Wednesday 23 October 2019

'We must replace a climate of fear and anxiety with one of action and opportunity,' Leo Varadkar tells UN

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaks during the 2019 United Nations Climate Action Summit. Photo: REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaks during the 2019 United Nations Climate Action Summit. Photo: REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Cormac McQuinn and Caroline Doherty

THERE is a chance to replace a climate of “fear and anxiety” with a climate of “action and opportunity”, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has told world leaders at the United Nations.

Addressing the UN Climate Action Summit in New York, Mr Varadkar announced Ireland's intention to end oil exploration off its coast.

He said that initially this will mean a moratorium on exploration in 80pc of Irish waters.

READ MORE: Ireland to raise carbon tax to 80 euro per tonne, Taoiseach tells UN

Mr Varadkar said the Climate Change Advisory Council "recommended that exploration for natural gas should continue for now”.

He said this is because it is "a transition fuel which we will need for decades as alternatives are developed and fully deployed”.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaks during the 2019 United Nations Climate Action Summit. Photo: REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaks during the 2019 United Nations Climate Action Summit. Photo: REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Mr Varadkar also told of plans to ring-fence the proceeds of increased carbon tax revenues for efforts to fight global warming.

READ MORE: Taoiseach under fire for allowing gas exploration in Irish waters

Closing his speech the Taoiseach said: “Delegates, I believe we have a chance to replace a climate of fear and anxiety with a new climate of action and opportunity.

“Thats in our hands,” he added.

He said the “challenge of the century” should be responded to “with creativity, with imagination, with courage and above all determination”.

Earlier he said leadership was needed.

“I believe leadership is also required to convince our people that it is not too late to act.”

"We've all been inspired by children and young people who have embraced this cause and put it at the top of our agenda.”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaks during the 2019 United Nations Climate Action Summit
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaks during the 2019 United Nations Climate Action Summit

READ MORE: 'You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words' - Greta Thunberg criticises world leaders at UN climate summit

He spoke of the Government's Climate Action Plan and how it will be underpinned by legislation, including carbon budgeting, next year.

He said Ireland had already banned fracking and had a climate action fund paid for by a levy on the oil industry.

Mr Varadkar also said that Ireland's sovereign wealth fund had divested from fossil fuel and the country will outlaw single-use plastics.

He said there was cross-party agreement to increase carbon tax to €80-per-tonne by 2030.

READ MORE: Varadkar confirms there won't be 'carbon cheques' in the post to offset green tax hikes

Coal is to be taken off the electricity grid by 2025 and renewable electricity will rise from 30pc now to 70pc in 10 years' time.

By 2030 the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles will be prohibited and there are plans to plant 440 million trees, Mr Varadkar added.

However, aid agencies Trocaire and Christian Aid Ireland said the ban on exploration licences should have extended to gas.

“Opening up new fossil fuel reserves of any kind poses profound risks to society, the environment and the economy,” said Trocaire CEO Caoimhe de Barra.

Sorley McCaughey, Christian Aid’s policy head, said: “Continued reliance on gas will make achieving our Paris commitments even more difficult. Rather we need to see further and greater investment in renewable energy.”

While both agencies welcomed the commitment to ring-fence carbon tax revenues for climate action they expressed disappointment that the Taoiseach did not commit to more ambitious carbon reduction targets.

 

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