Skip to main content
Normal View

Joint Committee on Environment and Climate Action debate -
Friday, 3 Jun 2022

Youth Perspectives on Climate Challenges: Discussion with Foróige and Comhairle na nÓg

Apologies have been received from Deputies Bríd Smith and Christopher O'Sullivan, and Senator Pauline O'Reilly, who are unable to attend. The purpose of this meeting is to engage with youth representatives from both Foróige and Comhairle na nÓg, and discuss the youth perspective on climate challenges and climate action.

First, I thank Senator Mark Daly, Cathaoirleach of the Seanad who is in attendance, for making the Seanad Chamber available to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Environment and Climate Action for this very important engagement with young people to discuss this critically important topic. I call on the Cathaoirleach to make some opening remarks.

I thank the Chairman and all of the members of the committee for their hard work. Dia daoibh, a cháirde, agus fáilte romhaibh go dtí Seanad Éireann.

I welcome the young people who are here today. I look forward to hearing their voices, views and opinions on what we should do about this most important topic. They are sitting in seats that are normally occupied by Senators who make decisions that affect the future of everyone. We are delighted that the witnesses are here to engage with us and they come from counties Donegal, Roscommon and Dublin and even Clare Island in County Mayo. It is an important day when we will hear their views and ideas about climate action and climate justice. We want to hear what they think we should do to secure the future, which is now uncertain.

I thank the Chairperson of this committee, Deputy Brian Leddin, and all of the members of the committee and the Oireachtas who are here today. I thank the Minister of State, Senator Pippa Hackett, for attending also. We are proud that Seanad Éireann during its 100th anniversary has a Senator who has been appointed a Minister of State with responsibility for the important sector of forestry.

I welcome to the Distinguished Visitors Gallery Mr. Seán Campbell, CEO, and Ms Barbara Daly, chairperson, Foróige. I would also take this opportunity to thank all of the Foróige staff and all of the volunteers for what they do. I welcome Ms Renagh Hayden, Comhairle na nÓg and thank all of the staff and volunteers in that organisation. The national participation of these organisations and their staff is important.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Seanad Éireann. We launched the celebrations with the theme of Minority Voices, Major Changes and with us on that occasion was the former President of Ireland, Mrs. Mary Robinson, who for 20 years, as a Senator, sat in the seats in which the young people present now sit. She set us a challenge regarding climate action. She said: The Seanad can do more ... It’s an issue that the Seanad can raise on behalf of ordinary people.” She said that the climate issue "needs a constant everyday attention that the Seanad could give it. There’s an urgency about making this not an ‘expert’ subject but an everyday subject.”.

Greta Thunberg's simple action of protesting outside her own Parliament in Sweden on Fridays has led to millions of young people all over the world taking similar action by protesting outside the parliaments in their own countries. Outside of this Parliament we used to have protesters on Fridays and we have now invited the protesters inside so that we can hear their views, and opinions, on what we need to do.

Finally, I am delighted that there are Members from both the Dáil and Seanad present. I thank the Cathaoirleach of this committee, Deputy Brian Leddin, who is leading this important initiative on this historic occasion when we have young people in Seanad Éireann for the first time in its 100-year history in a formal setting as part of proceedings of the Oireachtas.

I welcome Senator Pippa Hackett who is the Minister of State with responsibility for land use and biodiversity. It is a real privilege for us that she is with us and will engage with these young people. I call on her to say a few words.

I thank the Chairperson, Deputy Leddin, and the Cathaoirleach, Senator Daly. I welcome Deputy Leddin and his Dáil colleagues to the Upper House of the Oireachtas, and we get a kick out of doing so.

Today is an historic day in the Seanad and I appreciate being part of it. I thank the Chairperson and his committee colleagues for arranging this meeting and making it happen. I thank the representatives of Foróige and Comhairle na nÓg for agreeing to participate, for their time and for their commitment to this cause.

The young people present know that Ireland and the whole world will face significant challenges in next 30 years. They will have reached my current age in 30 years' time. If that thought is not frightening enough by then, as a nation and a species, we will have either succeeded in meeting our emissions targets and reversing biodiversity loss or we will be in totally uncharted territory. You know this. I do not need to hypothesise on what this failure might look like. Many experts and scientists have described what the situation will look like for people and nature across the world. People from Sir David Attenborough to sports personalities like Sebastian Vittel to media celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio are pretty effective in describing devastating scenarios far more effectively than I can.

Mr. Jerry Bostick, a former NASA flight controller, was interviewed in advance of the creation of the movie "Apollo 13" . He was asked if flight controllers ever panicked to which he replied: "No. When bad things happened we just calmly laid out all the options, and failure was not one of them". That attitude is what we need now. We must review our options but exclude failure. You and young people more generally are telling us, the policymakers, that we need to do more and we learned this week that we must do more. We learned that even if we implement all of our current policies then we will still not have met our 2030 targets, which is not good enough and we all know that.

I recommit to actively pursue policies that move us from our dependence on fossil fuel be that in our energy systems, transport systems, agricultural systems and land use. By doing so, we will support biodiversity and ecosystems.

I recommit to pursuing actively policies that move us from a dependence on fossil fuels, be it in our energy, transport or agriculture systems or our land use. By doing this we will also support biodiversity and our ecosystems. We policymakers need something from those present. We need them to continue to use their voices and their votes, when they are old enough to use them, to influence others, and to use their spending power to choose climate action every term. We need them to choose sustainable fashion, use public transport, buy local and perhaps spend less time online. They need to place climate action at the core of their decisions and call out inaction among their family, friends, community and public representatives. As a society, we simultaneously want to act while not wanting to act, at least not yet. This contradiction is a phase and we will move beyond it, but the question is, "When?" Those present can help enormously with speeding up this action.

I will leave those present with one thought, namely, a personal belief that it will be community and collaboration, not individualism, that will get us through this. I thank them for their willingness to work in their communities. That is evident today.

Unfortunately, commitments will take me off to Bloom, and I am sad to miss the interjections and communications from those present today, but I will look back on the video recording and look forward to hearing what said. I am off with my trusty constituency team, Rosie, Julie, Vlas and Sinead, who are in the Gallery. We are going by bus and foot, and perhaps bike, to the Phoenix Park. I wish those present a wonderful day and I hope they enjoy every moment of it. They need to remember it is very historic. I thank the Chairman.

On behalf of the Joint Committee on Environment and Climate Action, I welcome you all to the Chamber and thank you for taking the time to engage with us on this very important topic. I also welcome those in the Gallery to the Chamber.

By way of introduction, my name is Brian Leddin and I am a Green Party Deputy. I was elected to the Dáil in 2020 and I have been Chair of this committee since September 2020. The joint committee is an all-party committee made up of 14 members, nine of whom are Deputies and five of whom are Senators. Last year, Ireland passed into law one of the most ambitious decarbonisation pathways in the world, and this committee had significant input into the law. Our climate Act requires us to reduce our carbon emissions by over 50% within a single decade. This ambitious path ahead will be extremely challenging, but the path to get here has been inspiring because our story started with our people.

Due to the immense work of grassroots campaigners, a Citizens' Assembly on climate change was formed. Ninety-nine men and women, who were randomly selected, listened to and engaged with experts and produced a groundbreaking list of recommendations, and that went on to inform the legislation we passed in the Oireachtas.

Our story continues and our people will be at its heart. This committee believes it is particularly important we continue this dialogue with young people, as the committee recognises the key role youth will play in tackling climate change, and this is the reason we have organised this event today. Today marks the first engagement with young people and it is the committee's plan that this will be the first of many such engagements.

The path ahead will be extremely challenging, as I said, and we should be under no illusions about that. Greenhouse gases are interwoven into every aspect of our lives, including the food we eat and how we travel, heat our homes and generate our electricity. They are part and parcel of the technological revolution from the earliest days of the revolution two centuries ago right up to the present day.

All change is difficult, even the smallest of changes. We need vast changes to our society, economy and how we live our lives if we are to solve this existential crisis. We should be under no illusions as to how difficult this will be and we will need everybody in the Chamber and across politics and society to work hard to solve this. It will be very difficult, but we have no choice. We look forward to listening to youth perspectives on climate challenges today and having a worthwhile engagement with every one of you.

Before we begin the session, I have to read out the standard note on parliamentary privilege. I remind everybody in the Chamber that there is a long-standing parliamentary practice that you should not criticise or make charges against any person or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable or otherwise engage in speech that might be regarded as damaging to the good name of the person or entity. If your statements are defamatory in relation to an identifiable person or entity, I will ask you to discontinue your remarks and you must comply with any such direction. We normally do not have a problem here, so do not worry about that.

I will now call on each speaker to make a contribution. We will begin with our participants from Comhairle na nÓg.

Mr. Leo Galvin

I thank the members and Chair of the committee for hosting the meeting and for the opportunity to speak before them today. We, as young people in modern times, are speaking out across the world in strong numbers because we must convey the importance of a message, namely, that climate change is here and change needs to be made. To some degree, the message has been heard but not enough is being done.

I may be here to speak on only one aspect of this issue, but I am speaking here today as a collective with my peers, as a combined voice. I am asking each person listening to take in what we have to say with the future of young people in mind. The issue under the broad umbrella of climate change and the environment I will speak about today is the energy versus emissions crisis in this country, the crisis of energy production.

Ireland has long been conscious of the effects of energy production on the environment. Ireland used to be a nation that led the world in this area. It was ambitious, as we can see with the cases of Ardnacrusha and Turlough Hill, two world leading hydroelectric power plants in their time. These projects were questioned and some opposed them, but they fulfilled a vital need for clean energy.

The issue the world faces is climate change, and Ireland has missed several of its emissions targets towards combating this issue. This makes the necessary goal of net zero emissions by 2050 look more and more unlikely to actually happen. This goal is vital to sustaining the future of young people and, globally, sustaining the future of our planet. Though Ireland should be commended on its rapid investment in wind, solar and hydroelectric energy production, it is not reaching the heights needed to combat climate change.

If we look closer at recent events and compare our situation with that of our European peers, it is clear to see we are not secure in our position as a country. Ireland is heavily reliant on natural gas for its energy production. In fact, 52% is reliant on natural gas. The Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Deputy Ryan, has projected that, without change, 90% of Ireland's natural gas supply will be imported by 2030. This is not sustainable for the future of Ireland as it means the majority of our energy will be dependent on the supply from one country. As recent events with fuel supply for energy production have shown us, such a reliance on a single source of natural gas is not a good thing for Ireland's energy security. We need only look as far as Germany's situation with Russia to see an example of the effects of relying predominantly on one country for energy.

Another issue Ireland faces is how to produce energy cost effectively where there is increasing demand for it. Compromising on greenhouse gas emissions by having to reopen another power plant supplied by non-renewable sources is not an option. The solution the Government has been pursuing involves wind, solar and hydroelectricity. The problem is these solutions do not give us energy on demand when there is a need for more energy at a specific time. These forms of energy production do not provide what is needed because they rely on uncontrollable factors to work. In an easier way of explaining it, if the wind stops blowing or if the sun is covered by a cloud, there is no more energy produced by turbines or solar panels. To make sure we have energy when there is no wind or shine, we use batteries. These batteries have a strongly negative impact on the environment.

At the moment, they are not recycled in the numbers they should be, not to mention the costly environmental and human tolls in some countries for extracting the raw materials from which they are made.

One country that may be a prime example for Ireland to follow is France. A Celtic interconnector project has been planned, joining the French and Irish power grids. In addition, France is a pioneer of another type of clean energy Ireland will be using once the interconnector is complete, namely, nuclear energy. The latter may be one solution to the Irish energy versus emissions crisis. This type of energy was considered at Carnsore Point but was passed up for a coal-fired plant. Concerns arising from the Fukushima and Chernobyl accidents have long been dispelled by way of new reactor designs and international safety protocols. Ireland is a prime candidate for nuclear energy, thanks to our low seismic activity, our proximity to, and good relations with, world-leading experts on the subject and the fact we are a neutral country. The advances in this area of clean energy should be explored, with the potential of solving the issue Ireland faces. Leaps and bounds have been made in this area over the past few decades, making nuclear energy production much safer and greener.

In the battle between energy and emissions, in the context of international policies and an ever growing demand for energy, I do not envy the committee's position. As a young person, I am concerned about my future, as are many like me. We have a right to influence and have meaningful input into climate policies that may damage the future. We must do so to ensure there is a future for young people. Renewable energy is everything in modern society and it is the only thing we, as young people, will accept, because it means there will be a world in which to live. We might be on the right path but it is a matter of getting there on time.

Members rose and applauded.

The next speaker is Ms Ruth Cunningham.

