The first major step in the running of the Shankill Sustainable Energy Community is the establishment of an Energy Master Plan for Shankill. This will define the range of house types, their ages, their energy use and the potential savings if particular works are undertaken. Our figures, which are very general at this stage, show that Shankill is spending around €20m per year on energy; the long term hope is that this can be reduced by 5% per annum.
Some households might like to be more closely involved in generating the necessary information and their opportunity to do this will be to keep a detailed energy audit for a few months with regular readings of electricity and gas meters and fuel purchases for vehicles. We will then be in a better position to identify possible savings which will feed into the National Plan.
The great news on the energy front was the recognition by Bord na Mona that due to climate change they must phase out the use of peat for power generation much quicker than originally planned. They are doing this in a structured way so as to minimise disruption to the local community who depend on turf cutting for income during the summer. The same creative thinking is needed by the farming sector which has a number of routes to reducing climate damage while at the same time maintaining their way of life and quite possibly increasing their income. The action of Bord na Mona is in stark contrast with the abject failure of the Government to increase carbon taxes in the budget.
On Monday 5th November there was an international meeting held in Trinity at which Mary Robinson was one of the keynote speakers. We are all well aware of her campaigning on Climate Change but this time she was speaking about the importance of Transition being planned. By this she meant precisely what Bord na Mona has done which is to recognise that communities which depend on a climate damaging activity cannot be thrown to the wolves but by getting Government, Workers and their unions, Management and the Community to work together the transition can be managed to cause the minimum disruption.
The second Keynote speaker was a lady representing her nomadic people from Cameroon and Chad. They have lived for millennia in the Sahel sustainably moving North and South, East and West as the seasons change, their cattle leaving fertilised land for farming as they move on. But now, due to Climate Change, Lake Chad has shrunk from 25,000sq.km to 2,500sq.km. As she told us the result is that all the communities and groups depending on the lake are under intense pressure, and are beginning to fight for what is left and that this is where Boko Haram come from, a direct consequence of Climate Change. It was also mentioned, again, as a reminder, that one of the reasons for the chaos in the Middle East is Climate Change causing five years of drought in Syria.
Many, if not most, of the refugees trying to get to Europe from Africa are doing so as a direct result of Climate Change because the land is drying and they can no long grow food and keep their animals and so have to move to the shrinking areas where it is possible to live and this, naturally leads to conflict and war. We in the developed part of the world have a tremendous responsibility to do everything we can to solve the problem of Climate Change since we have 80 times the carbon footprint of an African. If we fail, not only is that grossly unjust but it will come back to bite us with progressively more severe and erratic weather, including hurricanes.
There is no Us and Them with respect to Climate Change, we are all in this together.