Climate campaigners say Ireland falls far short of UN emissions target
COP25 conference opens in Madrid against backdrop of threatened ‘catastrophic climate change’
UN secretary general António Guterres at a press conference during the first day of the UN Climate Change Conference COP25 in Madrid, Spain, yesterday. Photograph: EPA/ZIPI
Ireland is short of where it needs to be in drastically cutting its carbon emissions, in light of a key global target set by the UN secretary general at the opening of the annual climate talks being attended by representatives of almost 200 countries.
Speaking during the opening day of COP25 in Madrid on Monday, Stop Climate Chaos coordinator Oisín Coghlan said UN secretary general António Guterres had laid down a clear challenge to world leaders; “we need to cut global emissions by 7 per cent a year to prevent catastrophic climate change”.
“The 7 per cent a year emissions cuts urged by the UN secretary general contrast with the wholly-inadequate 2 per cent a year proposed in [Minister for Climate action ]Richard Bruton’s new action plan,” he added.
“Leo Varadkar is trying to shake off Ireland’s climate laggard status as his Government canvasses for votes to be elected to the UN Security Council next year. Today’s stark words from António Guterres show Leo has much more to do to qualify as a climate leader.”
Mr Coghlan, whose organisation is a coalition of civil society groups campaigning on climate change, was speaking at an event on the legislative response to climate change.
Ireland is of interest to the organisers “because it has a weak climate law at the moment but there is now cross-party support to enact a new, stronger one as soon as possible”, he said at a briefing.
The next big test for Mr Varadkar’s climate credibility was the new draft Climate Change (Amendment) Act promised for before Christmas.
There were key elements to a strong climate law against which the Bill should be assessed, he believed. These included “a net-zero target for the whole economy in law”; a strong, independent, climate change advisory council to provide advice and monitor implementation, and legally-binding five-year carbon budgets (emissions targets) adopted by the Dáil.
In his opening address Mr Guterres said by the end of the coming decade “we will be on one of two paths, one of which is sleepwalking past the point of no return”.
“Do we want to be remembered as the generation that buried its head in the sand and fiddled as the planet burned?”
In spite of the US, under president Donald Trump, pulling out of the 2015 Paris Agreement, a high-powered delegation from the US congress was present “to recognise the US role in saving the planet for future generations”, US house speaker Nancy Pelosi said. She said “this is a mission and we are still in it”.
She said it was “a public health issue – clean air, clean water – for everyone including the most vulnerable . . . who pay the biggest price”. It was also an economic issue, which if addressed could generate green jobs and uplift for everybody. If unaddressed, it would continue to be an existential threat, and undermine national security because of the threat to land and natural resources, she said.
“We need to dramatically change how we do things and revolutionise our approach. We have had the industrial revolution, the technological revolution; now it is time for the ‘green revolution’.”