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Martin’s speech at UN must lead to action on climate



Taoiseach Micheál Martin in New York this week. Photo: Don Pollard

Taoiseach Micheál Martin in New York this week. Photo: Don Pollard

Taoiseach Micheál Martin in New York this week. Photo: Don Pollard

It is already too late to talk about conflict and climate change. The planet’s distress is articulated in the displacement of millions and the starvation of millions more.

However well intended Micheál Martin’s appeal to the UN – “We need to do more” – the change needed can no longer be effected by words.

The Taoiseach had barely finished speaking when he was pressed by the world’s media as to whether his demand was not already doomed.

Two of the UN Security Council’s permanent members are Russia and China, who are the biggest climate offenders and have a veto on decisions. They have expressed strenuous opposition to extending the council’s remit.

The substance of Mr Martin’s address was incontrovertible. “The impact of climate change is global and our collective security is at risk,” he said.

British prime minister Boris Johnson had expressed similar urgency when he urged world leaders to “grow up” and recognise the challenges.

Mr Martin was adamant there was very strong support among UN members for the threat posed by climate change to be added to the Security Council’s routine agenda.

There is nothing routine about what is happening to our warming oceans and melting glaciers. Without total buy-in, his words will resound within the UN’s New York echo chamber and be forgotten.

Our planet is dying as they dither. Industrial delinquency and inexhaustible and ruinous consumerist appetites add to the damage each day.

The transformation demanded goes far beyond changing the cliches to describe how dire the situation is.

Ireland is hoping to secure a resolution on the issue. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres courteously thanked the Irish presidency for a “timely debate”.

He said the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report was “deeply alarming” and is a “code red for humanity”. If a “code red” warning were not sufficient to get the desired response, it is hard to think what might be.

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EB White once wrote in the New Yorker: “Human rights take shape and meaning when they are associated with representative government involving responsibility and duty.”

Too many of the world’s forgotten have been relying on the UN to be the catalyst for meaningful change for too long.

Relying on professional bureaucrats and politicians to put the fears, hopes and needs of the poor at the heart of the agenda has not paid off. Believing they will be more effective in repairing our broken planet at this point also looks a forlorn hope.

Before leaving for New York, Mr Martin was urged to “lead by example” by signalling an increase in Overseas Development Aid in next month’s Budget.

Dóchas, the umbrella body for NGOs here, wants a rise in aid from its current 0.31pc of Gross National Income.

Mr Martin’s chairing of the UN was an honour. As to whether it has anything other than ceremonial significance remains to be seen.

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