Ireland can help stave off climate breakdown but only with ‘dash to low-carbon economy and society’, says climate coalition

Campaign group calls for urgent political leadership to secure sustainable, fossil-free future for all

The world can still stave off the worst ravages of climate breakdown but only through countries like Ireland making a “now or never dash to a low-carbon economy and society”, according to Sadhbh O’Neill, co-ordinator of the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition.

Climate scientists have, however, provided a “final warning” to governments, she said in response to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.

It made clear emissions needed to peak by 2025 and then be halved by 2030 to give the world a chance of limiting future heating to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels but “the only barrier is the lack of political will. Solutions exist to break our dependence on fossil fuels”, Ms O’Neill said.

“Reports covered in the IPCC’s sixth [global] assessment reflect an undeniable scientific consensus about the urgency of the climate crisis, its current devastating impacts, especially on the most climate vulnerable regions, and the irreversible harm that will occur if warming surpasses 1.5 degrees,” she said. The “synthesis report”, published on Monday, is the final element in the assessment


“Today’s report makes it clear that climate change is a threat to human wellbeing and planetary health. There is a rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all. However, if annual emissions stay at the same level as 2019, the remaining global carbon budget consistent with 1.5 degrees of warming will be exhausted by 2030,” she warned.

Ireland was not on track to achieve the promised emission reductions by 2030, she said, “and without an urgent injection of renewed political commitment, we will slip back into the climate laggard category”.

In response to the report’s findings confirming the likelihood that 1.5 degrees will be exceeded in the short term, the chief executive of Oxfam Ireland, Jim Clarken said: “There’s only a sliver of a chance of limiting heating to 1.5 degrees but we can’t throw in the towel. Every fraction of a degree will be counted in millions of lives saved. Even an increase of half a degree could make it much more difficult to grow crops, raise animals and catch fish.”

Ireland and the EU must accelerate actions to effectively respond to climate breakdown, said Green MEPs Ciarán Cuffe and Grace O’Sullivan in a statement.

“This report provides the definitive response to politicians who say that now is not the time for climate action. Science has set a seven-year deadline to cut emissions in half, and we cannot afford to miss it,” Mr Cuffe said.

“This report also quite rightly places an emphasis on fairness. Every increment of warming on the road to 1.5 degrees has a devastating impact, and this impact will be felt most acutely in developing countries,” he said.

Between 2010 and 2020, death rates from floods, droughts and storms were 15 times higher in highly vulnerable regions, Mr Cuffe noted.” We need to close the climate investment gap, and deliver higher up-front investments with more favourable conditions to countries that need it most. These investments will also significantly lower costs in the long-term.”

Climate change graphic

With this final report from the IPCC on its AR6 global review, “the scientific community gives us all the guidance we need to make the right decisions to secure a liveable future on this planet”, said Ms O’Sullivan, an MEP for Ireland South.

“It requires a complete system change worldwide and an end to the insane practice of subsidising activities which are essentially killing us. By the time the next report comes out in 2030, we will know if we have failed or succeeded. There is no longer any excuse for politicians and leaders who say this is not the time for action,” she added.

Rose Wall, chief executive of Centre for Environmental Justice run by Community Law & Mediation, said the report reflected “an undeniable scientific consensus about the urgency of the climate crisis, its primary causes and the catastrophic and irreversible harm that will occur if warming surpasses 1.5 degrees, even temporarily”.

Two years into Ireland’s first legally-binding carbon budget for the 2021-2025 period, its emissions remain among the highest in the EU, she added.

“The report makes it clear that climate change exacerbates existing inequalities. Social justice must therefore be a core pillar of climate solutions. In parallel with a rapid fossil fuel phase-out, Ireland’s national retrofit plan must be scaled up to include all social housing and groups most at risk of energy poverty. The establishment of the long-awaited just transition commission must be accelerated,” Ms Wall said.

With the window to remain within 1.5 degrees rapidly narrowing, further delay risked “an abrupt, forceful and disorderly transition”, she said. The Government must clarify whether the 2023 climate action plan and its annex of actions comply with Ireland’s legally-binding carbon budget and publish its long-term climate action strategy.

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times