By Roger Morton
Once again we are coming to the time of year when it is permitted to burn hillsides and once again the controversy will rage. Environmentalists say the burning kills wildlife and destroys their habitat. Landowners say it is the most efficient way to clear gorse and scrub from grazing land. Landowners are normally very careful when burning, ensuring it is well-controlled and properly extinguished. However, last year fire crews from Bantry, Skibbereen, Dunmanway, Macroom and Castletownbere all had multiple callouts to deal with gorse fires, mainly ones that has been started illegally. As well as the cost of fighting these fires, they were a serious danger to people and property. Whichever side of the argument you are on, one thing that is clear is that the fires cause massive pollution and release large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. As all independent scientists agree, carbon emissions are one of the biggest contributors to climate change and must be drastically reduced without delay.
Ireland was one of the 195 countries to sign the Paris Agreement in December 2015, which committed us to take action to keep global warming to ‘well below’ two degrees celcius, above pre-industrial levels and to pursue policies towards a safer limit of 1.5 degrees. The last government did pass the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act – however, passing acts and making agreements do not, of themselves, change anything. The European Commission’s ‘Country Report’ on Ireland stated that we were falling far short of meeting the then existing targets, never mind the more ambitious ones agreed in Paris.
Over 60 per cent of global carbon emissions come from our dependency on fossil fuels for energy. A revolution towards clean renewable energy and away from fossil fuels is urgently required. In fact, as the Trocaire report ‘The Burning Question’ states, “To have a reasonable chance of keeping global temperature rise within two degrees celcius, around 80 percent of known remaining fossil fuel reserves will need to remain under ground”. Yet Ireland continues to invest our money in fossil fuels.
The Irish Strategic Investment Fund is one of the vehicles the government uses to invest tax-payer’s money. In 2014, it invested €72 million in some of the world’s most controversial fossil fuel companies. These included the company behind the Keystone XL pipeline – which President Obama had to veto after huge public protests – a coal company that refuses to accept that climate change is happening and a company involved in fracking. These investments are contrary to Ireland’s legal obligations under the Paris Agreement.
Trocaire is therefore calling on the Government to mandate the Fund to divest from fossil fuels, prohibit future investment in the fossil fuel industry and adopt a 100 per cent renewable energy investment policy. Readers of West Cork People are asked to join Trocaire in demanding divestment from fossil fuels
– please sign the petition at www.trocaire.org/getinvolved/climate-justice/burning-question.
We need to show the Government that this really is the burning question – for the sake of our world, our children and our children’s children.