*Waves on the Atlantic Ocean during Storm Lorenzo. Photograph: John Mangan
A new strategic policy committee (SPC) dedicated solely to climate change and biodiversity will not be introduced in Co Clare.
SPCs are local authority committees whose membership includes elected councillors, representatives of business, farming interests, environmental/conservation groups, trade unions plus community and voluntary members. It is the task of the SPCs as committees of the council, to advise and assist the council in the formulation, development and review of policy. They have no remit in relation to routine operational matters regarding the delivery of services. The SPC system is intended to give councillors and relevant sectoral interests an opportunity for full involvement in the policy making process from the early stages.
Limerick City and County Council have established a climate change SPC but no such equivalent is going to be set up in the Banner County. Instead, all existing four SPC’s (Physical Development, Social Development, Economic Development and Rural Development) will factor in climate change to their decision making.
Cllr Johnny Flynn (FG) highlighted his disappointment that an SPC focused solely on climate change would not be created in Clare. “It is disappointing to see because of resource and other issues that we do not have a climate change SPC. We should consider in light of the importance of climate change to consider the title of the Physical Development SPC to incorporate climate change”. The Mayor of Ennis also suggested the title of community and voluntary representatives on SPCs be amended to social inclusion.
His namesake, Cllr Gerry Flynn (IND) was not in agreement. “I wouldn’t be in support of a creation of new SPC. I think it would impose a lot more hardship on the people of Co Clare as it would impact greatly on funding”. The Miltown Malbay native felt all SPCs should “embrace climate change” as opposed to one SPC tackling the issue on its own.
“It’s important that climate change crosses all SPCs, it is critically important for all SPCs. Climate change should be a fixed standing order on all SPCs,” Cllr Pat Hayes (FF) stated. He proposed the local authority appoint an individual within their ranks as a climate change officer who would work side by side with the SPCs “so all policies we adapt factor in climate change”.
Clare’s only Green Party councillor, Roisin Garvey reminded Cllr Hayes that he left out biodiversity out of the conversation, “The two things cannot be separated, both are equally important”. She added, “Other Council’s have started a whole SPC for this, I don’t see a climate change or biodiversity officer, this gives me very little confidence that we will be ready for the climate emergency coming down the tracks”.
Director of Services, Leonard Cleary confirmed at their September meeting they could resource climate change and biodiversity as standing orders in SPC meetings. “As long as there are no monetary implications, I can see no problems,” Cllr Gerry Flynn responded. Cllr Johnny Flynn’s request for a climate change heading to be included in the monthly management report was accepted. Cathaoirleach, Cllr Cathal Crowe told the meeting, “We were the first Council before national bodies to ban fracking. Our environmental credentials are high”.