Ireland has a Citizen’s Assembly comprised of 100 citizens representative of the state’s population who meet to discuss key issues of national importance. It reports to the Dail and Senate on those issues. The recent Assembly called on our Government to act on climate change.
Each of us in the words of Pope Francis in Laudato Si work “by small daily actions” to care for our common home. We are aware also that Climate Justice requires action at Government Level in all countries and at international gatherings of countries e.g. the COPD yearly meetings.
The Citizen’s Assembly on Climate Change marks a moment of optimism for the people of Ireland and for Care of the Earth Groups. It came across loud and clear that once the full facts about climate change are properly communicated, people see the need for the Government to take action even if that action will be difficult.
The Assembly met over two weekends – four days- 30th September to 1st October and 4th – 5th November. Submissions from the general public were invited and the Assembly received 1,200, including some from RSCs. There were also presentations from experts in the science and field of climate change. The number of submissions made to the Assembly and the commitment of the group in engaging with the topic shows clearly that Irish Society is beginning to take seriously the challenge of climate justice. Hurricane Ophelia helped as well!
Following four days of presentations and discussions the assembly voted on 13 recommendations in response to the agenda topic ‘HOW THE STATE CAN MAKE IRELAND A LEADER IN TACKLING CLIMATE CHANGE TODAY’? These included:
- Investment in sustainable public transport
- Peat restoration and ending use of peat power stations
- Enabling community ownership of renewal energy
- Carbon tax on emissions from agriculture (this is hugely challenging for Ireland whose main industry is agriculture - see article on the Netherlands who have become a world leader in agricultural innovation and how a tiny country feeds the world in a sustainable way -National Geographic, September 2017)
- Increased support for land diversification.
The Assembly participants heard that many of these steps had several benefits including improving public health, lowering air pollution and CO2 emissions and protecting biodiversity. The Citizens have sent a strong message to the Government that it must take seriously and act urgently on this issue. It recommends that Climate Change must be at the centre of policy making in Ireland. This we know will take strong political leadership to make the transition to a low carbon economy, especially in allocating resources and formulating policies to make this happen.
The Assembly is producing a report for the houses of Government, the Dail and Seanad in Ireland. This will be available on line on Citizen’s Assembly website as is a full list of recommendations.
Sr Mary Judge.