National Adaptation Framework on Climate Change – still a long way to go

Last September a public consultation on the National Adaptation Framework on climate change  was launched by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment and we, at GEAI, submitted our opinion, making thirty-seven recommendations.

The document gave a fairly comprehensive overview of the projected impacts of climate change in Ireland d illustrated the governance process to be put in place for adaption. Nonetheless, on reading the draft it is evident that there is an element of “passing the buck” to the local authorities in terms of climate change adaptation.

2009 floods in Carrick-on-Shannon (Ph. Leitrim Observer)

In our view it is crucial that Government takes its own ambitions of being a “Leader in Climate Action” seriously and shows courage and determination in setting appropriate goals and targets to achieve this.

The National Adaptation Framework highlights the local authorities as key actors at the front line to fight against climate change. Even though we agree that local authorities will play a significant role, we argued that they must be supported with further appropriate financial and human resources.

If Government is not seen to provide leadership on Ireland’s response to climate change; if it does not tackle with appropriate legislative measures the three main causes of our high carbon emissions – the use of fossil fuels in energy generation and heating; meat production without adequate waste treatment measures; and our fossil fuel-guzzling transport sector – than it is not reasonable to expect and adequate response from regional or local levels.

Furthermore, we believe that the regional level could create an important forum for discussion for localised climate action. We therefore suggest the establishment of Climate Action and Resilience Groups, with a statutory status, where three or four counties geographically close to each other  coordinate to ensure more effective information sharing processes and, consequently, more cooperation. The country-wide Public Participation Networks must also be considered as vehicles to boost Climate Action and provide opportunities for discussion.

Other suggestions presented included, for instance, establishment of local smart grids to protect power supplies in the event of extreme weather conditions; mainstreaming of climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction concepts into sectoral policies and plans; new overarching school curricula on climate action and climate justice to be developed and implemented at all stages of education; ensuring that resources are made available for extreme weather adaptation measures at household level for communities and vulnerable groups of people.

Read our full submission

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Microgeneration vital in the move towards a low carbon economy

We at GEAI responded to the public consultation on the Design of a new Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) launched the 04th of September 2017 by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment.

The consultation document contains an economic assessment of a new RESS in Ireland followed by an assessment on how to increase community participation and suggestion of a model. Our response focussed mainly on the section “providing pathways for increased community participation” and microgeneration.

In our view, micro-scale electricity generation is a very crucial step towards a low carbon transition. However, this vision seems not to be fully shared by the Department.

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Rooftop solar PVs

In fact, the RESS report states that “the relative cost of micro-generation is very high” and cites the example that domestic rooftop solar PV is 4100/MWh more expensive than large and medium solar PV in 2020. It then concludes that “meeting renewable electricity targets and renewable diversity ambitions are more cost effectively achieved at large and medium scale levels”. For the above mentioned reasons it is then proposed that “microgeneration would not be supported via the main RESS”.

We think this conclusion is based solely on economic grounds, which does not take into consideration the added value of getting the community’s goodwill and commitment to make the change to renewables.

Furthermore, rural areas play an important role in the transition towards a low carbon economy and community participation is the key of this process, mainly because it has the potential to revitalise rural areas through reskilling workers, creation of local jobs (e.g. installers, maintenance) that would keep workers in their communities and generating new income streams for businesses and farms.

A microgeneration support scheme would engage householders and farmer’s attention; it would introduce them to the possibility of change in their sources and uses of energy; it would make them more amenable to consider new ways of doing things.

In particular, if the individual feels that he/she is being supported to participate in the new world of renewables, this will make them far more amenable to support proposals for larger-scale developments such as wind farms.

Another consideration is that, despite some projects being designated as community-led under the scheme, the perception will remain that renewable energy projects are again examples of developers coming into a community and imposing changes on residents to “their” landscape that they have not agreed to nor want.

Where there is dissatisfaction, there will be active opposition. To win the hearts and minds of communities who already are opposed to wind turbines (for example) will take more than talk about community benefits; the better approach is to give them ownership of their own energy future.

At this stage, people know that we have to change the way we do things. A supported microgeneration scheme is the best way of allowing the change to start.

