Publication of Citizens' Assembly Final Report on How the State can make Ireland a Leader in Tackling Climate Change

Wednesday April 18th, 2018: The report and recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly (the Assembly) on the topic ‘How the State can make Ireland a leader in tackling climate change’ has been laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas today by Chair of the Assembly, the Honourable Ms. Mary Laffoy.

The recommendations were reached by majority vote of the Assembly Members following two weekends of deliberation which focussed on a broad range of issues, including the science of climate change, current efforts to tackle it in Ireland and internationally, energy generation and efficiency, transport policy in Ireland, current agriculture and land use policy and the climate change advisory council.

A further four ancillary recommendations which came from the Citizens’ Assembly members are published today for the first time. These include a positive information campaign for the public on the benefits of tackling climate change, the taking of steps to reduce plastic packaging, support for the agriculture sector to transition to production which emits lower green house gases, and that all new buildings should have a zero or low carbon footprint as part of the granting of a planning permission.

In her introduction to the report the Chair of the Assembly said: “It was implicit in the mandate in the Oireachtas Resolution, that Climate Change was real, happening and must be tackled. The deliberations of the Assembly therefore focussed on how the State could best meet that challenge. The members’ interest in the topic was clearly demonstrated when they decided they should dedicate a second weekend to it. Just over 1,200 submissions were received by the Assembly on this topic – a number quite unprecedented in an Irish context.

“The Members once again had the benefit of an array of expertise and perspectives. They heard from 15 experts and 6 individuals who shared their personal experience of becoming a leader in the area of Climate Change. They actively took part in over 26 hours of listening, discussion and deliberation. The Members prepared diligently for meetings, reading papers in advance and reviewing the submissions receive3d by the Assembly.”

The Assembly made the following 13 recommendations by a majority vote:

  • R1: 98% of the Members recommended that to ensure climate change is at the centre of policy-making in Ireland, as a matter of urgency a new or existing independent body should be resourced appropriately, operate in an open and transparent manner, and be given a broad range of new functions and powers in legislation to urgently address climate change. * 
  • R2: 100% of the Members recommended that the State should take a leadership role in addressing climate change through mitigation measures, including, for example, retrofitting public buildings, having low carbon public vehicles, renewable generation on public buildings and through adaptation measures including, for example, increasing the resilience of public land and infrastructure.
  • R3: 80% of the Members said they would be willing to pay higher taxes on carbon intensive activities **
  • R4: 96% of the Members recommended that the State should undertake a comprehensive assessment of the vulnerability of all critical infrastructure (including energy, transport, built environment, water and communications) with a view to building resilience to ongoing climate change and extreme weather events. The outcome of this assessment should be implemented. Recognising the significant costs that the State would bear in the event of failure of critical infrastructure, spending on infrastructure should be prioritised to take account of this.
  • R5: 99% of the Members recommended that the State should enable, through legislation, the selling back into the grid of electricity from micro-generation by private citizens (for example energy from solar panels or wind turbines on people’s homes or land) at a price which is at least equivalent to the wholesale price. 
  • R6: 100% of the Members recommended that the State should act to ensure the greatest possible levels of community ownership in all future renewable energy projects by encouraging communities to develop their own projects and by requiring that developer-led projects make share offers to communities to encourage greater local involvement and ownership.
  • R7: 97% of the Members recommended that the State should end all subsidies for peat extraction and instead spend that money on peat bog restoration and making proper provision for the protection of the rights of the workers impacted with the majority 61% recommending that the State should end all subsidies on a phased basis over 5 years.
  • R8: 93% of the Members recommended that the number of bus lanes, cycling lanes and park and ride facilities should be greatly increased in the next five years, and much greater priority should be given to these modes over private car use.
  • R9: 96% of the Members recommended that the State should immediately take many steps to support the transition to electric vehicles. ***
  • R10: 92% of the Members recommended that the State should prioritise the expansion of public transport spending over new road infrastructure spending at a ratio of no less than 2-to-1 to facilitate the broader availability and uptake of public transport options with attention to rural areas.
  • R11: 89% of the Members recommended that there should be a tax on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from agriculture. There should be rewards for the farmer for land management that sequesters carbon. Any resulting revenue should be reinvested to support climate friendly agricultural practices. 
  • R12: 93% of the Members recommended the State should introduce a standard form of mandatory measurement and reporting of food waste at every level of the food distribution and supply chain, with the objective of reducing food waste in the future.
  • R13: 99 % of the Members recommended that the State should review, and revise supports for land use diversification with attention to supports for planting forests and encouraging organic farming.

