Statement from Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Denis Naughten TD following conclusion of the Citizens’ Assembly discussions on ‘How the State can make Ireland a leader in tackling Climate Change’
November 5th 2017
I want to sincerely thank the members of the Citizens’ Assembly and its Chair Ms Justice Mary Laffoy, and to those who made submissions to the Assembly, for their deliberations, their time and their recommendations on ‘how the State can make Ireland a leader in tackling Climate Change.’
The contribution made by the members of the Citizens’ Assembly and by the various speakers and contributors to the critical and urgent issue of climate change over the course of two full weekends is very welcome by me as Climate Action Minister and by the Government as a whole. I will study the recommendations systematically and comprehensively, but it is already very clear from the results of the votes this afternoon that as a nation we are engaged and ready to move-on from the model we inherited from the industrial revolution.
The 100% response in favour of Question 6 specifically shows that we must connect the essential requirements of energy infrastructure developed for the benefit of the country as a whole and concerns of communities where it is built. Community-led electricity and energy projects offer a real opportunity for local economic growth.
Tackling climate change is one of this Government’s most pressing challenges. To tackle it effectively requires fundamental societal transformation. It requires resources, sustained policy change and engagement with wider society. People cannot be commanded, they must be consulted. Society cannot be changed by diktat.
The discussions at the Citizens’ Assembly and the 1,200 submissions from the public on the topic, will make a pivotal contribution to the societal transformation that is required.
On climate change, ambitious action is possible. To make Ireland a leader in tackling climate change we need to bring the global climate challenge down to community level and that means the Government must give people the tools and resources to help make the transition to a low carbon economy. In Budget 2018 there were at least 30 measures specifically related to action on climate change, and energy efficiency was a key element. Energy efficiency and climate action are inextricably linked. Using less energy and using it more efficiently is the most cost-effective and accessible way to tackle climate change.
Ireland’s first ever statutory National Mitigation Plan, published last July, is an important first step. It faces up very frankly to the fact that we are coming from behind where we should be, and that the distance we must go is challenging. This is a whole of government plan and it is a living document. It is whole of government because all of government is signed-up and agreed. It is effective because ministers in agriculture, in the built environment and in transport are in law directly accountable to the Oireachtas for delivery. It is facing up to the challenges ahead. It is a living document not because it lacks in specific actions, but because those actions specified will be augmented and added to over time, with ongoing policy and resource decisions. And, time is pressing.
I am leading a National Dialogue on Climate Action that will help drive awareness around specific steps people can take daily in their lives to try to tackle climate change. I am particularly keen to learn the Assembly’s views on how best the Dialogue should engage with the wider public. I expect that this will provide a valuable base of evidence and ideas from which to draw on. The challenge is not just to change what we do, it is to reimagine how we think and I am committed and determined to lead this change as Ireland’s first Minister for Climate Action.
Once again I thank the members, Chair and speakers for their valuable contribution to the Citizens’ Assembly and in helping to move Ireland towards a leadership role in tackling the global challenge of climate change.