Ms Ruth Cunningham

I am pleased to join my fellow Comhairle na nÓg representatives and Foróige members in engaging with the committee. I represent Roscommon Comhairle na nÓg. I am honoured to be here today to talk about my perspective on climate challenges nationally. I will discuss energy consumption and conservation.

Sunken towns, mass extinction, extreme weather events and loss of habitat all seem like distant issues, but that is not the case. Climate change is a real problem and it is happening right now. A total of 78% of Irish youth believe climate change is the number one worry for the majority of young people, surpassing other important issues such as mental health and drugs and alcohol abuse. It no longer only affects Third World countries; it is a global issue. According to National Geographic, sea levels have risen by 23 cm since 1880. Furthermore, according to the World Wildlife Fund, global temperatures have increased by 1.1°C since 1850. If we do not act now, temperatures will rise by at least 1.5°C by 2050.

We must consider what that will mean for us. Sea levels will rise by 1.5 ft, leaving us with sunken coastal towns. In the west of Ireland, this would mean the disappearance of coastal hotspots such as Salthill, Rosses Point and Clifden. A total of 70% of all coral reefs will be extinct. Some 1 billion people will be affected by regular heatwaves. Precipitation will increase by 100%, severely impacting low-lying areas in counties such as Wexford. Plants and animals will be at risk of losing 30% of their habitats. These issues may not faze members of the committee right now. The majority of people in this room aged over 50 will not live to face the consequences. However, for those of us who will be forced to confront this possible future, we must act now.

Ireland has a long history of peat consumption, with many people across the country heating their homes with turf and consuming energy via peat-powered power stations. I come from a rural area in western Ireland that is still heavily dependent on peat consumption. A 2013 study of Irish peatland carbon emissions published in Irish Geography stated that industrially drained and stripped peatlands emit 2.1 tonnes of carbon per year, which is the equivalent of driving a car 30,000 km. That is before the harvested peat is even burned. Most peat consumers are aware this is unsustainable but they have no other options. We need support to change.

Our peat consumption has had negative effects on the environment. Peat-powered power stations emit nitrogen oxide and sulphur dioxide. When these gases mix with rainwater, they form weak acid rain. This is harmful to human health, animals and the environment. The nearest peat-powered power station to my home is 10 minutes up the road. In 2019, the temperature of cooling water discharged from the station into the River Shannon was too hot, causing concern over the well-being of fish in a local fishery and other wildlife species on the river. The potential for damage these stations hold has become a real and present danger to our environment. Fortunately, most peat-powered power stations have been shut down.

According to the energy use report for 2020 by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, SEAI, approximately 86% of the energy produced in Ireland that year was non-renewable. Renewables were on the rise in recent years but have since faced a dip of 0.4%. Although this is a step in the wrong direction, it was a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Even though this is a valid explanation, it highlights the convenience of non-renewable energy over renewable energy at this time. We need to consider ways in which we can make renewable energy convenient, cost-effective and readily available for consumers.

Another global event that has highlighted our need for self-sufficiency is the conflict in Ukraine. Due to the inflation crisis that has arisen partially as a result of this conflict and the sanctions on Russian gas and oil, the price of energy has skyrocketed. According to KBC Bank, we are seeing a record 18.7% monthly increase in energy costs, which means they are 43.8% higher now than they were in March 2021. This has affected not only energy prices but also housing, groceries and transport. People have to choose between heating their homes and feeding their children. A country like ours, with such good resources, should be self-sufficient.

We should be inspired by other countries that have paved the way for renewables. For example, New Zealand has the third highest rate of renewable energy consumption, with a staggering 40% of the country's energy coming from renewable sources. Like us, New Zealand is an island nation that relies heavily on hydroelectric and geothermal power. Currently, Ireland's hydroelectric power makes up only 2.5% of our energy production. We have the capacity to install more hydroelectric power stations as most of our counties have rivers running through them. We should prioritise and invest in renewable alternatives to ensure Ireland's climate goals are met. We can emulate New Zealand's renewable energy consumption by availing of the natural resources our island offers.

We must band together to fight climate change now. Non-renewables are not the answer to the climate crisis. If we work together, we will slow down climate change.

Members rose and applauded.

The next speaker is Mr. Kumayl Mustafa from Cork city.

Mr. Kumayl Mustafa

Dia daoibh ar maidin. Is mór an onóir dom a bheith anseo chun an t-ábhar seo a phlé libh. I am an 18-year-old student representing Cork city Comhairle na nÓg. I begin by asking the committee members about the clothes on their backs.

Do the members know where they were made, what they are made from, what it took to turn them from them raw materials to the fabric scratching off their skin and what will happen to them once a small tear forms in the side? When they walk into a store, do they have any idea of what they are buying off the rack and their impact on the planet? When they pick up a bundle of bananas with a fair-trade sticker, the farmers are paid a living wage to grow them. When they see the Cruelty Free International leaping bunny symbol on a product they know no animals were harmed in the making of said product. When they pick up a shirt off a rack, shuffling through half a dozen tags to find one with the word "eco" on it underneath a green background, do they have any idea what it means? How can they make an informed decision on what to buy if the information out there is nigh impossible to sift through and what is there conflicts with each other?

Let us consider how textile mills generate one fifth of the world's industrial water pollution using thousands of chemicals, many carcinogenic, to create the clothes found on the High Street. Consider the half a million tonnes of microfibres that find their way into our oceans per annum or the 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions that come from the fashion industry. In the next 50 or so years how much of the oceans will be polluted by clothes someone wore once, clothes whose impact on the environment will outweigh their impact on the consumer from the moment they left the factory, let alone his or her house? How much clean water will there be to drink if we are already living through crises across the globe as countries lack water for sanitation and drinking when by 2030 the fashion industry is set to use around 8% of fresh water extracted? When all these problems lie at the root of clothes production, how can we as consumers fight them? When 82% of European citizens do not trust the claims made by companies about their impact on the environment, it is clear the current state of consumer awareness is abysmal.

In the face of all this, many are overwhelmed and buy whatever they wish. How can one be a good person in a bad system? Fast fashion brands pump clothes out at prices affordable to all but with a major toll to the environment, both in their production and long-term effects. We cannot stop the rampant consumerism destroying our modern world and as the planet does not have the resources to match the constant growth and massive volumes of waste produced every year, we need to make efforts to help people make better choices by giving them more information about how what they are buying was made.

An eco-label defines the sustainability and the environmental impact of a product by informing consumers on the product’s materials, production or the extent of its life cycle and its uses past what we would conventionally think. By introducing a standardised eco-label, we can make it possible for consumers to compare and contrast what they buy and who they buy it from. We need labels that can clearly and concisely convey the information to everyone, not only those who have the time to spend hours researching different brands and specific labels that apply only to them.

Greenwashing is a form of marketing in which green public relations, PR, and green marketing are deceptively used to persuade the public that an organisation's products, aims and policies are environmentally friendly. It runs rampant throughout our society, making it difficult for people to make an informed choice. It works mostly through selective disclosure, using symbolic actions as a facade for destructive practices.

A single standardised concise label would help aid the elimination of such action as well as eliminate the ambiguity behind eco-labels for the consumer by creating a new transparent system that provides a ranking of sustainability. This system is the quickest and most effective way to provide an accessible means for consumers to educate themselves on what they are buying in a way that is both efficient and clear. We need not only this but to take the opportunity to educate people on the true importance of being aware of their actions. Fast fashion’s culture of bulk buying cheap clothes to wear once is as unsustainable as it comes; flimsily made clothes within months will begin filling our waters with microplastics and lining the landfills plaguing our natural landscapes. Clothing is a human need and right; owning 20 different pairs of pants that differ slightly in colour is not. When the justification for fast fashion and clothes that are cheaply made is that their target markets focus on those who cannot afford to pay for high quality, sustainable clothing, all while these companies know these are the very same people who will be disproportionately affected by disruptions to our environment, how can we stand by and do nothing?

Changes need to be made to stop the cycle plaguing the vulnerable and the first step is to stop using their exploitation as a scapegoat for not doing what needs to be done. What we need to focus on is changing the ways in which we see clothing – going back to our roots of mending and repairing clothes – rather than treating them as disposable items. The Government needs to take the time to support those who cannot afford quality sustainable clothing, those targeted by the fast fashion companies. With proper regulations on advertising and labelling of such products, perhaps we can take the first step in fighting the rampant consumerism plaguing our society. I believe it is time to empower the consumer so he or she can make an informed choice, as is his or her right. We need to take the time to educate consumers to shop around and buy clothing that lasts. As long as brands can continue to advertise their products under a facade of greenness and low pricing, just for those products to last less than six months before they end up clogging our waterways, our tendencies will lead us to a planet that is lifeless and desolate, akin to "WALL-E", a movie released when I was just four years old predicting a future that what was once green has now turned brown by material waste.

The time for hoping things will change has long passed. I hope the contributions members of the committee will hear today will motivate them, both as lawmakers and in their everyday lives as citizens of our planet, to introduce the changes necessary to save ourselves and our planet. Gabhaim buíochas libh as an éisteacht a thug sibh dom.

Members rose and applauded.

I thank Mr. Mustafa. I now call on Mr. Dariusz Konefal from County Longford.

Mr. Dariusz Konefal

I am delighted to be here today to represent Longford Comhairle na nÓg. I thank the committee for providing an opportunity to hear the voices of young people, especially in these times where the topic of climate change can no longer be ignored. I would like to address this committee on the economic barriers to reducing our carbon footprint in the countryside.

The divide between country and city politics is always tremendous. This divide could not have been better outlined than during the ongoing debate on banning the sale of turf. From my own experience, I can say the anger and general confusion in the countryside towards the proposal on banning the sale of turf is beyond compare. However, this is not due to a lack of belief in climate change; it is squarely rooted in the fact that people see this proposal as bringing more austerity in a time already filled with it. This relates to a topic I have found commonly brought up in youth circles discussing climate change, namely, the feeling that climate action is inaccessible to those with less economic stability. I also share this point of view, especially when contrasted with the grant schemes available to people.

When living in the countryside, having a car is the only realistic choice of transport as public transport is basically non-existent. Getting a €5,000 grant to buy an electric car that costs €35,000 still requires the means to gather the additional €30,000. For most people, this is an impossible cost to take on when adding the further exorbitant monthly cost of rent, utilities and food. Buying an electric car simply would put many people’s lives in a worse-off manner discouraging this route to climate action. From that perspective, an active failing of the just transition comes into view. Such a failing could heavily slow down and hinder climate action progress in this country, which is a major cause for concern while we are still so far behind many other countries. Furthermore, the disconnect between city and countryside is directly leading to a culture war against climate action. The current situation is living a good life where a person is not climate-conscious or living a bad life where a person is climate-conscious but it does not have to be this way.

This brings me back to the proposal to ban the sale of turf. It is a change that correctly aims to secure the future of young people but suffers from the same issue as current climate policies in Ireland. It does not include any actions to protect those affected from any financial cost or even give them a financial benefit. It is a sad realisation the current rent and cost-of-living issues will be around for quite a long time but we still desperately need climate action. Such climate action cannot be financially negative for individuals. Any climate policy that is financially negative will cause massive issues for Ireland’s population and has the potential to stoke a culture war that could create a landscape like that of America - a place where individuals have become so entrenched in their anti-climate change beliefs there is seemingly no way to truly fight climate change.

Present policies towards managing the financial cost of climate action are not realistic for much of the Irish population, especially for young people, who have to deal with possibly never being able to buy their own home. This creates desperation. Desperation can lead to pushback, which certainly would slow down our climate action progress significantly. The cost-of-living crisis creates an opportunity to use financially positive climate action incentives as a sound investment that betters the lives of people and the economy, especially the future of the economy. Safeguarding people from poverty while transitioning them to a more climate-conscious life is an amazing opportunity that currently presents itself. This opportunity may never come again. It is vitally important that as my generation starts to build up our lives outside our parents’ homes, we have a realistic choice in having a climate-conscious life. Currently, this is not a realistic possibility. Policies that are financially positive to us young people are a key solution in fixing this. I implore this committee to seriously explore and scale up financially positive climate action policies and incentives. Without this, I do not believe we can call anything a just transition. People believe in climate change, but they do not believe in austerity. That is all. I thank the committee.

Members rose and applauded.

I thank Dariusz. I now call Ms Julie Murphy from County Clare.

