Former president Mary Robinson said this morning global leaders have "at most two decades to save the world".
In a response to the latest report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Ms Robinson argued for a robust climate agreement by 2015 and agreement by the world to think again about renewables and for a reduction in global economic growth.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Ms Robinson, who now runs her own Climate Justice foundation said: “Let us show that we are ahead of the game on this.”
She said business as usual could not just do any more and said the three UN reports this year had showed the climate change debate was over. She said those who were most impacted by climate change were those who had least caused it, namely vulnerable people living in marginal conditions in the poorest countries in the world. She said she had seen their experiences at first hand through her foundation’s work.
Her comments came as Minister for Energy Pat Rabbitte conceded ambitious and controversial plans for windfarms in the midlands would not now go ahead as planned.
Mr Rabbitte, also speaking on RTÉ, said an internal debate in Britain on the future direction of energy policy was behind the decision.
He said because no definite decisions had been taken yet to import Irish renewables, those who wished to develop windfarms here in Ireland did not have the certainty they required to begin the projects.
“It is an open secret as (Britain) become more immersed in a ferocious debate about energy policy that the enthusiasm they demonstrated in early months has waned,” he said. “Because there is a timeframe imposed by EU in trade between two countries and because there are key policy issues that Britain had not addressed that certainty that developers need has not been met.”
However, Mr Rabbitte did not say the project had been abandoned and raised the possibility of it being reconstituted in six years time.
“In a post-2020 scenario there will be enhanced energy trading between ourselves and Britain,” he said.
When asked was it a blessing in disguise for this to happen six weeks ahead of the European and local elections, he said he was not one of those who viewed it that way. “There would have been substantial jobs and substantial economic value to Ireland.”
He said anybody who read the IPCC climate change report could not but understand why everyone has to play their role in decarbonising. “How can people suggest that I can reduce the reliance on fossil fuels and switch to renewables without going to wind?” he said.
Speaking on his way into a meeting of foreign affairs ministers in Luxembourg this morning, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said the project had always been dependent on being Ireland able to export the wind energy to Britain.
“If, as it turns out, there isn’t a possibility of that wind energy being exported to Britain, then there is no basis for the project. Continued efforts were made over a period of time to see if that export project could be proceeded with,” he said. “The project does not go ahead if there is no export possibility for it.”
Asked if there will there be possibilities of trade after 2020, Mr Gilmore said: “I think there’s likely to be increased trade in energy [after 2020]not just with Britain but across Europe.
“I think that is likely to be something that is likely to take place, but this particular project, the export of wind energy from the midlands, which was essentially an export project, that project cannot go ahead because there isn’t an export possibility for it.”