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COP26’s Legacy in Ireland, 2022

Orla Leahy

News Editor

In the aftermath of COP26, which constituted the 26th ‘Conference of Parties’ on climate change since 1990, many questioned the level of action that would follow the landmark conference, with UN Secretary-General António Guterres stating that COP is “an important step, but it is not enough.”

Ireland has witnessed a number of green developments in the past month, which suggest that climate justice remains an ongoing topic following COP. One major one, though applicable to the city of Galway, still impacts students and staff that hail from, or visit the city. Galway City Council have released a public notice: 

in accordance with the Road Traffic Act 1994 (Section 38) as amended by the Public Transport Regulations Act, 2009 (Section 46) Measures to enhance public bus services — traffic calming measures, Galway City Council hereby gives notice of its intention to provide the following temporary cycle lane provisions on the R336 Seapoint Promenade, R336 Salthill Road Upper and R336 Knocknacarra Road.”

Senator Pauline O’Reilly has issued support for this initiative, and has expressed concern for Galway City councillors lack of action regarding the initiative, “we have a council and many councillors living in the past. While the rest of the country is getting on with cycling infrastructure Galway is lagging behind.” 

Recent cycling infrastructure developments in other parts of the country include the €8,731,000 package for the Cork County Council, “under this year’s Active Travel Investment Programme for the development of cycling and walking projects in Cork East constituency”, according to the Cork.ie.  

Minister for Climate, Transport and the Environment, Mr. Eamon Ryan, “gave the final go ahead with €1 million funding to the Council for the temporary cyclelane, as he promised, as part of a package of €23 million for Galway” last week, Senator O’Reilly notes. Ultimately, the six month temporary cyclelane in Salthill will not detract from the promenade itself nor the blue accessible parking, but will culminate in what Senator O’Reilly has termed, “a beautiful view out to the sea that is not obstructed.”

On the other hand, this year’s Cork City Marathon is teaming up with An Dúlra to encourage its participants to opt for planting a tree instead of a t-shirt upon registration. The Cork City Marathon has acknowledged that, “Making a t-shirt has a significant environmental impact. A single cotton t-shirt requires the same amount of water that a human drinks in 2.5 years, as well as over 2kg of eCO2.” Participants who have already registered have the option to change their t-shirt in favour of planting a tree instead. 

Mary Walsh, Cork City Council’s Environmental Awareness Officer, has issued support for the initiative, by congratulating, “the marathon organisers on taking another step forward to making the event a greener and more climate friendly one…The partnership [with An Dúlra] not only prevents waste but also delivers in terms of biodiversity and climate change. 

Ultimately, An Dúlra collaborates with Irish Tree Planting organisations and The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to ensure the redevelopment of native Irish woodland following almost complete deforestation of our woodlands over past centuries. 

Addressing the University College Cork Law Society last Wednesday on the topic of climate justice, former Presudent of Ireland, Mrs. Mary Robinson concluded her speech with emphasis on the importance of “collective” actions and initiatives in addressing the climate crisis. 

Both Galway’s new cycle lanes, and the changes in Cork City’s Marathon, are examples of such collective actions, and indicate that COP26 did not fall on deaf ears. Both increased cycling infrastructure, and the redevelopment of Irish woodlands will play a role in meeting Ireland’s commitments under the Glasgow Agreement to slash carbon emissions and to end deforestation.