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Time to put the Sustainability and the Environment at the heart of policy

Recent reports from the IPCC and the EAT-Lancet Commission  highlight the huge challenges we face globally as we look to adapt to a low carbon, sustainable society.  The results of this research and subsequent recommendations are challenging, particularly for a country such as Ireland, where emissions from agriculture account are the largest contributor to our greenhouse gases, and where policy is driving agricultural expansion and the transition to a low carbon society at the same time.  To say that this in a contradiction in terms is to put it mildly. 

David Attenborough in two recent speeches at COP24 and the World Economic Forum in Davos has urged us to commit to action now, before we squander our children’s future.  This is a moment for change, an opportunity for us to enhance and protect our children’s future, cherish and protect our environment and move to a low carbon future. 

The recommendations of these reports are challenging and at first look seem impossible.  They are not impossible, and if we put sustainability and the 17 Global Goals at the heart of economic, social and environmental policy then Ireland can make the transition to a low carbon society. 

But to do so requires honesty.  Honesty in terms of the difficult decisions that will have to be made.  Honesty in terms of the costs of this change because we have spent more than a decade ignoring this issue.  Honesty in terms how we develop policy and what activities we support, honesty in terms of getting civil society involved to make and implement change.  And honesty in terms of commitment – we can’t just say this is a global problem and must be considered in a global context.  Yes, it is a global problem, but it is also an Irish problem, and change must start here.  We can’t expect others to make the transition to a low carbon society for us.  We must do it ourselves.

Government needs to lead by example and implement the policy changes to drive behavioural change.  The move towards eliminating single use plastics is welcome, but it is just one step.  The Citizen’s Assembly deliberated on this issue and produced a comprehensive report  the recommendations of which have yet to be implemented.  To quote David Attenborough at the World Economic Forum in Davos  “What we do in the next few years will profoundly affect the next few thousand years.”

We cannot wait any longer.  We have the opportunity now to restructure our economy and society so that we can transition to a low carbon future.  Now is not the time to delay or bury our heads in the sand.  Now is the time to implement real change.   Our Global Justice Day Conference on 22nd February will look at them progress of SDGs in Ireland.  For more information and to register click here.