Local government should lead the response to climate change according to Green Party Candidate Louise Heavin. Commenting on the proposals, she remarked, ‘In the past few decades we have seen a rapid decline in our wildlife and in the midlands we have also witnessed more extreme weather with flooding and storms. We are in a climate crisis and local government should lead the response to this crisis.’
On Saturday the 20th of April, Ms Heavin hosted a Walk and Talk around Carn Bog SAC (Special Area of Conservation) in Baylin with ecologist from Moate, Dr. George F Smith. The Bog was a former Coillte Forestry and restored in 2006.
Speaking after the event Ms Heavin said, ‘We can see the return of a wide range of plants and wildlife since the restoration works were put in place. This is an example of a small project that has a real impact in terms of carbon storage and habitat restoration. Due to the ability of boglands to store water, such restoration projects along the Shannon could also help alleviate flooding in Athlone. It is a soft measure that has an overall positive impact on our environment.’
The Green Party recently proposed that Climate Action Committees be established in every local authority following next month’s local elections.
‘Projects like Carn Bog have a really positive and immediate impact in local communities. We need to see more projects tackling climate change and local authorities could take the lead on these.The role of local government could also be expanded to provide micro financing for community owned renewable energy or even establish local energy supply companies in their own right. We should have a more direct role in transportation and mobility policy other than the maintenance of roads’ she said.
Green Party spokesperson for Local Government, Cllr Malcolm Noonan said that the existing Strategic Policy Committee (SPC) system in local government and recent participative structures for NGO’s and the community and voluntary sector, should be used to put in place strong, robust structures to lead transformative change within local government.
“This will require additional resourcing and staffing but it is our view that establishing a dedicated Climate Action Strategic Policy Committee where key local activists, NGO’s, the business and farming sector as well as lead experts can collaborate in implementing a shared and ambitious climate action plan will be essential. The opportunity exists now as we start a new five year cycle of local government and we are calling on Minister of State John Paul Phelan to direct all local authorities in the State to create an identical template to drive committed and courageous plans, interconnected regionally and in a wider EU context through initiatives such as Covenant of Mayors,” said Cllr Noonan.
He said that the four Climate Action Regional Offices (CAROs) were under resourced and would benefit from supporting structures at local county level.
“Establishing Climate Action Strategic Policy Committees could be done within the framework of existing Local Government legislation but it should require a directive from the Minister to all Councils to do so.”
“It is my view that young people should be afforded a key and participative role in any such new structures given that they have led the school strikes for climate and that the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) should frame the work and actions of these new committees.”
“Successive ‘reforms’ of local government have sought to undermine community participation, the democratically elected role and the very function of local government. We are proposing the establishment of these Climate Action Committees as a means of empowering whole communities to lead and foster direct action in tackling climate change. We should be on climate emergency footing and an emergency requires an appropriate response. We urge the Minister to allow local government lead that response,” concluded Cllr Noonan.