Citizens’ Assembly to kick off ground-breaking examination of Ireland’s response to climate change

On September 30th, the Citizens’ Assembly will begin a ground-breaking process in democratic decision-making on climate change. The Assembly will discuss the topic ‘how the State can make Ireland a leader in tackling climate change’. It will hear presentations from international experts and, after a second weekend of debate on November 5th, will vote on recommendations to Government.

Individuals, NGOs and businesses from Ireland and around the world already have had the opportunity to voice their concerns to the Citizens’ Assembly through a major public consultation. The consultation was a great success with the Assembly receiving close to 1,200 submissions, which are available online.

Speaking on behalf of Ireland’s Stop Climate Chaos Coalition, Jerry Mac Evilly commented:

“This is a historic opportunity for Irish action on climate change. We have already seen the hugely positive impact of this type of examination by the Assembly, such as their previous consideration of marriage equality. We hope the Assembly will now shake up Ireland’s action on climate change and drive a transition to provide benefits for communities and businesses across the country.”

The Assembly’s consideration of Government efforts to reduce harmful emissions is one of the most innovative approaches to the issue yet seen, both nationally and internationally. While the Assembly has been asked how Ireland can be a leader in tackling climate change, for decades Ireland has been a laggard on climate action. The State’s first national action plan in ten years was released last July. However, necessary and urgent reductions in pollution are far from guaranteed, and Ireland’s emissions are expected to continue to rise and exceeds its EU 2020 targets.

Spokesperson for the Stop Climate Chaos member group, Friends of the Earth, Dr. Cara Augustenborg, explained:

“The consideration by the Citizens’ Assembly of Ireland’s response to climate change is an innovative approach that will be closely watched not just in Ireland but around the word. The public consultation brought in such a great selection of positive ideas on how Ireland should respond urgently to cut climate pollution. The Assembly now has the opportunity to make sure the Government takes positive action on this crisis.”

Actions put forward in the joint submission of Stop Climate Chaos and the Environmental Pillar include setting an end date for peat burning and coal-fired electricity generation, putting concrete support in place for small-scale community renewable projects, providing significant funding for deep retrofitting of Ireland’s housing stock and increasing the share of investment that goes to walking, cycling and clean public transport.

Notes:

  • Information on the remit of the Citizens’ Assembly, as well as submissions received from the public, is available here. Their 2017 meeting to consider abortion in Ireland, which recommended significant changes in abortion law is here. The Assembly is a successor to the 2012–14 Constitutional Convention, which catalysed the legalisation of same-sex marriage approved in Ireland’s 2015 momentous Marriage Equality Referendum.
  • The Stop Climate Chaos Coalition is the civil society coalition campaigning for Ireland to do its fair share to tackle climate change. Our 33 members include overseas aid and development, environmental, youth and faith-based organisations. Stop Climate Chaos made a joint submission with the Irish Environmental Pillar to the Citizen’s Assembly, putting forward 18 practical recommendations to take Ireland from being a laggard to a leader on climate action. These recommendations included setting an end date for peat burning and coal-fired electricity generation, putting concrete support in place for small-scale community renewable projects, providing significant funding for deep retrofitting of Ireland’s housing stock and increasing the share of transport investment that goes to walking, cycling and clean public transport.
  • Ireland is the third highest producer of emissions per person in the EU, and eighth in the OECD with polluting emissions increasing by 3.7% in 2015. Ireland is only one of five EU Member States which is set to miss its 2020 emission reduction targets under the EU Effort Sharing Decision, and the only one of these five States where emissions are predicted to continue to rise and where the State will likely be highly reliant on special flexibility procedures, such as the buying of credits from other countries, to close the gap based on analysis from European Environment Agency here. The Institute of International and European Affairs reported Ireland faces non-compliance costs of up to €600 million by 2020 and between €3bn and €6bn by 2030 without new substantive climate action measures to significantly reduce polluting emissions. Ireland’s reputation among EU partners has suffered as the Irish Government has repeatedly called for less demanding obligations rather than planning on how to meet them, thereby undermining rather than supporting EU collective action on climate change.

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