There has been widespread condemnation from Irish political, environmental and business figures of the decision by US president Donald Trump to exit the Paris climate accord.
Hailing the move as a “reassertion of America’s sovereignty”, the US president said the agreement, signed by almost 200 countries in late 2015, “disadvantages the United States to the exclusive benefit of other states”.
Reacting to the decision, former Irish president and UN high commissioner Mary Robinson said: “It is unconscionable that one of the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitters would simply walk away from its responsibility to people both at home and abroad, in the interest of short- term fossil fuel profits.”
“It is truly shocking that the United States, once proud to have been a leader on multilateral issues, has withdrawn from the Paris Climate Agreement which was negotiated by over 190 world leaders, over decades, in the interests of all people and the planet,” she said.
Ms Robinson said the agreement was not something that could be renegotiated in the interests of one country. “Especially not when that country bears the greatest historical responsibility for global greenhouse gas emissions.”
Oisín Coghlan, director of Friends of the Earth Ireland commended the governors of New York, California and Washington state for forming a new US climate alliance which seeks to implement the Paris targets despite’s Mr Trump’s exit. “We’re already seeing it having a galvanising effect on the rest of the world. People are outraged and determined to continue to step up to climate action.”
Mr Coghlan added that a democratic win in next year’s US midterm elections could put a halt to the president’s attempts to abandon the agreement.
However, he warned that the US exit could cause a “chilling effect” on the climate action of other countries, including Ireland, and embolden those resisting action.
Ireland is just one of two EU countries set to miss the legally binding 2020 greenhouse gas emissions targets.
“The big test for all those coming out to say Trump has made the wrong decision is not rhetoric, it’s their action. Ireland simply hasn’t tried so far, we still don’t have a plan to meet our 2020 targets.”
Denis Naughton, Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment described Mr Trump’s decision to leave the Paris agreement as “irresponsible” and said Ireland would “re-double” its efforts in reaching emission targets and leading by example.
A statement from the Environmental Protection Agency warned that the US exit could negatively affect the Paris goal of shifting trillions being invested from high carbon infrastructure into low carbon alternatives. It added that that the withdrawal could also badly affect funding for climate action resources in developing countries.
However, the EPA underlined that leaving the Paris Agreement would take four years, meaning the earliest the US can leave is November 4th, 2020, just after the next US presidential election.
Director of Trócaire Eamonn Meehan called on the incoming taoiseach to “unambiguously reaffirm” Ireland’s commitment to the Paris Agreement, saying Mr Trump’s hostility to reality “should not distract the rest of the world from the task of building a safe and sustainable future”.
“This is an opportunity for Ireland to show leadership on the global stage by reaffirming our belief in and commitment to the targets set out in the Paris Agreement,” he said.
Striking a more positive note, Sorely McCaughey from Christian Aid Ireland underlined the EU and China’s determination to continue leading the rest of the world in climate cooperation.
“Having two of the world’s three largest economies outlining their determination to lead the transition to a low carbon economy shows the direction of travel is only moving in one direction. US isolationism on climate policy isn’t going to stop that.”
People before Profit TD Brid Smith also called on the incoming taoiseach to refuse any meeting with Mr Trump. “If our Government is serious about climate, a simple response would be to withdraw the invitation given by Enda Kenny to Trump and tell the world that there is no welcome for a climate-denier and puppet of the fossil fuel corporations,” Ms Smith added.
Sinn Féin environment spokesman Brian Stanley TD said the announcement was “deeply disappointing”.
“The Paris Agreement has committed us to an 80 per cent cut in emissions by 2050 compared to 1990 levels. It sets out a long-term emissions reduction goal of keeping the global temperature increase well below 2°C, while pursuing efforts to limit the rise to 1.5°C.
“The world needs to move together on the climate change issue. The Government now needs to use its influence to encourage maximum co-operation.”
Ibec, the group representing Irish business, reaffirmed its support for the Paris agreement.
Ibec senior energy and environment executive Conor Minogue said Mr Trump’s decision should not derail ongoing efforts to implement the agreement.
“The Irish business community remains fully committed to their EU obligations under the agreement. Ibec will continue to work with the Irish Government and partners in Europe to ensure a cost-effective and equitable transition to a low carbon economy,” Mr Minogue said.