Irish climate activist groups urge increase in EU 2030 target

Ireland must support ‘higher 2030 ambitions’ in attempt to avert looming chaos

A substantial increase in the EU's 2030 climate target must be tabled during the UN climate talks this week "to show global leadership and avoid massive climate disruption", according to an alliance of Irish climate NGOs.

The gap between efforts to reduce emissions and the objectives of the Paris Agreement is ever widening, Stop Climate Chaos warned on Monday, adding Ireland must also support "higher 2030 ambitions".

Stop Climate Chaos head of policy Catherine Devitt said "2020 marks the beginning of a decade in which global emissions must reduce by 55 per cent before 2030 if the 1.5 degree limit in the Paris Agreement is to remain at all feasible".

Only decisive frontloading of policy decisions and action would ensure reductions of this scale could be delivered. “To fail to do so runs counter to the global and national public interest, threatening to significantly increase direct and indirect climate impacts, exacerbating global poverty, hunger, insecurity and population displacement, and risking global societal disruption or breakdown,” she added

The EU’s fair share of the 1.5 degree-aligned global effort is at least 65 per cent reductions in emissions by 2030, she said. “Ireland has thus far failed, however, to align itself with even the least ambitious proposals of the Commission, and the eight member states who are calling for an increase in the EU’s 2030 reduction target to 55 per cent.”

COP25 and European Council meetings over coming days were critical moments "where momentum can and must be built for increases in nationally determined contributions [measures to reduce emissions] in 2020 – well ahead of COP26 in Glasgow".

In a letter to Minister for Climate Action Richard Bruton the Stop Climate Chaos coalition called on the Government at COP25 and upcoming council meetings, to align Ireland explicitly with EU Members calling for an increase of the EU's 2030 greenhouse gas emission reduction target to at least 55 per cent compared to 1990 levels.

“Further, we call on you to acknowledge unequivocally in your statements that even this is not commensurate with meeting the Paris temperature goals, that the EU and Ireland have significantly more to do to deliver their fair share of the global 2030 effort, and to commit to urgently increasing domestic ambition,” she said. Mr Bruton is due to attend the talks on Wednesday and to deliver Ireland’s national statement to the formal negotiations.

The EU will not hesitate to impose measures to protect its industries from competitors who do not respect the Paris Agreement, said EU climate commissioner Frans Timmermans.

Slow progress

In response to a question on the EU’s position on a possible “carbon tax” on imports from high-emitting competitors, Mr Timmermans said he hoped there would be no need to take such a step as the world moved to implement the agreement.

“I hope then there will be no need for such a measure, but if it is necessary we will not hesitate to take it,” he said at a UN summit.

Meanwhile, negotiations have been making slow progress and continue to be dominated by technical discussions on carbon trading issues rather than emissions reductions.

Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy at Union of Concerned Scientists, recalled in opening the summit UN secretary general António Guterres flagged the need for "a much more urgent response to the climate emergency than we're now seeing, especially from the biggest emitting countries".

He added: “Over the last week, we haven’t seen negotiators rise to this challenge, especially when it comes to raising the ambition of emissions reduction commitments under the Paris Agreement and mobilising greater support for vulnerable countries and communities facing ever more devastating impacts of climate change.”

Most vulnerable countries had joined a growing number of state and local governments, business leaders, investors and others – both in the US and around the world – in announcing ambitious climate commitments.

“Sadly, the world’s biggest emitting countries, which account for all but 19 percent of global carbon emissions, have failed to take responsibility to do what’s required to stave off some of the worst impacts. These countries need to confirm their intentions to take such actions in 2020.”

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

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