Ms Julie Murphy

I thank the Cathaoirleach and members of the committee for the opportunity to speak today. My name is Julie Murphy and I am a 16-year-old climate activist representing Clare Comhairle Na nÓg. With today’s theme being youth perspectives on climate challenges, I believe that the perspective of young people is clear, with thousands of us in Ireland alone tackling this climate crisis right now. Climate action is not an option for us. It is a necessity, because our Earth is being destroyed and our futures are being erased. We cannot let that happen. Every day, we hear of the consequences of the climate crisis, which is a human-made problem: the rising temperatures, fires, floods, droughts, hurricanes, people struck by poverty, more climate refugees, inequalities being exacerbated, another species extinct, and more deaths.

Contrarily, we also hear of record levels of carbon dioxide being pumped into the atmosphere, of new fossil fuel stations being built, and of no action being taken. I wonder what prevents action against this crisis from being taken? Why are young people leading the change and not all generations, all of society and all the people in power? The conclusion, I discovered, is costs. When the climate crisis is mentioned, it is the negative costs, the finance, the deficits and the impact on the economy that are the main concerns. As a result, this prevents action. In the hope of actions transpiring from this speech, I will talk about this topic of costs and finance.

Short-term economic gains and an unsustainable economic model of growth at all costs blinkers us to the disaster we are hurtling towards. We must remove these blinkers and face up to the actions we must take to tackle this crisis. A crucial to reach Ireland’s climate targets and goals in a just way is equitable investment. Ireland needs to transition to a stage where sustainability and a greener way of living are the cheaper options, thereby becoming the more desired and the default options. At the moment, this transition to a sustainable, greener way of living is a privilege that only some can afford. For example, if you want to install solar panels on a house, the average cost is close to €8,000, with the support of Government grants included. With the typical earnings of an Irish person annually being almost €40,000, people would have to spend 20% of their yearly earnings just on solar panels. Households do not have this money to spare, because they are struggling to afford rising fuel costs, energy bills and surging costs of living. The expensive cost of choosing the greener options leaves people reluctant to do so and leaves those who cannot afford it behind.

In 2020, there were almost 700,000 people living in poverty in Ireland, with disadvantaged populations who are already facing inequalities making up a large percentage of this huge number. These inequalities prevent people from being involved in this sustainable transition and leave them vulnerable to the effects of the climate crisis. This needs to be solved. We cannot accept as normal 700,000 people languishing in poverty. Working to eradicate poverty, providing grants to support lower income households and ensuring people facing inequality are included in these constructive climate dialogues so that their voices are heard are only some solutions.

We as Irish people have many advantages when tackling this climate crisis. We are a small country, we are surrounded by renewable energies from the wind and ocean, we have the money to invest compared with other countries, we have the will of the people, and we have a rich history of resilience, innovation and creation to support us. Think of the Ardnacrusha hydroelectric station being built in County Clare in the 1920s. We can lead, encourage other countries to follow, and support developing countries in this transition. There are many immediate solutions available to us to ensure Ireland can transition to a sustainable, green and net zero way of life. Investing in renewable energies, supporting technological creations, banning single-use plastics, ensuring businesses are choosing sustainability, supporting farmers and fishers in their transition to greener methods, protecting biodiversity, and providing grants and tax breaks to assist people are only a few examples.

The climate action fund is an essential step in the right direction for investing, and it has the potential to support Ireland in our transition and achieving our climate targets, with €500 million being provided from 2018 to 2027. However, to achieve successfully this sustainable transition and our climate targets and to support all the sectors of our society along the way, the amount provided by this fund would need to be increased by a factor of ten. If we do not invest the money in this sustainable transition, we will face great economic costs regardless.

From 2014 to 2018, we spent €101 million in response to extreme weather events across Ireland, weather events that will only get worse. If we do invest the money into this transition preventatively, we can avoid costs like these and future expected costs. For example, by planting hundreds of thousands of native trees, the soil would be healthier so agriculture could flourish. There would be more animal habitats so native species could thrive. The air would be cleaner, the trees would provide a cooling effect, and carbon would be captured from the atmosphere. Just by planting trees, the expected costs from agriculture, animal protection, air cleaning, home cooling, public health and carbon capture would all be decreased.

This climate crisis is a rare chance for us all to right our wrongs, to tackle the inequalities of our world and to return balance to the chaos we have caused. This transition to a better world is already happening as many people and sectors of society are changing. It is time we all make the changes needed - now, together - for a better world for all. Go raibh míle maith agaibh.

Members rose and applauded.

Go raibh maith agat, Julie. I will now move to the participants from Foróige. The first is Ms Mary Osubor Kennedy who has come up from Cork.

Ms Mary Osubor-Kennedy

Before I start, I would like you to picture in your mind a board member of a national organisation, someone who speaks at national conferences and who hosts national events. Who are you picturing? What do they look like? How old are they? Well, that person is a young person, and in fact, that person is me, and why can it not be? I am Mary, I am 16 years old and I am from Cork. I am also a board member on Foróige. Today I will talk to the committee about the importance of young people being involved in decision-making and why it is particularly important in relation to the climate conversation. I thank the committee for inviting us here today and for bringing us into the conversation, not outside but inside the gates of Leinster House.

Exactly 30 years ago, in 1992, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child was ratified in Ireland. Within that, Article 12 states that every child has the right to freely express his or her views in all matters affecting them, depending on their maturity. Yet 30 years later, it is still somewhat of a novelty seeing young people included in spaces like the Oireachtas. Let us hope that today marks a real change in this situation.

In the last few years, Ireland has taken great steps in including young people in decision-making, but there is still so much more work to be done. Young people are in this grey area, where they are not considered as either children or adults. We are deemed capable enough to make the big decisions on our future, like what we will spend the rest of our lives doing as a career. We can get jobs, pay taxes and apply for driver licences, but, on the other hand, we are not considered mature enough when it comes to other matters also affecting our futures. These include who we want leading our country or having a real say in issues that are really important to us, like the environment and climate action. Young people today live in this paradox, not understanding what role to play.

Not all, but many adults see young people under the age of 18 as incapable of understanding enough to be involved in national decision-making. I am 16 years old, so I cannot vote, for example, but what is two years? Would it not be better to gradually introduce young people to decision-making? This would enable us to engage and to become active citizens in our country and to grow into understanding how the world works. There are 18-year-olds today who are completely lost because they went from being considered too young and immature to being fully grown adults in a day, with all the responsibilities that comes with that. It is a huge transition to make and we are not properly prepared for it.

It is true that young people are the next generation of leaders who will be shaping this country in future, but we are also citizens now and we are important for what we can bring to the table today. Being able to vote at 16 would bring issues like the climate crisis much more sharply into consideration and it would lead to richer decision-making, communication and change. It is not as if young people are ignorant about what we are saying. We do our research and we look into things, particularly those issues that we care about deeply, like climate action. After all, it was young people who put climate action at the top of the world agenda. We might be young, but when we are passionate about something, we put in the work.

For example, let us take Foróige’s Ecollective, many of whose members are here today. The Ecollective is a group of young people in Foróige who dedicate their time to spreading awareness of climate justice. They have recorded podcasts, hosted conferences and advised on Foróige’s climate justice programmes. The Ecollective is driven by the principle of bringing people with us and leaving no one behind. This means focusing on education, raising awareness and bringing people into the conversation rather than being in conflict. It also means including everyone, including each one of us here. No matter what one's background, it is about focusing on climate justice and how we can ensure that tackling the climate crisis does not impact certain groups or communities unfairly. Young people cannot be put into a box as if we are all the same - we are a whole sector of different opinions. Decision-makers including a more diverse set of perspectives would lead to more diverse and informed decisions. I am not saying young people are all knowing - no one is. We all keep learning throughout our lives, whether we are aged 16 or 60.

I started by saying it has been 30 years since the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child was ratified here. After 30 years, only now are we beginning to see changes being made. Let us think ahead to 30 years in the future. All of us young people here today will then be the same age as many of the members. Maybe we will be sitting where you guys are. These 30 years from now will take us to 2050, which is the year that all our climate commitments are aimed at. What will that world look like? There are a whole three decades of possibility. Let us ensure we make it count. It is time to start actually seeing young people as young people and not as children, and to see us for who we are and what we can bring to the table today, and not just who we will become in the future. It is time to start listening, really listening, and not just hearing. If young people are given the chance, you never know where we might go. I thank the committee.

Members rose and applauded.

I thank Ms Osubor-Kennedy. Now, from the opposite end of the country, from Donegal, we have Mr. Finlay Thomson.

Mr. Finlay Thomson

I thank the Cathaoirleach and the Chair and all the members who came out today on this bank holiday weekend to give their much-needed attention and time to these pressing issues. I am 16 and from Foróige in rural Donegal, and what I would like to speak about is rural transport. Coming from a rural background, this is something close to my heart and I hope the committee takes on board my suggestions.

I would like all the members to think about how they got here today. I am sure a good many took their cars, while some probably took public transport, and maybe even one or two walked. For me, though, the only possible way to get here today was to take a plane. It was not something I wanted to do. I am well aware that the carbon footprint I just created is quite high. Yet this is a constant problem that those in rural Ireland face, where we have no other option and no other means of sustainable transport. We always seem to be forced to take the most inefficient routes, the long way round, if you will.

Rural Ireland has been faced with having an increasing rate of little to no access to public transport. I know a farmer who lives beside me, and for the past 50 years he has relied on public transport to get to mass, to get his shopping and to do basic tasks. With the level of public transport available now, his best option is to phone a neighbour with a car to get his shopping. The priest comes round every so often to pray with him. This man is completely stuck in this situation of being isolated with no public transport. Right here is a prime example of the problem rural Ireland is facing. We are effectively in the Stone Age in terms of our transport systems. We do not want people to hear stories like that and then to run a mile from rural Ireland. We want to make rural areas accessible for people to come and visit or to settle in.

Things like student Leap cards and student travel cards on trains and buses as incentives for young people to use public transport at cheaper rates are fantastic initiatives, but they are completely ineffective in rural Ireland. Let me explain why. When booking a train to come back from Dublin to Sligo, I was told by my friend to remember to use my student card on the train. I had to actually ask that person to explain what a student card was and how I could go about getting one. I realised, because my friend was someone who used public transport a lot, that the incentive of a cheaper ticket was much higher in that person's case, compared with me using a train in Ireland for the first time. Recently, public transport fares have been reduced for the first time in 75 years. This is an amazing initiative, but we cannot wait another 75 years for major change.

The possibility of a carbon tax could greatly help incentivise the use of more public transport. If rural Ireland remains car-centric, though, rising fuel prices will cause the carbon tax to be completely disproportionate to the rest of Ireland. If there is no other option but to use carbon-emitting transport daily, then the whole point of the carbon tax is lost. We need developed transport systems that run inter-county as well as intra-county, and not just to Dublin and back. We need this to incentivise people in respect of the benefits of public transport and show why they should take it. We cannot just look at electric cars to solve our problems for us either. An electric car must be driven for six years before it is carbon neutral. Electric cars are a stop-gap measure, one far from being ready to solve our sustainable transport crisis. Until we can meet the requests for a proper infrastructure of charging points, so they can be used in rural settings, and also not in a context of harmfully extracting more materials from the ground, then electric cars are not yet a sustainable option.

Our suggestions for the committee are to bring Ireland into the 21st century in public transport systems right across our nation. We want to see a developed infrastructure of public transport right across the board, with an emphasis on train systems in rural counties such as Donegal. Inter-county, as well as intra-county, rail travel is something near and dear to our hearts in the Ecollective. We all love our capital city, but I want to be able to visit my friend here, Orna, down in Cork at some stage and there is no sustainable way of doing that now. One hundred years ago, there were more trains, more train stations and more routes in Ireland than today. We must look to the past and learn from it to better our future.

Rural Ireland is not the only place that needs improvement. The pedestrianisation and implementation of a congestion tax in cities like Dublin is necessary. A congestion tax would be an incentive for people in the city to use public transport and to balance the impact of the carbon tax on rural Ireland.

This would free up the city and present the opportunity for it to be pedestrianised properly as well as generate some short-term funding. Other options, such as hydrogen cars, could lead to a suitable alternative to electric cars. They could solve some of the problems posed by electric cars in rural Ireland. On top of everything the transition between our normal everyday cars to hydrogen ones would be extremely straightforward. Refuelling them would just be like fuelling a normal petrol car but putting in hydrogen instead of petrol. Implementation in rural areas would be easy as the infrastructure of filling stations is already in place and just needs to be converted to supply hydrogen. Hydrogen modes of transport could also have other applications such as hydrogen trains or buses. Hydrogen would make trains more sustainable modes of transport. The capabilities of hydrogen for transport are limitless and provide some great alternatives to electric and fossil fuels.

