Flights of fancy on Irish emissions control

“The recent conference in Bali gave us hope that we can construct an effective, concerted response (to climate change) for nothing less will guarantee the safe future of all our children and our earth”.

That’s how President Mary McAleese addressed a gathering of the diplomatic corps from more than 50 countries in the Aras yesterday.She went on to describe climate change as a ‘contemporary and frightening phenomenon’ that demanded responsibility at every level. And who could disagree?

Well, perhaps the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA). ‘Passenger numbers at Dublin Airport have grown dramatically in recent years and last year jumped 15% to over 21 million. Dublin is now among the 10 busiest airports in Europe for international traffic, managing an average of 60,000 passengers and more than 600 aircraft movements every day’, according to the DAA website.

The Authority is now investing €2 billion in new facilities at Dublin Airport. A major extension to the existing terminal is planned and construction work has already started on T2, the new passenger terminal at Dublin Airport, which will open in April 2010.

‘These investments will allow Dublin Airport to comfortably handle up to 35 million passengers per year – providing for 10 years of growth following the delivery of T2’, the DAA statement trumpets.

Ten years of growth. How precisely is this compatible with Ireland’s response to climate change? Where is the ‘responsibility at every level’ that President McAleese was so impressing on our visiting diplomats?

For movie buffs, the acronym T2 will ring a bell as ‘Terminator 2’, the apocalyptic blockbuster in which, yes, the world is pretty much wiped out, at least the great bulk of humans are. I don’t suppose there was any black humour in the DAA boardroom when they decided to christen their ‘Terminator Terminal’?

Tonight’s RTE news bulletin carried a report that the National Ocean Energy Development Project has been announced by the Minister for Energy, Communications & Natural Resources, Eamon Ryan.

It is reported that €26m is to go to the sector over the next three years creating an ocean energy development facility at Ringaskiddy in Co Cork. A new wave energy test site is to be developed at Belmullet in Co Mayo.

In the left corner, we have a €26 million investment in wave energy, while in the right corner, we have a €2 billion spend designed specifically to get more people to fly in and out of Ireland over the next 10 years.

To recap on the DAA’s figures. Last year was Dublin Airport’s busiest ever, with 21 million people using the facility. Soon, they confidently predict, that will be up to 35 million – a projected increase of almost 70%.

This is at the precise moment when Ireland and the world is supposedly waking up to the climate disaster that is now knocking at our doors. Taoiseach Bertie Ahern only last November solemnly told us: “Climate change is real and is not going away. Successfully tackling the issue is crucial to our future wellbeing”.

But is it as crucial as our inalienable right to engage in unlimited cheap air travel to stag parties in Prague, heli-skiiing breaks in New Zealand, shop-till-you-drop in New York or ‘popping out’ to Dubai to visit one’s new holiday pad six or seven times a year?

For the record, figures published today by the Environmental Protection Agency confirmed that our transport emissions rose by 5.2% last year. Ireland’s Kyoto target of 62 million tons of emissions per annum has been overshot by 7 million tons, mainly thanks to our surging transport emissions.

And this, lest we forget, is before the folks from the DAA deliver on their promise to increase traffic through Dublin Airport by around 70% on these already unsustainable levels.To repeat the slogan from the guy on the Des Kelly ad: ‘Dis madness MUST end soon!’.

ThinkOrSwim is a blog by journalist John Gibbons focusing on the inter-related crises involving climate change, sustainability, resource depletion, energy and biodiversity loss
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