HUMANITY faces an existential threat — the whole world is beginning to see. Forests burn from America to Australia.
Deserts are advancing across Africa and Asia. Rising sea levels threaten our European cities as well as Pacific islands.
Mankind has seen such phenomena before, but never at this speed.
In Ireland, extreme weather events are occurring with increasing frequency: in recent years, we have experienced unseasonably heavy snowfall, heavy rainfall, heat waves and drought.
In 2017, Hurricane Ophelia was the first Category 3 Atlantic hurricane to make landfall in Ireland. The following year, Storm Emma brought the highest accumulations of snow for several decades.
A large majority of European citizens perceive climate change as a major threat to our way of life.
One in three Irish respondents to the most recent Eurobarameter survey identified climate change and environmental degradation as the most important issues facing the European Union, exceeding the European average (28%).
Children and young people have shown themselves to be particularly conscious of this issue, with many taking to the streets to demand that political leaders take meaningful steps to combat climate breakdown.
The European Green Deal is the EU’s response to the challenge posed by the climate crisis: a comprehensive roadmap for ambitious structural reforms and bold policies designed to make the EU the world’s first “climate-neutral continent” by 2050.
There has been broad political support for the Green Deal; however, a number of environmental experts and advocacy groups have challenged the proposals for not being ambitious or credible enough.
Furthermore, several Member States have demanded more precise and generous commitments of EU funds to transition away from fossil fuels before endorsing the objective of achieving net zero emissions.
To reflect the urgency and significance of this discussion, the European Commission Representation in Ireland is holding a debate for Irish secondary schools on the issue of climate change and the European Green Deal.
Staged annually, the Model Council of the European Union debate simulates a meeting of the Council of the European Union and involves teams from 27 secondary schools around Ireland, each of which represents an EU Member State.
Today, February 27, Christ King Secondary School in Cork will participate in the Model Council Debate, representing Spain.
The event will provide young people from across the country with an opportunity to engage deeply with the defining political issue of our era from a variety of different national perspectives.
In addition to discussing the social and economic implications of increased emissions and reduction targets, participants will debate the support mechanisms required to ensure that the green transition is managed in a just and equitable fashion.
The European Green Deal is Europe’s new growth strategy. It is the green thread that will run through all our policies — from transport to taxation, from food to farming, from industry to infrastructure.
With our Green Deal we want to invest in clean energy and extend emission trading, but we will also boost the circular economy and preserve Europe’s biodiversity.
Across Europe, people young and old are not only asking for climate action. They are already changing their lifestyle: think of the commuters who take the bike or public transport, parents who choose reusable nappies, companies that renounce single-use plastics and bring sustainable alternatives to the market.
Many of us are part of this European and global movement for climate. For example, in Ireland volunteers with the ‘Clean Coasts’ programme hold an annual ‘Big Beach Clean’ every September and this year saw more than 8,000 volunteers remove 45 tonnes of marine litter from over 300 Irish beaches.
Nine European citizens out of ten ask for decisive climate action. Our children rely on us. Europeans want their Union to act at home and lead abroad.
The European Green Deal is Europe’s response to our people’s call. It is a deal by Europe, for Europe and a contribution for a better world. Every European can be part of the change.
The Model Council of the European Union debate for secondary schools will take place at the Printworks Building in Dublin Castle today, February 27, and will be broadcast subsequently on Oireachtas TV. The winning school from the event will be announced this afternoon.