My final recommendation to the committee is to increase the funding that goes towards the transport sector. The Department of Finance's expenditure data states that transport has been one of the two lowest funded sectors since 2011. In 2020 motor tax revenues in Ireland generated €6.2 billion according to The Irish Times. That same year only €2.68 billion was funded to the transport sector. This proves that transport is not regarded as a worthy enough sector to receive substantial funding which it clearly needs.

All the suggestions that I have made here today will require funding. Saying that there is a lack of funding for the transport sector is a worn-out excuse. The lack of rural transport in Ireland will only decrease further if something is not done about it. The decline of rural Ireland itself becomes even more pronounced as young people are increasingly isolated which invariably forces them to migrate to urban areas. I hope for future generations that we realise the tragedy of rural transport and the effect that it has on our nation. I also realise we are making progress with meetings such as this, today, with everyone who has attended listening.

Members rose and applauded.

Ms Orna O'Brien

I am 16 years old and represent Foróige in lovely west Cork. I thank the committee members for hearing my voice today and the voice of the other young people here calling for serious change in terms of climate action. I am here for every young person who stood out in the cold and rain and marched because they do not just want simple measures such as levies on plastic bags and coffee cups in our country. We want to change the foundation of how we approach life in Ireland, in every community, in every corner of this island. We know that is a huge ask, but as the generation that will invoke change and step away from this fast-paced life we find ourselves in, we are looking to go back to the basics.

"Community" is a word loved by the Irish people. It is at the heart and soul of our culture. We trust our neighbours and friends and value their opinions, which is why we strongly encourage schemes for climate justice led by local leaders who would be in charge of initiatives. We see GAA coaches, Tidy Towns co-ordinators, Foróige volunteers and school principals as our advocates. I am sure all of us can think of a perfect person for this kind of role in our own Iives. Community-led programmes are more effective than outside experts who come in and preach to communities. Change must come from the bottom up as well as the top down.

Living in this country should be accessible for everyone. However, according to World Bank data in 2017, Ireland was the third most expensive country in Europe in which to live. I wonder is this because we cannot seem to run as efficiently as our neighbouring countries? As a country we are behind in our sustainable practices. It is not easy or cheap to live in an as environmentally friendly a way as some people in Ireland may wish to. From having to own a car because there is simply not enough reliable public transport to the fact that we are not self-sufficient in dealing with our own waste or the sheer cost of more sustainable products. Being sustainable should not only be a choice for the wealthy. It is for everyone of all incomes. The legislators of this country have an opportunity to play a greater role in making it easier for consumers to make sustainable choices. Legislators must step in and create national standards over what we consume to better our country's overall performance in the game of global sustainability. Currently we are losing but we believe in having good practices in certain areas and not shaming small efforts at the beginning. "At the beginning" is a key part of that statement because we must all start somewhere. Just because we are behind as a country does not mean we cannot make a comeback.

One great way that Ireland can be a leader in climate action is by investing in creating a circular economy. We know that is a focus of the committee which is why our Foróige group Ecollective defines the circular economy as designing products and materials that can be reused as much as possible. At end of life such goods can be recycled to limit the amount of waste we produce. A case study we looked at on the Ecollective’s Future Proof Living podcast was the fashion industry, which I will take as an example of how we can implement a circular economy. Fast fashion is one of the world's biggest climate crisis contributors. It is cheap, often poorly made clothing that is churned out at great speed, with new trends released every few days. The fashion industry accounts for 20% of all global wastewater and 8% to 10% of all global carbon emissions, which is more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.

Ireland is a small country but a cultural giant. We can use this responsibility to tackle fast fashion. What can we do to tackle this on an individual basis? A perfect reality would be to fall back to the practices of our parents and grandparents in repairing and altering anything we can as opposed to simply getting a replacement. How can we do this? For example the trousers I am wearing today were bought second hand and then tailored to fit me in my local alterations shop. Small efforts like this can create new habits. We must buy carefully, buy second hand and wear our clothes as much as possible.

Nationally, how can we be a country that creates positive change in the fashion industry and help it become a circular industry? We are famous for our quality food because we know exactly where it came from, who prepared it and how it was preserved. The potatoes of a particular brand of crisps can be tracked back to the field they were grown in. Why are there are so many legal requirements for packaging on food but not the same extensive information on clothing labels? All that is legally required to be included on a clothing label is the fibre content. This in no way outlines the full story of where our clothes are made, how and by whom. We can be a leading country in tackling fast fashion by implementing mandatory extensive information on all clothing labels. More information for consumers will help to create the circular economy we need. There could also be new standards for fashion companies to use materials that can be recycled or create less waste.

We can also support home-grown, local, sustainable businesses and therefore support our local communities too. Measures like these would mean a great deal to my generation because where we spend our money as under-18s is the most political action we can take. As Samuel Awe, a guest on our podcast, said, "Every euro that you spend is like casting a vote for the future that you want." We young people want to work with our legislators and communities, and with adults at home and in schools. The work starts now, though, not when we are in our late 20s and 30s. I hope from what I have said today that members have listened and are already manifesting ideas as to how we can work together to make the kind of future we believe in. I thank the members of the committee.

Members rose and applauded.

I thank Ms O'Brien. We will now proceed to Ms Sarah Aitken, from Bohola, County Mayo.

Ms Sarah Aitken

Chairman, committee members and people of Ireland, my name is Sarah Aitken, I am 17, and I am a member of Foróige from Mayo. I am here today to speak about waste and how our country can manage waste better. I will talk about recycling waste, reducing unnecessary waste and reusing waste in productive ways.

First, I will discuss recycling. Although Ireland is improving each year regarding how much waste is being recycled, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, people living in Ireland produce more than 14 million tonnes of waste each year. We cannot continue this. There are some important ways in which our policymakers can encourage people to recycle more, including by making recycling affordable and easily accessible for people all over the country. We need to make recycling appealing for both the general public and the manufacturing industry. For example, in Wales waste recycling jumped from 5% to 64% over 20 years because the government there put ambitious plans in place, including reducing single-use products, waste separation in households and putting a responsibility scheme in place for manufacturers.

As a young person, I feel there is a lack of available information and understanding about the Irish recycling system. Many people are not aware that 36% of recycling is contaminated because people are using the wrong bins, or that much of our waste in Ireland is actually incinerated. In Ireland, there may be a lack of understanding and awareness about the process of recycling. I feel that if people saw the many benefits from their recycling efforts, they would be more inclined to participate.

Much recycling is contaminated because products are made of several components, only some of which are recyclable. For example, a plastic bottle is made up of a lid, bottle and label. The bottle could be recyclable but the lid and label might not be. Often people don't know this and throw the whole thing away. This means a perfectly good recyclable product can be rejected and burned. It can be very confusing for people. However, my suggested solution would be to introduce better standards and regulations so products with multiple components would have to be fully recyclable. This would greatly reduce the amount of incorrect recycling that happens in Ireland.

We also need to reduce the amount of waste that is being produced in the first place. There are many ways in which this can be achieved, such as eliminating single-use plastics, reducing food waste and tackling the issue of fast fashion.

Our society is still too reliant on single-use plastic. The products of hospitality, retail and supermarkets are heavily composed of single-use plastic. According to the EPA, most of the products we buy are contained in packaging to protect them during transport and make them look attractive on the shelves of supermarkets. When these goods are unpacked, the packaging becomes waste. Ireland generated over 1.1 million tonnes of packaging waste in 2019, an increase of 11% from the previous year. This is completely unsustainable. I feel that working towards a zero single-use plastic strategy in Ireland, apart from in medical environments, is crucial to reduce overall waste and positively impact the environment.

Our policymakers should crack down on big companies that excessively package their products. There should be incentives for companies which reduce unnecessary packaging and encourage their consumers to be more environmentally friendly. For example, in Germany companies have to pay a fee when more packaging is used. This has led not only to less packaging but also to thinner glass, paper and metal.

In addition, as consumers, we all need to limit the amount of single-use plastic we purchase. Most fast-fashion items bought in Ireland are disposed of within a few months, causing huge amounts of waste. However, more sustainably produced items are expensive and harder to find. Many young people are now turning to vintage and second-hand shops, and apps like Depop, to buy and sell clothing, which reduces waste and increases the affordability of fashion.

My colleagues in Foróige and I have a proposed approach that we like to call "regress to progress". This policy would involve extra support for using methods that we used years ago – for example, reusing old milk bottles for milk or supporting companies that repair their clothing products for free. We would also like to introduce life skills, such as sewing and knitting, to all young people in secondary school. This would encourage young people to repair their clothes and to be more sustainable.

When it is not possible to reduce or recycle waste, we need to look at options to turn waste into new products or energy. For example, in Sweden citizens separate their waste into different coloured bags, depending on the type of waste. The waste that cannot be recycled is burned in plants that transform their combustion into energy – a process known as "waste to energy" – to provide electricity for 250,000 homes in the country. Only 1% of waste in Sweden is sent to landfill, as opposed to 15% in Ireland in 2019.

I hope it is clear from the points I have discussed that waste management is a major concern for young people in Ireland. While it is a difficult issue, it can be tackled in many innovative ways. There are over 600,000 young people between the ages of 15 and 24 living in Ireland. Even small changes can make a big difference. We are great at spreading awareness and encouraging others in our lives, schools and communities to change their habits too.

Many people feel that climate change is a faraway issue. It is not. However, individuals can do only so much. It is members' responsibility as our legislators to help people understand and make these necessary changes, introduce effective policies for waste management, make recycling and waste reduction appealing and easy to implement, and facilitate creative solutions so we can use waste material productively to benefit our communities. We have to act now. We need members to act now. I thank them for this opportunity and for listening.

Members rose and applauded.

I thank Ms Aitken for her words. A number of Members of the European Parliament were listening for the past while. I did not realise it until they were stepping out but I believe it is really significant that they heard what the delegates had to say. For our next speaker, we are staying in Mayo but going offshore, to Clare Island. I welcome Ms Maude Cullen-Mouze.

Ms Maude Cullen-Mouze

Good morning, everyone. I thank the Joint Committee on Climate Action and the Environment, without which this opportunity to speak today would not be possible. I am 16 and will be speaking from a perspective different from most, that of a young islander. I live on Clare Island, a small island with around 150 inhabitants off the coast of west Mayo.

As islanders, we all have an acute awareness of the weather. We are almost completely reliant on ferries for getting on and off our islands. For example, to speak before the committee today I took the ferry yesterday afternoon and I will take the last ferry back this evening. If I miss the ferry today I will have to wait until tomorrow morning for the next one.

At this time of year, in the summer, there are many boats and they all operate on schedule. In the late autumn, early spring and throughout the winter, however, such a journey could be much more complicated. Islanders who are intending to travel anxiously pore over weather charts. For important appointments, going to the mainland the day before is the best course of action. Atlantic storms are simply part of life on the Atlantic coast but they are becoming more frequent and intense, as noted by older island residents. Clare Island, along with Inis Oírr, is one of the few islands that does not have a safe all-weather pier. I have seen weeks pass without a single ferry running on time to the scheduled pier. Everything that, and everyone who, leaves or enters the island has to do so by boat, with the exception of medical emergencies. When boats are disrupted our entire lives can be disrupted.

It is important to note that the problems facing small islands now will not remain confined to small islands. After all, Ireland is an island and a rather small one. Small islands such as Clare Island are but microcosms of the macrocosm that is Ireland. As a nation we must import everything that we do not produce ourselves. The emissions from flying in produce are not compatible with the carbon-neutral economy Ireland intends to become. Shipping by sea is also fuel heavy. Food security has become an increasingly pressing concern recently. When and if supply chains are disrupted Ireland, as an island, will be very vulnerable. Efforts must be made to support and encourage local production to maximise self sufficiency.

We are dependent on fossil fuels, the very things that are fuelling this crisis. To my knowledge, all island ferries in Ireland use fossil fuels in their engines. Alternatives such as electricity and hydrogen are being piloted in Denmark and Scotland, respectively. Ferries will always be required as the islands are accessible only by sea and by air. If these alternatives prove viable, investment would be needed to support ferry operators to make the switch away from diesel and towards alternatives.

Intense weather does not just pose a problem to boats or islanders. Arranmore suffers from a severe risk of flooding. Harbours and piers are at risk on all islands. A total of 40% of Irish people reside within 5 km of the coast and thus are extremely vulnerable to rising sea levels. More than 23,000 properties will be at risk in the next 30 years in Dublin alone. Furthermore, the sea is rising faster than predicted, with double the global average sea level rise observed in Dublin and Cork.

