantastic illustrated list of the finalists. For more information about the Ellison Awards, please follow this link:

Download PDF: 
Download PDF (16.47 MB)

An Taisce questions the Agriculture Minister’s Claims on Dairy Herd Expansion

28th November 2014
Press Release

Claims made by Agriculture Minster Simon Coveney that the Irish dairy herd can be expanded by over 300,000 cows in the next five years “while maintaining the existing carbon footprint of the agriculture sector” are inaccurate and misleading because a major increase in herd size by will by any objective measure sharply increase dairy emissions.

No amount of creative accounting involving complex carbon footprint calculations and lobbied-for EU special exemptions will alter these basic facts.

Minister Coveney made his claims on RTE’s PrimeTime earlier this week. In the course of an interview, he stated that the national dairy herd would increase by between 20-25% but that this massive increase would somehow occur without commensurate increases in emissions from the agriculture sector.

This is, according to An Taisce’s climate change committee, completely without foundation in fact. “The Minister’s claims about higher yields per animal magically causing such dramatic lowering of the carbon footprint per litre of milk as to offset the addition of almost a third of a million dairy cows to the national herd are manifestly false”.

Dairy Australia, a statutory body for its dairy industry, for example, in advising farmers on how to reduce dairy emissions, has the following statement at the top of its list: “Reduce herd size to minimise total emissions”. As recently as April 2014, then environment minister and now EU Agriculture commissioner, Phil Hogan warned that agriculture must become carbon neutral to fulfil its climate change obligations.” There can be no exceptions, there are no exceptions and there will be no exceptions”, Mr Hogan warned.

And despite Mr Coveney’s claims about improved emissions efficiency in Ireland’s dairy sector, data from the Environment Protection Agency* shows that methane (CH₄) emissions from ‘enteric fermentation’ in Irish dairy cows actually increased, from 101kg per head per annum in 1990 to almost 113kg per head in 2012. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, some 24 times more powerful as a heat-trapping gas per molecule than CO₂.

According to the EPA report, the “increase of 10.6 per cent from 1990 (is) in line with increased milk yield” (Note 1). This flatly contradicts Minister Coveney’s claim that higher yielding animals are going to somehow deliver drastic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to offset the huge herd expansion.

Minister Coveneny has also glossed over the inevitable increase in nitrates usage (Ireland is already failing to implement the EU Nitrates Directive, aimed at protecting freshwater from nitrate pollution). In addition, an extra 300,000 dairy cows means a commensurate rise in agricultural effluent, which when combined with more frequent flooding events, places Irish water courses at heightened risk.

The European Commission has written to the Irish government with a detailed set of ‘Observations On The Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 ‘. Among these, under the genomics programme:

The Irish authorities are asked to provide evidence and quantification of the expected decrease in greenhouse gas emissions to be achieved. Moreover, evidence of other environmental benefits expected should be provided. Furthermore, indication of any negative consequences on the environment this scheme could have (e.g. increased manure and slurry production) should be given and it should be explained if an impact assessment in this respect has been made. (Note 2) "

At a time when political leaders from Washington to Beijing have begun an earnest dialogue on how best to address the urgent need to drastically lower global greenhouse gas emissions, it ill behoves Ireland, whose agriculture sector is increasingly vulnerable to flooding, fodder shortages and extreme weather events driven by climate change to take this contrarian position.

Minister Coveney personally understands the existential threat of climate change, and has spoken publicly about his fears for the future. However, apparently influenced by Taoiseach Enda Kenny (who has shown himself to be both hypocritical and hopelessly out of touch with the science of climate change) and beholden to industry lobbyists, Minister Coveney now appears to be resorting to voodoo accounting to prop up an entirely misguided agri-industrial growth-at-all-costs policy that goes against science.

Mr Coveney’s claim that: “Ireland will be the fastest growing dairy producer on the planet” in the next decade betrays the true motivation here – the pursuit of short-term profit at the cost of any long-term vision for a sustainable future for Irish farming and a safer future for all Irish citizens.


For further information, please call:
John Gibbons, An Taisce Climate Change Committee +353 87 233 2689
James Nix, Policy Director, An Taisce Tel: +353 86 8394129
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce Tel: +353 87 2411995
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland


  1. EPA ‘Ireland's National Greenhouse Gas Inventory’
  2. OBSERVATIONS ON THE RURAL DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME 2014-2020 "IRELAND - RURAL DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME (NATIONAL)" CCI: 2014IE06RDNP001 - See question 125. Was obtained from the Commission by Birdwatch.
  3. Dairy Australia's report
  4. Commissioner Hogan's statement

Is a Cartel of truck-builders killing cyclists and pedestrians? - An Taisce

28th November 2014
Press Release

Truck assembly companies acknowledge that building curved truck cabs will see fewer pedestrians and cyclists killed, when heavy goods vehicles strike people on foot and on bikes head on.

But truck-builders "won't update their production lines because they want to squeeze every last cent from old truck assembly plants that only make brick-shaped cabs" said James Nix, Policy Director of An Taisce - The National Trust for Ireland.

He notes: "it's a sickening stance in a sector that should be led by innovation. However, Europe's truck-builders, dominated by French and Swedish companies, have a very simple answer to new product development, namely, a sector-wide ban on innovation for the next 10 years."

"The nauseating stench of cartel power is one thing; the fact that it costs so many lives is another", said Nix.

William Todts of Transport and Environment ( has stated “In 2013 the Commission proposed truckmakers should be permitted, but not required, to build slightly longer, curvy cabs that are more fuel efficient, emit less CO₂ and are safer. But truckmakers ... fear that one of them would benefit more from the new opportunity so they’ve collectively decided that no-one should benefit for at least another decade. Could you imagine any other industry opposing the freedom (not obligation) to innovate?” (See Note 1)


For further information, please call:

James Nix, Policy Director, An Taisce Tel: +353 86 8394129
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce Tel: +353 87 2411995
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland


  1. See
  2. Please also see link above for the wider context of the EU investigation into cartel-type behavior among Europe's truck-builders.
  3. For further information on making trucks safer please see:
  4. Transport and Environment ( - Transport & Environment’s mission is to promote, at EU and global level, a transport policy based on the principles of sustainable development. Transport policy should minimise harmful impacts on the environment and health, maximise efficiency of resources, including energy and land, and guarantee safety and sufficient access for all.

An Taisce's Clean Coasts Symposium and Ocean Hero Awards 2014

28th November 2014
News Item

An Taisce’s annual Clean Coasts Symposium & Ocean Hero Awards were held on Wednesday 19th November at The Royal College of Physicians, Dublin. The Clean Coasts Symposium brought together key stakeholders in the area of marine litter such as coastal communities, policy-makers, NGOs, tourism bodies, the science community, plastics industry and the fishing industry. The presence of marine litter in our oceans is a global concern that requires action. Adequate measures are needed to address the pressure of litter in the marine environment both at sea and on land whereby public awareness and community action plays a vital role. Clean Coasts is about engaging communities in the protection of our beaches, seas and marine life. There are currently 423 Clean Coasts groups participating in the programme. The prestigious Clean Coasts Ocean Hero Awards are about recognising the invaluable work done by these committed volunteers across the country on a daily basis to protect Ireland’s beautiful coastline.

