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EU elections and climate change: A last chance to vote for a safer future?

This week, as part of our May Sustainability Month coverage, we reported on a person determined to leave the world a better place than he found it. Chris Moody has focussed on that most unloved thing: an urban river all but destroyed by man.

That destruction became a burial when Cork City’s River Bride was partially hidden away in culverts, so it might not act as stone in a shoe, reminding us what we have done and what we must do. Moody’s restoration work has turned a section of a glorified drain into a viable, well-used habitat for wildlife.

But it is much more than a rebirth; it is symbolic of what must be done to restore our relationship with the natural world, which we rely on for all life. On Friday, we all have an opportunity to do just that.

This week’s European elections are the most important since the EU was built on the ruins of WWII. We will have to choose between business-as-usual candidates or those prepared to act immediately, forcefully, and imaginatively — and equitably — to try to minimise the looming climate catastrophe.

We must choose between stasis and survival: it is that serious, that shockingly simple. Despite the Europe-wide swing to the right undermining the European project, climate collapse is the issue of our time and by far the greatest threat facing our children.

Despite that, the European Parliament (EP) record of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil on the issue is appalling; it is far closer to Trump’s “burn-baby-burn” looters and pillages than is acceptable. In the EP, FG sits with the European People’s Party which, according to Climate Change Action Europe (CAN), “has shown a complete lack of support for climate action”.

Three of the four outgoing FG MEPs are standing, despite a beyond-shame 14.3% CAN rating on environmental votes. This suicidal apathy is one of the reasons we face fines of up the €150m next year over missed emissions targets.

It was also reflected in Frances Fitzgerald’s speech at FG’s selection convention in March. Climate change did not feature strongly in the Dublin candidate’s objectives. She focussed on migration and the “rule of law” and Brexit and, in a cúpla focal sort of way, mentioned green issues almost as an adjunct.

This was Dianne Feinstein-grade disdain, but Feinstein will be 86 next month, so it is not surprising she is out of touch. Fitzgerald, and her party, have no such excuse. FF’s EP record is marginally better, though not at all admirable, and it is not easily parsed. CAN gave Fianna Fáil a 38% rating, still a fail in the old money.

It is a recurring theme of this election campaign that we should vote for candidates who believe in Europe. That argument is a no-brainer, but it would be even more worthwhile if the main political leaders called for a mandate for unprecedented climate action.

Last December, the UN climate summit in Poland was told that today’s generation is the last that can prevent catastrophic global warming, as well as the first to suffer its consequences. On Friday, we will have to decide if we’re part of the problem or part of the solution — and we won’t have too many more chances to put the uncertain hope of a secure future before dangerous inaction and denial.

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