Irish initiative to lead global climate effort ahead of COP26

Dublin Climate Dialogues event will ‘enact meaningful and binding commitments’

Details have been announced of Irish initiative to lead an international effort "to move beyond ambition" among the world's largest carbon polluters – and to "enact meaningful and binding commitments" at the critical UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in November.

Dublin Climate Dialogues will bring together senior representatives from the United States, China, Europe, United Kingdom and the United Nations – it is being supported by the Government. It will be chaired by former president of the European Parliament Pat Cox.

Over two days – May 19th and 20th – it will forge a declaration on how to raise global ambition at COP26 with specific recommendations to accelerate the transition to net-zero emissions.

The declaration is due to be delivered to Alok Sharma, UK president of COP26 – a key figure in the annual climate negotiations being staged in Glasgow – by a senior Government representative at the conclusion of the virtual conference hosted from University College Dublin.


Speaking at the initiative’s launch, Mr Cox underlined “the gravity of the climate emergency facing the world, and the compelling need for action” at COP26 in Glasgow.

He added: “We have a climate emergency in search of urgency as regards the scale, substance and speed of the response needed to contain its most damaging potential, by accelerating actions to limit global temperature rises to those agreed in the Paris Accord of 2015. Urgency and acceleration are the key themes of the conference.”


He will be joined by a wide range of participants including Lord Deben, chairman of the UK Committee on Climate Change; climate justice campaigner Mary Robinson who is also chair of The Elders; special UN representative on sustainable energy Damilola Ogunbiyi; director of the International Energy Agency Fatih Birol and leading climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe.

The event “will draw attention to the need to move beyond ambition among the world’s largest polluters and to enact meaningful and binding commitments to halve emissions by 50 per cent by 2030 and to hit net-zero emissions by mid-century”.

It will explore what those commitments might look like, including the creation of “a carbon club of nations”, carbon border taxation, and the effective mobilisation of the large amounts of capital needed to accelerate the transition to clean energy including the developing world.

Also taking part will be Minister for Finance and Eurogroup president Paschal Donohoe; Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney; Minister for the Environment and Climate Eamon Ryan; former prime minister of Italy Enrico Letta; head of European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity Sonya Twohig; leading wind turbine designer Henrik Stiesdal and KPMG's global lead on renewables and decarbonisation Mike Hayes.

Mr Hayes said Dublin Climate Dialogues was “a highly significant event in the drumbeat to COP26”.

“It brings together key players on the policy, capital and technology agendas to deliver critical messages and specific actions to the COP26 presidency,” he added.

Energy entrepreneur and chairman of Mainstream Renewable Power Eddie O'Connor said: "[It] is about building real international action ahead of COP. We have selected Ireland so policy options can be discussed in an atmosphere free from geo-political tensions and whose only purpose is to explore how this generation can leave a planet fit for habitation by forthcoming generations."


The Government is engaging with the event through ministerial participation and support from the Department of Foreign Affairs. Hosting it in Dublin gives an opportunity both to spotlight Ireland's scaled-up climate ambitions, according to the organisers, and to take advantage of the country's reputation in international diplomacy – including its presence on the UN Security Council.

The conference will open with a call to climate action, focussing on the economic, financial and policy options including new research on the cost-benefit analysis of an accelerated transition. These include carbon pricing, international trade agreements, mobilisation of capital to fund the transition and the impact of the risks of stranded assets.

The second day will outline technologies needed, show how global energy systems should be recast to deliver net-zero and lay out opportunities from deploying renewable technologies at scale.

A series of events – the first of which was a summit hosted by US president Joe Biden last week – are being held in advance of COP26 to strengthen targets including a UN food systems summit, while the European Commission, which has adopted a 55 per cent emissions cut by 2030 policy, is to announce a radical overhaul of emissions trading and carbon pricing under its Fit for 55 package in June. The International Energy Agency is to outline in May its plan on how global energy can achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

Dublin Climate Dialogues is free to attend but places are limited – registration is at

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times