Liadh Dalton meets Taoiseach Micheál Martin
A TEENAGE farmer and climate activist from Offaly took part in a #KidsTakeOver of the Taoiseach’s office last week to highlight the importance of protecting nature and farming livelihoods.
As critical climate talks continued at COP26, 15-year-old Liadh Dalton met Taoiseach Micheál Martin to talk about how farming communities and those addressing the climate crisis can work together.
Liadh lives on her family’s farm in County Offaly and won UNICEF Ireland’s 2021 #KidsTakeOver competition. During an hour-long one-to-one meeting at Leinster House, Liadh and the Taoiseach talked about Liadh’s experiences as a young farmer and climate activist, and how farming families could be part of the solution as Ireland meets its emissions targets over the coming decade and beyond.
Raised on her family’s farm, Liadh’s childhood experiences surrounded by nature have made her passionate about protecting the environment. In recent years, the increasingly unpredictable weather has made Liadh and her family more aware of the effects of climate change on the family farm.
However, alongside this, growing up in a rural farming community surrounded by peat bogs, Liadh has also seen how changing farming and energy practices, required to combat climate change, have impacted local families and livelihoods.
Since entering secondary school Liadh has been active in her school’s Climate Action Group, and in 3rd year she completed a science project on how seaweed supplements in cows’ diets could reduce methane emissions.
With COP26 discussions ongoing, and bold action needed both in Ireland and around the world to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Liadh believes positive and open dialogue between everyone must play a key part in tackling the climate crisis, and that the challenges can only be tackled, and new solutions found, if everyone works together.
“I work on our farm and I see the biodiversity and the simple things we do to protect our environment around us – like ensuring there is adequate cover for wildlife. On our farm, we have barn owls, and buzzards, and rabbits. And we plan to do much more. Sometimes the simple things have the biggest impact, like planting trees and wildflowers, collecting rainwater, and installing solar panels,” said Liadh.
Speaking following the meeting, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said: “Climate change is the biggest challenge of our time. We all know that bold and urgent changes are needed across all sectors of our society. The farming community sits at the heart of rural life and it is only by everyone working together that we will be able to create a better future. That is why Liadh’s positive and inspiring message on bridging the gap between farming communities and climate activism is so important and timely. Young people are rightly concerned about their future and their voices must be heard. Ireland is determined to be a leader in tackling the climate crisis and young people, like Liadh, will be at the forefront of ensuring that we create a sustainable and liveable planet for future generations.”
Liadh’s #KidsTakeOver of the Taoiseach’s office comes in the build-up to UNICEF’s World Children’s Day on November 20th. World Children’s Day is a day "for children, by children", when children from around the world will be taking over, as part of UNICEF’s global #KidsTakeOver initiative, key roles in media, politics, business, sport, and entertainment to express their concerns about what global leaders should be focusing on. For Liadh, it was an important opportunity to advocate for what matters to her.
“It was such an amazing experience. Everyone knows we need to tackle the climate crisis and make big changes. We spoke about how farmers can play a vital role in that. And why it is so important that we have positive conversations and understand each other. My main message for the Taoiseach was that we have to go through this transition together,” said Liadh.
“Farmers need to be supported and they will be part of the solution. Me and my family spend a lot of time at the kitchen table chatting about what the future is going to bring, and we always say that only everyone working together can do this. We all know we need to change. But we must remember there are people living in communities. Things are changing so fast and we need to support the communities and families,” said Liadh.
UNICEF Ireland Executive Director Peter Power welcomed youth voices being heard at such a critical time.
“Liadh’s inspiring message that we are all in this together is exactly what we need right now. Children have a right to be part of the decisions impacting their lives today, tomorrow and into the future, and we thank the Taoiseach for welcoming a young person to participate in the #KidsTakeOver for the fifth year in a row. Climate change is a children’s crisis, and children and young people are the least responsible. Every child has a right to grow up in a safe, clean and healthy environment, and that is why it is so important they are part of these vital discussions about the future.”
According to UNICEF, to avert the worst impacts of the climate crisis, comprehensive and urgent action is required to keep warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. Governments around the world are woefully off track to meet this goal, and UNICEF estimates that the number of children at "extremely high-risk" of the impacts of climate change will likely increase as the impacts of climate change accelerate.
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