While mountainous islands may fare better in weathering the rising sea levels, the existing infrastructure of piers and harbours will not. According to Climate Central's predictions the current trajectory of warming will mean that Roonagh Pier, which is used by Clare Island and Inishturk, will be completely submerged. There was a recent consultation with islanders about the pier at which rising sea levels were not mentioned. This was a shocking blind spot considering the pier is projected to be below annual flood levels in a decade. Rising sea levels also pose a threat to seemingly unrelated issues such as drinking water. On Inis Oírr, the island's water reservoirs were flooded, contaminating the fresh water with salt and making it unsuitable for drinking.

Thankfully, mitigation options are available for combatting the effects and root causes of climate change. Rainwater can be collected for drinking water, agriculture revolutionised and transport decarbonised. A recycling initiative has been set up with great success on Inis Mór. No glass leaves the island as it is processed and recycled locally, providing local employment and cutting carbon emissions. Furthermore, the islands and all of Ireland have the opportunity to provide ample energy in the form of wind waiting to be harnessed as renewable energy. Food waste can be composted or used as biofuel to provide energy as it decomposes. Community-led projects and initiatives are proving successful all over the world. The solutions to decarbonise our economy exist. All that is required is the political will and the hard work of making it happen.

This change is not happening fast enough. In a recent article in The Irish Times, the EPA detailed that we are not on track as a nation to meet out 2030 commitments on climate action. This is not good enough. Rapid decarbonisation is essential. The consequences of inaction are far reaching and dire, not just in Ireland but all over the world. It has often been said that it does not matter what Ireland does as we are such a small country and fingers are pointed at larger nations. This, however, is blatantly false. Every fraction of a degree of warming, every centimetre of sea level rise and every tonne of CO2 matters. As Greta Thunberg famously proved, no one is too small to make a difference. Ireland can and must lead by example and take our place as a climate leader and not a climate laggard.

Members rose and applauded.

I thank Ms Cullen-Mouze for those words. Our next participant is Ms Mae Weir, who is all the way from Dromahair in County Leitrim.

Ms Mae Weir

Good morning everyone. My name is Mae. I am 18 years old. I am a member of Foróige in Leitrim and today I want to speak about the importance of education and justice as key principles in the climate action that we undertake. I am a member of Foróige's Ecollective, a group of young people working to address climate change. What makes the Ecollective unique is that we are not a climate action advocacy group but a climate justice advocacy group. Climate justice is the intersection between the effects of climate change and social injustice. It looks at who is affected the most and how can we help them to limit this inequality.

In Ireland, we have been desperately trying to keep up with the climate policies in effect throughout Europe and the world. The problem with the policies in place is that there are always people being left behind. Our priority must be to advocate for those who feel betrayed by climate policies and to promote a fair and equitable approach to climate action in Ireland.

From our work in the Ecollective we have seen two main barriers that prevent people from getting involved in climate action. One is a lack of education. In an age of misinformation people need to understand the scientific basis of climate change and its real effects in our everyday society in order to understand our own part in it. The second is that as of now the average Irish household simply cannot afford to pursue an eco-friendly lifestyle, making this goal seem unattainable. We believe in a holistic approach to educating Ireland on climate justice. The Ecollective has been educating ourselves and others by calling on experts in the field and providing them a platform to share their knowledge through our podcasts and events. What could the Government achieve with its extensive resources?

With the fire hose of media we are subjected to, everyone is constantly bombarded with headlines of climate change that either make them angry or scared. No one can escape the horrific forest fires, the dying polar bears or the lack of action by world leaders. As a defensive mechanism against all this negativity and anxiety we become passive. We are presented with a challenge that feels insurmountable and we are disempowered. People respond to positive achievable goals. We need to see the concrete outcomes of these goals in our lives. For this, we need to start with education. Every university in Ireland should have a research centre for climate action that is funded by the Government and the EU. Research is the foundation for change. With more than half of our adult population being university educated it is clear that we excel at third level education.

We want to make Ireland a world leader in climate research. We propose that the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science make it a requirement to incorporate climate awareness across every degree programme in Ireland. This would result in an Irish workforce that has an understanding of the ecological implications of their jobs.

However, climate awareness is not just for people who attend universities and it needs to become an integral part of primary and secondary education too. The priorities in the primary school curriculum need to be revisited. In a pluralistic society, our emphasis should be on the needs of the 21st century and the challenges that face our community as a whole. If as much time could be spent on climate education as on communion and confirmation prep, we could be looking at a more powerful and informed generation of young people. Children are so open and receptive to change. They are hungry for information and responsive to new ideas, but what are we teaching them? There are brilliant programmes in place, such as the Green Schools and Green Flag programmes, that engage with communities and positively influence the ethos of every school involved. However, the success of these programmes should not be reliant on the enthusiasm and creativity of hard-working teachers. They should be incorporated into the curriculum under the guidance of the Department of Education. We commend the recently announced leaving certificate subject of climate action and sustainable development, and we encourage the incorporation of these issues into the junior certificate science, business and geography curricula. Schools need to be reliable sources of information which promote awareness and understanding surrounding climate justice and climate action. Knowledge is empowering and will help us as young people not to feel the burden of responsibility for progressing climate action alone.

The second barrier preventing people from transitioning into a climate-friendly lifestyle is affordability. It should be the Government's priority to facilitate this transition as justly as possible. This can come in many forms, such as a green allowance for lower income families who are struggling with the increasing cost of living that is partly caused by climate change. This allowance could help to lessen the financial burden that comes with progress and in turn reduce the resentment felt towards climate-focused initiatives. We also propose that the Government follow Italy’s footsteps by providing 110% grants for retrofitting homes to offset the increasing prices and encourage uptake in the programme. We can raise the funds for these grants by exponentially increasing the fines on businesses that have ecologically harmful practices, and we can link the cost of these fines directly to the percentage of income they generate in order to prevent the creation of loopholes where companies simply pay the fine and refuse to change their practices. We must not allow climate action to be a pursuit only for the wealthy. The Government has a responsibility to facilitate and support the green transition, not just for the upper or middle class, but for every Irish citizen.

The success of this transition hinges upon the just and equitable distribution of the burden of climate change. Policies that encourage such essential progress are often unpopular and, unfortunately, are also often unequal. Let us look at the carbon tax, a tax that is necessary to change our habits of excessive consumption and reduce our over-reliance on cars. As it stands, the carbon tax disproportionately affects rural Ireland, where people are forced to rely on cars because there is no other viable option. This entrenches the rural-urban divide and creates strong resentment against any attempt to put climate policies in place in rural Ireland. If we were to introduce a congestion tax for major urban centres which would dissuade car commuters and force them to avail of the public transport provided, we would share the burden more justly between rural and urban Ireland.

Ireland has emerged as a progressive society which is leading the way on many issues. Climate justice is the next challenge facing us. When everyone is aware of the issues and everyone is included in the solutions, I assure the committee that we can do this - together.

Members rose and applauded.

I thank Ms Weir for her contribution. As hers was the final contribution this morning, I thank all of those who participated and shared their very interesting and inspiring thoughts with us. I was listening intently and have taken many notes, and my colleagues have done the same. We are going to digest those thoughts in the next 15 minutes. We will suspend and resume in 15 minutes for a question-and-answer session.

Sitting suspended at 12.36 p.m. and resumed at 12.53 p.m.

Welcome back all. I will open the floor to members of the committee for their observations and questions. If our young people want to come in on any particular question, they can raise their hand and I will bring them in one by one. The first on my list to speak is Deputy O'Rourke.

I thank the Chair and the Cathaoirleach of the Seanad for organising the meeting and particular thanks to the witnesses for being here. There are some who would suggest that young people do not have a valuable contribution to make in these and other matters and the speakers have collectively blown that out of the water. A number of themes were raised. I do not want to pick out individual contributions. It was really well coordinated and the breadth of contributions really touched on the wide range of issues. Of course, this is an all encompassing issue. On the issue of empowering young people and communities, the need for a bottom-up approach was highlighted as was the issue of just transition and equity and fairness being important in everything we do in climate action, and not just for the wealthy. Strong points were made on the rural-urban divide and not leaving anybody behind. That is an important message for Government and for legislators. I commend the witnesses on being here and they should continue with their activism, stay engaged, use their agency and power to influence others and hold us to account.

It is important to recognise, while many people are of like mind to them, there are others whose interests are not served by progressive climate action. We need to recognise that in the political space and develop approaches to deal with it.

One of the issues I would like to hear more on from contributors is the challenge to reduce the consumption of energy and materials. In recent years, there has been a huge demand for fabrics, natural materials, natural resources, or data, for example. Do the guests have a sense what the future might look like in terms of consumption? Do they see a way of reducing it?

I thank the Deputy. We usually get agreement in meetings from the members that they will limit their contributions to two minutes. Deputy O' Rouke is always bang on two minutes and I thank him. We will take two more contributions from members and then revert to our young people. If any one of them wants to indicate that they would like to respond to any of the points made, they should raise their hand and I will bring them in.

For the benefit of our guests today, in committee we sit, but in the Chambers we stand. As this is a committee in a chamber, it is confusing. I will follow my colleague's lead and I will sit.

Good afternoon to all of you. I extend particular thanks to An Cathaoirleach for the generous use of his Chamber. My colleagues in Fine Gael and Senator McGahon are here. Deputy Bruton unfortunately cannot make it as he is attending the funeral of a former Member of this House, Mary Jackman, in County Limerick. May she rest in peace.

I welcome the opportunity to hear from our witnesses today. I am sure my colleagues will speak on their own behalf, but I am very inspired by what I have heard and the confidence in which they delivered their remarks. I assure them that 16-year-old or 17-year-old or 18-year-old me would not have been able to match the confidence. That is going back to the mid 90s. I can be absolutely certain of that. The witnesses are a credit not only to their families and the organisations with whom they are with here today, but also to their schools. Well done.

The passion and commitment shown not just today but in recent years as organisations on the theme of climate action and in cajoling members of all parties and none into making meaningful change has been, and continues to be, an opportunity for all of us to reflect on who we represent and why we are here. There are so many things that need to be done that it seems overwhelming, particularly in recent years. We launched a climate action plan in 2019. It was updated with more realistic vigour last year and the committee spent significant time going through it and improving it. We can all be absolutely certain that we made a very valuable contribution. Within that, a great many young voices were heard and it is really important that we continue with engagement like this.

I am very fortunate that I represent the youngest constituency in Europe, believe it or not. On that basis, along with Dublin West, I am often acutely aware of the age profile of my constituents and this is why I sought membership of the committee and to be the spokesperson on climate action in Fine Gael, the party I represent.

I could speak about the various actions within the climate action plan but I have heard clearly that our guests and the organisations they represent believe there may be things of which we are not doing enough. I certainly recognise that. As I mentioned, doing everything that needs to be done in order to reach carbon net zero involves fundamental changes to the way in which we live our lives, the way in which society and businesses operate and to the State itself in terms of its responsibilities. That is why it can sometimes appear overwhelming.

One of the ways that we, as a Legislature and as individual Members of Parliament, can have the greatest impact is to ensure that our energy market is decarbonised and as reliable as possible. Reference was made to that in the course of our guests’ contributions. Ireland is uniquely placed in Europe and the world to harness wind energy, particularly off our Atlantic coasts. There are several schemes currently before planning and, thanks to Members of the Oireachtas, a new maritime area planning authority will be established shortly. I hope that will speed things up.

Decarbonising our energy grid is essential but there is a slight issue that has been highlighted by the unjust and unjustifiable war on the people of Ukraine by Vladimir Putin, namely, that we are reliant on many others not just for gas, but also for electricity. We are going to increase that reliance with further interconnectors between Ireland and France, for instance. That introduces an interesting conversation that we have not had in Ireland since back in the 1980s when nuclear power was discussed in the context of County Wexford. There was a campaign and the people said “No”. That is absolutely fine but are we now going be import nuclear energy from France, which is 78% powered by nuclear, or are we going to have a meaningful debate about the “what ifs”? When it comes to energy security, one cannot afford to have “what ifs”. An example of those “what ifs” is whether we will be able to rely on our European partners in ten, 20, 30 or more years. These are questions we have to ask. I believe that we, as a nation, should be able to have a conversation about a matter without making a commitment to doing something. A general conversation on nuclear power is overdue and we should be having it. That is important in the context of the debate on energy security.

Storage and other matters that have been mentioned by some of the contributors are absolutely worthy of consideration. We, as a nation, need to lead in research and development. We have a unique economy in the global context. We attract a massive amount of foreign direct investment and are the headquarters of many firms and organisations from across the world. It is, therefore, incumbent on us to continue with that and incentivise research and development in battery storage so that we can be ready for the day when the sun does not shine or the wind does not blow.

I am almost finished. I appreciate the leeway given to me by the Chairman.

