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Cop26: Fine words and scepticism at global summit on climate action

Inside Politics: Ireland will likely have a shortfall in emissions reductions next year

The Taoiseach meets Britain’s foreign secretary, Liz Truss (L), and Patricia Espinosa, head of the United Nations climate agency, at the Cop26 UN Climate Summit in Glasgow. Photograph: EPA/ROBERT PERRY

Good morning.

No prizes for guessing the story that dominates the front pages today, not just in Ireland but all over the world: the Cop26 global summit on climate action in Glasgow.

Our lead story is about the agreement last night to save forests and cut methane emissions by 30 per cent by 2030.

The New York Times and the Guardian lead with the same story, though many of the other British papers prefer the plea by Queen Elizabeth for world leaders to "answer the call of future generations".

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World leaders – most of them, anyway – arrived yesterday, and there were many fine words of resolve and purpose. British prime minister Boris Johnson told delegates that if the world did not “get serious about climate change today, it will be too late for our children to do so tomorrow”.

Joe Biden told the conference “none of us will escape” if we “fail to seize the moment”.

Micheál Martin said he sensed evidence of “a growing momentum” to tackle climate change. But he warned there was a need for action to match rhetoric. You don’t say. Now the horse trading and deal making get under way in earnest.

Scepticism abounds. "A bit too white and elite," Mary Robinson – former president of Ireland, member of the group of "Elders" and climate justice activist – told Patrick Freyne.

Nonetheless, she said, she remains a “prisoner of hope”.

There’s no Cabinet meeting today because of the Cop26 gig, but it meets on Thursday to approve the Government’s climate action plan. That will contain significant detail about how the climate targets are to be achieved over the next nine years.

We have some of it today, revealing a likely shortfall in emissions reductions next year, to be made up in later years. It won't be easy – practically or politically. Many of the actions will be highly unpopular, and let's face it, if this Government has a spine of steel, it has yet to demonstrate it.

Further reports are here and here. There is a long way to go, says environment and science editor Kevin O'Sullivan.

Health service workers to get booster shot

There’s another pretty serious story that continues to rumble on, of course.

Last night Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly announced via Twitter that Niac, the advisory committee on vaccination matters, had finally given the go-ahead for health service workers to be given a booster shot. Jabs will now commence next weekend, Donnelly said.

You’d wonder why this has taken so long. Both publicly and privately (with considerably more vehemence), Government figures have been suggesting for weeks now that they wanted a booster programme for health service workers, many of who received their first jab back in early spring. Now there’s 3,000-plus HSE staff out of work due to Covid.

Yesterday during one of his chin-wags on the fringes of Cop26, the Israeli prime minister told Micheál Martin about the difference that the booster programme had made in his country.

Anyway, Niac finally got around to it last night. Better late than never; but better early than late.

Meanwhile, Paul Cullen asks: what happens when the vaccines wear off?

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Paschal Donohoe entertained US treasury secretary Janet Yellen in Dublin yesterday, She even got to meet Paschal's pal, Bono, as business columnist Cantillon reveals.

Ahead of a demonstration by nurses outside Leinster House and a Sinn Féin motion in the Dáil, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has signalled he will give student nurses a pay rise.

Fintan O'Toole says anti-social behaviour on public transport is scaring women away and yearns for the days of men in uniforms.

Antigen testing should be used as part of a strong test-and-trace regime, says consultant Luke O'Donnell.

Facebook's rebranding is an attempt to distract attention from whistle-blower revelations, says our editorial.

Playbook

The Dáil opens with Leaders’ Questions at 2pm – without the Taoiseach, so expect a few sparks between Mary Lou McDonald and Leo Varadkar.

Sinn Féin have a Private Members’ motion on pay for nurses later, and Varadkar returns for departmental oral questions at 730pm. A reasonably civilised pre-10pm adjournment.

The Dublin MEPs will address the Seanad, before a debate on energy security in the upper house, while it’s a busy day at the committees.

The environment committee will discuss the carbon-reduction targets with witnesses, while the Brexit committee will hear from Prof Alan Barrett and Prof Martina Lawless of the ESRI.

The legislation on tracing and information for adopted persons is under way at the committee on children.

There's a full schedule of the day's business in Leinster House here.

The Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and Media will unveil its report on the Pre-Legislative Scrutiny of the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill 2020 – potentially a step-change in the way social media is regulated. We have a preview of some of the findings here.

Finally, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney begins a four-day trip to the Middle East today, starting in Israel.