Tomorrow is too late to address climate change

Matching political rhetoric with the grim reality is perhaps Denis Naughten’s biggest challenge

 

Matching political rhetoric about climate change with the grim reality is perhaps the biggest challenge faced by Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment Denis Naughten.

With Ireland now certain to produce more carbon emissions than its 2020 EU-mandated target limit, he needs urgently to put in place a credible and coherent National Mitigation Plan if there is to be any chance of achieving the headline ambition of cutting overall emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.

To reach the goal of a “low-carbon, climate-resilient and environmentally sustainable economy” by mid-century will require reductions of 5 per cent per annum from next year, as Oisín Coghlan, of Friends of the Earth Ireland, has pointed out. Instead, our carbon emissions actually rose by 4 per cent last year alone.

No wonder Green Party leader Eamon Ryan believes “we are going radically in the wrong direction”.

Mr Naughten has only held the climate portfolio for six months and cannot be blamed for long years of inaction.

But with 2016 likely to turn out the warmest year on record, there is no room for complacency.

That’s why Mr Ryan argued for a “green equivalent” to the radical economic plan devised by TK Whitaker in the late 1950s that turned the country around.

Mr Naughten says he doesn’t want to be “lectured” to by Mr Ryan or environmentalists, and that he wants to “bring people with us”, given that any serious move towards a low-carbon economy would have its winners and losers, at least in the short term.

He suggests that the result of the US election was at least partly driven by what happens when people’s livelihoods are threatened.

Yet the answer to their alienation in Trump’s America is surely not to nominate a self-professed climate change denier, Scott Pruitt, as head of the US Environmental Protection Agency.

It is, as has been said, the equivalent of putting an arsonist in charge of dealing with forest fire.

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