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31 January 2008 Edition

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De Brún calls for Climate Protection Bill

Bairbre de Brún

Bairbre de Brún

CLIMATE CHANGE is not only the major political challenge of our time, Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún told a major meeting in Dublin this week, but it is also one of the greatest social, environmental and economic threats that society has experienced in recent history. To make sure that Irish society takes effective action to meet the challenges of climate change, she called for a Climate Protection Bill.
Bairbre was speaking at a debate hosted by the organisation ‘People Against Climate Change’ in the Cultivate Centre, the sustainable living centre, in Temple Bar on a panel including Green Party Energy Minister Eamon Ryan and Fianna Fáil Junior Environment Minister Tony Killeen. Also there was Simon Coveney TD of Fine Gael, Joanna Tuffy TD of Labour, and Senator Fiona O’Malley from the Progressive Democrats.
The Sinn Féin MEP said that binding domestic legislation that incorporates emission reduction targets can go some way to address the affects of climate change at home and throughout the world.
“Whilst last week’s EU climate package will, in part, force the Irish Government to deliver reductions, it must be much more proactive in embracing necessary changes in environmental policy across a range of sectors.
“A Climate Protection Bill with annual appraisals that places the emphasis on action at local and national level would leave government with no option but to deliver long-term sustainable environmental development that positions climate change as a priority policy concern.”
Bairbre, a member of the European Parliament’s Temporary Committee on Climate Change, pointed out that decades of under-investment in Ireland’s public transport services have resulted in a culture of car dependency. Not linking investment in public services with GDP during a decade of unprecedented economic prosperity has been a missed opportunity, she said. “However, it is not too late.”
Starting with transport there are a number of necessary shifts in policy which Ireland needs to get to grips with, she argued. Car dependency must be broken by providing efficient and sustainable public transport networks in cities, towns and rural areas.
“By arguing for decent and sufficient public investment in our public - and I stress public - transport services we remove the excuse for excessive car usage in everyday life.
“The massive commute by private car to and from Dublin every day is unsustainable not just for our families and communities but also for our planet.”
In terms of energy, the question of security of energy supply is important to any economy and society. Self-sufficiency should be aimed for as much as practicably possible. In Ireland’s case this means the greatest possible use of our own resources such as solar, wind and tidal power and the development of energy saving, resource-efficient, renewable and low emission technologies.
“While we are working towards such self-sufficiency, we can and should take simple actions in our own lives to reduce our own carbon footprints and lead by example – use energy-efficient electrical appliances, low-energy light bulbs, resist leaving electrical items on standby, shop locally, avoid over-packaged goods, have properly insulated homes, move to renewable energy and, as our Environment spokesperson in the North, Daithí McKay, does, car share to work where walking, cycling or public transport is not a viable option.”
Energy saving through simple steps such as insulating older homes and commercial properties must also be addressed. The ban on incandescent light bulbs should be supported with those on low incomes being supported during the phasing out process, the Sinn Féin MEP said. Awareness-raising programmes and incentive initiatives for business need to be encouraged and built upon.
“Local authorities need to grab hold of this issue as Dublin City Council has done on Sinn Féin’s initiative. Dublin has adopted a Climate Change Strategy with a focus on reduction, reuse and recycling. This type of local action needs to be replicated across Ireland.”
She said that one of the best aspects of this strategy in the capital is its coherence. Waste management, transport, planning, energy generation and biodiversity are linked within the strategy and not treated as individual phenomena.
She said that one of the best aspects of this strategy in the capital is its coherence. Waste management, transport, planning, energy generation and biodiversity are linked within the strategy and not treated as individual phenomena.
“Protecting our natural environment will also pay dividends in the fight to reduce our emissions. Planting trees protecting vital carbon sinks are just two examples. The use of bio fuels can also play a part through small scale sustainable production. Agriculture also has a part to play.
“Sinn Féin looks forward to developing all-Ireland, cross-party support in addressing climate change throughout the island. After all, the effects of climate change have no borders.”
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