Friday 30 September 2016

Government to introduce legislation to combat climate change - Taoiseach

Published 30/11/2015 | 20:01

Enda Kenny delivers a speech for the opening day of the World Climate Change Conference 2015
Enda Kenny delivers a speech for the opening day of the World Climate Change Conference 2015

THE Government will introduce legislation to combat climate change during this Dail term, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has told a high-level UN summit.

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Speaking at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21), he told world leaders that Ireland would play its part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but not at the expense of our agriculture sector.

Some 30pc of Irish emissions come from the agri-food sector, and based on current projections, they will not drop sufficiently to meet EU targets by 2020.

Mr Kenny said he hoped that some 147 global leaders who attended the conference today were “serious” about putting in place a legally-binding agreement on climate change, as the issue required action by all countries - “big and small”.

”Ireland is determined to play its part,” he said. “We have committed, with our EU partners, to a collective target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40pc by 2030.

“Ireland’s national long-term vision is presented in climate legislation, which sets out our intention to substantially cut CO2 emissions by 2050, while developing an approach towards carbon neutrality in the land sector that does not compromise our capacity for food production. We are developing a National Mitigation Plan to achieve that vision.”

He said the climate bill would set out plans in four areas – agriculture, energy, buildings and transport – and noted that the agriculture sector was “efficient” and that the carbon footprint of 43,500 beef farms and 18,000 dairy farms had already been captured.

“We are driving economic and environmental efficiency in agriculture and achieving results that we believe are both transferable and scalable,” he added.

He also said that the State would increase its financial contribution to developing nations, and was also examining if private finance could assist.

“I encourage our negotiators to bring this process to a successful conclusion next week. Let’s send the signal the world is waiting for and let us not deprive our successors and their children of a real future before they are born,” he added.

His comments will cause some disquiet among environmental groups which have argued that Ireland is not doing enough to tackle climate change, particular in agriculture.

Aid agency Trocaire welcomed his call for all countries to play a proactive role in ensuring ambitious greenhouse gas emission targets are set, but noted the lack of a climate policy meant  we were not on track to meet existing commitments.

“Taoiseach Kenny referred to our emission reduction commitments under the new Climate Bill,” Executive Director Eamonn Meehan said.

“This highlights the need for our national mitigation plan to be finalised and implemented immediately. We have been without any climate policy for three years and we’re currently not on track to meet the commitments he referred to. There is a need for all sectors in Ireland to reduce emissions in an ambitious and equitable fashion.”

Friends of the Earth said Mr Kenny’s speed offered “fudge and dodge” rather than “firm action”.

"He devoted a chunk of his speech to trying to dodge pollution targets that would place any future limit on the agri-industry's voracious expansion plans,” spokesman Oisin Coghlan said.

"The Taoiseach may have sounded convinced of the need for climate action globally but, when it came to Ireland, ultimately he offered the semblance of action rather than the substance.”

"Ironically, the Climate Bill that will be passed into law on Thursday will make it illegal for the next Government to be so delinquent."

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