Climate Aware Midleton – first public meeting

John Armstrong, Helena Walsh, Katherine Wentzel, Liam Quaide, Melanie O'Driscolll and Orsolya Becsey.

Over forty people turned up to the first public meeting of Climate Aware Midleton on February 28th in My Place Community Centre. Helena Walsh, who is a founding member of the group, described the event as a “coming together of locals in common purpose. It’s clear that deep concern about climate change is being felt throughout society, and this was reflected by the range of ages and backgrounds of people who attended. We had teenagers, young parents, middle-aged and older people. We had environmentalists and organic farmers but also local business people and students.”

The event featured a video clip of Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg addressing a summit of world leaders. She has been the inspiration for tens of thousands of young people taking part in worldwide schools strikes, including in East Cork, to protest their governments’ inaction on climate change. According to Liam Quaide, Green Party local election candidate, “young people will bear the brunt of climate change, and their voices carry most weight on this issue.”

In his introduction to the event, Mr. Quaide referred to a recent landmark UN report which warned the governments of the world to drastically reduce carbon emissions within twelve years or face catastrophic and irreversible climate change. He spoke of “the dismay many people experience as our own government avoid or obstruct necessary action” and also outlined the “multiple benefits of climate action – reduced traffic congestion, cleaner air, warmer houses and thousands of sustainable jobs in renewable energy.” Mr. Quaide emphasised that “the Irish taxpayer is facing EU emissions fines of €600m - more than the Children’s Hospital overrun - per year due to our government’s failure to take climate change seriously.”

The evening featured three presentations. John Armstrong of Cork Nature Network discussed biodiversity; Melanie O’Driscoll and Orsolya Becsey of Cobh Zero Waste outlined the waste reduction principles of 'refuse, reduce, repair, reuse, replant and recycle'; Natasha Harty spoke about ways that carbon can be sequestered. These were followed by group discussion of collective actions. Plastic pollution was a recurring issue raised throughout the night. Several people highlighted the need for political engagement to bring about meaningful climate action. A member of the audience pointed out that “with one stroke of a pen” politicians can achieve large scale change.

Mr. Quaide took up this point afterwards: “the Green Party's 2017 Waste Reduction Bill would have banned single use plastics and offered a deposit return scheme on plastic bottles. In countries such as Germany and Finland this scheme has resulted in over 90% of plastic bottles being recycled. In Ireland, where 500,000 plastic bottles are bought every day, that figure is currently much less. A 2018 study by the World Health Organisation found microplastics in almost all bottled water and a study from NUIG found that 73% of deep sea fish had ingested plastic. It is therefore essential for our health as well as our environment that we eliminate plastic as much as possible from our daily lives.

The Bill was eventually passed last year with cross-party support but Fine Gael are using a technicality known as a ‘money order’ to block the Bill from becoming law. They're doing this with almost 250 pieces of proposed legislation put forward by the opposition, including the Climate Emergency Bill, which acknowledges the scientific consensus that oil and gas reserves must remain in the ground and bans further off-shore exploration.”

Climate Aware Midleton will be meeting again on Thursday March 21st at 7.30pm at the Midleton Park Hotel; Eircode: P25 AX67