If you care about climate, Lisbon matters

What is it about us Irish and referenda? One minute the national discourse is rattling along as usual, and the next, there are swarms of (previously unheard of) groups popping up out of the woodwork to warn us of the hell and brimstone that will surely ensue if we vote Yes/No to the proposition at hand.

Lisbon Treaty

Irish politics back in the 1980s was blighted by a series of pointless, vicious and divisive referenda on the abstraction of abortion and the reality of divorce. They succeeded in raising the decibel level while lowering the quality and tone of the debate with every day that passed.

And now they’re back. From outer space. Earlier today we were treated to a ‘debate’ on Morning Ireland between Foreign Affairs Minister Michael Martin and Niamh O’Broinn from a group calling itself Coir (which the Minister describes a front for the extremist group styling itself ‘Youth Defense’).

Coir claimed to have put up over 5,000 posters and distributed a million leaflets calling for a No vote on Lisbon. The European Union is, apparently, going to “force abortion, euthanasia, prostitution and cocaine on the Irish people”. At least that’s how Minister Martin read the latest scare-em-up leaflet from Coir.

Who know, gay marriage may become a sacrament, if not actually compulsory if these godless Europeans get to violate our Irish ways and Irish laws with their new fangled ideas.

Not that long ago, Irish women voting for divorce were, in the memorable phrase of Alice Glenn, like turkeys voting for Christmas. Most people think that Europe has been pretty good for Ireland. And not just for the farm subsidies either.

Many European Court rulings and EU directives have dragged Ireland kicking and screaming into the modern era across a wide range of areas, from equality for women to decriminalising homosexuality, when our own courts and legislators were found wanting – or too gutless – to take on the shadowy pressure groups, including ‘Youth Defense’ or Libertas.

The latter outlines on its website the shock discovery that the EU is heavily dependent on oil imports. What’s worse, Libertas tells us that dodgy geezers like Hugo Chavez of Venezuala and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are up to no good in their incessant plots to overthrow the western world – by deciding what they do with their own oil.

Their cunning plan involves considering “proposals to stop trading oil in the US dollar in response to the currency’s slide on international markets and to sell dollar currency reserves in favour of the euro and other baskets of currencies”. Enough said! Call in the Marines! How dare sovereign states decide in what currency they want to trade oil.

Come to think of it, not long before his demise, one Saddam Hussein floated the idea that Iraq would switch from selling its oil in dollars to euros. Luckily the forces of world freedom sorted him out before his dastardly plan came to fruition.

These pop up in different guises and with different labels, and in recent decades been highly effective in imposing their own narrow view of what it means to be Irish, including who gets rights and who doesn’t.

Whatever you might say for or against the Lisbon Treaty, one thing is clear: it cements and strengthens an EU-wide commitment on climate change. As Environment Minister John Gormley put it earlier today: “Article 191.1 of the Lisbon Treaty’s Title XX contains a key provision which has a direct effect on combating climate change. It commits the EU to dealing with climate change regionally and on a worldwide basis. I believe it will also act as a legal guarantee which will ensure all member states honour their commitment to the fight against the effects of climate change.

“Critics have dismissed this Lisbon Treaty provision as tokenism but it is quite the opposite. It represents the first time the EU has put into its rule book the need to take concerted action against climate change.”

Given that Ireland alone among the 27 states in the EU gets to vote on Lisbon, this means the outcome of this referendum is far more important than our tiny size would suggest. Gormley says a No vote will “deal a crushing blow to efforts to stop the destruction of the planet”, adding that rejecting this Treaty will at the very least stall efforts to tackle climate change, it could in fact potentially derail them.

This is serious stuff. Add to that the Lisbon Treaty’s strong stance on energy policy, it’s pretty clear to anyone concerned about these issues that a Yes vote is an imperative. We’ll just have to take our chances that this doesn’t cause our island of saints and scholars to descend overnight into a hotbed of coke-taking gay marriage pro-euthanasia abortionists.

