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Some of the young people involved during the Extinction Rebellion Clare rally to support the School Strike for Climate Action, in Ennis. Photograph by John Kelly

Make A Difference: time for change is now


The EU plans to reduce carbon emissions by 55% by 2030. Bridget Ginnity explains the importance of this plan and highlights simple steps we can all make to play our part in achieving this goal.

THE recent launch by the EU of the “Fit for 55” package sounds like an attempt to get us off the couch and touch our toes by the time we’re all 55.

Instead, it’s is a plan to reduce EU carbon emissions by 55% by 2030 compared to 1990 – and for Ireland that’s a massive 60% reduction on current emissions.

The need for reductions has been shown in stark terms this year with the deaths from extreme flooding, heatwaves and forest fires around the globe.

This EU plan gives grounds for hope because if governments take control of actions now, we can reap the potential benefits of these actions.

Action now avoids unleashing the chaos that is likely to crash down on us if we delay. We also save money that would have to be spent on costly repairs, adaptation measures and penalties for missing targets.

The benefits could include warmer houses, a network of streets and roads that are pleasant to walk and cycle on, remote working options, more locally grown organic food, less waste and greater biodiversity.

The benefits could include warmer houses, a network of streets and roads that are pleasant to walk and cycle on, remote working options, more locally grown organic food, less waste and greater biodiversity.

The chaos if we do nothing? If climate action isn’t taken immediately, the pandemic disruption will be a walk in the park by comparison. Within 30 years, any improvements made in areas like health and education will probably be wiped out due to global disasters so climate control has to be the priority.

The appalling prospect that climate scientists predict is hard to face. It is natural to ignore it and hope for the best. But look at young children. Imagine how difficult their lives will be due to climate breakdown. What will they think of our passivity, that we do so little to protect them?
But can anything we do make a difference?

The power of one

It can be very annoying being advised to take all kinds of individual actions like switching off a light. Individual action seems like such a drop in the ocean and much can only be done at government level.

Reducing our personal carbon footprint has a wider impact though. Our buying decisions can support eco-friendly companies. This brings the cost down and increases availability, whether it’s an electric car or organic carrot.

Through our example, we shift the attitudes in society and in the workplace, creating a ripple effect. Being climate aware can encourage family, friends, colleagues and neighbours to follow suit. Individual action adds up when done by lots of people.

Taking individual action also shows the government that the climate emergency is important to us and that there are votes for parties who take it seriously.

The power of politics

Still, individual action can seem trivial compared to what can be achieved at government and international level. It can seem like moving deckchairs on the Titanic.

That’s why one of the most useful individual actions we can take is to influence government action, as they have the power to make significant changes and influence the behaviour of us all.

Although Ireland is small, we need to pull our weight instead of pulling up the rear as we do at present.

We could throw our hands up in despair and curse all politicians as a crowd of wasters. Or we can use our voice for change through contacting our councillors and TDs, protesting, writing, art or any kind of activism or engagement in politics. As adults we have a vote. We can use that vote on behalf of our children, to create the best environment possible for them.

Paying the price

The necessary changes to reduce carbon emissions will bring some disadvantages. The price of fuel, food and other essentials may go up, jobs may be lost, we may have fewer foreign holidays, speed limits may be lower or our views interrupted by wind turbines.

It’s not all negative. Many of these drawbacks are balanced by benefits, such as new jobs in renewable energy installations, home energy retrofits and active travel infrastructure.

Before we object to changes, we need to balance the beneficial impact they would have in reduced emissions and other gains compared with the drawbacks. People who are already struggling must be protected. Yet if the change relates to our comfort or convenience, perhaps we should consider accepting changes that are not perfect.

Delaying implementation until we get the ideal solution is effectively inaction. Is a price worth paying?

Getting active

The good part about getting active environmentally is that unlike getting physically fit, a lot of it can be done on the couch. It might simply be giving a supportive and kind reaction to a family member, friend or street protester who is taking action.

If you are inspired to do more by the contributors on this page, it helps to think of your own strengths and interests and see what you could do in those areas.

For individual actions, there are lots of websites where you can find out what your carbon footprint is and the steps you can take to reduce it.

For political actions, there is no shortage of organisations to join or support. If you have more money than time, donating to organisations is very useful. To organisations, each donation is worth more than the money they get. It is a vote of support and encouragement to continue.

Regardless of what we do, none of us is perfectly green. Unless we lock ourselves off in a cave eating nettles and woodlice, we are likely to have some carbon footprint. Guilt or green shaming serve no purpose.

There is hope. What matters is that we make some change, whatever is feasible, however small. The most important thing is to act.

MAKE A CHANGE – MAKE A DIFFERENCE
• Reduce your carbon footprint, even by the tip of a small toe
• Engage with organisations such as Clare PPN, Fridays for Future, Clare Environmental Network, Futureproof Clare, XR Clare/Red Rebels, Stop Climate Chaos
• Lobby councillors and TDs. For advice see “hope for the future” www.hftf.org.uk
• Join a political party
• Support online campaigners such as SumofUs and Uplift.
• Be respectful to activists
• Use your voice, use your vote

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