A further four ancillary recommendations are made by consensus after Assembly Members took part in a reflective exercise. These are:

  • AR1: Greater emphasis should be placed on providing positive information to the public which encourages people to make changes to the aspects of their behaviour which impacts on climate change. Such information should be targeted at all age groups using a wide variety of formats. The information provided should be focussed on highlighting the economic, social, health and other benefits of taking action rather than focussing on the negatives associated with a failure to act.
  • AR2: Steps should be taken to reduce packaging, particularly plastic packaging, and resulting waste. Suggestions for such steps include the eradication of single use plastics particularly in supermarkets and the imposition of penalties for failure to comply and the introduction of a deposit scheme on plastic bottles.
  • AR3: The agriculture sector in Ireland requires ongoing support to make a transition towards models of production which emit lower Green House Gases. Cognisance must be taken of the impact which the sector has on the economy, particularly the rural economy.
  • AR4: All new buildings should have a zero or low carbon footprint and planning permission should only be provided for new builds which comply with these requirements. The government should provide incentives to retrofit homes to achieve better energy efficiency ratings.

The Chair also expressed her gratitude to the Assembly Members and urged the members of the Houses of the Oireachtas to give these recommendations due consideration. “As for both of the previous topics, I would strongly encourage each member of the Oireachtas and the public with an interest in this issue to review the footage of the questions and answer and feedback sessions from both weekends. It will once again be seen as evidence of the diligence with which the Members approached the task, and the thoughtful, thought provoking and considered questions they asked of our speakers, of the Expert Advisory Group and the Secretariat.”

The full report and recommendations of the Assembly can be read here

The final ballot paper, presentations of the first weekend and presentations of the second weekend are all available on the Citizens’ Assembly website. All previous public sessions of the Assembly can also be watched back on the Citizens’ Assembly YouTube Channel.

ENDS//

Media Contact: Páraic Gallagher, Q4PR: 087 818 0555

Notes to Editor

Question 1* Such functions and powers should include, but not be limited to those outlined below.

  • To examine any legislative proposals, it considers relevant to its functions and to report publicly its views on any implications in relation to climate change; the relevant Minister must respond publicly to the views expressed in a report prior to the progress of the legislative proposal; 
  • To propose ambitious 5 year national and sectoral targets for emissions reductions to be implemented by the State, with regular review and reporting cycles;
  • To pursue the State in legal proceedings to ensure that the State lives up to its legal obligations relating to climate change.

Question 3** Subject to the following qualifications

Qualification 1: Any increase in revenue would be only spent on measures that directly aid the transition to a low carbon and climate resilient Ireland: including, for example, making solar panels more cheaply and easily available, retrofitting homes and businesses, flood defenses, developing infrastructure for electric vehicles.

Qualification 2: An increase in the taxation does not have to be paid by the poorest households (the 400,000 households currently in receipt of fuel allowance).

Qualification 3: It is envisaged that these taxes build year-on-year.

Question 9*** Electric Vehicles

  • Develop an expanded national network of charging points;
  • Introduce a range of additional incentives, particularly aimed at rural communities, to encourage motorists towards electric vehicle ownership in the short term. Such measures should include, but not be limited to, targeted help-to-buy schemes, reductions in motor tax for electric vehicles and lower or free motorway tolls.
  • Measures should then be introduced to progressively disincentives the purchase of new carbon intensive vehicles such as year-on-year increases in taxes on petrol and diesel, motor tax and purchase taxes for petrol and diesel vehicles.