I was under the clearly mistaken impression that, having sent Dustin the turkey to (nearly) represent us in the Eurovision, modern Ireland had at last got over itself and had instead discovered and embraced the joy of irony. Guess we’ll see on June 12th.

ThinkOrSwim is a blog focusing on the inter-related crises involving climate change, sustainability, resource depletion, energy and biodiversity loss
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  • Pidge

    The notion of a single high representative for Foreign Affairs is also positive in terms of climate change. Having a single voice which can speak on the issue, when all member states agree, would be useful in persuading other states to join the ETS or set up similar arrangements.

  • eoin craven

    Great website! good to see something finally happening. More positive news and examples from around the world (e.g cuba and sweden) could help lift the gloom though!
    Also your (admitedly very impressive) carbon calculator didn’t cater for caravans, yurts, benders or other alternative housing structures!! and unfortunately (my personal opinion) didn’t put enough emphasis on deconsumerising our lives, to decrease our carbon footprint annd improve our quality of life!
    Reasonably convinvcing argument on the lisbon treaty but I’m severely sceptical about the EU’s economic policies (see european partnership agreements), and whether an economic system (advocated by the EU) of perpetual growth and ‘free trade’ can really be compatible with sustainabililty, Rant over from asomewhat uninformed eurosceptic-once again congrats on the site though.

  • http://www.climatechange.ie John Gibbons

    Thanks Eoin, appreciate the feedback. Agree that offering more ‘positive’ stories is important; there’s so much bad news to get through, sometimes the good stuff gets overlooked. Will try to redress the balance in the weeks ahead. I do share your concerns about the ‘growth fetish’ that underpins the EU (as it does our domestic political discourse) but right now that’s what we have to work with, so we may as well have the EU apply at least some of its political muscle in the right direction.

  • ciaran

    climate change, why not make it a rule in all eu countries that changes in consummer products for the sake of change (marketing) is not allowed from january2009. let me explain i have a little maintanence knowledge which i learned about 40 odd years ago at the expense of the irish taxpayer and my mother’s meager funds. i can no longer fix my car (headlights,timing,) or other similar simple routine maintanence tasks without specialist tools. also i can no longer burn the fuel of my choice as i hear the eu is closing down bogs so turf will be obsolete soon. i can’t burn my waste in my own property but will have to pay to have it collected by a cartel of waste disposal operators (like the household waste which i have to buy because the food multinationals insist in using all sorts of extra packaging and charging for it) who will get grants and tax relief to burn it in a dublin suburb at a profit which will include vat tax for eu admin. most people over sixty will remember when we had an ideal recycling system and nobody had to pay extra for it, viz glass or tin for liquids like milk and other functional packaging for dry food stuffs. even the drinks companies paid the consummer to return glass at least. now if governments are serious about climate change they can legislate to reduce the cost to providers and consummers by simply bringing in a ban on certain production methods such as changing the specifications of cars that make the old models incompatible with new models mostly cosmetic but add to creating waste, the same applies to washing machines, fridges and the like, in fact if they were good managers or leaders they would should be writing this article themselves. as for the lisbon treaty in ireland so far i have only heard pro politicans repeat that we must vote yes or europe will get the wrong message about us, not a word of explaination of what is in the treaty.the time spent on message could have been spent convincing me and others that the treaty has substance. unfortunately i will have to vote NO because the anti side talked about how to interpret the various clauses e.g. the veto on wto talks will be gone except where it is shown that it was in another previous treaty or where the eu agree it might cause a problem for itself in a particular state. i find it interesting that all our surplus revenue suddenly disappears, unemployment starts to rise, projects falter e,g, health and education cut backs, a similar situation before we joined the eec. now that we’ve had it so good for so long it payback time

  • Heavy weather

    Today’s the day! Read your piece in teh Irish Times yesterday and it certainly nailed it for me. Lets hope the Monster Looney Ravers don’t win this one!! When I was down in the polling station at lunchtime the place was nearly deserted and the people manning the boxes said it has been dead slow so far today. Dont thinks thats a good sign. The loopers always turn out, its the regular folk who are needed in large numbers if Lisbon is to be carried.