Greed and coal, oil and gas industries are main obstacles to SDGs

Coal power

Jeffrey Sachs, Columbia University, was a keynote speaker at the 2018 High-Level Political Forum to analyse the global progress toward achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). In his address, he slammed the coal, oil and gas industries, saying that they “are the biggest obstacle to the achievement of the SDGs”.

He called out the global food industry’s unsustainable supply chains and unhealthy products. Citing overlapping rankings at the top of sustainable development and happiness tables, he noted that sustainable development promotes well-being and happiness, while tax cuts for the rich undermine essential dimensions of the SDGs.

He called on rich countries and individuals to address the $200 billion shortfall in funding required to achieve the SDGs, by:

  • increasing Official Development Assistance (ODA)
  • using 1% of the wealth of the world’s 2208 billionaires
  • closing down off-shore tax havens
  • taxing the five big global technology monopoly companies
  • taxing financial transactions
  • a global carbon tax
  •  measures to tackle wholesale tax evasion.

 

National Dialogue on Climate Action – It’s Community Engagement time!

The first of a series of Regional Gatherings under the National Dialogue on Climate Action took place in Athlone, at the Radisson Blu Hotel, on Saturday June 23rd. What a fantastic day! The National Dialogue on Climate Action is a Government led initiative through the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, along with the Environmental Protection Agency, in engaging people in collaborative action.

Representatives from organisations, community groups, NGOs and individuals from across Roscommon, Leitrim, Cavan, Monaghan, Louth, Meath, Westmeath, Longford and Offaly gathered together in Athlone and shared ideas and solutions to be taken at grassroots and local level to tackle climate change. A GEAI delegation participated at the Dialogue, including our EVS volunteer Francesca in her capacity of Leitrim Cool Planet Champion.

Guest speakers and Minister Naughten

Discussions and workshops went on for the whole day. Guest speakers included Dr. Conor Murphy  (Maynooth University), Mick Kelly and Katie Smith (Change X and Grow It Yourself), Dr. Margaret Desmond (University College Cork). A drop-in area was open to the public to meet representatives from Eco-Unesco, Teagasc, An Taisce, SEAI, VOICE Ireland, IFA and EPA.

The choice of the location for the event is significant as “Athlone is one of the areas which have suffered greater impacts of climate change. At the moment 147 families are still seeking relocation due to flooding” Minister Naughten highlighted in his opening remarks. “The Government has committed nearly 1% of the GDP to be spent on climate measures under the National Development Plan. No other government in the world has done that” said Denis Naughten. The Minister called also for communities to make their voice heard. He told the audience that when he was campaigning for the general elections only one citizen asked him about climate change.  “We will be investing but we need people and communities to talk about climate change” he added.

Francesca with Minister Naughten and other participants (Ph credit: DCCAE)

It has been such an inspiring day and I was delighted to be appointed as one of the Table Hosts to facilitate the discussion as the Leitrim Cool Planet Champion” Francesca said. “There is a terrific positive energy among the people here today. We are all very conscious of the urgent and imperative collective effort needed. Now it is time to engage with the whole civil society, we simply cannot afford any further delay” she added. “Climate change represents a threat but also a major opportunity for Leitrim. The inevitable transformational change required represents a massive opportunity for low-carbon investments across all economic sectors, resulting in an increased attraction of new brains (and families) to come and live in this stunning part of Ireland” Francesca concluded.

Climate Change “not a priority for the North and Western Regional Assembly”

Our recent submission to the NWRA concerning their Regional Spatial Strategy, has been hard-hitting concerning the report’s lack of emphasis of Climate Change and the urgency of responding to it.

Once again, serious climate change commitments are lacking at regional as well as national levels. Climate change is real and is happening right now and every delay or reticence in adopting further policies to cope with it will result in huge economic and financial losses for the Irish economy. Moreover, there seems to be a lack of clear vision regarding the concept of “sustainability” throughout the whole Strategy as neither indications nor goals and targets are provided on how to achieve it.

Ireland North and Western Region (Ph. NWRA issue paper)

We at GEAI were responding to a Public Consultation on the new Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy (RSES) launched by the Northern and Western Regional Assembly in December 2017. The RSES Strategy aims at “reaching a shared understanding about regional economic development processes […] and promoting innovative, competitive and a productive region”. In our view, the document fails in this aim as it fails to recognise the fact that Climate change is a serious threat to Ireland’s North and Western Region and adaptation is an immediate requirement.

Its view is that “the transition (to a low carbon economy) will require a cultural step change in the approach to Green Energy Development”. However, it does not include a roadmap to such cultural change and, indeed, relegates climate action to just one section of the report.

What is not realised is that this transition includes a big opportunity now to unlock the renewable energy potential of the Northern and Western Region. We propose a vision of the Region becoming a self-sustaining macro-generator of electricity, producing a significant proportion of the nation’s total need for power. This can only happen through community energy ownership and Government support for microgeneration. As a first step towards achieving this vision, it is vital that Government initiates immediately a scheme for fair feed-in tariffs for all electricity generation from 50 watts to 6 megawatts.

