Ireland has a uniquely green image on the world stage - the Emerald Isle.The Ireland of today has a unique opportunity to build upon this base by taking greenness into its modern idiom of being a non-polluting, environmentally conscious country keen to play our part, and indeed to be a leader, in addressing climate change as a global issue.
Unabated carbon emissions and global warming are a clear and present threat to our conventional daily lives and to our current and continued existence on earth. Change is needed fast. Ireland has an impressive track record as an early adaptor to change. The plastic bag levy, the smoking ban, after some moderate grumbling we manage to surprise ourselves just how adaptable as Irish people we are to change. This hasn’t gone unnoticed. Ireland is congratulated, respected and envied by our international neighbours for its forward thinking. Carbon emissions are no different.
Ireland has recently enjoyed unprecedented economic growth and development during the period of the Celtic tiger. Our small island was once a backwater of global commerce and trade, barely a speck on the world canvas of economic activity. Today, however things are different. Ireland has one of the fastest population growth rates in the EU and is now one of the richest, most developed and peaceful countries on earth. In short we have come along way yet success has come at a price. Struggling to meet our Kyoto protocol targets for carbon emissions and faced with even more stringent European emissions targets, it is clear we must collectively take responsibility for our environmental obligations and work to decouple our continued growth with increasing carbon emissions.
Carbon neutrality for businesses in Ireland can have similar strategic importance for the economy in the long-term as our foreign direct investment strategy had when it was put in place nearly forty years ago.
Why?Because, in addition to all the evidence linking climate change to carbon and other emissions, there is a perceptible growth in the expectation of society that business will move to measure, reduce and control their carbon emissions.
The ESB set a headline with its recently announced development plan for electricity generation which will see it, currently one of the country’s biggest carbon emitters, achieve a neutral position on emissions by the year 2035.
This is real leadership, particularly as the ESB, due to our interconnectivity with Britain and Europe, will be operating in the open economy and will have to price competitively to consumers.
At the other end of the scale of carbon emissions, in the world of small and medium sized business, pressure is building for corporate responsibility towards the environment.Investor interest in carbon emissions policy, directors’ concern about reputational risk from not having an emissions policy and consumer demand for information about the carbon footprint of products, all combine to put carbon policy on the agenda for every forward thinking firm.
Taking action, for many businesses, can be financially rewarding. Apart from the customer reaction and the possibility of increased business, the cost savings to businesses resulting from an energy audit as part of a carbon emissions policy can be substantial.
Composed by: David Burrows
Position : Managing director, StepGreen Ltd.
Irish Independent - Earth Magazine 10th April 2008