The young people of Limerick who marched demanding action on climate change deserve more than empty platitudes. We owe it to them to get serious about climate change, and to take action to lessen the burden on future generations. It’s shameful that our young people have to march because we as adults have neglected our obligations. With that in mind I’ve jotted down a few things that I think we can do right now here in Limerick, to answer the call from our young people to take action.
Dump the M20
The road between Limerick and Cork does not have enough traffic by European standards to merit a motorway. The M20 would cost a billion euro, money that we would borrow from future generations saddling them not with the bill for a misguided monument to regional aspirations, but the bill of dealing with the increased emissions that would result. The M20 would encourage unsustainable long-distance commuting by private car. We could use some of the money to upgrade the rail service between Limerick and Cork – the first train doesn’t get in to Cork until 9:30 and involves a 40 minute wait at Limerick Junction. To be clear, you cannot credibly support climate action and also support the building of a €1 billion motorway that isn’t needed.
Build houses where kids can walk to school
If you build homes near schools (and shops, workplaces) you give people a choice. You don’t force people into a car. You allow people who can’t afford a car the same access as those who do. We will strengthen our towns, villages and cities by building homes in the centre of them, not in the outskirts. If we are to drastically cut our transport emissions we need to rethink the way we plan communities. Increasing density in the villages of County Limerick will make it easier to provide bus services, fibre broadband, and will make local shops more viable.
Stop car-dependent developments on the outskirts of the city
Limerick and Clare County Councils are planning a “Northern Distributor Road” to open up development north of Limerick City in Clare. UL are planning a “new town” in the fields of south-east Clare. LIT want to convert an abandoned Celtic Tiger shopping centre into a remote campus. These would all be car-dependent, emissions-heavy developments that would hollow out our city and be unserviceable by effective public transport. We’ve lots of free sites in the centre of our city. Let’s use them to build houses, shops, offices and educational facilities.
Expand community-run insulation programmes
Tait House Community Enterprise in Southill is a community-owned social enterprise that does free home insulation upgrades for people receiving certain welfare payments, and provides commercial insulation services for private homeowners, providing jobs and keeping money in the community. We need to find more ways to support organisations like this, giving people warmer homes and more prosperous communities.
Get serious about sustainable transport
The bus service in Limerick is of woeful quality, and although many of us gripe about Bus Éireann, the fact is that we have designed our city to facilitate the private car, and it’s no surprise when buses get delayed for hours in traffic jams. We need to take space away from the car and give it to buses, bikes and boots. A Luas-style service could easily be run between Raheen, city centre and Castletroy, if we reduce traffic lanes and give buses segregated space.
Complete the transition to wind energy
We can no longer justify burning dirty coal for electricity up the Shannon Estuary at Moneypoint. We need to expand windfarms, giving communities ownership so they have a stake, and further reduce our emissions from electricity generation.
Support local food enterprise
Agriculture is a huge source of emissions in Ireland. The main cause of this is a misguided national agriculture policy, but there are still things we can do about it in Limerick. We have some of the best grazing land in the world down this part of the country, and yet much of it is used to produce generic powdered milk for export, some of which is made into breast milk substitute and sold to developing countries. This is emission-intensive, low-value and low-employment agriculture. We can change this by encouraging local food businesses, especially in the dairy sector, to produce high-value desirable products such as cheese. This will provide more income, more local employment, and reduce the emissions per euro earned by agriculture in Limerick.
Listen, and act
The youth of Limerick have spoken in their numbers. We need to listen. They have asked us to act and we need to act. The time for whataboutery and dodging responsibility has gone. Let’s listen to the young people of Limerick and give them a better future, before it’s too late.