Taoiseach ‘misjudged public mood’ on climate change, say activists

Ireland and other EU states urged to phase out coal plants

Oisín Coghlan, director  of Friends of the Earth: said there was huge disappointment at what he described as the Taoiseach’s “doublespeak”.   Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Oisín Coghlan, director of Friends of the Earth: said there was huge disappointment at what he described as the Taoiseach’s “doublespeak”. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

Almost 3,000 people have signed an online petition over the past two days criticising Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s claim that emissions targets set for Irish agriculture were “unrealistic”. The petition organised by three non-governmental agencies – Trócaire, Uplift and Friends of the Earth – called on the Taoiseach to show leadership on the issue.

Oisín Coghlan of Friends of the Earth said there was huge disappointment at what he described as the Taoiseach’s “doublespeak” on Monday, calling for a global deal in the plenary session of the COP21 climate change conference, while telling reporters he wanted an exemption for Ireland.

“We think he misjudged the public mood. Irish people want to play their part in tackling climate change,” he said.

However the Taoiseach’s view was strongly supported by Meat Industry Ireland, which said climate change could not be decoupled from food security and economic competitiveness.

Cormac Healy of Meat Industry said agriculture created a high proportion of emissions because it was a large sector of the economy and because there was little heavy industry in Ireland. “It would be foolhardy in the extreme to curb the production of beef in a country where we produce in an extensive grass-based system that is far more efficient and sustainable than elsewhere in the world,” he said.

Yesterday in Paris, Jerry MacEvilly, policy officer for climate justice at Trócaire, said the agency had serious concerns after five days of negotiations. Noting that Ireland has made no commitment to the Green Climate Fund other than the €2 million pledged for 2016, Mr MacEvilly said the average per capita contribution from other EU States was 20 times higher than ours.

Ireland and other EU member states were also urged at COP21 yesterday to “dramatically ramp up efforts” to phase out polluting coal plants. A study by Climate Action Network Europe and British think-tank Sandbag revealed carbon emissions from Europe’s ageing coal-fired power stations – including Moneypoint, Co Clare – will have to come down three times faster than the current EU rate to keep in line with global efforts to limit warming to 2 degrees.

In 2014, Europe’s huge “fleet” of coal plants released 762 million tonnes of CO2, accounting for 18 per cent of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions, nearly as much as the entire EU road transport sector. Moneypoint is Ireland’s largest single source of CO2, with emissions of 4.5 million tonnes annually.

The study also found that 66 per cent of Europe’s coal plants have been in operation for 30 years or more.