“We need to stop burning turf. It is more carbon dioxide intensive than coal or oil. It is a potential pollutant in the air.”
“Also, we need to stop driving petrol and diesel cars. We need to stop burning gas to heat homes. We need to stop building data centres that consume vast quantities of water and energy.”
Those are the among the beliefs Bríd Smith of People Before Profit Alliance, expressed during a Dáil debate on home heating fuel: motion [private members] on Tuesday, April 26th, 2022.
During the session, she said: “I reject utterly the idea that turf burning is a cultural or uniquely Irish thing which must not be upset or challenged”.
“That is nonsense,” she told the house. “If we were to call out what is behind that idea, it is straightforward climate denial.”
“It is no accident that the deputies who have consistently denied the facts of climate change resort to this mystical cultural argument to defend the continued burning of turf,” she claimed.
“We have a global climate catastrophe on our hands, yet some people need to continue to use fossil fuels to survive in their homes and to move around. Both things are true at the same time.”
Smith stated that one could argue that coal is as much a cultural aspect of the lives of people in Germany, Poland, or Spain.
She described it as a building block of much of Britain. She said it is the foundation of the trade union movement not just in Britain but for working-class organisations across the globe.
“Does that mean those regions get a free pass to continue burning it? No, it does not,” she told the house.
She said that how Ireland stops using or burning turf is “critical”.
She continued: “If by September, the state cannot show the households relying on turf a scheme that will fully compensate them financially and another scheme that will ensure their homes do not freeze and are fully retrofitted to the highest degree in readiness for that change, we have no business proposing such a ban or pretending even that we understand what we mean by just transition.”
“We have seen with Bord na Móna that government ministers refer to just transition this and just transition that although they are utterly ignorant of what it means or should mean.”
She asked what is the point of banning turf cutting and then facilitating the building of liquified natural gas terminals throughout the country.
The deputy told the house that “we need to do all of this urgently and immediately”.
“How we do it is not just a question of tactics. How we do it will determine if we can succeed in stopping a climate catastrophe and reducing emissions.”
She told the house the government’s ‘turf policy’ is “very much” in the same category as carbon tax.
She described it as “an emphasis on personal, individual behaviour while ignoring the systemic causes that drive emissions up”.
During her address, she stressed that we must translate climate action into policies, which “win people to the urgency of the fight”.
In this case, she explained, that starts with saying we need to make this change. She added that this is how we will make it while we assist those who it impacts most.
She called on the government to take the party’s amendment “seriously” and prioritise retrofitting those households impacted by any restriction on turf burning.