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Taoiseach Micheál Martin speaking during the Cop26 summit in Glasgow today. Alamy Stock Photo
Climate Change

'Every second of delay makes our task that bit bigger': Taoiseach delivers Irish COP26 address

The Taoiseach spoke this afternoon at the UN climate summit in Glasgow.

LAST UPDATE | 2 Nov 2021

IRELAND “ACCEPTS” THE obligation for richer countries to support nations most acutely impacted by climate change, the Taoiseach has said in his national statement at COP26.

But the Taoiseach’s announcement to double Ireland’s climate finance contribution for developing countries was criticised as not enough to meet current costs, with one organisation saying it should be closer to €500 million than €225 million.

Heads of government from around the world have been delivering their statements at the UN annual climate summit currently taking place in Glasgow.

Micheál Martin arrived in the Scottish city yesterday, attending climate events and meeting with other world leaders including Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron. 

In his national statement this afternoon, the Taoiseach said that “every second of delay” makes the task to cut emissions “that bit bigger”. 

“We come here as leaders, and it is vital that we offer the leadership the world now urgently needs,” Martin told the conference. 

He highlighted the benefits of climate action for people, a point experts have long been keen to focus on and which the Taoiseach has discussed in recent days.

“We can achieve a cooler world. A biodiverse world. A world with healthier air for us to breathe, healthier soil for things to grow in. A world in which people can live more sustainable lives, handing a healing and enriched planet to future generations.

Those of us in the developed world – those who have, frankly, contributed most to the problems that confront us all – have an obligation to support those who are most acutely challenged by their consequences.

Martin said: “Ireland accepts that obligation”.

Ireland’s financial contribution ‘only half our fair share’

Conor O’Neill, Christian Aid Ireland’s Policy and Advocacy Advisor, said in response to the Taoiseach’s speech:

“Taking past emissions and wealth into account, Ireland should be contributing closer to €500 million a year in climate finance, which means this increased commitment, while welcome, is still only half of our fair share.

“It’s essential that Ireland’s climate finance is new and additional investment and that it isn’t diverted from existing aid budgets, supporting communities struggling with extreme poverty, so that it doesn’t detract from other key areas like education and healthcare.

By just dipping into its aid budget, Ireland would be robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Trócaire welcomed the announcement by the Taoiseach that Ireland is to double its contribution to climate finance for developing countries.

But the overseas development agency said while this represented progress, Ireland will have to go further as the combined international target of $100 billion for climate finance “needs to increase in line with the rising need”.

Ireland’s global climate finance contributions will more than double from €93 million a year at the moment to €225 million a year by 2025. 

Since 2009, developed nations have pledged to give $100 billion per year in climate funding for developing nations to help them adapt to climate change. This target has not yet been reached and it is a key sticking point at this year’s conference.

Real-world impacts

The Taoiseach said that the world is already seeing the “serious impacts” of climate change. 

“The IPCC Report in August confirmed to us that it is widespread, it is rapid, and it is intensifying. The scale of this change is unprecedented.

“But, as the report made clear, it is not too late.”

This report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that “deep reductions” in greenhouse gas emissions are crucial to prevent the planet from warming by more than 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius.

The Taoiseach said: “Unless we act now, we will not keep the possibility of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees alive.” 

“The scientists are playing their part, in helping us to understand the dynamics of climate change and in developing the technologies and responses we need to limit its effect.

As political leaders, it is our responsibility to put the necessary policies in place. Ireland is ready to play its part.

Ireland’s policies

Martin also outlined Ireland’s climate plans and policies such as the target to cut emissions by 51% below 2018 levels by 2030, and reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. 

“We do not believe or accept, as some would have it, that it is too late; that the transition will be too costly; that it is inevitable that we will leave people behind; that someone else should shoulder the load,” he said. 

“We believe in the immense capacity of humans to work together and to achieve great things.

If we act decisively now, we will offer humanity the most valuable prize of all – a liveable planet. 

“As leaders, if we are to bring people with us on this journey of a lifetime we must also recognise and respect the real anxiety that many people feel when confronted by such an enormous challenge.”

He also spoke about the fears of young people and those worried about rising energy costs and losing their jobs. 

“Our young people worry that there will be no worthwhile future for them to inherit,” he said.  

“I will do everything in my power”, Martin said, to ensure these fears are not realised. 

Recent polling conducted by The Good Information Project/Ireland Thinks found that 11% of 18 to 24-year-olds think the government is doing enough on the climate crisis. 

One-third of people overall think the government is doing enough on climate.

Martin said he will work to “ensure that we will succeed in limiting emissions; to ensure that the transition we deliver is jobs-rich and economically sustainable; to ensure that there is real climate justice and nobody, in any part of the world, is left behind”.

“Let us leave Glasgow with a renewed commitment to doing what we know needs to be done. Let us move forward together now,” Martin concluded. 

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