Speaking at the Symposium Martin Dorey said, “The 2 minute beach clean can be whatever you want it to be. You just pick up a few bits whenever you go to the beach and put them in the rubbish. Simple. Every piece of litter you remove from the marine environment is a piece of litter that will no longer entangle wildlife, break into thousands of tiny pieces and end up in the food chain or ghost fish for eternity. Every piece counts.” He added, “It is wonderful to be working with An Taisce’s Clean Coasts programme to promote the 2 Minute Beach Clean in Ireland.”

Speaking at the event, Annabel FitzGerald, Coastal Programmes Manager, An Taisce said, “We organize hundreds of beach cleans mobilizing thousands of volunteers to remove considerable quantities of marine litter from our coastline. For example, during The Big Beach Clean weekend in September, 103 Clean Coasts groups removed 33,442 litter items from 128km of coastline. This was done in one weekend and serves as an indicator of the magnitude of the problem of marine litter.” She added that, “the top ten litter items included the usual suspects; recreational litter like plastic bottles and aluminum cans, cigarette butts, fishing litter such as ropes and nets and sewage related litter such as cotton bud sticks.”

Speaking about Clean Coasts Ocean Hero Awards, she added “All 423 Clean Coasts Groups should be incredibly proud of the impact they have made in protecting the coast. Collectively they have removed over 500,000 pieces of litter from the Irish coast during 2014. The Ocean Hero Awards are about celebrating these coastal custodians and will hopefully inspire others to join the movement for litter free seas.”

For a video of the presentations, please see the attached youtube link.

The Clean Coasts Programme is operated by the Environmental Education Unit of An Taisce and is supported by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, Coca-Cola and Fáilte Ireland.

Ocean Hero Awardees

School of the Year Award

Poulfur NS, Wexford

“In a year in which our community remembers and celebrates the Ocean Heroes of our parish (whose acts of valour in 1914 saw 9 of them losing their lives whilst saving the lives of others) whom we remembered during the Clean Coasts Programme this year, we are humbled by the honour bestown upon our school and community by being awarded Ocean Hero School of the Year 2014. Our project drew together the very best of local (Sandra and Anne of Hook Residents Association), county (Cliona Connelly - Wexford County Council) , national (Aidan Gray and An Taisce Clean Coasts) and school efforts and has left a lasting legacy with the children, the future of our community.”

Event of the Year

Lissadell and Drumcliffe/ Rathcormac Clean-up of Coolbeg

"Drumcliffe bay is an important aspect of our local enviroment and we in Drumcliffe Rathcormac Tidy Towns greatly appreciate the help and advice of Clean Coasts in our efforts to maintain the health and cleanliness of this important natural resource."

Newcomer of the Year Award

Burrenbeo Trust Conservation Volunteers

“The Burrenbeo Conservation Volunteers is an active voluntary community that works towards the sustainable management of the Burren (north County Clare and south County Galway), by addressing key conservation issues in the region, e.g. coastal clean ups, habitat management and dry-stone wall building and repair. The spring storms hit the Burren coastline hard this year resulting in vast amounts of debris being carried far inland. With a lot of hard labour and the support of Clean Coasts we have made a huge difference, leaving a large section of the Burren coastline visibly cleaner. We would like to thank all our volunteers for taking part in this project and the Clean Coasts team for all their support and advice. Our future plans include monitoring the Burren coastline and working to keep it as clean and litter free as possible.”

Volunteer of the Year Award

Dan Clabby

Business of the Year Award

Dingle Oceanworld Aquarium

“Oceanworld Aquarium has been involved with Clean Coasts for the past number of years. We organise and co ordinate beach cleans on the Dingle Peninsula as well as educating people about the importance of clean seas and awareness of coastal clean ups.”

Person of the Year

May Burns

“It is a privilege to be involved in something as important as caring for our coastline. Becoming involved with the Clean Coasts group has helped us in the North-West to focus on protecting the wonderful natural resource that is our ocean.”

Group of the Year Award

Wexford Sub Aqua Club

"Wexford Sub Aqua Club, delighted to have been the first Irish dive club to get involved with the Clean Coasts programme. Founded in 1971 and a member of Cleancoast since 2007"

Long Term Contribution for Clean Coasts by an Individual

Margaret Browne, Sandycove, Dublin

Sandycove Coastcare Group: “The immense popularity of Sandycove beach involves a proactive approach to maintain not only its appeal for visitors but also to raise awareness and protect the precious rich marine habitat. To that end the Sandycove Coastcare Group was established 10 years ago and in addition to the physical efforts involved in maintaining the upkeep of the coast it has attempted to build community spirit, team-work along with a sense of pride and respect for our natural environment.”

Thoughts from Lima (#1): Prof. John Sweeney reports on the COP20 UN Climate Conference

9th December 2014
News Item

Climatically, Lima is to some extent the southern hemisphere counterpart of San Francisco, though considerably nearer the Equator. Like the Californian Current, the cold Peruvian Current ensures overcast and humid conditions generally prevail and Lima is well noted for its lack of sunshine. When the summer sun is warm enough, however, to burn off the low clouds in the marine layer, quite hot conditions can develop during the middle of the day. Week 2 at COP20 is experiencing just such a spell with temperatures a few kilometres inland rising into the high 20s in this city of 10M people. In an effort to reduce the carbon footprint of the climate conference, and perhaps focus the minds of delegates on what global warming actually entails, the organisers have sought to minimise air conditioning throughout the venues, many of them prefabs and tented structures. There was thus a certain poignancy to the session on climate change and health where delegates were given advice by the World Health Organisation chairperson as to how to cope with the furnace-like conditions of the room.

The conference itself is being held in the Peruvian Army’s HQ on the eastern fringes of the city. As with all COPs where a high attendance by senior government ministers from 195 countries is the norm, security is tight. Soldiers patrol the nearby rooftops discreetly and the odd MIG-29 makes a flyover, somewhat less discreetly. The organisational logistics and helpfulness of the many volunteers is, however, first class and the enormous tented village is easy to navigate and has all the requirements of the thousands of delegates well supplied.

The conference itself went smoothly enough for the first week. This is quite normal. The real action starts the second week when hard decisions have to be made. The public servants who toil in week 1 do not want to second guess the priorities of their political masters and so drafts are prepared but seldom finalised. Sometimes some backtracking is evident later in the week when positions harden and delegations do not want to be seen as the wimps in their particular negotiating bloc. The issues for this COP remain the same as ever: how to bridge the mistrust between developed and developing countries. The ‘car crash’ of the Copenhagen COP15 in 2009 was really caused by a lack of mutual trust between these two groups and only careful action since then has brought the world to a point where a global agreement next year is possible. But the mistrust remains and the Plenary I attended this morning showed that an agreement this week is not a foregone conclusion. Bolivia was one of the most vociferous countries in recent years and spoke today on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China against a pre-circulated draft, implicitly complaining that an attempt to steamroller through a text that had not incorporated its objections was occurring. Not unexpectedly, countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran weighed in also, while some developed countries took the contrary view. These are the kind of things which characterise sometimes tortuous sessions in negotiations where unanimity is ultimately required. China has been remarkably silent in the negotiations this far, having reached an agreement with the US a few weeks ago to peak its emissions before 2030. China also finds itself, as the world’s leading emitter, in ambiguous territory as a member of the G77 bloc of developing countries, given that its per capita emissions now exceed that of many EU countries (though not Ireland).

The Irish delegation is spread thinly across several areas. Most of the ‘heavy lifting’ is however done by the EU as a bloc and breakfast meetings each day set the agenda and negotiating positions for the member states. However the increased ambition sought by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon is not really evident at EU level. Despite having essentially achieved the required 20% reduction in emissions for 2020 (though not with much assistance from Ireland), a reluctance to go further seems evident. Internal divisions which were evident in the recent 2030 negotiations in Brussels may well underlie this. It will be interesting to see what position Minister White adopts on his arrival later this week. For the first time in the history of the COP, Ireland was awarded the ‘Fossil of the Day’ label by the Climate Action Network group of NGOs for its lack of commitment to the Green Climate Fund designed to assist adaptation in developing countries. Similarly, the US, despite its deal with China actually is offering a very limited reduction in emissions in the run up to 2020, claimed by some to be less than was on the table in Copenhagen.

As with all COPs, a feature of the event is the vibrancy and idealism of young people. For many of these, negotiations for a global climate agreement have extended throughout their entire life. It is dispiriting that so little has been achieved since COP1. The stark reality of the dwindling remaining carbon budget has also been quantified by the recent IPCC Fifth Assessment Report meaning that another 20 years of talking is not an option. Vulnerability is increasing with time. This year, colourful and noisy demonstrations have emphasised the plight of the indigenous peoples of South America who are the victims of a problem not of their making. The contrast between the young idealists and the ‘hard bitten’ negotiators acting out their script inside the tents is striking. It reminds us that climate justice issues of intergenerational equity arise which should be incorporated into any compromise finally agreed. But this is difficult to reconcile with our current economics paradigm. As Sir Nicholas Stern commented at one of the sessions I attended today, how do we place a value on the lives of the people of future generations as we seek to put a cost estimate together for tackling the problem of climate change today?

Prof. John Sweeney, Lima, 9th December 2014

Thoughts from Lima (#2): Prof. John Sweeney reports on the COP20 UN Climate Conference

10th December 2014
News Item

Tuesday of the second week is when the big guns come to town. The ground having been prepared for them by their officials, the Presidents, Prime Ministers and Ministers arrive to strut their stuff. Entourages sweep rapidly by the onlookers into various rooms as the multiple strands of the COP20 begin to either knit together or unravel in disharmony. It is too early yet to say which will be the fate of COP20 but certainly the commencement of the “High Level Ministerial Events” is also designed to inject urgency into the proceedings.

Urgency has been the watchword of the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon for many years and again he reiterated the need for decisive action today. He recalled the massive global demonstrations surrounding the September summit in New York and how all sectors of society, public, private and civil, needed to be intimately involved in addressing the problem. The platform party he was part of today though was heavily weighted in favour of the developing countries and the flavour therefore was quite different from the polite backslapping which sometimes characterises the commencement of the high level phase.

As was the case in other COPs, the star of the show today was once again President Evo Morales from neighbouring Bolivia. Now in his third term, this first President of Bolivia to emerge from the indigenous population, Evo has always been a fiery and compelling orator and his speech today did not disappoint. Climate change, he argued, is a consequence of a brutal capitalistic system based on wealth concentration for the few at the expense of poverty for the masses. The endless quest for free trade areas and what he termed the ‘simulation’ of national climate agreements, he argued, would not solve a more deep rooted problem whereby people and ‘Mother Earth’ become commodities to be sacrificed on the altar of profit. The resonance with the Inca goddess Pachamama was clear. Although perceived as being a benevolent deity to the indigenous people of the Andes, Pachamama is also seen by them as nature itself. Problems arise when people take too much from nature because they are taking too much from Pachamama.

To Evo, the policy of war, based on greed for resources, further fuels climate change. A mere 20% of the defence budgets of the top five countries, he claimed, would suffice to solve 50% of the global climate change problem. Instead the machinery of death, as he called it, also kills the planet. A reorganisation of society based on meeting community needs rather than profit generation was the only way to stop the destruction of Mother Earth he argued. Pending this, an International Tribunal for Climate justice should be established. Whether or not you agreed with him, there was no denying the quality and sincerity of the person and the depth of his interpretation of the complexity of the ‘wicked’ problem of climate change.

Two other speakers from the Alliance of Small Island States also made telling speeches. The President of Nauru expressed the fact that adaptation to climate change was no longer possible in some instances, a theme further developed by the Prime Minister of Tuvalu. In a moving speech he asked the question “What would you do if you were in my shoes as the leader of a country whose culture and people faced extinction?” While the national delegates listened politely, I wonder if they had the same sentiments as one negotiator I talked to recently who informed me that science and ethics did not matter; all that mattered was their brief to protect their own national interest. One of the quotes from the Prime Minister of Tuvalu though sticks in my head. Adapted from Dante’s Inferno (how appropriate!) it is that “The darkest places in Hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality at times of moral crisis.”

The scene having been set, the Ministerial slots of 7 minutes per country now commence over the next 2 days. Mostly this is a recitation of what good things each country can boast about. The cumulative effect however is that global emissions continue to rise even faster that the IPCC worst case scenario. The increased effort called for by Ban Ki Moon is not yet in evidence. Certainly the short presentation by the new EU Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, Miguel Cañete, did not lift the spirits very much. Tomorrow we await John Kerry and also the contribution of Ireland’s Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Alex White. In both cases, actions are hoped for that confirm that the time for protecting national interests at the expense of the global community is over. Otherwise perhaps the reach of Pachamama may extend adversely beyond the Andes, even to the next generation of Ireland’s children.

Prof. John Sweeney, Lima, 10th December 2014

Thoughts from Lima (#3): Prof. John Sweeney reports on the COP20 UN Climate Conference

11th December 2014
News Item

In the aftermath of Copenhagen, there were those that thought the COPs meetings would gradually dwindle to insignificance as austerity and powerful vested interests conspired to de priotitise concerns about climate change in many developed countries. Increased awareness of the appalling human costs of extreme events in the developing world and of the major economic impacts of such events in the developed world have however resurrected sensitivities. This has been further heightened by the growing scientific evidence of the IPCC and the championing of aspects such as climate justice by enlightened individuals such as Ireland’s Mary Robinson. European leadership during the dark days was also important in sustaining the faltering steps of international efforts such as the Kyoto Protocol. As the COP meetings of recent years have built an architecture which may yet lead to a comprehensive global agreement next year, so also have the annual meetings become foci for increased activity.

Some 10,700 participants are now present at COP20 and the logistics of catering for such numbers are proving resilient, robust and sustainable, a vocabulary more often used in the negotiations themselves. Keeping track of what’s happening can be difficult given the multiplicity of side events taking place apart from the negotiations themselves. If you blinked yesterday you might have missed politicians like John Kerry, Ségolène Royal, or senior IPCC people like Rajenda Pachauri, Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, EU Commissioners and Ambassadors or a host of people whose names rang bells but were interesting to see in the flesh wandering around. Fortunately, several hundred people did not miss an inspirational lunchtime lecture by Al Gore. As someone frequently accused of ‘powerpoint overload’, I could but marvel at his polished and professional presentation of amazing animations and graphics which brought the audience to their feet in large numbers at the end of the hour.