Awareness raising is key to undertaking such a cultural change. We therefore suggest to create and implement a Climate Change & Renewable Energy Awareness Programme to boost behavioural change.

Read our full submission

Want to fight climate change? Stop wasting food!

Food, along with drinkable water, is the basis of humankind evolution and survival. Thus, with 7.6 billion people currently living on the planet, projected to increase to 9.8 billion by 2050, we simply cannot afford to waste food. So why is roughly one third of the of the food produced in the world for human consumption (ca. 1.3 billion tonnes) lost or wasted? (FAO). And how does food waste impact on climate change? Awareness of the links between these topics is low, in part because the media have failed to appropriately expose our shameful behavioural habits when it comes to food waste.

Logically, the bigger the population gets, the more food supply is needed. Since the development of agricultural practices (ca. 10.000-12.000 years ago) our food habits and needs have evolved and dramatically increased. In fact, historically, the wealth of a nation has always been measured with how much food surplus that country has been able to secure. Nowadays statistics show that wealthier countries have between 150 and 200% surplus of the food that is actually needed to feed their population.

Poster – Just eat it. A food waste story

Last week, the GEAI volunteers attended a showing of the film-documentary “Just Eat It – A Food Waste Story”. This humorous film was produced by Canadian filmmaking couple Grant Baldwin and Jenny Rustemeyer, who took on a six-month experiment of eating only discarded food. The purpose of this documentary is to expose the environmental crisis being boosted by North America’s (and the western world’s) wasteful eating habits. What this documentary shows is just a tiny fraction of this issue of global-scale magnitude.

It is shocking to witness the unimaginable amount of thrown-away food they find looking into stores’ dumpers and markets – vegetables and fruits being discarded on the mere basis of their aesthetic appearance and other foods that would be perfectly edible according to health and safety standards but are unsellable as they do not “attract” the consumer.
The film highlights how there is a misconception around the term “expiration date” printed on most products. People think that the date refers to the good conditions of the product and after that it is not safe or advisable to eat it anymore. This is not correct as the expiry date is simply an indication of freshness used by producers; a product is perfectly edible after the expiration date.

With field trips and interviews, Grant and Jenny shed light on the dynamics of waste along the whole food supply chain. The documentary contains valuable insights from experts on the matter such as the journalist and author Jonathan Bloom; the award-winning author and Feedback campaign founder Tristam Stuart; and the US National Resource Defence Council’s food/agriculture scientist Dana Ganders.

Tonns of food being thrown in a landfill (Ph. Gits4u.com)

Food production and distribution processes have enormous implications when it comes to climate change. Tonnes of food wasted go directly into landfills, releasing huge amounts of methane into the atmosphere, greenhouse gas with a far greater global warming potential than carbon dioxide. And this is just at the end of a product’s life cycle. All the food supply chain’s components, such as producers, manufacturers, distribution centres and retailers are jointly responsible in contributing to greenhouse emissions and our changing climate.

 A very powerful statement is made in the film: “we are contributing to climate change from our own kitchens”. And it is true. We simply have too much food, and we do not need it so we waste it. Halting food waste is a crucial part of the fight against climate change and something about which each one of us can take responsibility.

The Environmental Protection Agency is implementing a national campaign on this issue – StopFoodWaste.ie

This hilarious docu-film with a tremendously serious message is highly recommended to everyone!

Our Climate Champion!

Our EVS Volunteer Francesca has been nominated Cool Planet Champion for county Leitrim!

Cool Planet Champion for Co. Leitrim

Cool Planet Champions is a joint initiative developed by The Cool Planet Experience, an interactive visitors experience on climate change located in Powerscourt Estate (Co. Wicklow), in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency.
The programme aims at explaining climate change in a simple and understandable way. Along with other 25 Champions across Ireland, Francesca has been trained to give interactive talks on this topic in order to raise awareness.
Talks are free of charge and can be booked from people or groups who are interested in finding out more about climate change. These can include schools, local businesses, community groups, book or sport clubs, community gardens etc.

Francesca said “I am delighted to be appointed as the Cool Planet Champion for Leitrim! I think this is a fantastic opportunity for me to put myself out there and advocate for something I really care about”. She began to have an interest in climate change issues in 2011 when she witnessed its effects in the Tropics, during a trip to Bangladesh. Right after that she pursued a masters’ degree in Environmental Economics and policy to better understand what was going on and what could be done to tackle it.

Francesca also added that “climate science is really complex and can be boring sometimes. There is an awful lot of information out there if you google the keywords climate change. Some of this information can be misleading and untruthful. My role is to provide sound and internationally recognised scientific evidence on this topic”.

Talking about her objectives, Francesca commented that her goal is to “easily explain to people what is happening to the climate and its consequences here in Ireland. I also hope to stimulate interesting debates and convince the local authorities as well as politicians on the importance of moving away from fossil fuels as soon as possible and take climate action immediately”.

If you would like to book a free talk please get in touch! You can reach Francesca by email at francesca1.geai@gmail.com, through the Facebook page Leitrim Cool Planet Champion or by ringing the 071 964 3117 (office) or 089 947 9508 (mobile).
For more information on The Cool Planet Experience click here.

COPYRIGHT

® All rights reserved to GEAI 2018