There were comments in respect of research at university level. I absolutely agree. I assure our guests that the Minister, Deputy Harris, agrees with them in that regard. The things we are seeing happen at third level now will benefit them directly, depending on their chosen path after the leaving certificate. We have a unique opportunity in Ireland. There are those who might say we are an island of 5 million people or six a half million people off the coast of Europe and we are but a drop in the ocean. Our voice has an extraordinary reach, however. Listening to our guests this morning is inspiring because I know that inspiring and influential voice on the world scene will continue.

There are people present who are sitting in these seats for the first time. I have never sat in this Chamber before. As I joked with the Minister of State, Senator Hackett, when I sat down, there is only one chair in this auditorium in which I would be comfortable sitting, and the Chairman is currently sitting in it. I am not convinced that I ever wish to sit in these seats, no disrespect to my esteemed Seanad colleagues.

I am quite happy with the seats in Dáil Éireann.

The Deputy might be looking for a seat here someday.

That is true. I suspect I have just ruled out transfers from any of the Senators present.

This is an important opportunity for our guests. It is an opportunity for us to listen to them and the potential that is within each of them. I see business leaders, politicians and influencers, in the non-social media sense, sitting before me and they should be proud of that.

I referred to Ireland's influence in the context of scientific expertise, literature, art, economics, social justice and much more that we bring to the table in terms of our international engagements. I believe an opportunity exists for us to lead on climate change. My colleague the Tánaiste, Deputy Varadkar, stated several years ago that we were climate laggards but the Government was going to change that. We are going to do so. With the help of the three parties in government and the great support and influence that is being brought by those of all other parties and none to that debate, particularly in this committee, we can and will continue to put forward meaningful policies that make a big difference to everybody in their journey to reduce their carbon emissions and to have knowledge of from where fashion, clothing or materials come. Of course, that is an important part of the work of the climate committee in the context of its deliberations on the circular economy Bill. The continued engagement of our guests is important. They should not be afraid to send an email, for instance, to all Members of the Oireachtas or to the committee if they have suggestions because I know we will take them seriously.

The two-minute rule has obviously been blown out of the water.

Give him the bell.

A person who needs no introduction to the two-minute rule is Senator Higgins, who is up next.

We are being very rude today.

I thank our guests. Their contributions were powerful, important, serious and thoughtful. They made it clear that climate action is not something that can sit at the side or be added on or greenwashed. Rather, it requires prioritisation. That is one of the words I underlined. It needs to be a priority and that means changing economic policies and challenging energy policies. It requires us to dig deep into the way those matters are approached. One of our guests stated that this will basically be a seismic change in how we live, not just as individuals, but collectively.

Many interesting ideas have been put forward that can be followed and engaged on. I refer to the ideas in respect of transport and it being available within an area as well as between different areas. It is not just about there being a bus to Dublin once or twice a week; it is a matter of whether people can travel between the towns in their county and whether it is possible to plan for those areas in that way. That was a really good point. There was reference to sustainable rural transport being absolutely imaginable and something that already exists, be that ferries, trains or buses. There have been really good ideas put forward in that regard. Reference was made to a congestion charge and ensuring that we are not simply subsidising electric vehicles, EVs, for people who live in cities. That is not the solution we need on transport.

I was struck by the comments on fashion. It was an interesting analysis. It is relevant because there are two important Bills being progressed. In Ireland, we have the circular economy Bill. It is legislation that was considered by the committee and will be going through the Houses. We need to consider what that will look like. It is not just about recycling; it is about thinking about resources from the beginning - considering the emissions produced from the very start point of each ingredient in a product, including fashion. It is also about the entitlement to a right to repair.

There is also, at EU level, important legislation on what is called “due diligence”. It is a measure on how to measure supply chains all the way along. It is strong enough at the moment because it does not cover enough companies and has many loopholes. It needs to be strengthened. These are very important decisions. More than 200 new items of environmental legislation will be introduced at EU level in the next two or three years. Many of these will have an effect in Ireland and how we interpret them matters. Our guests’ specific ideas are very important because they help make sure we interpret them in the strongest way.

Mr. Mustafa spoke about fashion. I was very struck by the idea of the challenge of being a good person in a bad system. It is not enough to have motivational talks and tell people to be good people when we have bad systems. It is our responsibility to change systems. Our guests can push, demand and call for that but we also need to step up and do it. The systemic changes Mr. Mustafa identified are very interesting, as is the idea that it is not simply enough to put the emotional burden on individuals and how they spend their money. For many people, they will not have much money to spend, be it in a sustainable way or not, because they are trying to manage basic things. That kind of change is what I will take from this discussion. I would be interested in hearing more comments on that.

The point was made that the climate action fund is €500 million and it should be ten times that. We hear a great deal about how to make green energy affordable. We should be investing in renewable rather than nuclear energy. If, in the next five to ten years, we invested as much in renewable energy as other countries have invested in nuclear or as much as we provide to subsidise fossil fuels, that could be radical and transformative. Ireland subsidises jet kerosene for aeroplanes by €600 million every year, yet the climate action fund is just €500 million. I would love to hear our guests’ ideas. If we took the suggestion to increase the fund by ten times, what radical ideas would €5 billion address in the next two or three years? That is the kind of demand we need to have and I am very interested in that.

Many of our guests spoke about climate justice and just transition. Just transition is not simply about continuing with business as usual because it is too hard to change, be that burning peat or anything else. It is about front-loading investment in change. It is the idea of just transition being both fast and fair. We heard more than a decade ago about the damage industrial peat was doing because we had reports on the issue. Instead of us using that decade to make the change, it is now being left to individuals. Again, I would like our guests’ thoughts on just transition and what fast but fair looks like. What would transformative public investment look like to help those who will not be able to make it individually as a change?

On islands and climate justice, I was struck by the very powerful contribution on islands and island nations. I think Ms Cullen-Mouze, in her contribution in Irish, reminded me of Mia Mottley's words that two degrees is a death sentence for the Caribbean islands. Ireland has a voice and record on human rights. We have the experience of being colonised in the past and of being part of the wealthy nations of the world now. What can we do on climate justice? I ask our guests to comment on that.

If any of our guests wishes to respond to those three contributions, they are more than welcome to do so now.

Ms Maude Cullen-Mouze

I would like to respond to Senator Higgins’s comments on the just transition and Mia Mottley’s words that two degrees is a death sentence for island nations in the Caribbean. Those two things can be seen together because it is not just a just transition in Ireland. Rather, it is a just transition globally. That means wealthy countries, such as Ireland, contributing more and having to adapt more quickly. We need to cut our emissions faster than countries that are still developing, many of which are very vulnerable to climate change. We have a responsibility as a wealthy nation to take action, not just for ourselves, but for every country in the world, particularly those that are most vulnerable. Fast and fair climate action means not trying to maintain the status quo without carbon emissions but, rather, trying to make the world a better place, even if that sounds like a cliché, and more equal while we are changing. We have the opportunity to make huge changes to our system and how we live and work. That opportunity needs to be taken to make the world more equal and, obviously, help countries and societies that are struggling. That is very important. I thank the Senator for bringing that up.

Well said.

Mr. Kumayl Mustafa

I would like to cover the idea behind material waste and how we can reduce it, as well as just being a good person in a bad system. I will be nihilistic here. I do not know if we can change human behaviour. That is something that is, quite frankly, very difficult to do. However, we can educate consumers on what they are buying, which is one of the most necessary things that we have to do. We can also make it easier for them to take other opportunities. For example, when I walk into my local store to do my grocery shopping every week, I should not have to pick up vegetables that are covered in two or three layers of plastic. I should be able to pick up fresh fruits and vegetables without it being almost impossible to get past the environmental impact of that.

Senator Higgins brought up the right to repair. When I spend €1,000 on a new phone I should have the right to be able to replace the battery, should it start to deteriorate. If the screen cracks slightly, I should be able to find replacements easily and not have to go to a specific store and shell out another €200 or €300 just to get it fixed. Those are the key points. We, as consumers, need to be educated and given the opportunities to be better people, while the corporations are stopped from taking measures that are anti-consumerist, etc.

Mr. Leo Galvin

To add to what I said, nuclear energy would not be a save-all or a big solution to our problem. The issue we have is that we are putting our eggs in one basket, if that make sense. We need to invest in several different types of sustainable energy to become more self-reliant, as noted in many of the other statements. We mentioned that hydrogen energy or biofuels would be amazing investments as well but we cannot rely on a single source. We should continue investment into renewables but renewables need more research to improve them because there are still problems and deficits with renewable energy. There are also many deficits and issues that need to be solved with nuclear energy. As far as hydrogen energy and biofuels are concerned, there needs to be much more research there as well. It is a matter of investing in each sector to find which combination would suit us, so as not to rely on a single source.

Like Senator Higgins, I will stand as otherwise our guests will not see me. I missed some of the contributions until the speakers stood up. I thank the Chairman, Deputy Leddin, for all of his work in organising today's meeting. In particular, I thank the Cathaoirleach, Senator Mark Daly, a colleague of mine whose brainchild it was to open up the Seanad and ensure we heard at first hand from young people across the country. I thank all our guests for their contributions. I know some of our invited guests could not be here because the date of the meeting changed. I hope they will be able to participate when we engage with other groups in the next while, just as our guests have this morning.

I am struck in this engagement by the passion demonstrated by the witnesses for the topic we are discussing today and how competent and confident they are. Mr. Galvin is the only Dub here and it did not faze him at all to go first. He was controversial, if I may say it, in raising the question of nuclear energy but it is a discussion we must have. It will happen in this Chamber and the Dáil Chamber. It will happen around Ireland. The debate on energy security has moved on now, given the events of the past couple of months, and particularly those starting 100 days ago in Ukraine. We must look at all options for energy.

It was not just the question of energy that people have raised. They spoke about packaging, for example. Mr. Mustafa spoke about packaging and there is no choice for many of the products we purchase in shops. It is something that we as a committee have discussed with the circular economy legislation. We must try to take measures, both domestically and in Europe, and I was pleased to see so many MEPs sitting in the Gallery to listen to the contributions.

If I were 16 and was invited to the Chamber, it would have been a great privilege for me. This demonstrates the engagement that is at the disposal of young people, whether it is through Comhairle na nÓg or Foróige. Today is a unique day and the witnesses rose to the challenge without any hesitation. Each and every one is very passionate about this topic and the witnesses spur us on because they engage with us. Let this not be the only engagement, and I know it will not be for many of the witnesses. We look for ideas and suggestions, including when new legislation is coming or there is public consultation for various initiatives being run by the Government. I ask each and every one of the witnesses to try to engage with the process. No matter how small, large or costly the ideas may be, we must hear them. Today should not be their last day to have their voices heard. Despite what Deputy Farrell has said, many of them may sit in this beautiful Chamber or the Chamber down the hall, elected in their own right. I hope they are and that many of them consider a life of public representation. It is really necessary that we hear their thoughts and ideas and that they get to implement them in times to come.

I can feel the stares so I am sure I am over my two-minute allocation at this point. I mentioned energy and I was also struck by the biodiversity question posed to us. It is something the committee has engaged with quite a bit. My colleagues, Deputy Christopher O'Sullivan and Senator Timmy Dooley, would have liked to have been here today but could not be.

With regard to public transport, Mr. Thomson mentioned how he got here and I am very impressed by it and the fact that he managed to get here, given all the challenges we have heard about in Dublin Airport over the past couple of days. He raises a very good point about rural transport and options that he does not have. Somewhere like my constituency in Dún Laoghaire, on the other hand, has plenty of public transport, although that does not mean everybody uses it. It is yet another challenge we must face.

I will end with a question for Foróige, whose members mentioned its Ecollective. I wonder how often it meets as a group. The members mentioned its main role involving climate justice, for which I commend them. How do they engage with individuals that they perceive to be at the fore of climate action? Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown has a very active Comhairle na nÓg and I engage with it from time to time. I ask each and every one of the groups to engage with local representatives because today is unique and historic. Well done to each and every one of the contributors but let it not be the last occasion.

I have been blown away and I have taken many notes on what has been said. I agree with much of it. On the question of young people engaging in politics, anybody who argues that allowing voting at 16 is not a runner should listen to the quality of today's debate. I do not want to plamás or patronise the witnesses because I hate when young people are told how wonderful they are in that way. I ask that they continue to keep the pressure on legislators because it is absolutely critical we feel the pressure to act on climate change. None of this is easy. As elected representatives it is not easy for us to make decisions but it gets easier if we keep getting pressure from the likes of the witnesses. I always think young people in society are ahead of politics all the time.

