Building the N6 road is one of the most "blatant examples of a human activity which will certainly increase our emissions and our dependence on cars", Dep Catherine Connolly told the An Bord Pleanala oral hearing into the project on Monday.
She said that such a direction is completely out of sync with our legal obligations on climate change, which are about to become more stringent. She said that Galway City Council have had all their eggs in one basket on this matter for decades and that there has never been a proper analysis of park and ride and other systems.
'A golden opportunity'
"David Attenborough said that we require more than intelligence, we require wisdom. I fully agree with that assertion but we also require courageous leadership.
"Galway has one golden opportunity to get it right and develop as a green thriving city based on a masterplan that puts the common good to the fore and is based on an integrated public transport system that allows us to comply with our climate change obligations," she said.
Dep Connolly added that the submission by an engineer at the beginning of the oral hearing was worrying in its failure to recognise both the challenge that climate change poses to our survival and the necessary steps that are required.
She said she was concerned about the business case underpinning the N6 project, and said that it was showing scant regard to our obligations under climate change legislation.
Dep Connolly also said that she was very concerned at the recent confirmation from the County Council that an extensive Park and Ride system will depend on the N6 project and will not be rolled out untll then.
'Any large investment by the State or private enterprise will have to factor in the project’s carbon footprint. The N6 project is certainly a very large scale investment by the State'
She said that 24,000 signatures collected in early 2018 called on the Minister for Transport to carry out a Feasibility Study for a Light Rail System in Galway and she hopes that this will be actioned.
Hitting carbon targets
She referenced the country's commitment to hitting carbon targets and the role this project will play in that.
"There are significant targets in the Bill, especially a commitment to Ireland becoming carbon-neutral by 2050 and to more ambitious emissions reductions over the next decade. This sets the course for decarbonising Ireland over the next 30 years. The critical element is enshrining targets and carbon pollution limits in law, to be incorporated in all government plans.
"More particularly, any large investment by the State or private enterprise will have to factor in the project’s carbon footprint. The N6 project is certainly a very large scale investment by the State.
Dep Connolly called for the urgent roll out of: Park and Ride facilities on the east and west of the city; a comprehensive and integrated school transport service to lift school traffic off the roads; roll out of the promised Greenways; and increased train frequency from Oranmore/Athenry to allow for and cater for commuters.
She also noted that tansport accounts for 20 per cent of Irelands overall emissions and (27 per cent of our non-ETS emissions ) with 52 per cent of overall transport emissions coming form private cares, 24 per cent from freight and four per cent from public transport.