POLITICAL decisions in the coming decade will determine the future of our planet.
Scientific report after report has shown that we need urgent action to address the climate change crisis.
The United Nations tells us that we have a 12 year window to act before it’s too late, and just recently we learned that up to one million species are at risk of extinction because of human activity.
Individual actions are required, but these alone will not be nearly enough — we need real political leadership on this issue.
Ireland is a laggard when it comes to tackling the climate crisis.
Actions that are detrimental to the environment need to be discouraged through taxation measures and good practice needs to be incentivised.
However, we need to ensure that there is a just and fair transition and that plans to tackle the climate crisis are not causing a financial burden on families.
We need to ensure that no worker or community is left behind.
There is so much that be done at local level. Every city and county council in Ireland should develop localised climate action plans and we need all parties and independents to work together to address this issue in the short and long term.
There is also a need for targeted and area-specific information campaigns about the climate crisis and about the actions that can be taken by citizens to address it — these education campaigns need to be accessible for people of all backgrounds and ages.
We need to ensure that low-carbon living is an easy option for all people.
As a society, we need to invest heavily in public transport by lowering the costs and by developing safer cycling routes.
Anyone you talk to who has ever cycled in urban areas in Ireland will tell you that they have been afraid at one point, or that they know of someone who has been injured while cycling.
This is not acceptable and we need to ensure that cycling is an option for everyone — not only is it environmentally friendly but it is healthy.
There is no reason why Ireland cannot be a world leader when it comes to providing safe and accessible cycling and walking routes in cities — the only thing we are missing is the political will to act.
The environment needs to be a concern for all public representatives at local, national and European level. All policy decisions should be environmentally friendly and ‘climate-proofed’.
The ‘Green Wave’ in the recent local and European elections in Ireland showed the enthusiasm that voters have for green issues and any party worth their salt should take heed of this in advance of the next General Election.
Local councils have a very important role to play.
It was great to see Cork City Council declare a climate and ecological emergency recently and to see the growing campaign in Cork city and county for climate action.
This declaration now needs to be translated into meaningful change and elected representatives need to work together with activists.
This is a global campaign but it will need national and local action plans.
There is a strong community of activists in Cork who are fighting for climate action. Greta Thunberg, the sixteen-year-old Swedish climate activist, even sent a message of support to Cork activists this month who are protesting against the harvesting of native kelp and the establishment of a plastic factory in west Cork.
Every party should make this crisis a priority issue and those who deny that climate-heating is a reality should be rigorously challenged and opposed. We have no time to lose because the future of our planet and species are at stake.
Climate action needs to be a core commitment in the next Programme for Government and it needs to be an issue on the doorsteps when the parties come canvassing again.
Laura Harmon was the Head of Mobilisation for Together for Yes and was President of the Union of Students in Ireland during the marriage equality referendum in 2015. She is from Baile Bhúirne, Co, Cork, and will be running for the Seanad NUI panel in the next election as an independent candidate. Twitter: @Harmonica26