Public urged to adopt ‘new set of beliefs’ to save planet

Ireland’s climate change minister has said the public will have to adopt a “new set of beliefs” in a bid to fix the Earth’s climate.

Richard Bruton criticised what he described as the world’s “love affair” with plastics adding that the effort needed to tackle climate change has been underestimated.

Speaking at the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly (BIPA) in Co Wicklow, the Climate Action Minister said that governments and people of influence will have to lead by example.

His comments come days after Ireland became the second country in the world to declare a climate emergency.

The BIPA event promotes co-operation between politicians in the UK and Ireland.

The bi-annual event took place on Monday at Druids Glen Hotel.

Addressing climate action, Mr Bruton said: “We do underestimate it and we haven’t even thought through the sort of things we need to do.

“Honesty and information is key to it. If it becomes the elite versus the ordinary person we are lost.

“We need to get the right information out as I know that two thirds of the plastics people put in the green bin in good faith are not recycled. We have a love affair with plastics.”

He said that the European Parliament’s plan to ban single-use plastic from 2021 was ambitious but added that more can be done.

“I think that’s where we can work with suppliers, not just supermarkets but the whole supply chain, to ensure that plastic is less used and when it is used it’s not single use,” he added. “We have a big battle on our hands.

“It is like a new set of beliefs that we have to adopt. If we are not seen to be making changes in our areas of influence, if we are not out there influencing our supply chain, we won’t do it.”

Laura Burke, director general of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), said: “Ireland experienced an extraordinary time during 2017 and 2018 where our environment and climate reminded us of the fragile nature of our infrastructure, our economy and food production systems.

“It was a year which nature reminded us of who is in charge.

“We do know that with our changing climate the confident predictions are that we can expect such extreme events at greater frequency into the future, and there will be economic and social costs as well as environmental costs.

“Mitigation is essential, adaptation is equally as essential, anything less is unsustainable – indeed irresponsible – given what we now know are the impacts of climate change.

“Targets and limits and standards we now recognise are no longer sufficient, we need people to want to do this, to work towards what will be considered a new normal.”

Helen Jones, Labour MP for Warrington North, said that now is the time for politicians to tell the public about “the real truth” about what is needed to save the planet.

“We can no longer expect all different kinds of fruit and vegetables to be flown around out-of-season. We are going to have to make real changes.”