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08 Dec 2021

Cabragh Wetlands: Can can I do to combat climate change?

Car dealers claim Ireland's emissions targets are 'unrealistic and doomed to fail'

Is this kind of living sustainable for us and our planet?

There is no point in our pretending to ourselves that we can continue with the lifestyles to which we have become accustomed.

 

Responding to climate change is not easy. There is no point in our pretending to ourselves that we can continue with the lifestyles to which we have become accustomed.


These lifestyles demand high amounts of energy which, as we saw previously, in many cases give rise to CO2 emissions; the consumption of a lot of scarce, non-renewable resources and of products which have to travel many miles to our shops and tables; and systems of transport which often convey people in their personal vehicles at a very high fuel cost per individual.


Our modern lives are built around many of these things and change will be painful and hard to contemplate. But we have to do it; we literally have no choice. It is also worth reflecting though, that even if change is difficult, once we have made the change, our new way of living may well be as good as or even better than the old. One of our biggest challenges is to embrace the unknown with hope and confidence.


A good place to start in terms of our individual, household and business responses to climate change is to consider what is called our ‘carbon footprint’. Your carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases (including carbon dioxide and methane) that are generated by your actions.


In 2019, Ireland had the second worst emissions of greenhouse gases per capita in the EU at 12.1 tons which was 53% higher than the EU28 average of 7.9 tons. The average carbon footprint globally is about 4.5 tons per annum and to reach global warming targets, it needs to drop to about 2 tons average by 2050. You can see the size of the challenge globally and nationally.


There are lots of tools for measuring your carbon footprint and the parts of your life which produce it. Two recommended by the EPA are those of an organisation called Carbon Footprint which you will find at https://www.carbon footprint.com/individuals .html and of the World Wildlife Fund which you will find at https://footprint.wwf.org. uk/#/. You will need to have gathered some information about your energy use, your transport use and other expenditures to use these tools.


We emit CO2 in direct and indirect ways. Our direct emissions arise through our use of fossil fuels (coal, petrol, diesel), our use of electricity which is generated by fossil fuels and other CO2 and methane emitting activities such as landfill. Our indirect emissions arise from the energy and other materials used in the production of the goods we use. This is called embedded carbon and it is something we can sometimes forget about.


However, almost everything we use has required energy to produce it; some things have required a lot. This has to be added to our carbon footprint as it is an emission for which we are responsible. That is why reducing our purchases of manufactured goods and their reuse and recycling are so important. By reducing the amount of new goods we buy we reduce the amount of energy for which we are responsible and our carbon footprint as a result.


When we think about reducing our carbon footprint there are two categories of action which we can take. One is familiar. It is to reduce the amount of direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions for which we are responsible. In addressing this we need to look at our energy use in our homes, our use of transport and how we travel, what kind of electricity we buy, the amount of packaging on the goods we buy, how much we reuse and recycle, how many things we buy and use once or twice and so on.


The second may not be so familiar and is called offsetting. This means that, in order to partly compensate for your own CO2 emissions and while you are in the process of reducing them, you contribute to carbon reduction activities elsewhere, One important type of offsetting is the development of what are called carbon sinks. These are types of land-use such as forests, bogs and wetlands which capture and hold CO2 so that its concentration in the atmosphere is reduced. Offsetting is a controversial approach which is opposed by some and it is generally accepted as not being the solution to climate change.

Reducing our emissions is still the number one priority by a long way. But offsetting is another weapon in the fight and an additional step to take while your reduction steps are being implemented. You can find some Irish carbon offset schemes at https://selectra.ie/energy /guides/environment/carbon -footprint-offset.


As well as at the individual and household level, there are other things which can be done at a community level and the opportunity to be involved in these is going to ramp up in the next few months. The consultation about the next Local Economic and Community Plan will be starting soon and will have a significant climate action content. It will be a real opportunity for businesses and communities to think about the ways in which they can make a contribution to the battle for the planet. It is worth remembering that, in future, it is very likely that all funding programmes will have significant climate action elements incorporated in them. Actions which include a real climate change component are likely to be more attractive to funders than those which don’t.


Other initiatives will be coming from Government through the Local Authority in the near future. These include an initiative called ‘Building Low Carbon Communities’ which will provide help and support to communities to reduce their carbon output. In addition, a scheme called the Creative Climate Action Fund will allow communities to bid for funding to support actions in this area. And these are in addition to existing and successful schemes such as the Sustainable Energy Community initiative of the SEAI, of which there a number of examples in Tipperary.


And there is one final thing to consider. In Tipperary we are lucky to have the Tipperary Energy Agency one of the leading energy agencies in Europe as well as a Local Authority that is committed to the issue of climate action. Local Authorities are the bodies at local level which are charged with ensuring action to reduce carbon footprints. They already have Climate Action Plans in place, and these will soon be updated.


At Cabragh Wetlands we contribute to the climate action agenda in various ways, including by maintaining the wetland habitat as a carbon sink. We will be increasing our focus on the climate action area over the next few years. We are very happy to be a place where climate change conversations can take pace and have both the indoor and outdoor facilities to inspire and accommodate these conversations.


While we get wonderful public and private financial support for our building works and are assisted in our activities by some excellent CE Scheme workers, we rely very heavily on a great and committed body of volunteers. If you are interested in what we do and would like to help achieve a just CO2 transition by doing a bit of voluntary work, please do get in touch by email or phone. Just search for Cabragh Wetlands and all our contact details will be there.


If you would like to download any of these climate change articles or click on the links which are referred to in them, you will find them at www.cabraghwetlands.ie.

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