‘Good environmentalists should refrain from air travel’

“Good environmentalists” should refrain from “racking up” thousands of air miles around the world, independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice has stated.

The Roscommmon-Galway representative has hit out at some of the high-profile commentary that has been made on the looming closure of Bord na Mona’s peat division.

The deputy has accused some politicians of “dancing on the grave” of the company.

Following last month’s announcement that an initial 150 jobs are to be lost at Bord na Mona (BNM) over the coming months as part of its decarbonisation plan, the Roscommmon-Galway representative said: “It has been incredible to see people welcoming the news.”

Long term, it is expected that up to 430 jobs will be in the firing line as BNM now intends to cease its peat production by 2025 – five years ahead of schedule.

“It is sad to see people dancing on the grave of a company that employed an awful lot of people in rural parts of Ireland and that kept food on the table for a considerable number of families.

“Everybody knows that things move on. But, unfortunately, the people who were in power down through the years – some of them even went as far as becoming president of this country – didn’t put a plan in place to make sure that there would be a future for those workers,” he said.

Speaking at this week’s Creative Responses to Climate Change event at Trinity College Dublin, former president Mary Robinson said she “heralds the end of the fossil fuel era”.

Robinson stated that “selling a product known to cause harm is not acceptable”.

For decades the people and communities in the midlands have served the people of Ireland by harvesting peat to heat our homes; however, we now know that peat is the worst of the fossil fuels we burn for energy.

However, the former president also emphasised that the urgent end of peat extraction “must not undermine” the rights of the communities whose lives are dependent on the bogs.

She stated that “there needs to be a long-term strategy” to support workers during the company’s transition to greener energy.

According to the Climate Change Advisory Council, Irish greenhouse gas emissions are rising rather than falling, meaning the country is completely off course in its efforts to achieve 2020 and 2030 emissions reduction targets.

This was stated bluntly in its annual review for 2018, submitted to the Government last summer.

According to the council, without “urgent action” that leads to tangible and substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, Ireland is unlikely to deliver on national, EU and international obligations.

Instead of achieving the required reduction of 1 million tonnes per year in carbon dioxide emissions – consistent with the National Policy Position – Ireland is currently increasing emissions at a rate of 2 million tonnes per year, according to the report.

Under the EU’s Effort Sharing Decision targets, Ireland has agreed to deliver a 20% reduction in non-ETS greenhouse gas emissions, on 2005 levels, by 2020.

Non-ETS greenhouse gas emissions (non-Emissions Trading Scheme sector) include: agriculture; transport; residential; commercial; waste; and the non-energy intensive industry.

Earlier this year, Ireland also committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions level by 30% on 2005 levels by 2030.

Under the EU Renewable Energy Directive (2009) Ireland is also committed to producing at least 16% of all energy consumed in the Republic from renewable sources by 2020.

Air travel

Fitzmaurice is pushing for “greater weight” to be applied to the volume of harmful emissions resulting from air travel.

It is ironic to see those people cheering the closure of a viable industry in rural Ireland and, at the same time, travelling the world putting up tonnes and tonnes of carbon in fancy airplanes without feeling guilty.

The farmer, turf-cutter and agricultural contractor argued that Bord na Mona has been “bounced into this situation through no fault of its own”.

He added that rural Ireland is again “the biggest loser” following the recent developments.

“There are families now that do not have a viable future. We hear all types of politicians telling us how money needs to be thrown at this, that and the other.

Yes, everybody agrees that we need to put money into rural Ireland as a whole – but money alone won’t solve this.

Concluding, deputy Fitzmaurice said: “We need to make sure that we take stock of where we are. I do think that the debate has to open up about where we are going in terms of the aviation industry – given the amount of pollutants that it is releasing into the atmosphere.”

The independent TD encouraged people who claim to be “good environmentalists” to “stay true to their word and remain in their own country, rather than racking up thousands of air miles around the world in search of a tan”.