The NFLA All Ireland Forum held its spring energy seminar in Omagh and heard alarming information on the urgency to deal with the effects of man-made climate change, at a time when a policy vacuum exists with the funding of low carbon renewable energy solutions, particularly in Northern Ireland. (1)
Amongst the expert speakers to the Forum seminar was Professor Barry McMullin of Dublin City University, and a member of the An Taisce Climate Change Group (but speaking in a personal capacity). Professor McMullin outlined in great detail that the ‘tipping point’ of climate change was coming much sooner than originally thought with time to mitigate the worst effects reducing ever more quickly.
Professor McMullin argued that low or even zero carbon policies are likely to not be enough now, and that policies and energy strategies that encourage ‘negative carbon’ need to be prioritised. Professor McMullin also argued that governments on the island of Ireland are not delivering nearly fast enough a low carbon energy system that could mitigate some of the most harmful effects of climate change.
Professor McMullin urged Irish politicians, national and local, to promote an energy vision focused on:
- The fair reduction of absolute energy consumption, with energy efficiency schemes critical to this.
- Aggressively electrify heating and transport systems.
- Aggressively retrofitting carbon capture and storage where feasible.
- Deploying the most favourable indigenous renewable energy schemes, focused on onshore and offshore wind in particular, seeking at least 60% direct annual consumption.
- Very cautiously deploy bioenergy schemes and act now to develop carbon negative solutions.
Also speaking was Meabh Cormacin, representing the Northern Ireland Renewable Industry Group. Agreeing with much of Professor McMullin’s analysis, she noted that whilst Northern Ireland and the wider island of Ireland had reached impressive levels of renewable energy generation, particularly wind, there is real concern over a policy vacuum to maintain this growth, particularly in the north where there has been no functioning Assembly Government for over a year.
Both the Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland Government’s need to set an energy vision for the next decade and onwards that continues to drive down carbon emissions and reduce fossil fuel consumption. This includes working out a post-Brexit energy solution that maintains the integrated single energy market and the proposed north-south energy connector.
Declan Allison of Friends of the Earth Northern Ireland also indicated that the renewable heating (RHI) overspend in Northern Ireland had created an inertia and fear in government over the deployment of financial support schemes to develop renewable energy. This comes at an alarming time when climate change models suggest greater rather than less low carbon energy deployment is essential. NFLA Secretary Sean Morris added that the Republic of Ireland Government’s welcome move to support financial schemes for renewable energy projects needed to also bring in and support more decentralised projects led by Irish Councils and community cooperatives.
In other developments, councillors in Newry, Mourne and Down Council are seeking to reschedule (after inclement weather) a visit to the Sellafield site to raise their concerns on the impacts of this facility and its wider safety arrangements.
NFLA All Ireland Forum Co-Chair (Republic of Ireland), Councillor Mark Dearey said:
“The sobering assessment around the impacts of climate change on Ireland and the wider world given at this meeting should be a wake-up call to ministers, officials and councillors of the urgency with which low carbon policies, including energy, need to be implemented. To hear that a policy vacuum appears in place on the island to continue to deliver rapid renewable energy growth, reduced energy consumption and new energy storage projects is troubling. Government needs to work with Councils and the renewable energy industry to develop the next stage of deployment of low carbon solutions beyond 2020. If we do not, the harmful impacts of climate change – flooding, more severe weather and coastal erosion – will only intensify and particularly affect the most vulnerable in our society. Ireland, like the world, is on a precipice – it must move fast to pull itself back from the brink.”
Ends – for more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary, on 0161 234 3244.
Notes for editors:
(1) The presentations from this seminar will shortly be on the NFLA website – http://www.nuclearpolicy.info