Environment Minister Eamon Ryan at the Hong Kong Stock Exchange yesterday Tadgh McNally/The Journal
off abroad

Banshees in Beijing: Embassy due to host screening as Eamon Ryan arrives in Chinese capital

The Environment Minister has spent recent days in both Shanghai and Hong Kong.

Tadgh McNally reports from Beijing:

ENVIRONMENT MINISTER EAMON Ryan has arrived in Beijing, with high-level meetings on climate and a screening of The Banshees of Inisherin on the cards.

The Green Party leader is among the contingent of Ministers travelling abroad to mark St Patrick’s Day.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is currently in Washington and is due to meet with US President Joe Biden in the Oval Office tomorrow for the traditional shamrock handover ceremony. Tánaiste Micheál Martin was in New York earlier this week and is due to travel to Boston for St Patrick’s Day.

Meanwhile, Ryan has spent the last week travelling in China as part of his St Patrick’s programme, visiting both Shanghai and Hong Kong in recent days.

This afternoon, Ryan is attending a roundtable discussion on climate and energy policy, with this featuring heavily since he arrived earlier this week.

China, the world’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, has been scaling up and introducing additional renewable energy sources to the grid.

Despite this increase, the country continues to rely primarily on coal for their electricity generation. A report, from the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, details how two coal-fired plants were signed each month in 2022.

This is despite promises from President Xi Jinping to reduce coal use from from 2026.

The country’s ambitions in its official plans under the Paris Agreement are to to peak its carbon emissions and increase the share of non-fossil fuel sources in primary energy consumption to around 25% by 2030, leaving it with 30 years to then achieve carbon neutrality by 2060 in a dramatic departure from previous years.

In Ireland, the national targets are to cut emissions by 51% and increase the proportion of renewables in electricity to 80% by 2030, before reaching net-zero in 2050.

While China’s total emissions are very high, the population at large produces fewer emissions each year on a per capita basis than Ireland – though the gap has become narrower in recent years.

China Ireland Emissions per capita Ireland and China's emissions per capita Climate Data Watch Climate Data Watch

A recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change identified the risks that China is likely to face as temperatures rise and the climate grows increasingly unstable, including rising sea levels and flooding and the threats those pose to staple foods like rice and fish. 

Yesterday, Ryan addressed the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and encouraged cooperation on the development of renewable energy around the world, saying that – unlike fossil fuels – renewable energy sources are not subject to competition.

“It is renewable, it’s not subject to competition. The fact that China is able to tap into wind and solar power does not diminish my ability to do that,” Ryan said.

“We’ve everything to gain with cooperation, with coordination, connection.”

Following his address, he struck a gong to officially close the Hong Kong stock market for the day.

Later this evening, he is due to attend a reception at the Irish Embassy in Beijing, where  there will be a screening of The Banshees of Inisherin.

It’s expected that he will make a short speech at the reception, with guests from the film industry due to attend.

Ryan is also due to give a keynote speech to a group of students studying at Beijing Dublin International College (BDIC).

BDIC was initially set up in 2013 as a joint university operation between UCD and Beijing University of Technology by then-Education Minister Ruairí Quinn.

Tomorrow, Ryan will attend a bilateral meeting with the Chinese Minister for Ecology and Environment, Huang Runqiu.

Speaking to The Journal ahead of the meeting tomorrow, Ryan said that he hoped to speak with Runqiu about potential cooperation and collaboration on energy and climate issues.

“This isn’t a zero sum game, we can gain off each other,” Ryan said.

“For example, we’ll be importing a lot of those solar panels from China. We will similarly be using their batteries when it comes to our electric vehicles and domestic storage.

He added that with his involvement with both COP and the International Energy Agency, it was important for him to have a good working relationship with ministers from other Governments, particularly around coordinating gas demand to prevent a further price spike.

“That’s what this is about, it’s being able to connect with people and listen and share perspectives and through that, get away from the divisive politics that is quite frightening,” Ryan added.

Additional reporting by Lauren Boland

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