The day was also the day for national politicians to present their report cards to the world community. Since Minister Kelly had a few local problems connected with water, Minister Alex White was dispatched to bat for Ireland. Although it was disappointing that some of the damage to Ireland’s international reputation from its failure to pledge a contribution to the Green Climate Fund could not be publicly undone, it was clear that the Minister did not have a mandate to do so, and in a private meeting was supportive of suggestions to look into the matter, as well as taking on board concerns regarding the inadequacies of the soon-to-be-published Climate Bill. Despite a large number of agreed recommendations for this Bill emanating from the Oireachtas Environment Committee, only a few appear to have survived Minister Hogan’s tenure of the Department. Key amendments are clearly necessary if it is not to prove an ineffective instrument in tackling Ireland’s current likely failure to comply with its long agreed international obligations.

Lima has a small but active Irish community and the Irish Chamber of Commerce here hosted a reception for their Irish visitors. Even after 30 plus years in Peru, the Galway or Donegal accents were still strong and as with all migrant groups, awareness of what was happening in the country they still called home was impressive. Held on the 21st floor of a luxury hotel in the upmarket suburb of Miraflores, the contrast for those of us staying elsewhere in the poorer parts of city where it is not safe to venture outside after dark was a reminder of just how big the contrasts in affluence can be in this city of 10M people.

As to the negotiations themselves, the hardened media people refer to Thursday as ‘Deadlock Day’. One suspects sometimes the stories change little regarding this day from year to year as ‘make your mind up time’ for the negotiators draws near. Already there are ominous signs that Friday will stretch into Saturday and even beyond as arguments continue over wordings and ‘bracketed’ clauses. Leaving countries to indicate their INDCs (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) by spring next year inevitably provides for everyone making themselves a special case (rather like Ireland at the 2030 EU negotiations). The early indications, however, are that while an agreement may eventually emerge, it will be unlikely to be adequate to achieve the desired objective of avoiding dangerous climate change. But it may provide some breathing time for the planet.

Prof. John Sweeney, Lima, 10th December 2014

Thoughts from Lima (#4): Prof. John Sweeney reports on the COP20 UN Climate Conference

12th December 2014
News Item

It is sometimes hard to get your head around the dramatic change in policy regarding climate change which President Obama initiated on the commencement of his second term in office. His Secretary of State John Kerry has made this a personal priority and his speech at COP20 on Wednesday was radically different from the equivalent addresses given during the Bush era, and even during Barack Obama’s first term. Just a flavour of what Kerry said in his brief visit is striking:

“Measured against the array of global threats that we face today – and there are many – terrorism, extremism, epidemics, poverty, nuclear proliferation – all challenges that know no borders – climate change absolutely ranks up there equal with all of them ... Only those nations who step up and respond to this threat can legitimately lay claim to any mantle of leadership and global responsibility. And yes, if you’re a big, developed nation and you’re not helping to lead, then you are part of the problem ... I know how angry some people are about the predicament they’ve been put in by big nations that have benefitted from industrialization for a long period of time. I know the debates over who should do what and how hard fought and how complex [the problem is]. But the fact is we simply don’t have time to sit around going back and forth about whose responsibility it is to act. Pretty simple, folks: It’s everyone’s responsibility; because it’s the net amount of carbon that matters, not each country’s share ... Now certainly, the biggest emitters, including the United States – and I’m proud that President Obama has accepted that responsibility – have to contribute more to the solution.”

Such sentiments, combined with the recent US-China agreement have boosted the chances of a global accord next year. Today the Plenary was packed with big names to reiterate the responsibilities resting on the shoulders of the negotiators. The President of Peru, The UN Secretary General, Laurent Fabius the former Prime Minister of France, Al Gore the former Vice President of the USA and Felipe Calderón the former President of Mexico all gave stirring addresses. But somewhat surprisingly it was Señor Calderón who was most impressive. Having tackled the drugs cartel in Mexico during his Presidency, the challenge of climate change is one he has taken to with great gusto, most recently with another key individual Lord Nicholas Stern who himself addressed the conference earlier in the week.

After the intensity of the morning, things went strangely silent in the afternoon. After probably the hottest morning of the week, the buzz of activity of 10,700 participants largely disappeared. The silence was not even broken by the odd helicopter overflight from the nearby army base which had drowned out some sessions for a brief time in the morning. Only sporadic noise emanated from a few energetic young American and Canadian students singing and chanting against the proposed pipelines bringing hydrocarbons from the tar sands of Canada to the cities of the eastern US. But elsewhere things were unusually quiet. Was it that the negotiators were deeply closeted away in several rooms bashing out the remaining obstacles to an agreement? Or were they getting some sleep in advance of the coming marathon sessions tomorrow and possibly Saturday? Little in the way of definitive news is publicly available and the schedule posted for tomorrow is very vague. But the crunch is undoubtedly coming.

Prof. John Sweeney, Lima, 12th December 2014

National Roads Authority crashing into climate policy – An Taisce

12th December 2014
Press Release

Road-building agency working contrary to Government policy on emissions reduction

Last week’s publication by the EPA of Ireland’s 2013 greenhouse gas emission figures came just in advance of the climate summit in Lima, Peru.

During 2013 transport emissions increased 2.1% over 2012 levels, and now make up 20% of the national total.

Emissions from electricity generation fell. However, transport emissions, combined with increases from agriculture and heating, have put Ireland on a clear path to breach the EU 202O targets - unless concerted action is taken straight away.

In 2009 the Department of Transport published Smarter Travel - A New Transport Policy for Ireland 2009 -2020. This policy document includes targets to ensure that by 2020 the total kilometres travelled by the national car fleet does not exceed 2009 levels, and that workplace single-car commuting travel reduces to 45% (from around 65% today), a provision helped by cycle journeys rising to 10% (under the parallel National Cycling Policy Framework).

These targets will not be met because the National Roads Authority is working contrary to government policy. The NRA is pursuing investment such as the over-scaled Gort - Tuam motorway and widening the M7 between Naas and Newbridge by adding extra lanes. An Bord Pleanala and the National Transport Authority (NTA) appear to be rubber-stamping the failure to implement agreed national policy.

Far too much new retail and employment development continues to be car based. Here local authorities and An Bord Pleanala are systemically flouting Smarter Travel. This is shown by consents to swell the size of the Liffey Valley Shopping Centre in south Dublin, Kildare Village and car parking at Dublin Airport, along with more than 700 new car spaces for a wholly car-dependent new premises for the Kerry Group outside Naas.

Ireland continues to one of the most car dependent countries in the EU. Apart from climate impact, current failed car-oriented construction is putting Ireland directly on a path back to chronic congestion and high levels of local air pollution, all of which contribute to asthma, bronchitis together with more complex respiratory and coronary ailments.

Investment by the Department of Transport needs to be re-directed to achieve a massive shift to public transport and cycling, bringing car-focused development to a halt. The legal remit of the NRA and NTA needs to be amended to enforce compliance with Smarter Travel, combined with effective planning and land use policies at all levels. Charging is required at large out of town retail car parks, as is better road use pricing.

The long-promised merger of the NRA with the Railway Procurement Agency also needs to be completed to re-channel the NRA’s undoubted energy and delivery record in a sustainable direction.


