Council Hosts Climate Change Conference.
To raise awareness of the issues around climate change, Newry Mourne and Down District Council held a major conference called ‘Climate Change – Our Challenge’ at Killeavy Castle, Newry on Thursday 12 March.
A Council spokesperson said that climate change is everyone’s responsibility and the council was committed to doing its part to slow down the detrimental effect now and for future generations.
Representatives from councils, government agencies, community organisations, youth groups and other key stakeholders from across Northern Ireland were in attendance as they listened to a range of speakers who shared their expertise and practical solutions.
The event was hosted by TV personality Joe Mahon, and keynote speaker Jan Gustav Strandaenes, a respected, long-time, senior advisor to the United Nations on Sustainable Development Goals, spoke via video link from Oslo. Mr Strandaenes discussed the science and latest projections for climate change and the mechanisms we have available to take action.
Newry Mourne and Down District Council Chairperson, Councillor Charlie Casey, said: “Newry Mourne and Down District Council is making a statement – we are taking the issue of climate change seriously and we will take action to influence and work in partnership with others.”
Cllr Charlie Casey added: “Most importantly we will work to support grassroots efforts and initiatives to combat climate change and develop community resilience. The health and wellbeing of our residents, as well as the protection of our environment is very important to us. We also need a healthy, vibrant and fair local economy to help us deliver these other sustainable outcomes.”
As well as keynote speaker Jan Gustav Strandaenes, delegates heard from a broad spectrum of experts. Stephen Jones of Climate Change NI provided the Northern Ireland context, and Tim Walker from ARC21 and Dr Sarah Miller from Rediscovery Centre, Dublin both gave options on adopting a ‘Circular Economy’ approach, where items and materials are reused to ensure both materials and wealth stays in the local economy and avoids the current throwaway approach. This can result in waste prevention as well as creating local jobs and innovation for local businesses.
Delegates also heard about two impressive local authority case studies from West Suffolk County Council regarding its extensive Community Energy Plan. Outcomes of the plan involved investment by the Council into an extensive solar farm and a major retrofitting programme to improve housing insulation and lower energy requirements.
Dundee City Council gave an informative presentation on electric vehicles, which it has led the way in introducing, including electric bin lorries and electric taxis supported by an extensive EV charging network.
During last session of the conference, Davie Philip, one of the founding members of the Eco Village at Clough Jordan in County Tipperary inspired the attendees with positive solutions to engaging with grassroot communities to become more resilient and more carbon neutral. He also discussed the challenges for the planning of villages and other systems to allow the extensive change in approach to lifestyles if we are to successfully address climate change.
Finally, Dr John Barry, Co-Chair of the Belfast Climate Commission, led a rousing call to action for everyone to work in partnership and collaboration to deliver positive action on the ground to reduce our carbon footprint.
The collective message from all the speakers is that it is not too late to take action. However, we must start immediately if we are to limit climate change to an acceptable 1.5oC rise. Collaboration and partnership are required from all organisations, communities and individuals if we are to make a real difference and protect our way of life for us as well as future generations.