Ireland has no choice but to change due to climate change as the consequences “will catch up with us if we don’t do something,” Taoiseach Micheál Martin said from the the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow on Tuesday.
Mr Martin said everyone had to deal with the realities of climate change and this meant that “farming will have to change, energy will have to change and transport will have to change”.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said that Ireland has no choice when it comes to climate change. “It will catch up with us if we don’t do something”.
Everyone had to deal with the realities, he told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.
Farming will have to change, energy will have to change and transport will have to change, he added.
World leaders are expected to agree ambitious deals to protect forests and cut methane emissions on Tuesday.
Mr Martin said Ireland would sign a pledge to cut methane emissions by 30 per cent, but he stressed that the figure was a global target rather than a national one.
“We will contribute globally to a global reduction. It’s a global pledge, it’s not country-specific. We will develop our climate action plan which will give our specifics in respect of each sector,” he said.
Ireland will be among about 80 countries, including the United States and the European Union, to sign the pledge on methane, most of which comes from agriculture and which accounts for about 30 per cent of global warming.
The summit is also expected to see an agreement on Tuesday to halt deforestation by 2030, with richer countries paying poorer ones to halt the clearing of forests for activities such as agriculture and mining.
The deals on methane and deforestation will be the first tangible achievements of the Cop26 UN Climate Change Conference, which heard on Monday that India would aim to reach net-zero emissions by 2070, missing a key goal of the Cop26 summit for countries to commit to reach that target by 2050.
The deforestation pledge includes almost €16.4 billion of public and private funds. Deforestation contributes to climate change because it depletes forests that absorb huge volumes of CO2.
Ireland’s sector specific targets for emissions reductions, including from agriculture, over the coming years will be contained within the Climate Action Plan, which is set to be discussed at Cabinet on Thursday.
For agriculture the future could see farmers paid more to produce less as incentives switch to protecting biodiversity, encourage them to plant native trees and maintain clean waterways.
Mr Martin said the Climate Action Plan was nearly complete and remaining issues would be resolved at Cabinet subcommittee on climate change meeting on Wednesday.
The plan will set out how each sector is going to contribute to the overall national goal of reducing the State’s greenhouse emissions by 51 per cent by 2030 and to be climate neutral by 2050.
The Taoiseach said the challenge was to create a sustainable future for young farmers that respected the realities of climate change and “how much the land can take”.
"We have no choice here. Climate change will catch up with us. It will catch up with our farming. It will catch up with our agriculture if we don't take action".
Mr Martin also said it would possible Ireland’s emissions may increase this year, after falling in 2020 due to the impact of the pandemic on the economy, and said many of the climate mitigation measures to be taken will not have an impact until the latter half of the next decade
When asked about reports that Ireland was on track to increase its emissions this year, the Taoiseach said that could be true and explained that many of the steps that will be taken soon will not have an impact until the latter half of the next decade.
He said Ireland had missed targets in the past, but the passing of the climate law meant legal imperatives had been set that this Government and future governments must meet.
Ireland’s first carbon budget, running from 2021 to 2025, requires emissions to reduce by 4.8 per cent on average each year for five years. The second budget, running from 2026 to 2030, will see emissions reduce by 8.3 per cent on average each year.
The budgets, put together by the Climate Change Advisory Council, use 2018 data as a baseline for the reduction. In that year Ireland emitted 68.3 million tonnes of CO2.
A 1 per cent cut in this baseline amounts to 683,000 tonnes of CO2, which is the equivalent of taking 250,000 diesel cars off the road, or 170,000 homes no longer using oil fired central heating, or 500,000 return flights from Dublin to New York, if these were measures that the Government decided to pursue.