A new generation of farmers and foresters must be paid to protect nature, as well as providing food and wood, according to Green Party leader Eamon Ryan. Speaking at the Green Party conference in Cork City Hall on Saturday, October 21, Ryan, who is also the current minister for the environment, climate, and communications, emphasized the urgency of addressing climate change. He described the weather systems across the world this year as “spinning off the dial,” highlighting the need for action.
Ryan’s comments come in the wake of Storm Babet, which caused flooding and significant damage to homes, businesses, farms, and communities. Expressing sympathy for those affected, Ryan stressed the importance of both recovery efforts and preparation for future extreme weather events. He stated, “Our hearts go out to anyone whose house or premises went under water. We will have to redouble our efforts to get them back in shape and then prepare for the more extreme weather events we know are to come.”
In addressing public concerns about climate change, Ryan acknowledged that many people are unsure about what to do and how it will impact their lives. However, he asserted that it is still possible to prevent runaway climate change and build better, fairer, and more resilient communities. Ryan emphasized the role of nature-based solutions in reducing flood risk, restoring biodiversity, and tackling climate change. He praised Irish farmers as the “heroes” on the frontline and assured that they are up for the challenge. The recently announced €3.15 billion fund for climate and nature, along with the €1.3 billion forestry program, will support these efforts.
During the upcoming COP28 negotiations in Dubai, Ryan plans to advocate for the adoption of the “polluter pays” principle. This would entail fossil fuel companies, the aviation industry, and the maritime sector contributing to the global cost of responding to the climate crisis. Ryan believes that the funds raised from this approach can be used to provide clean power to the 600 million people in Africa who currently lack access to electricity. He emphasized that this is crucial for preventing conflict and reducing forced migration.
As the minister responsible for transport, Ryan advocates for a system centered around walking, cycling, and public transport. He highlighted the introduction of a new rural bus service every week and the halving of public transport fares for those under 26. Ryan also emphasized the importance of transitioning to a 100% renewable energy power system, which would be more secure, less prone to price shocks, and create long-lasting employment opportunities. He pointed out that the number of PV panels on Irish roofs has significantly increased in recent years, with over 1,000 homes joining the solar revolution every week.
Looking ahead to the next local elections, the Green Party aims to double its number of councillors. Currently, the party has 12 TDs, four Senators, two MEPs, and 44 councillors. Ryan expressed the party’s desire to return Ciaran Cuffe, Grace O’Sullivan, and Senator Pauline O’Reilly to the European Parliament next June. He emphasized that the Green Party is not just a “mudguard” in government but rather a “vanguard for change.” Ryan highlighted the party’s commitment to working with conviction and seeking consensus with other parties.