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 2411995
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland


Thoughts from Lima (#5): Prof. John Sweeney's closing report from the COP20 UN Climate Conference

15th December 2014
News Item

The pattern of these UN Climate Conferences is similar almost every year. Initial optimism gives way to deadlock. The clock is stopped and the conference is extended into Saturday when an agreement of sorts is produced under time pressure from departing delegates. So it was this week. When deadlock was evident on Thursday night the Peruvian President of COP20, Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal worked feverishly behind the scenes to rescue talks which had become increasingly bitter. A compromise draft on Saturday was again rejected mainly by the developing country blocs. US delegate Todd Stern warned that the entire UN structure on tackling climate change was at risk. The prospects of the conference paving the way for an ambitious deal in Paris in 2015 seemed remote.

The divide between the Developed and Developing Countries centred on the nature of individual pledges which all countries were asked to make in the lead up to Paris. Increased ambition and no retrenchment from current pledges were required. The intention was that in aggregate the total bottom-up pledges would bridge the gap between what was currently on offer and that needed to stave off the spectre of +2℃ warming, the agreed definition of ‘dangerous climate change’. To assist developing countries achieve ‘clean development’ and adapt to climate change, a ‘Green Climate Fund’ of $100B would be set up by the Developed Countries. Though this sounds a lot, spread over the global community it is not an excessive amount, and probably not even sufficient to achieve its objectives.

The Developing Countries are wary of promises which are not kept, and thus far the Green Climate Fund has only reached $10B, though increasing steadily as countries commit to it. Unfortunately a small number of developed countries have not made any tangible commitment to it, and this includes Ireland (which earned it some negative publicity in Lima as a result). The level of effort from other parts of the developed world was also seen as rather half-hearted in terms of the scale of the problem. The EU for example as a whole has almost already reached its 20% reduction target for 2020 and did not indicate a further tightening of its emission reduction policies for this period, though this may come in the event of a successful Paris agreement.

Gradually, trust broke down. In addition to objecting to emission reductions for themselves in the national pledges, the developing countries insisted their adaptation efforts should also be considered, together with their technical capacity and available finance. The developed countries for their part began to baulk at the prospect of large financial transfers for vaguely quantifiable actions. For seasoned conference watchers, two phrases were repeated over and over again. The first was ‘historic and differentiated responsibility’. This referred to the differentiation between countries on the basis of their historic emissions, much of which is still in the atmosphere and contributing to the problems faced by poorer countries. Secondly was ‘Loss and Damage’ a relatively recent attempt to induce developed countries to provide compensation for their historic actions in impacting on e.g. increased storm, flood or drought occurrences in the developing world.

A sustained rejection of a compromise agreement brokered by the Norwegian and Singaporean delegates on Saturday afternoon seemed like the end of the road. However further work by the Peruvian President of COP20 produced a further version late in the day. This was agreed, though reluctantly. The UN process works on the basis of unanimity, and getting 194 countries to agree in such circumstances inevitably produces a scaling down to a least common denominator. This appears to have been the outcome. The agreement does facilitate the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities" and does provide for a “loss and damage” scheme. But the language is one of “may” rather than “shall” e.g. countries may rather than shall indicate quantitatively how they will meet their emission targets. They may also indicate their commitments in the first quarter of next year only “if ready to do so”.

The bottom line is that the momentum which seemed to be there for a Paris agreement has not been maintained at COP20. Instead the old antagonisms have re-emerged and the ambition that Paris will deliver a meaningful agreement has receded. It is a standoff the world does not need as we burn off our remaining carbon budget. But as we have seen in Ireland’s carping over meeting its agreed 2020 targets, national self interest trumps global community good when the chips are down. Would that those unwilling to put their shoulders to the wheel in Lima or Dublin explain their logic to the 250,000 people the World Health Organisation estimate die from the direct or indirect effects of climate change each year, or to the next generation of Irish people who will also pay a price for today’s lack of urgency.

Prof. John Sweeney, Lima, 14th December 2014

Emlagh Wind Farm poses issues in the absence of proper national spatial strategy for wind

15th December 2014
Submission Summary

All future Irish wind energy proposal needs to be plan led and not developer led. There is a need to meaningfully rather than tokenistically use the framework provided by the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Directive to identify the national capacity for location of wind energy for export turbines, and their optimum siting. This proposal is inappropriately developer led acting without any proper national and location selection strategy. It has shown up significant conflict with residential amenity, sites of high amenity and landscape designations in local authority development plans and the landscape setting of sites of cultural heritage, including significant monuments and designed landscapes.

Furthermore, this application requires cumulative assessment with other proposed wind energy development. An Taisce note another Strategic Infrastructure application. Element is also pursuing a pre planning consultation for this development which also originated as an export proposal which it titles the Maighne Wind Farm. It proposes up to twenty-two individual sites stretching across North County Kildare, Offaly and South County Meath for fifty-five turbines in large area of landscape between Prosperous Co Kildare, Longwood Co Meath and Edenderry Co Offaly. The same considerations raised by the Emlagh application also apply to this proposal.

There is also a current application applied for by Cregg Wind Farm Limited for the grant of a ten year planning permission for development for the construction, operation and decommissioning of a wind farm of up to six number wind turbine generators to export electricity to the national grid. Each turbine will be up to 150 metres to blade tip height with an associated crane hardstand. The works will also require the construction of an electrical substation, a meteorological mast, cabling and access tracks to each turbine and ancillary works including a temporary construction compound and site entrance access upgrades for abnormal loads, at this site at Cregg, College and Rathgillen townlands, Nobber, Co. Meath.

It is also noted that legal action has been initiated against An Bord Pleanála on the eligibility of the Emlagh application as a Strategic Infrastructure proposal under the Planning and Development Acts as amended 2006, in High Court proceedings lodged on 26th November.

The close of submissions in relation to this application was 1st December. See link to An Taisce submission.

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Minister Coveney and ICOS should guarantee that rising agriculture emissions will not cost taxpayer.

17th December 2014
Press Release

Irish agriculture claims it can dramatically increase the size and output of the national dairy herd while not increasing net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the sector. An Taisce believes these claims to be manifestly incorrect. It now calls on Agriculture Minister, Simon Coveney, as well as the Irish Co-Op Organisation Society (ICOS) to publicly guarantee the Irish taxpayers that they will not be forced to pick up the tab for massive EU fines as a result of spiralling agriculture sector emissions arising from the expansionist ‘Food Harvest 2020’

ICOS, in a response (note 1) to a recent press release from An Taisce (note2 ), says: “Expansion in Irish agriculture, especially in dairying, must not be hindered by regulation for the sake of regulation”. We point out that regulation of greenhouse gases is not ‘red tape’, but is critical if Ireland is to play its role in reducing the risk of what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) describes as “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems” arising from climate change.

An Taisce rejects any notion of fostering a ‘them and us’ division between farmers, their industry and the environmental lobby. Indeed we need to move on to a path to stabilising the Earth’s climate system, which will depend on all of us working together for solutions.

However, ICOS misquote us in saying we called for “a reduction in cattle numbers” as the only possible answer to reducing total emissions. We did point out that total emissions due to dairy expansion under Food Harvest 2020 would rise, contrary to the Minister’s claim.

Further, Irish dairy methane emissions per head have increased by over 10% since 1990. Total emissions from dairy can only be calculated by multiplying the emissions per head by the total number of cattle. The annual total adds to the cumulative amount in the atmosphere causing global warming.