Read our full submission

 

A New Climate for Education – an important Seminar

Last Friday, at the Teacher’s Club in Dublin, a seminar “A New Climate for Education“ was held, to discuss how Climate Change and sustainability are incorporated into schools curricula. This was organised by Green Foundation Ireland, Cultivate, GEAI and ECO – UNESCO.

Aedín McLoughlin, Director of Good Energies Alliance Ireland and the GEAI EVS volunteers attended this event.  During the morning there were really interesting presentations from the ecologist and TV presenter, Duncan Stewart; Breda Naughten from Dept. Of Education; and Peadar Kirby, Professor Emeritus at the University of Limerick. Young people had an opportunity to express their views and time was given for discussion on how best to implement climate change studies in schools.

The most memorable quotes that we took away with us included:

An increase in temperature of three and a half degrees is going to make our planet uninhabitable, and we need to get this information into the schools. We’re on borrowed time. We’re taking young people’s future, it’s a serious situation.” (Duncan Stewart)

“Are we sowing the seeds of new values, new energies, new questing people? Or are we conforming to the system?” (Peadar Kirby)

“I think the most important thing is that we don’t make anything worse. Each euro spent in an investment in the world we live in.” (Ben Mallon)

Also memorable was the great contribution by young people to the discussion.

You can find more information about the event itself here.

Betting on Climate Change

French banks are still funding what they call “extreme fossil energy” – including shale gas – even though fracking is banned from France!  This is the conclusion of a report from from BankTrack, Rainforest Action Network, Sierra Club, Oil Change International, and other NGOs, published in June 2017.   The report reveals the amount of this funding since 2014. It concludes that, even though the amount of money involved is decreasing, French banks are still very involved with that non-sustainable and dangerous energy source.

Lucie Pinson, from “Les Amis de la Terre”, the French branch of Friends of the Earth, warns not to trust appearances. Even though the amount of money given by French banks to extreme fossil energy is decreasing, there is no sign of thee banks planning to stop financing them completely. On the contrary, they just co-financed new bitumen sand pipelines and fracking stations in the US.

Now that fracking is banned on Irish soil, maybe it is time for us also to check our banking links to foreign shale gas.

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“French Banks, don’t cheat on Climate” (with a pun on “cheat”, which in French is “trompez” and sounds like “Trump”) – Taken from a French article by “LesInrocks”: http://www.lesinrocks.com/2017/05/26/actualite/les-peuples-sioux-partent-lattaque-des-banques-francaises-11948443/

Link to the full report:

https://www.ran.org/banking_on_climate_change

Link to “Les Amis de la Terre” article (in French):

http://www.amisdelaterre.org/Nouveau-rapport-les-banques-francaises-financent-toujours-les-energies-fossiles.html

EVS Volunteers at the International Climate Change and Health Conference

On Friday 22th September our EVS Volunteers attended the international conference on “Climate Change and Health: the Challenges and Opportunities” which took place at the National University of Ireland in Galway.

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During the morning various speakers presented different aspects of the interconnectivity between direct and indirect impacts of a changing climate and the human population dynamics. For instance, in the future we will assist to an increase of malnutrition among children living in countries largely exposed to severe and extreme climate events such as floods, droughts and heatwaves as well as the increase of mental illnesses and other diseases which could emerge from these types of phenomena.

Dr. Nicholas Watts, the Lancet Countdown, highlighted how climate change can potentially undermine the progress made in global health during the last 50 years and the response to it can be the greatest challenge of the 21st century.  Joni Pegram, Senior Climate Change Policy and Advocacy Adviser for UNICEF UK, emphasised how child rights are being very often overlooked in national and international climate policies and vice versa.

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John O’Neill, Department of Communication, Climate Action and Environment, illustrated the institutional and policy framework on climate change at national level and the key role that the local authorities are called to play at local level in the fight to climate change. Lastly, Dr. Ina Kelly of the NHS Midlands pointed out the importance to build a climate-resilient health infrastructure and to be prepared for extreme events with appropriate planning.

Dr. Watts reminded us that “whether we move from climate change as a threat to an opportunity is not a technological or economic question anymore but it is entirely political”. The time to act is now!

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