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HOW THE STATE CAN MAKE IRELAND A LEADER IN TACKLING CLIMATE CHANGE

The Citizens’ Assembly has concluded its consideration of the topic ‘How the State can make Ireland a leader in tackling Climate Change’ and as outlined in the terms of reference establishing the Assembly, the members made recommendations that will now form the basis of a report for submission to the Houses of the Oireachtas.

The recommendations were reached by ballot paper voting and follow two weekends of deliberation which focussed on the energy, transport and agriculture sectors, international best practise and existing national policies and activities.

A total of 13 questions appeared on the ballot and the recommendations were reached by majority vote.

The following recommendations were made by the Assembly;

  1. 98% of the Members recommended that to ensure climate change is at the centre of policy-making in Ireland, as a matter of urgency a new or existing independent body should be resourced appropriately, operate in an open and transparent manner, and be given a broad range of new functions and powers in legislation to urgently address climate change. *
  2. 100% of the Members recommended that the State should take a leadership role in addressing climate change through mitigation measures, including, for example, retrofitting public buildings, having low carbon public vehicles, renewable generation on public buildings and through adaptation measures including, for example, increasing the resilience of public land and infrastructure.
  3. 80% of the Members said they would be willing to pay higher taxes on carbon intensive activities **
  4. 96% of the Members recommended that the State should undertake a comprehensive assessment of the vulnerability of all critical infrastructure (including energy, transport, built environment, water and communications) with a view to building resilience to ongoing climate change and extreme weather events. The outcome of this assessment should be implemented. Recognising the significant costs that the State would bear in the event of failure of critical infrastructure, spending on infrastructure should be prioritised to take account of this.
  5. 99% of the Members recommended that the State should enable, through legislation, the selling back into the grid of electricity from micro-generation by private citizens (for example energy from solar panels or wind turbines on people’s homes or land) at a price which is at least equivalent to the wholesale price.
  6. 100% of the Members recommended that the State should act to ensure the greatest possible levels of community ownership in all future renewable energy projects by encouraging communities to develop their own projects and by requiring that developer-led projects make share offers to communities to encourage greater local involvement and ownership.
  7. 97% of the Members recommended that the State should end all subsidies for peat extraction and instead spend that money on peat bog restoration and making proper provision for the protection of the rights of the workers impacted with the majority 61% recommending that the State should end all subsidies on a phased basis over 5 years.
  8. 93% of the Members recommended that the number of bus lanes, cycling lanes and park and ride facilities should be greatly increased in the next five years, and much greater priority should be given to these modes over private car use.
  9. 96% of the Members recommended that the State should immediately take many steps to support the transition to electric vehicles. ***
  10. 92% of the Members recommended that the State should prioritise the expansion of public transport spending over new road infrastructure spending at a ratio of no less than 2-to-1 to facilitate the broader availability and uptake of public transport options with attention to rural areas.
  11. 89% of the Members recommended that there should be a tax on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from agriculture. There should be rewards for the farmer for land management that sequesters carbon. Any resulting revenue should be reinvested to support climate friendly agricultural practices.
  12. 93% of the Members recommended the State should introduce a standard form of mandatory measurement and reporting of food waste at every level of the food distribution and supply chain, with the objective of reducing food waste in the future.
  13. 99 % of the Members recommended that the State should review, and revise supports for land use diversification with attention to supports for planting forests and encouraging organic farming.

Voting took place by secret ballot and the voting process and counting of the ballot papers was overseen by former Returning Office for County Dublin, John Fitzpatrick, and his team.

The Chair of the Assembly the Honourable Ms Mary Laffoy said: “This weekend the Citizens’ Assembly was charged with the task of offering citizen insight to Government on feasible ways of addressing the issue of Climate Change that would be likely to have the support of the public and in turn allow us to meet our existing international and European obligations. Today the Members of the Assembly have made a series of ambitious recommendations which make it clear that they believe there is a path for the State to make Ireland a leader in climate change however it would require significant changes in current policy and activities.

“I wish to thank all those who contributed to our work on this topic, from the speaker presentations to the submissions received we have all learned a great deal from these contributions. I especially wish to thank the members for their continued commitment to the Assembly, this was our ninth weekend gathering in Malahide to discuss exceptionally dense and complex issues and, yet their enthusiasm has not waned. I am particularly proud of the way the Assembly reached its recommendations, today like previous voting days, the Members were on their feet, putting forward their opinions, making the case for their positions, and yet the respect for one another and for differences of opinion was tangible.”

As was the case with the voting on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, the Members of the Assembly were also invited to write down any other issues which they felt should be included as Ancillary Recommendations of the Assembly. Any emerging consensus on themes or issues will be included as recommendations in the final report which will be prepared by the Chair of the Assembly.

The full ballot paper, presentations and associated papers made to the Assembly are available on the Assembly website. All public sessions of the Assembly can be watched back on http://bit.ly/2j5CeS1

The Citizens Assembly meets again on the 13th and 14th of January to make recommendations on the fourth topic the Assembly is tasked with considering, namely the way referenda are held.