ICOS might prefer that other metrics could be used but that is not the view of the IPCC report, Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Using ‘production efficiency’ metrics based on yield evades the physical reality that it is only ‘total emissions’ which counts as carbon footprint.

Globally, meat and dairying produces 14.5% of global GHGs. That's more than all the cars, trains, planes and ships in the world – combined. Yet it “attracts remarkably little policy attention at either the international or national level”, according to a recent Chatham House study in the UK. (note 3)

The Chatham House study underpins the growing reality that in a world of finite and declining resources, the need to ensure the nutritional needs of the world’s population must be met without further destroying the natural world or overloading the atmosphere with dangerous emissions. This means that the only strategic approach that is both equitable and sustainable is reining in, rather than ramping up, meat and dairy consumption.

The ICOS correctly points out that life-cycle GHG analysis shows Irish dairying to have one of the lowest GHG footprints in the EU based on milk yield. However, under Food Harvest 2020, it is envisaged to move to a more European-style intensive dairying model, including adding 300,000 cows to the national herd, leading to dramatic increases in emissions.

Further, Ireland is on average only about 70% self sufficient in cereals. Intensification of dairy production would require greatly increased imports of animal feed, which will contribute to food insecurity.

Given that agriculture already accounts for one third of Ireland’s total emissions, does ICOS believe the rest of Irish society should undergo drastic and disruptive cuts to their emissions in order to subside an emissions-intensive agro-industrial ‘gold rush’? This, we would contend, is both unwise and inequitable.

An Taisce fully appreciates that Irish farmers are critical to environmental protection. Agriculture is in fact uniquely vulnerable to the disruptive effects of climate change – and many older Irish farmers in particular are already well aware that the largely predictable weather they grew up with is undergoing rapid and disturbing changes.

An Taisce recognises that agriculture will need to make major efforts in the coming years in adapting to levels of climate change which are already inevitable. However, without global climate stabilisation, all bets for the future of farming – and humanity as a whole – are off the table.

All sectors of society need to be working towards a path to climate stability for the health and well being of all our futures. Aspirations will not be enough; total annual emissions must fall to cultivate a safer future.

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 2411995
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland


  1. ICOS Latest News 12/12/2014 Environmental protection at the heart of the Irish Dairy Story
  2. An Taisce Press Release 28/11/2014 An Taisce questions the Agriculture Minister’s Claims on Dairy Herd Expansion
  3. Chatham House Research Paper - Research Paper:Rob Bailey, Antony Froggatt and Laura Wellesley Energy, Environment and Resources | December 2014 Livestock – Climate Change’s Forgotten Sector Global Public Opinion on Meat and Dairy Consumption,30JL0,BHZILT,AUGSP,1

EU nature policy must be strengthened not weakened

20th December 2014
News Item

European Commission president Jean Claude Juncker’s suggestion that the EU’s nature laws may need to be “modernised” following an upcoming review must be treated with a healthy dose of scepticism.

In the current political climate, “modernising” is often a convenient bandwagon onto which attempts to weaken environmental protection can be hitched. This would not be the first attack on the Habitats and Birds Directives in the name of modernity.

In 2009, the then Dutch prime minister wrote to Mr Juncker’s predecessor to request proposals to bring the nature directives “up to date”, in particular to “take account of the increasingly topical need to strike a balance between ecological interests and economic and human interests, and to address the impact of climate change on our living environment”.

But according to the EU’s own high level policy, tackling climate change and nature conservation are by necessity complementary goals and one must not come at the expense of the other.

Positing the issue as one of Natura 2000 versus development, renewable or otherwise, as some have tried to do, does not make sense – unless the real agenda is one of deregulation.

In reality, developers and their consultants understand the regulatory system created by the longstanding nature directives and appreciate the certainty this provides. The prolonged uncertainty any revision of these instruments would cause makes it likely that a range of sectors will rally in support of better implementation of the Habitats and Birds Directives, recalling that each directive took over three years to negotiate in the first place.

A revision of these directives in the current political climate would almost inevitably lead to a weaker instrument. This would represent a grave setback for conservation action and would set a very dangerous precedent for other environmental legislation, in the EU and beyond.

What is urgently needed is a new impetus for nature conservation in Europe, including a step-change in implementation of the Birds and Habitats Directives, which have proven to be effective laws defending Europe’s most prized and threatened species and habitats.

In parallel we need much better integration of nature considerations into other existing policies, plus the development of ambitious new complementary policies.

Andrew Jackson
An Taisce's Natural Environment Officer

This article was originally published in ENDS Europe, on 12th Dec, 2014.

News from INTO - The International National Trusts Organisation

21st December 2014
News Item

The overarching mission of INTO is to promote the conservation and enhancement of the cultural and natural heritage of all nations for the benefit of the people of the world. INTO is an international network of National Trusts and similar non-governmental organisations, globally diverse but united in a shared commitment to work through cooperation, coordination and comradeship. INTO works to develop and promote best conservation practices, increase the capacity of individual organisations, establish Trusts where they do not presently exist, and advocate in the interests of heritage conservation.

See here for their December 2014 Newsletter

News Source Name: 
INTO - The International National Trusts Organisation

Happy Birthday Planning, Fifty Years Old Today!

21st December 2014
News Item

Just in case you may have overlooked it, today marks the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the planning system in Ireland! On the 1st of October 1964 the first planning act came into being. Since that time planning has soldiered valiantly, and despite the general apathy of the public and no little hostility from the political class, somehow remains standing, even if battered and bruised. If truth be told it is only in the past ten years that planning has actually existed in any meaningful form. Prior to that we had mostly men with t-squares largely concerned with pipe diameters, soak pits and sight-lines. Today’s planners toil through an unnerving jumble of complexity and tortuous process spoken in a strange-tongued language of technical jargon that nobody really understands. They have become handy targets, mudguards, used and abused and persistently caught in the crossfire of short-term expediency, long-term strategising and the conflicting expectations of the public, politicians and business. I doubt I am alone in hoping the question of ‘what do you do for a living?’ doesn’t come up in the pub!

As Irish planning muddles through middle age maybe it’s time to ask some uncomfortable mid-life crisis questions – the elephants in the room – what are we doing, where are we going, whose needs do we serve and does what we do actually work? If we take the simple measure of being able to control the future by current acts, which is what planning essentially is, then it must be concluded from the evidence that it doesn’t work at all, or at least not very well. I mean, while the counterfactual can never be fully known, would Ireland look any different today if we hadn’t mobilised great effort to produce spatial strategies and visions? Maybe at the margins, but not much, I suspect. While we wax lyrical about communities and sustainability, who has benefited most from planning – landowners? developers? banks? The influx of more ‘evidence’ into the process does not seem to be producing better results, although it is probably too early to tell. What we are very good at are attempts to plan, we produce nice glossy plans like the National Spatial Strategy. But just as a desire to be wise is not wisdom, planning can only be evaluated on whether or not the desired goals have been achieved. As the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. On pretty much every measure, it must be conceded that we haven’t achieved much. Even our glittering flagship planning visions, such as the Dublin Docklands or Adamstown, remain undelivered and hardly do much to justify our existence.

