Irish Minister outlines priorities

Now a month into the job, John Gormley, Ireland's Environment Minister and head of the country's Green Party, has outlined his priorities - and said he believes global warming threatens our very existence.

Mr Gormley was invited to join the government on June 14, a move widely viewed as designed to show that Ireland was serious about environmental issues.

At the weekend the Minister chose a summer school as the platform to unveil his department’s plans.

“In government the issues and principles remain the same,” he said.

“What changes is that the Green Party, through me as the Minister for the Environment, are now responsible for progressing the environmental agenda.”

He said he hoped to reform waste management, moving Ireland away from its reliance on incineration and towards reduction and more recycling.

A review would be carried out of the Environmental Protection Agency to ensure it had the tools it needed to do the job.

Penalties for environmental crimes and enforcement of regulations must also be considered, said the Minister.

“These priority areas, like almost all environmental issues, have a direct bearing on our quality of life and the quality of life of future generations,” he added.

But some environmental issues were even more pressing, he argued.

“Global warming threatens not just our quality of life but the very survival of this planet and we who live on it,” he said.

“If global warming is allowed to continue unchecked, the sheer scale of potential disruption and destruction of people and the environment is almost beyond comprehension.”

Mr Gormley quoted April’s IPCC report which pointed out that it would be the poorest nations which were hardest hit by climate change.

“In other words those who have contributed least to the problem will bear the brunt of the consequences,” he said.

Dry areas, such as those in sub Saharan Africa, will become up to 30% drier, resulting in food shortages and increased levels of illness.

Low lying areas with high rainfall, like the Bay of Bengal, will become up to 30% wetter, said the Minister.

“People living in these low-lying areas, again many of them living below the poverty line, will be very prone to flooding.”

He called on people across Ireland to shoulder their share of the burden in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“Climate change is not something the government or the Green Party can be left to tackle alone,” he said.

“It is not down to business, to farmers, to commuters or any specific sector. That is the challenge. It is down to every individual to play their part, to take action, to become part of the solution.”

David Gibbs

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