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Wednesday 11 December 2019

'Do or die' - young climate activists take over Dail and demand action

Ceann Comhairle Sean O Fearghail with young delegates. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins Dublin
Ceann Comhairle Sean O Fearghail with young delegates. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins Dublin

Young climate activists have presented politicians with 10 simple steps to help save the planet.

The Dail was taken over by 157 delegates aged 10 to 17 from 26 counties in a special youth assembly to formulate a list of priority actions.

The gathering was jointly organised by the Oireachtas and RTE as part of the broadcaster's special Climate Week series of events.

Ceann Comhairle Sean O Fearghail welcomed the group to the Dail, saying: "There is something monumentally important about this gathering.

"Many of you have been outside the gate waving your banners on the subject of climate change and now you're inside in the place where the decisions are made."

However, in hard-hitting speeches, the delegates showed they were not to be overawed by the occasion or compliments.

Conal O'Boyle, a 17-year-old student from Muff, Co Donegal, said it was actually not a proud day for the Dail or its usual occupants.

"The fact that we are sitting in their seats should serve as an embarrassment to them as they have embarrassed us on an international level when it comes to climate change," he said.

Strike

Sioda Monaghan (14), from Claremorris, Co Mayo, said politicians needed to stop talking about climate change as a future event.

"This is not only our future, it is our present," she said. "Climate action is not something we can chose not to do. It's do or die."

Following opening speeches, the delegates broke into five working groups to debate proposals brought from their own schools, community groups and climate strike committees.

After several hours, they whittled the ideas down to two recommendations under each of five headings covering power, economics, food and farming, environment and education.

Among the actions they have demanded are grants to help supermarkets install doors on all refrigerated displays.

Kian Oliver (16), from Boher- meen, Co Meath, said open fridges accounted for 70pc of energy consumption in supermarkets.

"When you use your fridge or freezer at home, you don't leave it open. It would be a reckless waste of energy," Kian said.

He said costings by the group had concluded that two years of grant assistance from the State would be repaid in a year through energy savings.

Other demands included an immediate end to support for the proposal to import fracked gas into the country, the introduction of taxes on carbon emissions by business, the development of a domestic hemp growing industry and climate impact labelling on food products.

There were also calls for the mandatory planting of trees on 10pc of every parcel of farming land, the creation of a crime of ecocide and the introduction of compulsory climate education at Junior Cert level and an optional course at Leaving Cert level.

The recommendations will be sent to all TDs and senators and a follow-up meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is to take place.

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