To be fair, planning is a messy business beholden to private capital and it has failed pretty much everywhere it has been tried. Achieving a desired end state is also not necessarily a good yardstick to measure success as the world is always in flux. Things change. But as I have argued before neither should the profession lapse into banal process and incrementalism as it is as present. We planners always tend to think of ourselves as victims, put-upon and marginalised by an unholy alliance of developers, politicians and county managers. If people had only listened to our recommendations and followed the plan, things would have been so different. I don’t buy this. Things wouldn’t have been much different. This is because our plans persistently seek legitimisation by appealing to consensus, superficially offering something to everyone and no one. The net result is that the short-term competitiveness and growth agenda wins out. As a profession, these are now our de facto values. I think most planner’s would think the ‘Common Good’ should mean more than that. A recent paper on this subject revealed that most planners have no idea what the ‘Common Good’ actually is (Murphy & Fox-Rogers 2014) . Planning education has a lot to answer for here. The intellectual horizons of the profession has shrunk so much that we are incapable offering any alternatives or critical perspectives to puncture the status quo. We must drop the instinctive notion that we are pursuing a progressive agenda. The opposite is often the reality. There was a call a few years ago by the then Irish Planning Institute president for a ‘Planner’s Charter’ setting out the broad values of the profession. That idea never saw the light of day. I suspect because of lack of consensus. But on the occasion of our 50th birthday, this should be the time for at least a debate.

Gavin Daly

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Ireland after NAMA

Poolbeg will compromise recycling – or recycling will compromise Poolbeg

21st December 2014
News Item

If completed as planned, what will Poolbeg mean for waste management in Ireland?

As the plans currently stand, the plant is to have a 600,000 tonne capacity.

And, according Dublin City Council, ten years from now, 708,000 tonnes of waste will still “be available” to Poolbeg. But critically, Dublin City Council has side-stepped the implications of rising recycling rates.

At the start of July this year the EU Commission adopted a new waste target which will “boost reuse and recycling of municipal waste to a minimum of 70% by 2030”. Already, Ireland is recycling more than 40% of its waste and is well on track to reach 50% over the next five years. It is a good news story. The Minister for the Environment, Alan Kelly, addressing the Environment Ireland conference in mid September, endorsed the drive for ‘zero waste’, which, as the term implies, involves reaching 70% recycling and then going well beyond it.

For many years now, work in Ireland and Europe has been aiming to ensure that material which can be re-used or recycled is not wasted or burned. The 70% recycling target is contained in a comprehensive document titled “Towards a circular economy: A zero waste programme for Europe”, published this July. Another key policy, “Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe”, came out in September 2011. This policy asks member states to keep all material capable of being recycled out of incinerators. Even if an incinerator yields some energy – i.e. a waste-to-energy plant, and this is planned at Poolbeg, although many of the energy-related details are hazy – the 2011 policy document says that feedstock for such incinerators should be “limited to non-recyclable materials”.

Where does reaching the 70% recycling target leave Poolbeg? The 70% figure relates to 2030, and so we’re left to fill in the gaps: 50% by 2020 and 60% by 2025. These are reasonable targets, and achievable based on our current trajectory. If 60% of material is recycled in 2025, there will be 262,000 fewer tonnes of waste available to Poolbeg in 2025 compared to the figures presented by Dublin City Council to councillors.

Dublin City Council data misleads in two other respects. After being treated, certain non-hazardous waste can be used as a fuel in cement kilns, where it is typically used to displace coal. Solid Recovery Fuel, or SRF, is the name given to this material, post treatment. In its reports to councillors, Dublin City Council put SRF at 121,000 tonnes for 2012 – and went on to give the same figure for 2025. While accurate for 2012, SRF has already grown to account for 160,000 tonnes in 2014. With more cement plants currently being modified, SRF will account for at least 260,000 tonnes by 2025. (The figure will likely be higher but a conservative approach is adopted.)

Second, Dublin City Council essentially ignored the process known as mechanical and biological treatment, or MBT. The waste hierarchy sets out the best practice sequence in which waste should be treated. Because MBT involves sorting and recovering materials, it is positioned higher up in the hierarchy than incineration. Bord na Mona, which controls the waste company AES, is set to build an MBT plant in north Kildare. Allowing for a very gradual ramp-up, MBT will account for 100,000 tonnes by 2025.

After a more faithful review of the waste sector, what does the picture look like for Poolbeg? Factoring out the shortcomings in the information released by Dublin City Council, as recycling rises there are 262,000 fewer tonnes available for incineration, 140,000 fewer tonnes with increased SRF, and 100,000 fewer tonnes due to MBT. And so, with these reductions, the volume of waste available to Poolbeg in ten years time is not 708,000 tonnes but 186,000 tonnes. This is low, and possibly too low for Poolbeg to survive. However, once the further projected rise in recycling from 60% to 70%, expected between 2025 and 2030, is factored in, the case to continue operating Poolbeg is gone.

But perhaps the volume of waste might grow? In fairness to Dublin City Council, it doesn’t put much faith in this. And for good reason. From July 2015, pay-by-weight will be universal across Ireland. Home composting will further expand. Less packaging will be accepted from shops and the same goes for unsolicited mail. As this feeds back to suppliers, the future involves lighter packaging and less of it. Important work has been done in this area by the UK equivalent of the Department of the Environment. In a report published last October, it saw the level of waste declining gradually year by year.

What is the bottom line on Poolbeg? Poolbeg will only survive if those behind the project succeed in undermining waste treatment methods that are superior to incineration, particularly recycling and composting. If this happens, the future of Irish waste management sees national policy wagged by a tail of unelected officials at Dublin City Council, with public policy-making reaching a very sorry pass.

In such a sorry pass there may remain some questions regarding “who pays?” The details may be complex. But the broad answer will run along similar lines to the pattern that has emerged over the last five years or so: all of us will pay.

James Nix – Director of Policy & Operations at An Taisce, The National Trust for Ireland.

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Ireland after NAMA

Carbon emissions explained with Lego.

22nd December 2014
News Item

See this short video by Shrink That Footprint

This short video is a simple explanation of how human’s have caused carbon emissions over the last 260 years.

Unless we begin sharp reductions in carbon emissions immediately, we will commit the world to more that two degrees of warming.


All the data discussed in the video is in terms of gigatonnes of carbon (GtC).

The non-rounded historical figures from 1750-2011 are coal (177 Gt), oil (132 GtC), gas (50 GtC), cement (9 GtC), flaring (4 GtC) and land-use (159 GtC). You can read more about them, and where they end up, in their historical carbon emissions and sinks post.

For a more complete analysis of the budget see their 22 years till we blow the 2C carbon budget post. This explains why we are on track to burn straight through the IPCC’s carbon budget in coming decades.

Finally it is worth pointing out that it can be a little dangerous to think that we still have carbon to spend. In terms of ocean acidification and feedback risks, we have already emitted too much. Given that we need to combine fast emission cuts with rising energy use globally, we need to be focused on substituting away from any process that emits carbon into the atmosphere.


Look on my works ye Mighty and despair

22nd December 2014
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From Shelley's Poem 'Ozymandias'

But Mary Morrisssey created a youtube video that shows up our pretentions.

