SPEAKING AT THE UN ON LEITRIM’S CAMPAIGN AGAINST FRACKING

Me with Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason

With Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason

 

I had the honour of giving a talk on the role of women in our Campaign against Fracking at a UN event in New York on 14th March.  The event was organised by the Mining Group of the Commission on the Status of Women and was part of the United Nations two-week conference focusing on the empowerment of rural women globally.  I was invited to speak by Rev Debbra Gill, moderator of the event.

I also had the honour of meeting our Ambassador to UN, Geraldine Byrne Nason and President Mary Robinson.

In my talk, I focused on the stages the campaign went through, starting in 2011 at kitchen meetings, the showing of “Gasland”, protests, public meetings, social media campaigns and political lobbying, resulting in our wonderful ban on fracking. According to the organisers, the Irish campaign against fracking can act as a template for campaigns globally.

Because of the theme of the conference, I focussed mainly on the role that women played in the campaign.  It was only when looking back at the entire campaign that I realised how much women had contributed.  This is not to say that men did not play an important part (Tony McLoughlin and Eddie Mitchell for example), but from the start of the campaign, women were to the fore of the action – whether organising meetings or protests, making speeches, giving presentations, researching, lobbying, tweeting or emailing.  In fact, this campaign had the side-effect of empowering local rural women to make a stand against something they felt strongly about and to feel that they could make a difference.  Up to now, this was not fully acknowledged and I was very happy to emphasise the role that they played.

Fracking ban
June 2017: Government bans fracking!

It was also wonderful to have the opportunity to tell the world of our campaign starting in rural Leitrim that gained such momentum that it influenced our Government to agree unanimously to ban fracking in Ireland.

We now have one of the strongest bans in the world; to remind you, the wording is as follows:

“Notwithstanding anything in this Act or any other enactment or rule of law, it shall not be lawful for a person to search for, get, raise, take, carry away or work petroleum by means of hydraulic fracturing.”

And you can’t get any stronger than that!

Link to presentation: Campaign against Fracking in Ireland

Aedín McLoughlin, GEAI Director

 

Successful Irish anti-fracking campaign discussed at U.N. event in New York

UN flag

Dr. Aedín McLoughlin, Director of Good Energies Alliance Ireland, will speak before the United Nation’s 62 nd Conference on the Status of Women on Wednesday, March 14th as part of a session on the global resistance to fracking and its infrastructure. Aedín will be among five panellists to talk about “Frontline Leadership: Rural Women in the Anti-Fracking Movement.” The other four panellists will be Anna Klein, Mining in Haiti Project, Julia Walsh, Campaign Director Frack Action, Chris Schimmoeller, Anti-fracking activist and Jeanne Shenandoah, an elder from the Onondaga Nation.

The priority theme of this year’s Conference on the Status of Women and Girls is the challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls. The review theme is the participation in and access of women to the media.

“I am very honoured to be asked to speak at this important side event associated with the annual U.N. conference seeking solutions to problems facing women and girls around the world,” said McLoughlin. “The story of our successful campaign against fracking has yet to be told and this is the perfect opportunity to not only tell that story but also to honour the vital role that women played throughout the campaign in Ireland. We can be proud – Irish women rose to the challenge of thethreat of fracking in so many ways and now we can describe to the world how the campaign was successful, with a complete ban on fracking in Ireland signed into law in July 2017.”

McLoughlin was invited to speak by Rev Debbra Gill, who is moderating the event. Rev Gill represents United Religions Initiative on the Mining Working Group, a coalition of NGOs that advocates at the United Nations for human and environmental rights as related to extractive
industries.

Dr. Aedin McLoughlin, GEAI spokeperson

“Fracking is only one of the global extractive industries that are laying waste to places where people live, polluting their air, their water and their health,” concluded McLoughlin. “Mining for precious metals or rare elements also has a long history of polluted air, rivers and lakes, and devastated and exploited communities. We in Ireland can give examples of how rural women achieved roles of leadership in our campaign against fracking; hopefully, this will contribute to empowering others around the world to insist on their rights to clean air and water and a safe environment.”

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

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.

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