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Climate action must ‘take the world back from the abyss it is heading towards’ - Taoiseach

The Taoiseach said he is concerned not everyone “really gets a sense of how serious this is”.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin at the Dublin Climate Summit
Taoiseach Micheál Martin at the Dublin Climate Summit
Image: Lauren Boland/The Journal

Updated May 12th 2022, 2:44 PM

THE WORLD MUST act to bring itself back from the “abyss it is heading towards” due to the climate crisis, the Taoiseach has said.

Addressing a climate summit this morning, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that inaction is “not an option” given the devastating consequences of the climate crisis.

“While Ireland has made significant progress towards the deployment of renewable electricity, we must do much more and we must do it quickly,” he said.

Speaking at the Dublin Climate Summit in UCD, the Taoiseach expressed concerns about the pace of climate action and a slowness from some sectors to accept the magnitude of the climate crisis.

The recent debacle over limiting the sale of turf, which was raised as a climate policy, raised fears about “do people really get a sense of how serious this is?”.

“For a lot of people, still, it’s intangible. It’s down in 50 years’ time, and then you get the whataboutery, ‘sure we’re just a small country’ – but we all have to make a contribution.”

The Dublin summit comes days after a serious warning from the World Meteorological Organization that there is a 50-50 chance global temperatures will temporarily warm more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels in one of the next five years, breaching an important benchmark set by the 2015 Paris Agreement.

The WMO said there is a 93% chance of at least one year between 2022-2026 becoming the warmest on record. The previous record-holder is 2016.

Additionally, the chance of the five-year temperature average for 2022-2026 being higher than the last five years (2017-2021) is also put at 93%.

Speaking today, the Taoiseach said that delivering climate action “will require changes in our collective and individual behaviours, including how we work, heat our homes, travel, consume goods and services, and manage our waste”.

“Delivering this will require all of our efforts, working together. An honest conversation and a shared acceptance that we all need to change so much of how we do things will be vital if we are to succeed.”

A shared acceptance that we all need to change how we do things will be “vital to succeed”.

He said no sector is or can be unaffected by the “all-encompassing” transition needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prevent global catastrophe.

The Taoiseach told the summit that his “style of leadership” is “impatience with getting the system to move fast”.

In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the European Union has been pushed to reduce its dependence on Russian fossil fuels, which have been a major source of energy for European countries, especially in the east of the continent.

On reducing dependence on Russian energy, the Taoiseach said that ultimately the “only direction is double-down on renewables”.

“Events on the eastern borders of Europe, with the illegal and immoral invasion of Ukraine by Putin’s Russia have also thrown into very sharp focus the need to  phase out fossil fuels and develop renewable energy at pace in a way that guarantees our energy security,” he said.

“While Ireland has made significant progress towards the deployment of renewable electricity, we must do much more and we must do it quickly.”

Currently, EU plans to fill the gap left by moving away from Russian fossil fuels include significant expansion of gas infrastructure.

The most recent report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced by 40% to 70% by 2050 if the right policies, infrastructure and technology are in place.

The report identified that the world already has the tools and knowledge to combat the climate crisis, but urgently needs to turn them into action and remove institutional barriers.

Speaking at the summit this afternoon, Minister for Culture and deputy Green Party leader Catherine Martin said that climate change is the “greatest challenge confronting both this generation and future generations”.

“We cannot escape or deny that fact,” she said, highlighting the impacts of climate change already being felt on water scarcity, good production, health, towns and ecosystems.

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“Despite our relativly strong economic standing and temperate climate, Ireland is not immune to these risks, nor can we afford to avert our gaze from the damage that is occurring elsewhere,” the minister said.

She said that “insidious” climate denialism must be tackled and that media outlets are crucial to fighting disinformation.

“The work of the news media is also crucial to combatting climate change disinformation and denial and to debunking conspiracy theories.

We witnessed the danger that conspiracy theories regarding Covid-19 could pose to public health during the recent pandemic.

“The danger of climate denialism is more insidious and difficult to address, as the effects of climate inaction are years, rather than days, in the future.

“Today, with the global average temperature at 1 degree celsius above pre-industrial levels, we are dealing with the failure to take action over the past 30 years. If we fail to stabilise the global average temperature at 1.5 degrees celsius above pre-industrial levels, it will be because of actions that we failed to take now.”

About the author:

Lauren Boland

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