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Tuesday 31 January 2023 Dublin: 8°C
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# Laggard
'We cannot opt out': Minister defends record as Ireland lags mid-table in climate action report
In a new report, Ireland and Poland were the only EU countries to receive a very low rating efforts to curb emissions.

THE MINISTER FOR Climate has said Ireland cannot “opt out” of climate action as a new report showed the country is still not making enough progress.

The 2023 Climate Change Performance Index published by the Climate Action Network, Germanwatch and the New Climate Institute, ranks the performance on climate action of 59 countries and the EU, collectively encompassing 92% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Ireland ranked 37th this year, nine spots up from the last report but still squarely in the bottom half, securing a ‘low’ rating alongside countries like Cyprus, Bulgaria, Brazil and Belgium.

On greenhouse gas emissions, the report gave the EU a medium rating for its performance, dropping one place on the rankings to 24. Most G20 countries showed worse performance than last year.

Ireland and Poland were the only two EU countries to receive a ‘very low’ rating on action to curb greenhouse gas emissions, with Ireland coming in 47th place, while Sweden was the best-performing member state, taking the 3rd spot.

Ireland’s performance on renewable energy and energy use were not quite as poor, taking 23rd place and 28th place in each category respectively – a ‘medium’ rating for both.

But climate policy was ‘low’, putting us at 40 in the same area of the table as Malta, Australia, Thailand and Taipei.

Nonetheless, Minister for Climate Eamon Ryan insisted the report showed that Ireland has the right policies in place but that it must now deliver on changes.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland, the minister said that Ireland is “putting the right policies in place but we now need to deliver in the reductions across so many different sectors”.

“It’s going to be good for our country, good for our economy, but we cannot opt out. We cannot say Ireland, a green country, is not going to go in this in this direction,” he said.

“It’ll be challenging but it’ll be good for the country and I think we will see that ranking continuing to rise if we do that.”

The minister said the new Climate Action Plan will be published before Christmas and that it will “set out very specific and very concrete and very real, backed-up-by-law measures that we do have to take”.

“It is starting in the likes of retrofitting in our homes. We are on target for 27,000 houses this year that will be upgraded and improved with bills reduced because of people taking action with government support,” he said.

“The areas that are probably likely to be difficult are transport and agriculture because there you have long term patterns.

“In transport, long-term patterns of a car-dependent system. We need to switch that towards a much stronger system based on active travel, public transport, reducing the need for travel by promoting things like remote work. We can and will deliver that.

“In agriculture, similarly, while that tends to get all the attention, in my mind it’s one of the areas where we will see progress quickly,” he said, pointing to measures to support farmers earning income from more sustainable activities. 

“So yes, we have to now deliver and I’m confident that we can do so. We have to do so because by not doing so, I think our country would fall behind and would be seen as a laggard.

“That is changing. We are going up the rankings, we now need to put the foot to the pedal and go much further, faster.”

Minister Ryan is in Egypt this week for COP27, a major climate conference where negotiators are deliberating on new international climate commitments.

The conference is facing pressure in particular to deliver a significant promise from developed, high-emitting countries to support vulnerable countries experiencing losses and damages due to the climate crisis, as well as cutting down greenhouse gas emissions.

The minister is joining several meetings and panels today, including with the Green Growth Partnership, the Global Offshore Wind Alliance, and the Least Developed Countries Fund and Special Climate Change Fund.

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