MP hosts major conference for climate change activists

MP hosts major conference for climate change activists

9 October 2019

CASTLEWARD was the venue for a major climate action conference last week.

Hosted by South Down MP Chris Hazzard and addressed by a number of keynote speakers, it  provided an opportunity for people to engage with policy advisors, leading environmental academics and campaigners. 

Mr Hazzard, who secured EU funding to host the ‘Beyond Politics: Climate Action Now’ conference, was joined by Martina Anderson MEP. 

Speakers included Professor Peter Doran from Queen’s University, Martin Carey (Mourne Heritage Trust), Clodagh Daly (Climate Case Ireland), Aisling Cowan (Friends of the Earth) and Dr Sean Byers (Trademark) with the workshop hosted by Michael Donnelly and Nigel McKinney from the Castlewellan Climate Change Project.

It is hoped that the one day conference workshop marks the start of an interactive conversation between the community and leading academics and campaigners about what they  can do to help play their part in building a better world. 

“As a coastal constituency with many environmentally sensitive areas, South Down has a rich and vibrant community who care very deeply about the world around us,” said Mr Hazzard.

“There are many local campaigns and activists playing a leading role in making the case for an alternative way of doing things in order to help save our local community,  beautiful island and, ultimately, our planet.”

The MP said last week’s event provided a great opportunity to hear first hand from climate activists and hopes that the conversations and contacts can act as a catalyst for much more climate action throughout South Down. 

He said more than 100 people participated in the conference, with some thought-provoking and inspirational contributions from the keynote speakers. 

“I want to thank everybody who made a gallant effort to attend this conference despite the horrible travelling conditions,” said mr Hazzard. “To have speakers and representatives from various Climate Action groups throughout Ireland was a real bonus and they all brought real expertise and experience to the conversations. 

“In recent years, the growing need to make genuine, sustained changes to how we run our homes right the way up to how we run local and international economies has become increasingly obvious. The clear message from the conference was that we need to act, and need to act now.”

Mr Hazzard said it was “breathtaking at times” to listen to all the guest speakers, in particular,  Peter Doran and John Barry from Queen’s and Trademark’s Sean Byers who spelt out the global impact of destructive economies and their destructive pursuit of economic growth.

The MP continued: “It was equally inspirational to hear Martin Carey, Clodagh Daly and Aisling Cowan talk so passionately about local efforts to deal with the destructive effects of climate change. 

“It was clear that many people, including myself, left the conference with so much more knowledge and understanding of the issues we need to collectively deal with if we are to genuinely make the changes that are required.”

Mr Hazzard said he is confident that in addition to acting as a catalyst for change, the conference cab help build a stronger network of climate action activists and mark the start of a growing conversation locally that can help build a more sustainable South Down and ultimately help save the planet.

At Monday night’s meeting of Newry, Mourne and Down Council, Mournes councillor Willie Clarke urged the local authority to recognise the “significant impact” that climate change will have on communities. 

He asked the council to manage the Islands Park area in Newcastle as a climate change park to support climate change mitigation and adaptation, with his proposal referred back for further consideration.

Cllr Clarke explained that the out workings of his proposal motion would ensure the council would develop an action plan prioritising a number of exemplar projects.

He said these would include the eco-friendly replacement of car parks’ surfaces, permeable pavements, further recycling, wildflower meadows for pollinator bees and butterflies, the establishment of a wetlands habitat, planting native fruit orchard and green transport connectivity.

Cllr Clarke added: “These are my own ideas on how the open space is used to mitigate the impacts of climate change. 

“They include the creation of a series of new permeable pathways and the establishment of a healthy living area, consisting of herb gardens and fruit orchards, the creation of an animal-themed wood sculpture trail, increasing the wildflower area and a general improvement of the biodiversity of the area.”

Cllr Clarke added: “There is also a need to manage the waterways in the park, which contain litter on a regular basis ad this material ends up on the coastline.”