Ministers in charge of climate action in seven EU countries have called for a more ambitious strategy to counter global warming in response to “alarming scientific analysis” suggesting current measures will not deliver as hoped.
The call was made following a meeting in Paris this week of the minsters from France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Portugal and Luxembourg.
Spokeswoman for the group, Brune Poirson, secretary of state to the French minister for ecological transition, said EU countries "must take more action and we must take it faster".
Under the Paris Agreement in 2015, member states had agreed to limit global warming to “well below 2 degrees, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent by 2030 and to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050”. However, with the EU’s current climate policy these goals would not be achieved, the ministers said in a joint statement.
"The current policy is not enough, we are now heading to a 3 or 3.5 degree rise," said Eva Svedling, Swedish secretary of State for Climate Action.
The group said member states “are still divided on climate policy”; especially on a carbon price floor – setting a higher price on carbon, which would penalise activities contributing to global warming – an overhaul of emissions trading schemes for heavy emitters of CO2, and how to exit from the use of coal and nuclear power.
This was “why France wants to take the lead and start a small coalition of climate ambitious countries,” Ms Poirson said. She hoped, however, other countries would join the group.
“We don’t want to be an isolated group, far ahead of everyone else,” she added.
“The carbon price does not send a strong enough signal, the price isn’t high enough. Therefore, France suggests putting a floor price for the energy industry. These are small steps, but a Europe-wide movement is emerging.”
Jerry Mac Evilly, policy coordinator of the Stop Climate Chaos coalition of Irish NGOs, said: "It hugely positive that more and more EU states are demanding much greater climate action to make the Paris Agreement a reality.
"Given Ireland's poor and worsening climate record on the one hand, and this positive leadership being shown by our EU neighbours on the other, it is critical that Ireland joins with this coalition and supports efforts to increase the EU's climate commitments," he said.
In response, Minister for Climate Action and Environment Denis Naughten defended the Government's commitment to tackling climate change. "Building on the National Mitigation Plan (NDP), the recent publication of the National Development Plan will lead to a significant step change in funding available for climate action in Ireland over the next decade," he said.
Almost €22 billion would be directed to addressing the transition to a low-carbon and climate-resilient society.
In addition, the NDP had allocated a further €8.6 billion into “sustainable mobility”; capital investment that would enable Ireland deliver a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions over the period to 2030, Mr Naughten added.