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Ireland takes "significant step" in fighting climate change

“The signing of this treaty signals a move in a new direction,” said the Green Party’s Eamon Ryan.

IRELAND HAS TAKEN a “significant step” in the fight against climate change today, the country’s climate minister has said.

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Denis Naughten TD, announced he has secured Cabinet approval that will start the process for the ratification of the Paris agreement to the United Nations framework convention on climate change (UNFCCC).

The Paris agreement is a climate deal which was formally signed in April of this year. The deal had been finalised in Paris the previous December.

Ireland, through the European Union, indicated its commitment through the agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% by 2030, compared with 1990 levels.

Naughten said that the government has now agreed to seek the approval of Dáil Éireann under Article 29 of our Constitution, which states that prior approval of Dáil Éireann is required in order to ratify an international treaty.

“Defining challenge”

Naughten described climate change as “the defining challenge of our time” and said “it is during our time that the obligation exists for us as a nation to take action”.

This obligation is as much an opportunity as it is an obligation. Securing Cabinet approval today, which will allow me to proceed to seek Dáil Éireann approval, is a significant step and a strong signal to the people of Ireland and to the international community of our continued support for the Paris agreement.

“The wave of global momentum behind the ratification of the Paris agreement has been unprecedented”, added Naughten.

He is planning for the deal to be ratified before the next session of the Conference of the Parties, COP22, which will be held in Marrakesh from 7 to 18 November 2016.

The Paris agreement was agreed by over 195 countries and parties at COP21 in 2015. It will enter into force on 4 November, ahead of the next conference.

This is the first-ever universal, legally-binding global climate deal entering into force less than a year after it was agreed.

The terms of the Paris agreement require that it be ratified by at least 55% of parties to the convention responsible for at least 55% of global emissions.

The first threshold was passed in September, and the second when the European Union submitted its instrument of ratification to the Secretary General of the UN on 5 October 2016.

What is Ireland committed to under the Paris agreement?

According to Naughton’s office:

The Paris agreement requires that all parties produce plans to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change, and show increasing ambition over time with these plans. Ireland’s obligation will form part of the European Union’s overall commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.
The Paris agreement also provides that developed country parties shall provide financial resources to assist developing country parties with respect to both mitigation and adaptation in continuation of their existing obligations under the convention.

The Green Party welcomed the announcement, with its leader Eamon Ryan TD saying:

“There was a fear that Ireland would lag behind in this process, and miss the opportunities that go with it, so this news is very positive.”

Nobody should underestimate the scale of the challenge we are facing to implement the Paris Agreement and keep global warming below 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels. Meeting these targets will require a radical change in our energy, transport, food and industrial systems. This change should be seen as an opportunity that will benefit our country – not as a cost.

He said that the real strength of this agreement “is the historic consensus reached by over 190 countries to take serious climate action”.

While the agreement itself doesn’t have any specific mechanisms to reduce emissions, it provides a transparent measure as we ratchet up action on climate.

He described Ireland as “currently heading in the wrong direction on climate change – our emissions are rising and we will miss our 2020 reduction targets by a wide margin”.

“The signing of this treaty signals a move in a new direction,” said Ryan. “The sooner we start making that move the better it will be for our country.”

Read: John Kerry’s grand-daughter stole the show at the UN today>

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