What struck me most about the comments was the kind of single thread that runs through everything because we are living through multiple crises, including a climate and biodiversity crisis and the inequality that some of the witnesses touched on as well. There is a poverty crisis and issues of racism. I argue that these arise from the economic system in which we live, with a capitalist and neoliberal straitjacket in which we find ourselves. It makes it so much harder for us to adapt, adjust and take the actions we absolutely must take. We heard about extractive industries, mining, fossil fuel companies and the impact they have, including human rights violations. As my colleague, Deputy Darren O'Rourke, has stated, there seems to be a need to constantly buy stuff. This is exemplified in forcing us to just replace our diesel car with an electric car, as opposed to rolling out more public transport.

I would love to hear the thoughts of the witnesses on whether we can address those multiple crises without addressing the elephant in the room, which is the economic system with which we live? I cannot see how we can do that unless we face up to how we can redistribute the wealth. Billionaires should not exist and we should not have rich billionaire men racing to get into space, burning huge amounts of fossil fuels, while people are homeless and living in poverty. I would love to have that conversation and hear from all the witnesses about whether they think it is possible to tackle all those crises without tackling the economic system with which we live.

There was mention of Ardnacrusha and we demonstrated ambition in energy as a new State. We must replicate that and have that type of ambition. It must be State-led. Again, this goes back to the point about being constrained by the amount of money we can borrow as a Government and if we are so constrained that we cannot do what we did as a young nation state with such big energy and public transport projects rolling out across the country, as opposed to the current tinkering around the edges. I will leave it there because that is the big question I ask myself every day. The witnesses may have seen Don't Look Up and I feel I am at the point where I am hanging out with the skaters. At least coming here today has given me hope to continue fighting. I would love to hear a response to that.

It is a question many of us may ask ourselves each day.

Those were really powerful presentations and the witnesses certainly did not spare us. They got right to the point and they were so insightful. They spoke about storms creeping up the Atlantic and flooding that we are increasingly experiencing. They also mentioned hurricanes and we have never before had such storms. There was a running theme and, to follow my colleague, Senator Boylan, we must look at the exploitative nature of the economic system and how we keep extracting from the Earth. We cannot expect to keep extracting from a glass of a water and expect it to remain full.

If we look at our monetary system and how money came to exist, we will see that it came to exist as a little piece of paper to equate to the level of work you had done. It was basically an exchange of energy. Of course there should not be any billionaires. There should be nobody who is accumulating so much energy. Energy should be circulating and being evenly shared between everybody.

Education was talked about. It is amazing and sometimes regrettable how highly educated in climate action some people can be while being in denial about climate justice. We have to ensure we do not go into these hardcore climate denier positions. That is really important. Around education as well, Sky News does a good climate programme. I wonder if Comhairle na nÓg and Foróige could come together to talk to RTÉ about having their own climate programme once a week or something like that. It would be a good idea.

It is about getting back to basics. It brings a lump to your throat sometimes because it is back to basics and we must be radical in the change we are making. I was saying to two of our guests outside that when climate scientists came before us recently, they reminded us that the planet does not care how hard politics is for us or how hard it is to make difficult decisions. Sometimes we get tied up with the amount of work we do and how busy we are. It was good to have those climate scientists before us because it is said politicians only care about the polls, but the only poles we should really care about are the North and South Poles. The increase in sea levels that will be caused by the ice melting there will affect islands and especially low-lying ones.

We have been busy with the circular economy Bill, which relates to mending and repairing. I do not know if any of our guests have lived abroad but there are haberdashery stores in every village. I am a Deputy for Kildare North. McAuley Place in Naas is a place where older people live kind of together. Every week there are sessions where young people come in from the schools and are taught how to sew and knit. It is such a useful thing if your button falls off to be able to sew it back on.

Will our guests talk about the research that was mentioned with regard to labelling? Reference was also made to the facade of greenness that can be there in the form of greenwashing?

On rural transport, I was talking to a girl, Andrea, last night from Prosperous for whom two rural link buses did not turn up. She was late for her graduation. She was making a speech and she forgot it and did not have time to go back for it. Rural transport is so important for young people like our guests. If only we had decent public transport for them. My young boy - he is 30 now and is not young anymore - used to say he would never bother buying a car as he did not need one. We live in Maynooth, where there is plenty of public transport nearby, but there are areas in my constituency that do not have it. Since he started a family, he has had to buy a car. He could not afford to buy an electric car. He had to buy an ordinary banger. It was safe at least.

I am also interested in the Ecollective podcast. I am definitely going to find that.

Ms Aitken is right when she says the messaging around recycling is dreadful. When my kids go to their friends' houses and clean their stuff before they put in the bin, their friends ask them why. They explain that they do it because people in low-paid jobs are going to be handling these materials. Your recycling bin should be spotless. You should never have to clean it - maybe once a year for dust. It is about respect for other people, the planet and other countries. Could Ms Aitken return to that issue?

I loved Ms Cullen-Mouze's Irish language bit. It was interesting how much longer it is and what she picked up there.

I am sorry as I have gone over but the meeting has been so interesting. I ask what three things we should do immediately, if any of our guests want to talk about that.

I thank Deputy Cronin. Ms O'Brien indicated she wanted to come back on the question that was asked of Foróige specifically.

Ms Orna O'Brien

The Foróige Ecollective has been meeting up since 2020. Due to Covid, we have basically only ever met online. During ordinary times, we come on for an hour and a half every Tuesday. When we have a project like our podcast coming up, we tend to have a few more meetings every week. Individuals meet up with our leaders who are staff and volunteers. We would not be here without them so we would like to say thank you to them. As an Ecollective, we have always been inquisitive and we have always asked questions. Luckily enough, we have met with adults who understand these topics and are not afraid to tell us they do not know the answer to something and to go and find it for us. There could be a bit more honesty about people's level of information. We are not judgmental about how much you know because we are trying to learn as well. This is not a new topic but it is new to most of us and we are only learning. As I said in my speech, we are not going to shame any small efforts. I suggest that members should definitely look for our podcast. We are on Spotify.

Ms O'Brien did well to get the plug in there. I call Mr. Thomson.

Mr. Finlay Thomson

Senator Boylan made the point that climate change is a multilayered issue. I would respond to the question she asked by saying it is something we consider every day and I consider every day. There is maybe an element of reverting to simpler times but also changing with the times. We live life at such a fast pace, with smartphones and other technology, that we might slow down a bit and re-evaluate what is important to us as a nation, as an island.

With regard to our energy consumption, it is very important we place trust in who provides it. As Mr. Galvin said, we have lots of different options. We cannot limit ourselves to one narrow channel and then be let down in a costly way because that is going to happen over and over again. I am hopeful, though, for this topic. If the Cathaoirleach was sitting in here by himself, I would be a bit worried but he is here with lots of different people who are willing to listen, participate, talk about this and try to find a solution to all these different problems.

I thank Mr. Thomson. Mr. Mustafa wishes to speak.

Mr. Kumayl Mustafa

I would like to go back to the topics brought up by Senator Boylan and Deputy Cronin about the idea behind capitalism and how it is the root cause of most of the problems we have. I have just finished fifth year. In a couple of months, I will be filling out my CAO form and sticking law in different colleges at the top of my list, I hope. I have had to come to terms with the amount of work I will end up doing in my career. If I go into corporate law and give up my morals and ideals, I will live a much more comfortable life. The more work I do, however, the less comfortable I will be. If I go into environmental law, as I hope to do to try to help people, the lifestyle I will live will be worse-off than it would be if I went into corporate law.

It has been suggested that younger states are more invested in energy sources, etc. When Ireland was new, we introduced a dam. My family comes from Kashmir in Pakistan. There is a dam in the city of Mirpur where my family comes from. I wonder why younger states have a tendency to work harder for things like this. We need to reignite that passion within our Government to try to make a statement to the world about how we can do better.

I thank Mr. Mustafa. I call Ms Cunningham.

Ms Ruth Cunningham

On the point about how we need economic change to fight the climate crisis, as I walked in today I wondered where we would be now if a quarter of the money invested into Leinster House was invested into climate change. Mr. Konefal and the rest of the speakers brought up perfectly the inequalities in our society. For example, people in rural areas are not as well off as people in Dublin city. We need the Government to fund those rural areas and offer us different incentives to change.

I thank Ms Cunningham. I will go back to the members and indeed the non-members joining us.

There are 15 or 20 minutes left in this session. I have Senators McGahon, who is a member of the committee, Senator Garvey who is joining us today and is very welcome, and Senator O'Loughlin who also wishes to make a contribution. I call Senator McGahon to speak now, please.

If it is possible, Senator O’Loughlin might be allowed go first, please, as she has a prior commitment.

That is not a problem.

I thank the Chairman and Senator McGahon, who is very kind as I did not wish to jump in ahead of anybody else. I am not a member of the Joint Committee on Environment and Climate Action but this is a fantastic initiative and I thank Deputy Leddin, the committee Cathaoirleach, for leading and organising it and the Cathaoirleach of the Seanad for also encouraging and supporting it. I was in my office listening to the debate and I just wanted to sit down, be part of it and to absorb it. It was very motivational and inspirational to listen to everything that has been said. The point has been made to keep at it.

The previous number of comments about the work-life balance, of one end going into another, reminds me of Shakespeare: “to thine own self be true ... thou canst ... be false to any man”. If one has a passion and vision, one should go with it. That is so important and many people involved in either elected or non-elected politics have had that vision and want to achieve something. That is what one has to do as a young person, with the world at one’s feet and with great ability.

On the rural-urban debate, I am from Kildare and represent people from both an urban and rural area. I am from Rathangan which is quite rural and I live in Newbridge which is quite urban. There is a balance between the two that is not right. There are advantages to being in both a rural and urban area but the rural link is of great importance in respect of transport opportunities to link in.

We have to get that public transport piece right to keep cars off the road, particularly around school transport. We should have a transport system that does not just serve schools but when it is coming back can bring people into their shops, to their doctor’s appointments, etc., and to be able to bring these people back again when the school run is starting. We should not have empty school buses travelling around.

I love the piece about being inquisitive. That is one of the things I like about being involved in politics. Every day something comes across my desk about which I have to learn something, particularly on climate change. The areas which I have heard the contributors speak about and on which we need their input greatly are on the whole issues of food waste and fast fashion.

If any of our guests ever has the opportunity to visit a place called Green Generation which is between Kildare and Nurney and which I visited recently, it is fascinating to see how those involved are making energy from food waste. From the plastic they take from the food waste, they make telephone poles, bollards, etc. I strongly recommend it and it is one of a kind in the country.

I am inquisitive and am learning more and I want our young people to learn more as we need them to bring these issues to the fore. We often have debates here in the Seanad on the issues that our guests today have raised. I ask them to stay in touch with all of us and I thank them. It is lovely to be part of this and to be able to say a few words. I appreciate this opportunity and I thank the Chairman and Senator McGahon again.

This year we are celebrating 100 years of Seanad Éireann. This is the 26th Seanad. If one multiplies 26 by 60, that is approximately 1,500 people who have been Seanadóirí. There have been more Senators because there have been by-elections, etc., so one might add another 200 on to that figure. I am aware that the Cathaoirleach of the Seanad may be able to give us a better figure but I am just giving approximate figures.

Between 1,500 to 1,700 people, then, have represented and sat in this Chamber over the past 100 years. Our guests today can now add their names to that list. That is tremendous. The words that our guests have spoken today will exist on the record of the Houses of the Oireachtas for the next 100 years. People in the future will look back at the words they have spoken today. That is a tremendous day for our guests, for their parents and families, and for their local communities. I ask them to remember the significance of being able to sit in our national Houses of Parliament and to engage with parliamentarians. That is the essence of our democracy.

As Senator Boylan has said, if anyone needs an argument in favour of votes for people at 16 years of age, listening to our guests today certainly provides that. I thank them very much for coming to the Seanad today, for engaging with us and I am sure that the Cathaoirleach of the Seanad, Senator Mark Daly, would agree with me on the following suggestion also. He has made a real effort in his past 18 months here, even throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, to try to open up Seanad Éireann to a much wider set of societal groups. Here today is a great example of that and I thank the Cathaoirleach for it and it is greatly appreciated. My suggestion, then, is that this should become part of an annual part of our Oireachtas committee, Chairman, in that our guests and those who will come after them might regularly feed into the decision-making processes at committee level and into the debates to help us. The way we make our own decisions and the way I view my own political outlook is that the more information, data and diverse views a person can have on a topic, the better, it is as it helps us as legislators to make better policies for this country. That is why it is so important to have our guests present here today.

The point which our guests made which really stood out for me was that people in their own communities on the island are saying that they, in their lifetime, particularly the older members of the community, have not seen storms as bad as the recent ones have been. If ever they need a clear example of the impact of climate change upon our local communities, it is simple examples like that which really hit home. I thank our guests again so much for coming along today; t is greatly appreciated.

