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.

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!

A better understanding of Ireland’s Carbon Footprint

Ireland’s daily GHG emissions

A short animation showing Ireland’s daily emissions as a large pile of one tonne carbon dioxide bubbles beside the Poolbeg towers in Dublin bay.

The Environmental Protection Agency compiles Ireland’s annual greenhouse gas emission inventories and projections, which allows the Government to assess progress against key targets, report to the European Commission and UNFCCC and informs policy development and mitigation measures.

It also aims to provide up-to-date scientific information to a wide range of audiences, from policymakers to the general public.

This simple visual would help to get more people engaged in the issue.

The data source for this visualisation is the EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory for 2012 which calculates annual emissions from Agriculture, Energy, Transport, Industry and commercial, Residential and Waste sectors, and was released in 2014.

Each sphere represents one tonne of greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide equivalent – Co2(e). Greenhouse gases other than CO2 (i.e. methane, nitrous oxide and so-called F-gases) may be converted to CO2 equivalent using their global warming potentials.

For 2012, Ireland’s total national greenhouse gas emissions are estimated to be 58,531,238 tonnes or 160,359 tonnes per day.

Carbon dioxide gas at 15 °C and standard pressure has a density of 1.87 kg/m3. At standard pressure and 15 °C a metric ton of carbon dioxide gas would fill a sphere approximately 10 metres across.  The video shows a pile of 160,359 spheres 10 metres in diameter located near the Poolbeg Towers in Dublin Bay, with the city behind.

Source: http://www.carbonvisuals.com/projects/2015/6/22/irelands-carbon-footprint?rq=ireland

Ireland to miss EU GHG reduction targets

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Ireland’s Greenhouse Gas Emission Targets to 2020
  • Ireland is unlikely to meet 2020 EU greenhouse gas emission targets for sectors including  agriculture, transport, residential, commercial, non-energy intensive industry and waste;
  • Ireland’s emission reduction target is 20% below 2005 levels by 2020: EPA projections indicate that emissions will be 6 – 11% below 2005 levels by 2020;
  • Agriculture and transport are projected to account for over three-quarters of Ireland’s non-Emissions Trading Scheme emissions in 2020:  agriculture (47%), transport (29%);
  • Current and planned policies and measures are not sufficient to meet the 2020 targets.

You can read here the updated bulletin on Greenhouse Gas Emission Projections to 2020.

Full press release: http://www.epa.ie/newsandevents/news/name,59044,en.html#.Vt2nxVuLTIU

 

Story of Stop the Study Campaign

The Timeline of the Campaign

September: Visit to fracking areas and information from EPA on CDM Smith and AMEC involvement in study .
October: Campaign starts to raise awareness of CDM Smith links with oil/gas industry
November: Rally in front of Leinster House and Presentations to Oireachtas members
December: Joint Oireachtas Committee grills EPA for 3 hours.  Ban Fracking Bill introduced to Dáil Eireann.  Minister McHugh requests interim report
February: Report on Study stalled: Phase 1 to be published Q3 of this year; no decision on Phase 2.

For more detail of the campaign events, CLICK HERE

This was a completely cross-party campaign.

The main Oireachtas player was Sinn Féin TD Michael Colreavy, who put a lot of work into the campaign against fracking from the start and into this campaign in particular. Michael was instrumental in getting us the room in Leinster House, also (with Paschal Mooney) in calling the EPA before the JOC in December. He also ensured that he was briefed properly before each event. Michael was very insistent that the campaign was cross-party.
Fine Gael TD Tony McLoughlin supported the campaign by asking Parliamentary Questions and arranged one meeting with Minister McHugh.
Fianna Fáil Senator Paschal Mooney, also a member of the JOC, was very supportive during the campaign, especially in arranging the presence of EPA at the Meeting in December.
People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett grilled the EPA with great effect and introduced a Ban Fracking Bill to the Oireachtas, thus increasing awareness of fracking among the politicians nationally. Clare Daly TD was also effective from the floor of the Dáil.
The Stop the Study Campaign workers acknowledge the support given by all of the above, without which its success could not have been achieved.

The Study has indeed been stopped. Forever? Who knows! Without this campaign, the tenders for on-the-ground monitoring would be awarded by now. But the campaign doesn’t end here. In the Press Release (6th Feb), it was stated that the campaign against fracking is not over, only legislation will prevent fracking from ever coming to Ireland. Our challenge now is to ensure that such legislation is drafted by the next government and gets cross-party support. Let 2016 be the year that Ireland officially bans fracking!

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