April 19th, 2019
Cork’s leading teenage climate activist has urged MEPs to stand with the Irish youth and advocate for meaningful change in the European Parliament.
Speaking at a seminar organised by Sinn Féin yesterday, 16-year-old Saoi O’Connor told sitting MEP Liadh Ní Riada to fight for the demands of the student climate action movement.
“People regularly tell me that it is pointless to strike, that
standing outside City Hall with a placard will not achieve anything,” she said.
“But they are wrong because the point of striking is to get across
to people like you because you do have the power to achieve the things that we
Ms O’Connor, who has been holding a climate vigil outside Cork City Council every Friday for the past two months, said that politicians hold the future of Irish youth in their hands.
“My future is in the hands of people like you, as is the future of
5,000 young people,” she said, referring to students who protested in March
in Cork City to demand a radical change in climate policy.
The upsurge of students’
participation in the fight against climate change is inspired by Greta Thunberg, a Swedish teenager, who refused to
attend school on Fridays and sat before her country’s parliament instead.
Teenagers around the world, including Ms O’Connor – arguably Cork city’s very own Greta – have joined Ms Thunberg in demanding a better future from adults.
Climate Emergency Manifesto
Launching a Climate Emergency Manifesto from GUE/NGL – the left group in the European Parliament to which Sinn Fein belongs – Ms Ní Riada said that lobbyists and big businesses are sizeable roadblocks on the way to tangible change.
“There are a lot of lobbyists who come to Europe, and they are the
big oil companies who have carbon credits, this issue is not tackled,” she
Ms Ní Riada criticised what she described as an “alarming
hypocrisy” from her Fine Gael colleagues in the European Parliament when it
comes to adopting a more radical climate change strategy.
“The idea seems to be that let’s pay the big corporate polluters
to carry on business as usual but then publicly express support for climate action,”
Earlier in March, European lawmakers voted in favour of a non-binding resolution to boost the
bloc’s 2030 emission reduction target to 55 per cent compared with 1990 levels.
“At the same time then, they talk about the needs and they walk
with our schoolchildren,” Ms Ní Riada said. “And to me it speaks a thousand
words in terms on their intentions.”
Ms Ní Riada is set to join other European election candidates at a
public debate in the Metropole Hotel in Cork on 10 May.
Then event, organised by the Environmental Pillar coalition, will
allow citizens to gauge where candidates stand on key environmental and climate
issues before the polling stations open on 23 May.
The event will be moderated by Bernadette Connolly, the Coordinator of the Cork Environmental Forum, whose colleague Dr Darren McAdam O’Connell called for MEPs to push for more radical policies in Brussels at the Sinn Fein event yesterday.
Dr O’Connell criticised the idea of shifting the blame for climate
change on ordinary citizens. “People don’t get up in the morning thinking, ‘I’m
going to destroy the Environment,’” he said.
The environmental scientist said that “spatial planning” by redesigning rural and urban areas to fit a sustainable lifestyle is key in tackling climate change.
He said, however, that ordinary citizens have little say in how their place of residence is designed.
“Our behaviour is determined by two things our social contacts, what other people do and the environment we’re in. People don’t make the choices to destroy the environment it’s made for them.”
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