The Belarusians are coming!

Our Advanced Planned Visit started on Wednesday November 7th 2018, when Del picked us up from the airport. Two of us came on an APV: me, Sasha, a volunteer whose year-long EVS project was about to start, and Alisa, volunteer coordinator of Fialta, my sending organization. The first thing Alisa did was to get into the driver’s seat, which wasn’t surprising for Del, though – it seems like everyone needs time to adjust to differences when they’re in Ireland for the first time and driving on the different side of the road is one of those things.

Our first encounter with Leitrim was when we stopped for lunch at a nice little café, the food was good, the people – really friendly and looking genuinely interested in what these new people are here for, which was nice. Since then I have been impressed by general friendliness and that is one of the things that helped me settle in faster.  After lunch I had a chance to drop my bags at volunteers’ house and have a quick look, then we headed straight to the office of GEAI in Ballinaglera Community Hall. We went straight into planning my upcoming EVS, both sending and hosting organizations had to make sure I understood volunteer’s role, was familiar with aims, objectives and main ideas of the project, knew what was expected of me and could ask about important aspects before the project started. In the evening we enjoyed a homemade dinner with the representatives of GEAI and had a chance to get to know each other in a less formal way. Also, that night we visited a local pub where a music session was happening, that was something I’ve never seen before and I was greatly impressed. Although by the end of the night I was falling asleep right there, because by that time we had been up for about 22 hours (there is a 3-hour difference with Belarus and we had an early flight).

Next day we were planning Climate Action Days for school together, and it was great to start participating actively straight away.  And in the first couple of days we were able to see a few totally different types of Irish weather – from a bright sunny day to lashing rain, which also gave me an idea of what is waiting for me in the coming year. The next dinner we had was cooked by the volunteers, each one made a national dish and it was absolutely delicious. For us it was great to have two homemade vegetarian dinners in the row, we were taken great care of.

So this Advanced Planned Visit happened to be a very important step before the start of the project, gave the two organizations opportunity to discuss important issues and helped me, the volunteer, settle in easier and get ready for the project.

(Sasha)

National Mitigation Plan: a quite depressing perspective

An afternoon in Leinster House, what an exciting experience! On April 24th Francesca, our EVS volunteer, had the opportunity to visit the buildings of the Irish Parliament (Oireachtas) in Dublin and participate as observer to the works of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Climate Action and the Environment.

Leinster House (Ph. Irish Examiner)

Chaired by Ms. Hildergarde Naughton, the committee’s purpose was to investigate the progress made on the National Mitigation Plan implementation process. Three delegations of experts were present, including the Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment (DCCAE) lead by Assistant Secretary for Climate Action and the Environment  Brian Carroll; the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) represented by its Chief Executive Officer Jim Gannon.

DCCAE, EPA and SEAI were asked to give an update on specific tasks and actions undertaken in compliance with the Plan. After the opening statements from all parties, the floor was open to questions.

The overview that has emerged is “quite depressing”, to quote a common feeling within the Committee. Ireland is going to miss its 2020 EU emission reduction targets of 20% below the 2005 levels. In fact, according to the latest EPA projections, the country will reach only between 4 and 6% of the targeted reduction. Our emissions are going on the opposite direction. In 2016, latest year available,  total national emissions soared by 3.6% with agriculture and transport numbers went up of 2.7% and 4.1% respectively while the energy industry (mostly power generation) saw an increase of 6%.

The National Mitigation Plan

When asked about acceptance of the critiques from the National Climate Change Advisory Council, DCCAE responded affirmatively and justified the slow pace of action by stating that “the National Mitigation Plan is a living document that will be updated as ongoing analysis, dialogue and technological innovation generate more cost-effective sectoral mitigation options”. Furthermore, Mr. Carroll emphasised that, with the publication of the first National Mitigation Plan, the government “explicitly recognised that it does not represent a complete roadmap to achieving the objective of transitioning Ireland to a low carbon, climate-resilient and environmentally sustainable economy by 2050”.

SEAI presented a more positive progress report related to their activities and tasks, almost all of which are on track to be achieved, while EPA emphasised the key role played in climate-related research and data input to support the Department’s actions.

Deputy Stanley inquired on views about microgeneration and the recent Bill he put forward, Microgeneration Support Scheme Bill 2017 (currently at its first stage), highlighting the importance of households and small businesses participation to the energy transition. Mr.Confrey, principal officer of DCCAE Electricity Policy Division, responded that the Department “is working closely with SEAI on gathering the evidence and the appetite among the public for the take-up of domestic microgeneration” perceiving “a good deal of enthusiasm” and pointing out that solar PVs costs have dramatically decreased in the last few years and will continue to do so.

Also, the electrification of transport and heating is inevitable, according to Mr. Gannon, and manufacturers are going in the same direction as governments by stopping fossil fuel-based cars production.

Other interesting aspects were discussed in the debate, ranging from peat extraction, the increase of electricity demand as consequence of new data centres, behavioural changes on transport to the new deal with China on thousands of cattle and dairy products export.

To sum up, the general feeling of the Committee members is that the National Mitigation Plan is not fit for purpose, inadequate to provide a clear pathway to 2050 and lacks of specific actions” Francesca commented.

Acknowledging that the publication of a national plan to mitigate the impacts on climate change is an important first step, it is far from enough. The Government must show leadership and fully implement the 106 actions listed in the document.

Francesca also added that “as citizens we have the right to demand the Department and Minister Naughten to take immediate and concrete action to fight climate change”. It is not too late, yet.

You can find a complete transcript of the debate here

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.

Getting soaked by Glencar waterfall!

IMG-20170916-WA0016EVS volunteers in the Glencar waterfalls

Glencar waterfall is situated near Glencar Lake, west of Manorhamilton.  Its beauty served as an inspiration to the William Butler Yeats and features in his poem ‘The Stolen Child’.

After a long seminar session in Grange, on the return journey to Drumshanbo, the EVS volunteers took the time to travel down the valley to see the marvelous Glencar waterfall that can only be viewed after a short lovely wooded walk from the car park.

It is a lovely place, where you can enjoy of the waterfalls while you get the blow of the breeze. A pleasant loop turns around leaving you in the car park. There, another of the charms of the valley is the view of the fascinating Crockauns Mountains, a Natural Heritage Area.

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