Mr John Gormley TD Minister for the Environment, Heritage & Local Government addressed the Patrick MacGill Summer School & Arts Week 2007 in Donegal.
The Minister was speaking on the session - 'Saving our Environment' - and outlined some of his priorities in the Programme for Government and, in particular, the number one priority for both the Minister and the Green Party - Climate Change.
"In Government, the issues and principles remain the same. What changes is that the Green Party - through me as the Minister for the Environment - are now responsible for progressing the environmental agenda."
The Minister spoke of measures -
* The reform of waste management, to reduce waste levels and ensure that incineration is no longer the cornerstone of our waste management policy.
* A review of the Environmental Protection Agency, so as to ensure the Agency can address the ever-increasing pressures on the natural environment.
* A review of the current levels of fines and sentences for environmental crime, to improve enforcement of our environment laws.
* On our built heritage, the Government will work on an all-island basis to protect our shared archaeological heritage.
"I have recently ordered a fundamental review of archaeological procedures and practices to improve this" - said Minister Gormley. "These priority areas, like almost all environmental issues, have a direct bearing on our 'quality of life' and the 'quality of life' of future generations" - he added.
Speaking on climate change, the Minister said - "Global warming threatens not just our 'quality of life' - but the very survival of this planet and we who live on it. If global warming is allowed to continue unchecked, the sheer scale of potential disruption and destruction of people and the environment is almost beyond comprehension."
The minister referred to the recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change - a body incorporating the foremost experts on meterology and climate change in the world. The report of the scientists gathered information from 29,000 sources in relation to the natural world. The IPCC report from last April (Click Here) concluded that it would be the poorest people living in the poorest regions who will suffer most.
"In other words, those who have contributed least to the problem will bear the brunt of the consequences" - the Minister said.
Dry areas, such as those in sub Saharan Africa, will become up to 30 per cent drier, resulting in food shortages and increased levels of illness. Low-lying areas with high rainfall, like the Bay of Bengal, will become up to 30 per cent wetter. "People living in these low-lying areas - again many of them living below the poverty line - will be very prone to flooding."
Referring to statistics gathered by Irish scientists -
* Mean annual temperatures in Ireland rose by over 0.7°C between 1890 and 2004. More than half of that increase - or 0.42°C - has taken place since 1980
* Six of the ten warmest years in Ireland have occurred since 1995 - the last decade has been the warmest on record and last year was the second warmest year on record.
The Programme for Government emphasises the Government's commitment to take the necessary action. In addition to the full implementation of the National Climate Change Strategy, the Government intends to agree an all-party approach on climate change targets - and, in advance of this, to set a challenging target of a 3% reduction per year, on average, in our greenhouse gas emissions.
"The measures in the Programme for Government are comprehensive, but will take time to be fully effective. Meanwhile, compliance with our Kyoto target will be measured over the 2008-2012 period and our starting position is that we're more than 10% above the target level of emissions. While carbon credits are a second-best solution, they do have a role to play and, along with most other EU Member States, we will have to avail of them.
"My absolute priority will be to ensure that we meet our Kyoto target - failure to do so would seriously damage the post-2012 agenda and undermine our credibility as a nation committed to sustainable development. That said, in meeting our target, I will be aiming to maximise the introduction of measures further, to reduce national greenhouse gas emissions and minimise the requirement to supplement domestic action through the purchase of credits.
"The more we can achieve in terms of transition to a low-carbon society in the Kyoto Protocol period, the better prepared we will be to manage the more demanding agenda in the period to 2020 and beyond."
Following this year's Spring meeting of the European Council, the EU sent a strong signal on its expectations of a post-2012 agreement. Using 1990 as the base year, Heads of State and Government agreed to reduce total greenhouse gas emissions in the EU by at least 20% by 2020. They also signalled a willingness to reduce emissions even further - up to 30% - if other developed countries committed themselves to comparable emission reductions and economically more-advanced developing countries contributed to the process in terms compatible with their responsibilities and respective capabilities.
On the issue of awareness, the Government has preparing a major national climate change campaign, which has just gone out to tender. A budget of €15 million over 5 years has been earmarked for the project.
"Climate change is not something the Government - or the Green Party - can be left to tackle alone. It is not down to business, to farmers, to commuters or any specific sector - that is the challenge. It is down to every individual to play their part, to take action, to become part of the solution" - concluded the Minister.
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