Blog from the ecovillage/Blag ón eiceaphobal

How the State can make Ireland a leader in tackling climate change

 

Submission to the Citizens’ Assembly by Peadar Kirby, Professor Emeritus of International Politics and Public Policy, University of Limerick and chair of the board of directors of Sustainable Projects Ireland, the not-for-profit company and registered charity which developed and manages Cloughjordan Ecovillage where I live. This submission draws on research done for my forthcoming book, co-authored with Dr Tadhg O’Mahony, entitled The Political Economy of the Low-Carbon Transition: Pathways Beyond Techno-Optimism (Palgrave Macmillan, due late 2017).

 

Introduction

Humanity is sleepwalking to disaster. Despite seeing ourselves as living in a scientific era when we base our worldviews, our public policies and our personal actions and lifestyles on scientific evidence (for example taking seriously the evidence that smoking causes cancer and adjusting policies and personal actions accordingly), the leaders of our societies from global to local levels, in politics, business, education, agriculture and the media by and large avoid the greatest consensus ever reached by the global scientific community that the actions of humanity are fast creating conditions that gravely threaten livelihoods and communities everywhere and even the future of our species on this planet. As the then French president Francois Hollande put it when opening the December 2015 Climate Summit in Paris, ‘never - truly never - have the stakes of an international meeting been so high. For the future of the planet, and the future of life, are at stake.’ The scientific consensus on which this statement is...

Read more: My submission to Citizens' Assembly on climate change

The UK election gave us a night of electoral drama so unique for its unpredictability and upending of deeply held assumptions that it is impossible to find anything comparable. This truly was ‘new politics’, not in the Irish sense of a political cliché to hide paralysis, but in the sense of people, particularly the young, galvanised by a vision that things could be different and defying the carefully crafted regime of the privileged.

 

It is difficult to remember a political leader so vilified and insulted by a large swathe of his country’s media, so demonised and dismissed not just...

Read more: Now ‘new politics’ really does mean something

So, the French have shown again that politics really matters and has become the space where different visions of the future are being fought out. And, while the centrist candidate, Emmanuel Macron now appears certain to be France’s next president, the first round of the 2017 presidential election has already brought massive changes.

As we have seen elsewhere, voters are decisively rejecting long-established mainstream parties and giving support both to new parties and, in increasing numbers, to parties on the extreme right and left. France has now demonstrated these tendencies more strongly than has any other country.

Neither of the...

Read more: France moves into a new political space

The publication of Ireland’s first draft national mitigation plan as mandated by the Climate Action and Low-Carbon Development Act of 2015 may in time be seen as the Irish state’s first attempt seriously to face the enormous challenges of decarbonising our economy by 2050 as we are now legally obliged to do under the 2015 Act. Yet, it shows the state has a very long way to go in finding responses adequate to the challenges.

Examining Ireland’s record on facing the challenges of climate change since the early 1990s, what leaps out again and again is the complete failure of policy...

Read more: Ireland’s mitigation planning: where are the big ideas?

For all its surprises, 2016 will go down as the year that finally marked the death knell of neoliberalism. It had seemed to survive the financial collapse of 2008; indeed, the main responses to this collapse, most especially in Europe, served to strengthen market players and further weaken both states and civil society. But it cannot survive the political shocks of 2016.

 

This is for two principal reasons, one bottom up and the other top down. From the base of society has come a ‘revolt of the dispossessed’ that found expression in the Brexit vote in June and in...

Read more: 2016: Moving (finally) beyond neoliberalism, but where?