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Taoiseach says climate change protests are 'welcome' and 'inspiring'

Earlier this month, the Taoiseach said he supported school students going on strike.

Image: Sam Boal

Christina Finn reporting from Chicago

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has said the huge turnout by students at the Climate Change protest in Dublin is to be welcomed. 

Today, thousands of second level students swapped the classroom for the streets to  demonstrate against government inaction on climate change.

The marches in Dublin and Cork this afternoon form part of a global movement initiated by 16-year-old schoolgirl Greta Thunberg, who began protesting outside Swedish Parliament last August.

There are over 1,000 similar marches taking place worldwide today.

Thousands gathered near Dublin’s St Stephen’s Green just after midday before marching on to Leinster House.

Protests

In Chicago this evening, Varadkar told TheJournal.ie:

“I think the protests were really welcome. It is inspiring that school children and students are getting politically active and are taking on the issue of climate change and they are really putting it up to us, as adults, and as political leaders to do a lot more to tackle this climate emergency, and make sure we pass on to them a better planet than we found it.

“So we get the message, we hear it loud and clear. We will be doing a lot more in the years ahead with our cross-government climate action plan to deal with the issue.”

Earlier this month, the Taoiseach said he supported school students going on strike, stating that he would listen to the concerns of students. 

Ireland’s environmental woes have been well documented, with the country well on course to miss vital emissions targets and face hefty fines. 

Varadkar previously said that the children taking part in the protests are “telling all the adults in all parties to get our act together and to do more about climate change because it is their future that is in jeopardy”.

That is why I support what they are doing and why we all must listen to what they are saying.

More to do

The Taoiseach defended the government’s record, but admitted that more needs to be done.

He said there has been a real development in renewable energy in Ireland, with over 30% of the country’s energy now coming from wind.

“We will expand that in the coming years,” he said, pointing out that Moneypoint is going off coal.

“Electric cars are really taking off, we need to put in the charging points. There are a lot of other things we need to do there is not one solution to climate change but a lot of things put together, we can do it and as well as that there is potentially economic opportunities in it as well, creating future jobs, jobs for future.”

The Taoiseach was recently asked what he was doing to reduce his carbon footprint, he said he is trying to eat less meat.

“I am trying to eat less meat, both for health reasons and for reasons of climate change. But I imagine given the amount of travel I do I am probably not the best example,” he said.

However, he said the government and its ministers should “lead by example” adding that the government owns a lot of vehicles and rolling out more hybrid and electric cars in the fleet should be looked at in the future.

Farmers and many rural TDs were unhappy with his comments stating that he should be heralding Irish beef. 

The Taoiseach failed to answer what other actions he was personally taking to reduce his carbon footprint. When asked if had reflected on what else he could do, other than reducing his meat intake, he said he had not. 

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