Citizen’s Assembly proposals for tackling Climate Change – Our View

GEAI would like to congratulate the Citizen’s Assembly for their challenging decisions addressing the key issues Ireland faces in its fight against Climate Change.

The Citizen’s Assembly is a body including a Chairperson – the Honourable Mary Laffoy – and 99 citizens, drawn to represent the whole of their compatriots when addressing crucial issues meant to impact Ireland’s future. On Sunday the 5th of November, they gathered for the second time to reflect on “How the State Can Make Ireland a Leader in Tackling Climate Change”. After two weekends of debating, the Assembly members voted in favour of 13 recommendations:

  • In order for Climate Change to have its rightful importance in our political landscape, a new or existing independent body should be given the legislative power and the financial resources to address this issue, and to challenge the State if it fails do so itself.
  • It was unanimously decided that the State should act as a leader in tackling Climate Change through mitigation measures such as improving energy efficiency of public buildings and promoting low carbon vehicles and renewable energy sources.
  • 80% of the members stated that they would accept to pay more taxes on carbon intensive activities; with the condition that poorer households will be exempt from it (the 400 000 households currently in receipt of fuel allowance).
  • The State should acknowledge the risks our country’s infrastructure faces with Climate Change impacts – such as extreme weather – and evaluate their costs to include it on the amount spent in this sector.
  • Irish citizens should be given the possibility to sell back to the grid the electricity they produce on their land through microgeneration. The price for it should at least be equivalent to the wholesale price.
  • Communities should be encouraged by the State to be involved in future energy projects as well as developing their own. Developer-led projects would have the obligation to give them share options.
  • In the next 5 years, the State should stop funding peat extraction and invest instead in restoring peatlands and in helping the workers transferring to another activity sector.
  • Bus lanes and cycling facilities should be greatly improved in the next 5 years and made more attractive for traveller to take instead of their private cars.
  • The switch from traditional cars to electric cars should be heavily facilitated by the State as soon as possible.
  • Improving and expanding public transport should be a priority, especially in rural areas.
  • The agricultural sector should be taxed whenever the amount of greenhouse gas its activity produces is excessive. In return, farmers who manage to lower the carbon footprint of their work should be rewarded with subsidies. The excess of money coming from those taxes should stay in the agricultural sector, to promote more sustainable practices.
  • Food waste should be closely monitored at every level of food distribution so measures can be taken to reduce it efficiently.
  • The State should support diversity in land use with a special attention given to reforesting the country and developing organic farming.

GEAI supports all those proposals made by the Citizen’s Assembly and is particularly enthusiastic about the energy related ones.

We agree that promoting and funding renewable energy sources needs to be a top priority for our country to become a leader in the fight against Climate Change.  However, we are disappointed that other than supporting a feed-in tariff, there was no motion to include support for microgeneration as a priority. The exclusion of microgeneration in the draft Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) means that farmers, small businesses and householders are excluded from a vital part of the transition to low carbon economy and lifestyle, especially in rural areas.  We advocate a reversal of this decision and are making a submission to the RESS accordingly.

The report that will be drawn from those proposals will hopefully prioritise an increase of the use of renewable energy sources and microgeneration.  It is vital that Government takes into account these points.

 

Sources:

  • “Higher taxes and more bus lanes: How the Citizens’ Assembly wants Ireland to tackle climate change”, Orla Ryan – thejournal.ie, 5/11/2017
  • “Citizens’ Assembly votes for radical overhaul of Irish climate change policy”, Niall Sargent – greennews.ie, 5/11/2017
  • Design of a new Renewable Electricity Support Scheme in Ireland: September 2017
  • thecitizenassembly.ie
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