I thank the Chairman. As I stand here I cannot see the people at the back of the Chamber. When I was 16 I won a debating medal about the hole in the ozone layer and I do not know if our guests would remember that issue as it was before their time. It was an interesting one to think about today as I listen to other 16-year-olds.

That campaign was won in two ways. It was won by people like me and thousands of others all around the world saying that we did not want by-products that have the chlorofluorocarbon, CFC, chemical that creates a hole in the ozone layer. This amounted then to very significant consumer power and demand.

From the top down then there were the governments and that there was an intergovernmental meeting in Alaska in 2002, if I remember correctly. Basically, there was a global ban on CFC gases in all of the aerosols we used to use. As a result, by 2030, it is predicted that the hole in the ozone layer will have completely sealed over.

That is the first thing we should look at, namely that the Earth is a living organism. I do not believe it is too late. We have a huge part to play; we have to have hope but there is no point in having hope without action. As somebody who despaired in my early 20s, when I became a parent, about what kind of world I was bringing my child into, I never despair now. I always just focus on hope and action because I feel that we have all of the solutions we need. We just need to implement them.

A great Zen Buddhist monk once said we should just pick and do one thing, not worry about everything but to focus on one aspect. In my earlier years, I focused on waste reduction and recycling and I got a bottle refill station located my local village. I was then focused on the anti-war movement. I was moving on things and then realised that there is also a bigger picture. I went off then to Sellafield and organised a protest to shut down the nuclear power plant because I still have some issues around nuclear waste and I am unsure if that issue has been completely resolved yet. I then got into Steiner education as an alternative for my son to have a new choice and then I realised that there were policies here that need to be changed. That is basically why I got into politics.

I had worked with an NGO for 12 years and, speaking about morals, ethics and job choices, I was a well-paid maths and physics teacher and I gave up that job to take a very significant deduction in my salary to work with Green Schools and with teenagers for the past 12 years, up to two years ago.

I have to say that our guests were great today but this is exactly what I would have expected from them because this is what I get from young people all of the time. When one goes to secondary schools and one sees Green Schools committees where the teacher has empowered the pupils to run the programme as opposed to telling them what to do, it is a game changer. They then effect the change in their school. I have seen schools do a complete U-turn around their traffic, waste, energy and water use and this is because it has been led by young people and they were listened to. That is a very hopeful thing and there is a very significant missing piece there with student councils and Green Schools coming together, to work and realise the power they have and the ripple effect of what they can change.

When I used to do whole-school assembly, even if it was 900 children, I wanted the staff and the parents to be there because it is they that need the education, in some ways. Green Schools and many other programmes mentioned by our guests have done great work on educating children and teenagers. Our young people know everything about this and it is the adults in the room we really need to educate.

Senator O’Loughlin mentioned the Rediscovery Centre. They are fixing bikes, furniture, clothes and recycling paint there. We need to see that sort of thing replicated all around the country.

I do bike fixing workshops with teenage girls who studied honours physics but do not have a clue how to use a spanner. That makes me wonder what is being done in education and what kind of abstract learning are we providing to children when they cannot use a spanner yet get a H1 in honours physics. There is a mismatch and we should move towards the more practical end of education. We could bring in a home economics module on how to repair things for every student even if it is only for the first couple of years in secondary education. I say that because once people learn skills they have them for life. For example, once one learns how to ride a bike then one never forgets how to cycle. There is a mismatch in terms of abstract learning. I presume that all members will agree with me on that because we all experienced the old way of doing the leaving certificate examination, which was basic points. It was a case of do not even pick the subjects you like just do the stuff that might need if you go to college. As an academic myself I missed out on the creative side of things. I was told that I had to study physics and chemistry but I wanted to study art and music, which were worth the same points and were equally valuable. As Senator O'Loughlin said, it is amazing what can be achieved when one follows one's passions.

I believe that it is important that we listen to young people more. Today's meeting is a very good event and should be the start of something much bigger. I have arranged to meet representatives of Foróige and Comhairle na nÓg in County Clare because we constantly need reminding. I am in politics since I was 16 years of age but I forget things. I get too caught up in the policy and politics. We need people like our guests here to constantly remind us and bring it back to grassroots action.

For the first time ever we have a Minister of State responsible for the circular economy. To explain, the circular economy is a notion where one stops dumping and sending stuff to landfill and bring it back into use. He will reward people who bring their own cup in terms of every coffee shop all around the country. I had a campaign in my own county but not everything can be a campaign and, therefore, national policies are needed, and I do see some good things happening.

On the rural transport fund, I live 5 km from anywhere and I have tried to cycle my electric bike to get to a train, which works sometimes. I am working hard on getting rural bus stops and getting bikes on buses because that is a missing link. Half of the rural population lives between 2 km and 5 km from their local bus stop, if there is one. Many people do not know about the brilliant Local Link transport service that tries to fill the gaps. Where the public Bus Éireann buses do not go, we try go fill those gaps with a Local Link service. Many Local Link services exist but people do not know about them. Therefore, I urge people who are in rural Ireland to check if there is a Local Link service available, and if one is not available then contact me, which is when I will see if we can get one. People must take action. There are lots of good Ministers and politicians but we cannot think of everything all the time so we need people like our guests to remind us and give us their good ideas.

Would any of our guests wish to respond to the contributors?

Ms Maude Cullen-Mouze

I thank the Senator for her very valuable contribution. I wish to comment on the contributions made by Deputies Cronin and O'Rourke, and Senator Boylan.

The capitalist system that we currently have does not work and it should be clear to everyone that there is a major problem. I wish to propose that the idea that we could have eternal economic growth on a finite planet is ludicrous and one does not need to be a maths or physics teacher to understand that.

Deputy O'Rourke asked about consumption. The idea that we must continue to produce ever more has led to extreme overconsumption and we are consuming more than we need. There are also billionaires who consume far more than any human could ever need, which is difficult to comprehend. We do not need so much. People can live good, valuable lives with less. A study was conducted, which I cannot cite off the top of my head but I know that there is an economist who calculated that every person on this planet can have their basic needs of food, shelter and a good life met within our planetary boundaries. That is something that is possible and is not out of bounds. Everyone can eat, have a place to sleep and have a good life without destroying the planet.

Our capitalist system is a problem. Slapping a bandage on it by reducing carbon emissions or trying to find a technical or magical solution that will suck carbon out of the air is not going to solve this problem. Even if, by chance, that solution solved climate change then it would not solve biodiversity loss or the plethora of other problems that exist, which are also symptoms of the capital system in how it is destroying the planet and society.

In conclusion, I thank everyone for their valuable and thought-provoking contributions.

I will make a few comments before we conclude. Like everybody here, I was struck by what I heard earlier and amazed by the insight. We, as members, often pat ourselves on the back for being very hard-working committee and very engaged in the issue. I can speak for all members across all parties and none that we want to solve this existential crisis as quickly as we can. The engagement that we have had today inspires me and I hear that it has inspired my colleagues as well. We have learned a lot from the two delegations. We are very struck by some of the points that have been made.

Ms Orna O'Brien mentioned a guest on her organisation's podcast who said: "Every euro that you spend is like casting a vote for the future that you want." That is a powerful message and alludes to the economic system that we have. I agree that it is not fit for purpose and needs to be turned around. Incredibly, how we do that while maintaining livelihoods and order is extremely challenging.

Ms Cullen-Mouze is correct that we must change our current economic system. Earlier she drew a parallel between what the islands are facing and said that the pier on Clare Island will be flooded on an annual basis within a decade. She also talked about the contamination of freshwater supplies. If I understood her correctly, she said that one can see these real things happening and island communities experience climatic changes sooner than bigger islands and mainland countries and, therefore, we should look to the islands to understand challenges and supply-chain challenges. She said that one would have to travel the day before because of the increased frequency in Atlantic storms. I think she said that Roonah needs a new pier, which reminded me of the Saw Doctors' song entitled "Clare Island" and two lines from its first verse: "Will you meet me on Clare Island ... get the ferry out from Roonah". Her contribution was really thought-provoking.

I was happy to hear the call for congestion charges and to equalise the burden across society between urban and rural communities. The rural-urban divide is a really unhelpful construct because both communities need each other and are two sides of the same coin. We are all part of society and we must all work together. The witnesses are probably right that rural people are unfairly burdened with the challenge of climate change because of the circumstances in which they find themselves. I agree with the call to introduce congestion charges and a number of contributors made the same point.

The political system faces a real challenge. We tend to agree fairly well on targets and ambition and, therefore, we say that we are going to get somewhere in a certain timeframe and we all tick the box and agree that is good. Where politics really struggles is with implementing policies. I say that because policies create division and often they are really hard to get across the line. We saw last year where many thousands of people reacted to a proposal to create a simple cycle lane in Galway city and opposed it because parking would be removed. The creation of a cycle lane sounds like it would be simple to achieve but it is not. The reality is that all climate action is hard, and all policies and all changes are hard. Therefore, politics needs to figure things out. It is important to have a vision of where one wants to go yet be serious about the real measures that are required and must be implemented.

We will not get that implementation unless we get really constructive debate and engagement. Ms Orna O'Brien mentioned a bottom-up approach. That is where we are failing. We do have a top-down approach. That is the way our system is. There are examples of where we have trialled a bottom-up approach and it has been really successful. We should do more of it. This is an example of it as well. We need a hell of a lot more because we will not get the policies implemented unless we engage with everyone who is affected by them meaningfully and not simply through consultation phases of projects where people are asked to email an address or what their thoughts are on a project. That is not meaningful engagement. There has to be talking, debating and challenging each other and that has to happen across society from community level right up to the top. I think this has been a positive engagement. It is a start and only a start and we should consider it like that. We have a long way to go.

I thank all the young people for attending here today for this worthwhile engagement. It was so interesting to hear their perspectives on the climate challenges facing us in the next few decades. It was important to hear their views. They have given us a lot to think about. If I may quote Kofi Annan when he addressed Global Citizen Live in London in 2018, he said, "You are never too young to lead and we are never too old to learn". I think that is absolutely true.

I thank the Cathaoirleach for facilitating us with the Seanad Chamber today which has made the event possible. We are very grateful to him. I will pass over to the Cathaoirleach for the final word.

I thank the Chair. It is unusual to have two Cathaoirligh in the same session but this is a historic occasion. This is the first time in the 100-year history of the Seanad that we have ever had a sitting like this. The people here join the ranks of very few, about 800 people, who have ever sat in the chairs where they are now sitting, debating the very important topic of climate action and climate change.

In about 2015 the Pentagon and the Vatican said in the same week that the most important topic facing the world was climate action and climate justice because that was what was driving much of the migration and conflict in the world in terms of resources. That is over seven years ago yet we now see the manifestation of that where we have loads of conflict in the world and droughts which are driving civil wars and wars of resources, water being the most important. We see that with the resources around fossil fuels and now, with the war in Ukraine, the issue of food security all of which is tied up with climate action.

With all the problems we are facing, the root cause is something that is within our gift and the power of humanity to challenge that and take the crisis on and solve it. At this moment, the global economy is committing vandalism on an industrial scale on the environment, the planet and all its citizens. We must understand that when it comes to millionaires, billionaires, companies and corporations - and some governments - the bottom line is the bottom line: it is about making profit. They are profiteering at our expense.

It has been said that we need a radical change to our society and we do but the question is whether we are going to make those changes in our own behaviour. It has been pointed out that people talk about how every action we need to take is but a drop in the ocean in solving the problem of climate change but it is all the drops in the ocean that will probably put together enough water to put out the fire. I think it was Douglas Adams who said that no drop of water ever believes it is causing the flood and in the same way we all think it is not ourselves but the people in other countries, that country, organisation or that person. We are all the solution to the problem. John F. Kennedy said that everybody can make a difference and everyone should try. By our guests' presence here today and this event they are making a difference. We must all continue to keep trying.

I thank all the members of the committee who are here on a Friday. This meeting was inspired by one person, Greta Thunberg, and I think we will all thank her for this. She started with one protest which has led to all these protests. This is a form of protest but those here are no longer protesting outside the gates. We are delighted to have them inside the gates making the change. I thank them for being here today. I thank the Chair and everyone here.

The meeting is only five minutes over time which is not bad going by our usual standards.

That is Deputy Alan Farrell's fault.

We will leave out Deputy Farrell but he inspired us. I thank everyone again. I look forward to the next engagement that we have.

The joint committee adjourned at 2.06 p.m. until 11 a.m. on Tuesday, 14 June 2022.