No cause for ‘mad optimism’ on Cop26 solution to global warming

Minister says, however, that mood music ahead of UN gathering now ‘not as bleak’

Minister for Climate Action Eamon  Ryan told TDs that  Ireland could shake off its climate laggard tag. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Minister for Climate Action Eamon Ryan told TDs that Ireland could shake off its climate laggard tag. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

“There is no cause for mad optimism” that there will be a good outcome to address the climate crisis at the Cop26 global summit next month, Minister for Climate Eamon Ryan has said.

However, he told the all-party Committee of Climate Action that the prospects on a meaningful deal at the UN gathering were “not as bleak as couple of months ago”.

Mr Ryan he said this was because the US had increased its climate finance contribution to help developing countries; China had committed to no longer invest in overseas coal-fired power plants; and the EU had indicated an intention to cut carbon emissions by at least a 55 per cent by 2030.

“Those three large players have reason to double down,” he said in response to Fine Gael TD Richard Bruton, who had suggested a lack of conviction in commitments from the non-EU countries involved could be a fault-line.

Europe has bet everything on the green economy,” Mr Ryan said, adding that China and the US had made similar moves, which would be matched by their international investments. “If everybody is doing it, it becomes easier.”

Misunderstanding

Mr Ryan said those who questioned why Ireland should be pursuing a carbon reduction course when larger countries are responsible for greater emissions were misunderstanding that “this is the new” and better economic model.

Sticking with the old system meant there was a big risk of missing out on the benefits that would accrue for a decarbonised economy, he added.

The European target was radical and would be transformative, he said, though he acknowledged any EU carbon tax targeted at transport and heating would not be helpful for Ireland as it would mean less revenues would be available for the State’s decarbonisation measures from domestic carbon tax revenues.

Mr Ryan insisted Ireland could shake off its climate laggard tag because it had achieved cross-party consensus on climate action and had generated “climate legislation as good as any in the world”.

He cited an end to fracking and oil and gas exploration and divestment from fossil fuels as examples of doing the right thing, though delivery on emissions reductions had yet to materialise.

Generating 35 gigawatts of offshore wind energy in Ireland could also set a leadership example to the world and “transform our country like no other project has done before”, the Minister said.

Mr Ryan said the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report issued in August “reconfirms the limited window in which there is to act to prevent more devastating impacts of climate change”.

Catalyst

As previous IPCC assessments were catalysts for unprecedented international responses, he was confident its latest assessment “will similarly provoke the reaction required at Cop26... to set the world on a safe and sustainable trajectory and to support the most vulnerable”.

He said British prime minister Boris Johnson had summarised the ambition of the UK Cop26 presidency in typical colourful language as action on “coal, cars, cash and trees”. However, Mr Ryan added “this should not underplay their stated commitment to making progress in a transparent and inclusive way and in solidarity with all countries”.

The Minister said his department continues to work closely with UK counterparts in seeking a comprehensive, ambitious and balanced outcome “that takes forward coordinated climate action, remaining true to the Paris Agreement” by keeping alive the key target of staying within global temperature rise of 1.5 degrees.