Teenage farmer and climate activist Liadh Dalton will “bring the voices of farming families to the Taoiseach’s office” as critical COP26 climate negotiations enter their final phase.

The 15-year-old will meet Taoiseach Micheál Martin today (Wednesday, November 10) to discuss how a positive climate future for every child in Ireland can be achieved by “everyone coming together to protect nature and farming livelihoods”.

She lives on her family’s farm in Co. Offaly and won UNICEF Ireland’s 2021 #KidsTakeOver competition.

She will now have a one-to-one meeting with the Taoiseach to discuss how farming communities and those addressing the climate crisis can work together on a sustainable and positive future for all.

“I can see both sides of the argument, because I am both a farmer and a climate activist,” Liadh Dalton said.

“I would like to talk to An Taoiseach about ways to bridge the gap between the two communities, so farmers can learn about new sustainable solutions, and also communicate what they are already doing, or planning to do, to protect the environment.”

Liadh Dalton believes ‘farming is a way of life’

With COP26 discussions ongoing, and bold action needed both in Ireland and around the world to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Dalton believes “positive and open dialogue” between everyone must play a key part in tackling the climate crisis.

“I want to see less hostility so that everyone can understand the importance of both farming and the environment,” she continued.

“We can see during COP26 just why climate action is so important, and agriculture can play a positive role in addressing it.

“Farming is a way of life. It is something to be valued and farmers are custodians of our land. Family farms have been here for generations – and hopefully will be here for generations to come.”

Liadh said she works on the family farm and sees “the biodiversity and the simple things we do to protect our environment around us”.

These simple things include “ensuring there is adequate cover for wildlife”.

“On our farm, we have barn owls, and buzzards, and rabbits. And we plan to do much more,” she added.

“Sometimes the simple things have the biggest impact, like planting trees and wildflowers, collecting rainwater, and installing solar panels.”

Voice of every child must be heard

Highlighting the importance of listening to young people’s views on the climate crisis, UNICEF Ireland executive director Peter Power said: “Climate change is a children’s crisis and children have a right to be heard and to participate in discussions about the future.

“Across the world, young people like Liadh continue to demand comprehensive, bold climate action from decision-makers.

“As yet, the action demanded has not materialised to the levels required. Children and young people are uniquely affected by the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation, and they are the least responsible.

“We all know that as a society we must make big and collective change, and the voice of every child must be heard in that conversation.

“UNICEF’s vision is that every child grows up in a safe, clean and healthy environment. But we’re far from this vision, and it’s becoming urgent.”

According to UNICEF, to avert the worst impacts of the climate crisis, “comprehensive and urgent action is required” to keep global warming to no more than 1.5°.

Governments around the world are “woefully off track” to meet this goal, and UNICEF estimates that the number of children at ‘extremely high-risk’ of the impacts of climate change will likely increase as the impacts of climate change accelerate.

In recent years, Liadh Dalton and her family have become “more aware of the effects of climate change on the farm” as a result of the increasingly unpredictable weather.

Alongside this, growing up in a rural farming community surrounded by peat bogs, Liadh has also seen how changing farming and energy practices required to combat climate change have impacted local families and livelihoods.

Since entering secondary school, she has been active in her school’s Climate Action Group and in third-year, she completed a science project on how seaweed supplements in cows’ diets could reduce methane emissions.