Cyclist.ie, the Irish Cycling Advocacy Network, in collaboration with the Irish Heart Foundation, the Irish Cancer Society, Diabetes Ireland, Irish Doctors for the Environment, the Association for Health Promotion Ireland and the Irish Pedestrian Network, will today present an open letter to An Taoiseach and Ministers Ross, (Transport), Bruton (Climate Action ) and Harris (Health) calling on the Government to ensure that active travel will form an integral part of the All-of-Government Climate Plan.
An open Letter addressed to An Taoiseach (former Minister for Health), co-signed by the health bodies, will be presented at a press conference on Wednesday 17 April at 16:15 h in Buswell’s Hotel (Molesworth Street). Prof. Donal O’Shea (SVUH & government lead on obesity) will talk about some of the issues raised in the Letter. The text of the Letter is here: https://app.luminpdf.com/viewer/rAKGNmAJaSZMfB3Ee/share?sk=e1a6a41a-f719-4c64-b2f4-5cea677135f7
The National Physical Activity Plan Get Ireland Active was published in 2016 when our current Taoiseach was Minister for Health. It recognises the key role of the built environment in promoting active travel and lists actions which would enable increased physical activity. These include walking and cycling strategies and the appropriate planning, development and design of towns and cities. Despite the clear awareness of the link between physical activity and the built environment, Active Travel is currently not being prioritised. As an example, in spite of recent increases the present level of transport funding allocated to cycling is still less than 2%.
This needs to increase to meet the United Nations Environment Programme recommended levels of at least 10%, and with at least 20% recommended for cycling and walking. Cyclist.ie is very pleased that the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action report calls on the government to respond positively to the Dáil motion to achieve at least 10% expenditure on facilitating cycling.
It is widely acknowledged that the government is not meeting its climate targets. Transport emissions in particular continue to rise. Insufficient thought has been given to the extent to which the take-up of active travel can contribute to emissions reduction. Furthermore the Transition Statement 2018, which sets out a path towards a carbon free future, contains no targets acknowledging that walking and cycling are valid means of transport related climate action.
This week’s report from CAN (Climate Action Network) Europe analyses the draft NECP’s (National Energy and Climate Plan) from 24 EU countries and regarding Ireland states that – “Ireland is way off track with its greenhouse gas emission reductions in sectors such as transport, buildings, waste and agriculture (non-ETS) both for 2020 and 2030.” (p. 5) [http://www.caneurope.org/publications/press-releases/1759-new-report-makes-case-for-aligning-europe-s-national-energy-and-climate-plans-with-the-paris-agreement]
Healthy Ireland surveys confirm that the average Irish adult is not meeting the target of a minimum of 150 minutes of physical activity per week and concerns about the results of inactivity on the health of Irish children are growing.
Colm Ryder, Chair of Cyclist.ie, said “When exercise is seen as an ‘extra’ that has to be fitted into busy lives on top of work, commuting, caring and other family responsibilities, it is easy to neglect. On the other hand, walking or cycling to work, school, college, shopping or to social activities offers people the opportunity to integrate physical activity into their day-to-day lives”
Tim Collins CEO of Irish Heart Foundation pointed out that:
”Regular physical activity is key to achieving a healthy life, whether you are a patient or not. Higher levels of sedentary behaviour are associated with a 147 per cent increase in the risk of heart disease and stroke while Ireland’s child obesity crisis means eight-year olds are showing the signs of heart disease previously only seen in middle age. By merging active travel measures with climate targets, there is considerable scope to replace car journeys with walking and cycling to bring about a range of benefits for health and climate change.”
The just published landmark report from the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action acknowledges that policies and strategies regarding Active Travel do exist when it says – “Solutions are available, many of which remain unimplemented parts of Government policy dating back to 2009” . Actual measures to enable people to adopt more active and sustainable travel patterns have been lacking as is clear from the failure to increase cycling levels nationally since 2000. We, the organisations listed above, call on Government to embed active travel targets in the Health and Transport sections of the forthcoming Climate Action Plan and link it clearly into the “All of Government” approach being developed for the sake of current and future generations.