Candidates running in the General Election in Mayo have given their views on what steps Mayo and its people should take in addressing climate change concerns.
Saoirse McHugh of the Green Party said climate change is not just a challenge, but an opportunity.
“I think it’s important to recognise the social and economic opportunities that can come with a transition to a low carbon economy. Mayo spends roughly €200 million a year on imported food, most of which could be produced here. We spend €40 million on energy which we could save if there’s community energy co-ops.
“There will be construction jobs in retrofitting and public transport infrastructure and improved town planning and connectivity can bring communities closer together again. This is a unique opportunity to reverse 150 years of decline, we’d be crazy not to take it,” she said.
Rose Conway-Walsh of Sinn Féin said ‘Mayo people will not be found wanting’.
“After all, Mayo is a coastal county most impacted by failure of successive governments to take the issue seriously. In our alternative budget Sinn Féin has shown how it will commence large scale public investment in public transport, retrofit 100,000 houses, protect coastal areas and tackle the issue head on. We will not support a further increase in carbon tax because affordable alternatives are not available,” she said.
Fine Gael’s Alan Dillon said there is potential for Mayo.
“I believe Mayo can be the first carbon neutral county in Ireland. This requires government support in terms of incentives and initiatives to allow families, businesses and communities take action on climate.
“Our young people have shown leadership on climate, sending an unambiguous message about the need for action. There is a responsibility on all politicians to respond to that leadership and I for one will be leading on this. We also have unrivalled access to wind and ocean energy which we should maximise,” he said.
Fianna Fáil’s Lisa Chambers said state support is crucial.
“Mayo people will play our part in addressing climate change but there has to be a realisation at government level that it is more onerous on rural communities to make the changes necessary,” she said.
Fine Gael Minister Michael Ring urged the need to thread carefully.
“Everyone has to do their part but it has to happen slowly, it cannot happen overnight. It cannot be done in a way where farmers and poor people have to take more of a burden than others. Some of the daft stuff we’ve heard from Sinn Féin on this would close down rural Ireland,” he said.
Daithí Ó Fallamháin of the Irish Freedom Party was critical of many climate change measures.
“Our carbon footprint is tiny in comparison to China and India. It won’t do us any good but it will hurt us economically. It is not our fight lets see what the big boys do,” he said.
Joe Daly of People Before Profit suggests state intervention in agriculture.
“I think that the state should take the agricultural monopolies into public ownership and use their €2.85 billion in profits to help farmers rapidly transition to a carbon neutral form of agriculture. Farmers, if supported, can plant thousands of hectares of native woodlands and still have 70 percent leftover for other forms of production,” he said.
Kamal Uddin of the Labour Party is actively trying to improve the environment in his election campaign.
“As part of my election campaign I have stopped handing out flyers and instead I am giving out free trees for people to plant. If every person plants one tree in their back garden it will have a big impact. They can do this very easily and it will not cost you much. This will be for our next generation because we have to save the planet for them,” he said.