Both rural and urban people want climate action: What Irish experts think

3 Feb 2023

Image: © volff/

The report suggests most people across Ireland want steps to be taken to reduce emissions, though experts say there seems to be a knowledge gap around what causes the most environmental damage.

A recent report by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) indicates that Irish people’s support for climate action is consistent in both urban and rural areas.

The agency’s report found that 96pc of Irish people surveyed believe climate change is happening, while 85pc are worried about its impacts.

The EPA’s latest Climate Change in the Irish Mind report – undertaken with support by Yale University – also found that 90pc of those surveyed believe Ireland has a responsibility to act on the climate crisis and take steps to reduce emissions.

The overall support for climate action is consistent with the agency’s previous report published at the end of 2021, which found most people support measures to tackle the climate crisis.

The notable aspect to the latest report is that these climate views are generally “consistent across Ireland with no discernible difference between urban or rural dwellers”, according to the EPA.

The agency released a series of interactive maps showing the results of its survey questions across each county. EPA climate services senior manager Dr Conor Quinlan said these maps let people examine the desire for climate action within each county in an “easy to use format”.

“The findings of this, and the other Climate Change in the Irish Mind outputs, will be used to inform and support national communications on climate change,” Quinlan said. “It will also be used by climate policy and decision makers, the research community, media and the non-governmental sector.”

Expert views: Strong push for climate action

The results of the report have been positively received by Irish climate experts, who believe the desire for action could help push Government into taking further steps to reduce Ireland’s emissions.

Dr Brian Kelleher of the School of Chemical Sciences at Dublin City University (DCU) said the results highlight an awareness of both the challenges and “the opportunities associated with climate change adaptation”.

“It should empower politicians to make the difficult decisions required to meet our commitment to a 50pc reduction in carbon usage by 2030,” Kelleher said.

Dr David Robbins, director of the DCU Centre for Climate and Society, echoed this view and said a majority of the Irish population said that climate action should be a government priority and that “they are willing to donate to and support climate campaigns”.

Last December, the Government issued a new Climate Action Plan, laying out an updated strategy to help Ireland meet its goals to slash emissions by 50pc by 2030 and reach net zero no later than 2050.

Some of the measures include a greater focus on renewable energy, along with carbon budgets and emissions ceilings for various sectors.

A reluctance to tackle specific issues

Despite the support for climate action, some experts noted that this doesn’t always translate to a desire to target specific areas that impact our country’s emissions.

For example, only roughly 30pc of those surveyed said they knew agriculture is Ireland’s biggest source of emissions.

University College Cork (UCC) lecturer Dr Hannah Daly said there is a “crucial gap” in people’s conceptions of what drives the climate crisis and environmental damage.

She gave the example that many are concerned with plastic waste, despite the fact this is “not a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions”. Daly said leadership is needed in Government to be honest about which activities are the most damaging to the environment.

“We are often reluctant to be direct about the causes of climate change – mainly fossil fuels and animal agriculture – because the actions that cause them are part of our everyday lives, and we don’t want to blame or shame people,” Daly said

“But to move forward, the government must be honest about how unsustainable many of our day-to-day practices are, and how we need a transition of unprecedented speed and scale to meet our commitments.”

Robbins said that the overall desire to support climate action “doesn’t seem to translate to what happens on the ground”, as there are examples of “huge pushback” against minor climate measures.

“There seems to be a disconnect between notional or hypothetical support for environmental measures, and how that translates into accepting the actual changes needed,” Robbins said.

“When you have 7,000 objections to a plan to redesign Lucan village because the new design removed 10 parking spaces, it’s difficult to reconcile this kind of hysterical reaction to the EPA/Yale study.”

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic