Kenny warns of ‘difficult’ climate change talks at EU summit

Leaders aiming to strike deal to reduce emissions by 40% between 2020 and 2030

Taoiseach Enda Kenny warned of “difficult” climate change talks at tonight’s EU summit as he made the case for Ireland to receive special concessions in a new 10-year plan to curb harmful emissions.

While European leaders aim to strike a long-term deal here to reduce emissions by 40 per cent between 2020 and 2030, Mr Kenny said the current proposal would place Ireland at a disadvantage from the outset of the plan.

“This is going to be a difficult meeting in respect of climate change, I feel. From what I’ve heard the situation is problematikc for a number of countries,” Mr Kenny told reporters as he arrived for the summit.

The Taoiseach wants Ireland’s high dependence on agriculture taken into account in new greenhouse gas targets.

The question is highly sensitive for the Government as any failure to secure concessions would disrupt plans to build up the dairy sector after the elimination of milk quotas next year.

Mr Kenny took issue with the targets already in place for Ireland saying they were based on per-capita income when the State was in a very different position financially to its current position. “In Ireland’s case we have a legacy here that is truly catastrophic, that in my view should never have been accepted in the way that it was,” he said.

“It means that if the language that is currently on the table were to be translated it would mean that whatever Government was in office in 2020 would be in a very difficult position.

“I want to make it clear to the European Council that Ireland will be ambitious about our targets but we don’t want to be in a position where completely unreachable targets are set for us, and that’s an issue that I intend to argue very strongly because of Ireland’s unique position because of our agrisector at the meeting this evening.”

It remains unclear whether a deal can be reached tonight. East European countries are pushing to dilute emission targets in view of their haevy dependence on fossil fuels.

“There are other countries whohave different kinds of problems and they will make their own case individually so it could be a long night,” Mr Kenny said.

Asked whether he was expending valuable political capital to support the vested interests of the agricultural sector, Mr Kenny said the only other country in the world an sector as large as Ireland’s was New Zealand.

“We’re different - genuinely different - than any other country in Europe on this particular issue. And with quotas to go in 2015 and the extent of further potential foir development in the agrisector partiularly in the dairy sector, this is an issue where we are carbon-footprinting our agrisector, where we have so much potential to produce huge quantitites of food to the highest level of integrity with low emissions.”

The Taoiseach acknowledged “quite a deal of progress” in talks on a draft summit communiqué, which has been amended to include references to agriculture and foresty .

“ But it is in respect of the general principles here of the economic issues that we need to be careful of. The language on agriculture and forestry is very welcome and I think that will apply to allother countries where that’s appropriate too,” he said.

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley is Current Affairs Editor of The Irish Times