Thanks to Gavin Daly for the Link

Other An Taisce News

23rd December 2014
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Links to other An Taisce Newletters, Websites, Facebook and Twitter accounts/sites

An Taisce Facebook (and many thanks to Fintan Kelly on his great work here)

Green Schools Website

Green Schools December eZine

Green Schools Facebook

Green Homes Website

Green Campus Website

Green Campus Facebook

Clean Coasts Facebook

Greening Communities Website

Greening Communities Facebook

Blue Flag Website

Blue Flag Facebook

Neat Streets Website

Neat Streets Facebook

Spring Clean Website

Spring Clean Facebook


Various An Taisce Twitter Handles you should follow:

@AnTaisce @CleanCoasts @GreenCampusIE @GreenSchoolsIre @NationalSpringC @BlueFlagIreland @GreenHomeIrl @GreeningIreland

Global Divestment - another campaign to get involved with?

23rd December 2014
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What is fossil fuel divestment?

Divestment is the opposite of an investment – it simply means getting rid of stocks, bonds, or investment funds that are unethical or morally ambiguous.

When you invest your money, you might buy stocks, bonds, or other investments that generate income for you. Universities (and colleges in the US), religious organizations, retirement funds, and other institutions put billions in these same kinds of investments to generate income to help them run. Fossil fuel investments are a risk for both investors and the planet, so we’re calling on institutions to divest from these companies.

There have been a handful of successful divestment campaigns in recent history, including those targeting violence in Darfur, tobacco advertising, and others, but the largest and most impactful one came to a head around the issue of South African Apartheid. By the mid-1980s, 155 campuses – including some of the most famous in the country – had divested from companies doing business in South Africa. 26 state governments, 22 counties, and 90 cities, including some of the nation’s biggest, took their money from multinationals that did business in the country. The South African divestment campaign helped break the back of the Apartheid government and usher in an era of democracy and equality.

Fossil fuel divestment takes the fossil fuel industry to task for its culpability in the climate crisis. By naming this industry’s singularly destructive influence — and by highlighting the moral dimensions of climate change — we hope that the fossil fuel divestment movement can help break the hold that the fossil fuel industry has on our economy and our governments.

For more information and to join the campaign see

What's TTIP and you might sign a petition

23rd December 2014
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TTIP - The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Information and a petition you might sign Stop TTIP

These are An Taisce's key concerns and recommendations in relation to the negotiations on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the EU and the US, for which negotiations started in June 2013, as well as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between the EU and Canada, which is pending conclusion.

Our concerns centre on the risk and even likelihood that the resulting agreements will undermine and compromise the ability of Europe to establish, maintain and further develop effective environmental policies. We are also concerned that these deals, which may have very far‐reaching implications for Ireland and Europe, are being negotiated without a sufficient degree of transparency or democratic control of the process.

The two elements that we consider most problematic and which we understand the EU is so far supporting are the proposals for Regulatory Cooperation and for Investor State Dispute Settlement Mechanisms. The first element, whether sector specific or horizontal, bears the risk of undermining the implementation and further development of effective environmental policies by creating new procedures, criteria and governance bodies that will effectively act as a barrier to the EU legislative process. The second element bears the risk that, even if the EU regulators would still be able to propose something meaningful in theory, they would no longer be able to do so in practice as it would expose the EU to expensive lawsuits by corporate interests which would be decided in specially created tribunals allowing them to escape the domestic court system. We welcome the fact that the Commission has decided to reflect further on this issue for a period and to consult the public before pursuing it through the negotiations and hope that this will result in the idea being abandoned.

In addition to these issues, and relating specifically to Irish agriculture, we are concerned that removing regulations to allow North American beef and Dairy into the European markets will make it more difficult for Irish farmers to compete. This reduce returns per kg for Irish farmers and ultimately provide an incentive for farmers to farm in a more intensive and less environmentally sustainable way. As such, both farming livelihoods and Ireland’s environmental health could be compromised by these trade agreements.

Given the clear and imminent potential threat to environmental protection and to the associated benefits for European citizens, An Taisce has called on the Government to do everything in its power to:

  • Demand that EU negotiators provide full public access to all negotiating documents, and that a comprehensive Sustainability Impact Assessment is finalised rapidly and used as a basis for furthernegotiations. This should include a decision on whether to proceed with the negotiations at all;
  • Demand that the European Parliament, Ireland, and other EU Member States firmly reject therecently agreed CETA deal with Canada due to its inclusion of an Investor State Dispute Settlementmechanism, which the Sustainability Impact Assessment commissioned by the EuropeanCommission advised not to include;
  • Demand that the European Commission work to ensure that TTIP excludes mechanisms for Regulatory Cooperation, Investor State Dispute Settlement, fast track ratification as well as deeperforms of regulatory cooperation in the field of energy, climate, chemicals, agriculture and food, and other areas where environmental policy risks being weakened;
  • Demand that the European Parliament, Ireland, and other Member States reject a final TTIP deal should the Commission fail to exclude any of the above contentious issues.

See also An Taisce and TTIP

Microbeads and the damage they do

24th December 2014
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A quick phase out of microbeads is crucial

An Taisce's Clean Coasts have been spearheading the campaign against Microbeads.

Tiny particles of plastic have been added to possibly thousands of personal care products sold around the world. These microbeads, hardly visible to the naked eye, flow straight from the bathroom drain into the sewer system. Wastewater treatment plants are not designed to filter out microbeads and that is the main reason why, ultimately, they contribute to the Plastic Soup swirling around the world’s oceans. Sea creatures absorb or eat microbeads. These microbeads are passed along the marine food chain. Since humans are ultimately at the top of this food chain, it is likely that we are also absorbing microbeads from the food we eat. Microbeads are not biodegradable and once they enter the marine environment, they are impossible to remove.

Positive action on behalf of manufacturers has meant that more and more of these microbeads are being removed from personal care products and replaced by naturally biodegradable alternatives. It is still a far cry to say that all personal care products are free from plastic microbeads though.

For more and to download the 'Beat the Microbead App' go to

Visit An Taisce's Clean Coast Facebook page at

Also the Ditch the Beads Facebook page

2 Minute Beach Clean

24th December 2014
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2 Minute Beach Clean - an idea that has gone viral

From the 2 Minute Beach Clean Site -

Next time you go to the beach, whether it’s to surf or walk the dog, it’s easy to make time for a 2 minute beach clean. You pick up a few bits of marine litter and take it home to recycle or put it in a bin at the beach. It’s as simple as that. There’s no need for bureaucracy, insurance, risk assessments or any kind of paperwork. You just get on and do it (after you have read our SAFETY PAGE, of course).

Then, when you are done, take a picture of your little haul on your phone (or make something arty with it) and post it to Twitter or Instagram using our #2minutebeachclean hashtag. Your picture will appear on this page, along with everybody else’s and will help to inspire more people to do the same. The more people do it, the more others will get involved and the more we’ll be able to do.

An Taisce's Clean Coasts continue to actively promote '2 Minute Beach Cleans' See their Facebook page at

December 2014 eZine

24th December 2014
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You are being sent these eZines because you are a member of An Taisce - should you no longer wish to be sent these, please email

Your views are important to An Taisce. Please don't hesitate to send us any feedback on content, format, etc. of this newsletter, and if there are any topics in particular that you'd like to see covered, we'll do our best to get them in. We apologise that we are unable to order these items in a more logical way, the system does not allow.

The eZine Team
Tailors Hall,
Back Lane,
Dublin 8
Phone: 01 4541786

Seasons Greetings

25th December 2014
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Seasons Greetings

All at An Taisce would like to thank you for your support this year and pass on our best wishes for next year.