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Northern Ireland’s remote Rathlin Island hopes to lead the way in hitting carbon-neutral target

Written by on 09/08/2021

The residents of Rathlin Island – six miles off the coast of Northern Ireland – are hoping to demonstrate that carbon neutrality can be achieved much quicker.

Rathlin wasn’t connected to the electricity grid until 2007 but the 150 islanders aim to produce their own wind and wave energy by the end of this decade.

If it can be achieved at this remote location on the end of the grid, they say it can be achieved anywhere, and well ahead of targets set in both the UK and Ireland.

Six miles off the Northern Irish coast, Rathlin Island has an ambitious carbon neutral target
Image: Six miles off the Northern Irish coast, Rathlin Island has an ambitious carbon neutral target

Michael Cecil, who chairs the Rathlin Development and Community Association, said: “There’s great possibilities now with hydrogen-fuelled ferries and we can produce hydrogen on Rathlin so that achieves two goals.

“It reduces our carbon footprint, hopefully to zero, but it also gives us some security in that we’re generating our own energy and retailing our own energy.”

Michael Cecil, the Chairman of Rathlin Development Association said there are now possibilities with hyrdrogen-fuelled ferries
Image: Michael Cecil, the Chairman of Rathlin Development Association said there are now possibilities with hyrdrogen-fuelled ferries

Tourists flock to the seabird colony, its cliffs and stacks hosting a quarter of a million birds annually, along with Northern Ireland’s largest population of puffin.

Dolphins leap from the water to welcome the approaching ferries from Ballycastle, County Antrim and seals relax on the rocky shoreline around the island.

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Islander Kate Burns is tackling the climate crisis by harnessing the potential in seaweed and the biodiverse waters here are ideal for her underwater farming.

She said: “There is as much protein in kelp as in beef. Also, it’s higher in calcium and iron than any other vegetable, including spinach.

Kate Burns an underwater farmer is harnessing the potential in seaweed.
Image: Kate Burns, an underwater farmer, is harnessing the potential in seaweed

“The thing about kelp is you grow it in the sea, you don’t need any fertilisers or any pesticides or herbicides. In fact, the more you grow the better it is for the environment,” she added.

Tom McDonnell’s passion for wildlife photography has taken him all over the world but he keeps coming back to Rathlin, his home of 12 years.

He says it’s in his “heart and soul to see nature at its best” and he fears the impact of climate change on his subjects.

Tom McDonnell, a wildlife photographer, finds himself drawn back to the island.
Image: Tom McDonnell, a wildlife photographer, finds himself drawn back to the island.

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Tom said: “There has to be a change at some stage and we’d need to do it sooner rather than later.

“You just see with the news, the fires in the world and the heating up of things, possibly sea temperatures rising.

“It’s not looking too good at the minute.”

 Sky News

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