Youth Assembly on Climate Change

The Youth Assembly conducted itself with professionalism and seriousness in discussing a wide range of proposals and recommending ten of them to the political parties. Some of these proposals will require further research from the Labour Party, but we are glad to be able to immediately agree to several of them.

Labour will support legislation to require shops and supermarkets to end the use of refrigerators that are wasteful of energy, such as models without doors. All refrigerators will have to comply to standards to reduce energy waste, whether or not this requires doors or other modifications.

Labour has already opposed the development of Liquid Natural Gas terminals at Shannon and in Cork, and we will ban the importation of fracked gas from anywhere in the world.

Labour will examine proposals to reduce the cost of sustainable goods and to increase the cost or even ban unsustainable goods, to make sustainable shopping more affordable. For example, Labour will promote higher standards that would outlaw washing products that damage the environment in favour of those that are sustainable.

Labour endorses the polluter pays principle and we will examine seriously the proposal to ensure that those corporations who contribute the most pollution are made to pay a proportionate share of the cost. Where these companies are out of the reach of the Irish government, Labour will promote international action through the Party of European Socialists. We will also look at introducing a climate surtax on shares in those companies held by people resident in Ireland.

Labour agrees with the proposal to promote the industrial production of hemp as a way to capture carbon and create sustainable jobs in the rural economy. We will examine Teasgasc’s proposals on the detail of this.

Labour agrees with the proposal to add climate labelling on all foodstuffs. This is a competence of the European Union, and we will work with the Party of European Socialists to promote this idea in the European Parliament and European Commission. The nominated Commissioner for the European Green Deal and European Climate Law is Frans Timmermans from Labour’s sister party in the Netherlands, and we will discuss this proposal with him.

Labour agrees with the proposal to introduce climate offences under criminal law. We will look more at the detail of this. We will also discuss this with Frans Timmermans in relation to his brief for European Climate Law.

Labour agrees with the aim of increasing Ireland’s overall forest cover, with a greater proportion of Irish woodlands alongside fast-growing trees. We’re not wholly convinced that rigidly requiring 10% of all land to be forested is the most affordable or efficient way to do this, but we would look at a range of options, and set a binding national target for forest cover, with the aim of moving towards 20% forest cover as quickly as can be achieved.

We agree with the need for a strong public information campaign on climate change, but we do not agree that it should be directly produced by Government. Instead, additional money should be made available by Government for public service broadcasting on the topic of climate change, with RTÉ and other media companies eligible to bid for this money to independently produce hard-hitting programmes based on the best evidence, to spread awareness and motivation in relation to climate action.

We agree with the need to teach about climate change in all schools, at primary as well as secondary level, but we don’t think a new examination subject is required. We note that Italy is the first country in the world to introduce mandatory climate change lessons in schools. Labour would do the same in Ireland, with a mandatory number of hours of age-appropriate content on climate change to be taught in every single year of primary and secondary school, with materials also created for use in adult education settings.

These are Labour’s initial responses to the thoughtful suggestions of the Youth Assembly. Thank you for your proposals. Please continue to put forward your ideas. At the end of the day, politicians cannot make people change to the extent required by this emergency unless there is also a change of ideas going on in society. We need people like you to keep pushing everyone to inform themselves about climate change and to make the necessary changes, large and small, that can make our way of life truly sustainable.