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Climate change 'not a hypothetical threat', Biden tells COP26 summit

The Taoiseach said at COP26 that there is a unique opportunity to increase ambition and “turn the tide on climate change”.

Image: Press Association Images/Press Association Images

Updated Nov 1st 2021, 5:16 PM

US PRESIDENT JOE Biden has stressed that “none of us can escape the worst that’s yet to come if we don’t seize this moment,” as world leaders arrive in Glasgow this week for a major global climate summit.

Climate change is not a “hypothetical threat”, Biden said as he addressed the opening session of the UN climate summit COP26.

“Glasgow must be the kick-off of a decade of ambition and innovation to preserve our shared future,” the US President said.

“Climate change is already ravaging the world. It’s not hypothetical. It’s not a hypothetical threat. It is destroying people’s lives and livelihoods, and doing it every single day.”

He told the conference that his administration would commit to meeting a goal of reducing US admissions by 50% to 52% below 2005 levels by 2030.

He added this would “demonstrate to the world that the US is not only back at the table but will hopefully lead by the power of our example”.

Ireland, building on Paris 

In Ireland, the government is set to discuss the revised Climate Action Plan this week.

The release of the plan is expected soon, with a Cabinet sub-committee due to consider it on Wednesday, the Taoiseach confirmed this morning.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin arrived in Glasgow alongside other leaders from around the world to attend COP26.

He met with a number of other leaders including US president Joe Biden, French president Emmanuel Macron and European Council president Charles Michel. 

Tomorrow morning, Martin will attend a breakfast reception hosted by Boris Johnson and Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. 

Speaking to reporters at the summit, Martin said the presence of a significant number of world leaders at COP26 is “evidence of a growing momentum” around climate action.

“To build on what was achieved in Paris, but really to create a momentum around action matching rhetoric in the immediate future,” the Taoiseach said.

He said it’s “absolutely imperative” for the future of a sustainable economy to now invest and create opportunities in renewables and retrofitting.

Ireland’s global climate finance will be more than doubled from its current level of €93 million per year to at least €225 million by 2025, he said.

The Cabinet sub-committee will meet on Wednesday and discuss the revised Climate Action Plan. The Taoiseach said he doesn’t want to “pre-empt the outcome” of this meeting which must be held before the plan can be put forward to the full Cabinet.

“It’s quite detailed so we want to make absolutely sure as we go through the detail that it stacks up,” Martin said.

He said the plan will provide “clear indicators to the sectors the steps that we’re talking about” in terms of reducing emissions.

Speaking at the World Leaders Summit Action and Solidarity Event at COP26 this afternoon, the Taoiseach said climate justice must be at the centre of global efforts in climate action.

“Countries and communities struggling to cope already must have our support,” Martin said. 

We must have the courage to take action now and collectively to secure a safe and sustainable planet for generations to come. We have a unique opportunity before us to step up our ambition and to turn the tide on climate change.

“That the narrative emerging from this conference will be one of hope, with a focus on solutions and what we can achieve when we work together.”

‘Coal, cars, cash and trees’

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was the first leader on the podium this morning, where he said that if we don’t get serious about climate change, it will be “too late” for future generations.

“We can get real on coal, cars, cash and trees,” he said.

“We have the technology to deactivate that ticking doomsday device. Not all at once, it’s too late for that, but one-by-one and with speed and efficiency.”

Brianna Fruean, an environmental activist for Samoa, a Polynesian island country, asked leaders to remember in their meeting rooms that the documents they draft are “more than just black and white objects”.

“In your words, you wield the weapons that can save us or sell us out,” Fruean said.

“If you’re here today, you know what climate change is doing to us. You don’t need my pain or my tears to know that we’re in a crisis. The real question is whether you have the will to do the right thing [and] to follow it up with long overdue action.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres gave countries a stark warning: “Failure is not an option, failure is a death sentence.”

“The science is clear, we know what to do,” Guterres said.

“We need maximum ambition from all countries on all fronts to make Glasgow a success,” he said.

“I urge developed countries and the emerging economies to build coalitions to create the financial and technological conditions to accelerate decarbonisation of the economy.”

Who’s there?

The effectiveness of the summit hinges on the participation of countries from around the world and the attendance or non-attendance of particular leaders can cause a stir.

US President Joe Biden arrived in Scotland today after flying on Air Force One from Rome, where he attended a G20 meeting over the weekend.

China’s President Xi Jinping is absent but is understood to be submitting a written statement.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s attendance was confirmed last month after uncertainty over whether the right-wing politician would make the trip to Glasgow.

However, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has cancelled his planned attendance, according to the Anadolu state news agency, which did not explain the decision.

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Delegates, observers and journalists attending the event faced long queues to access the summit centre this morning, where the first of a two-day “World Leaders Summit” is taking place.

The Taoiseach is due to deliver Ireland’s statement to the summit tomorrow.

Over the next two weeks, countries will try to negotiate new climate commitments alongside a series of events examining specific climate topics.

Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan will lead the Irish delegation next week during the second half of the summit.

Outside the conference, climate activists will be on the streets to demand major action that meets the urgency of the climate crisis, including Sweden’s Greta Thunberg.

But corporations – often criticised for their role in the climate crisis – will also have a presence at the summit. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, for instance, will appear alongside the UK’s Prince Charles at an event discussing the environment in North Africa.

New Irish research published by TASC today outlines that on climate change, politicians do not have most of the public’s trust in Ireland.

Asked who to trust on issues of national importance like climate change, 51% of respondents said they would trust scientists, academics or researchers, followed by 43% who said they would trust family and friends.

Only 13% said they would trust in TDs and 12% for local councillors.

With reporting by Orla Dwyer, Zuzia Whelan, AFP and Press Association

About the author:

Lauren Boland

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