Climate change: Ireland accused of ‘fiddling as the world burns’ as Paris Agreement signed

The Government has been accused of fiddling “as the world burns” as it signed up to the Paris Agreement on climate change in New York.

The Paris Agreement was adopted by all 196 parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change on December 12 last year. All countries agreed to work together to limit global temperature rise to below 2C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts for a 1.5C target.

Ireland, through the EU, indicated its commitment to the agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% by 2030, compared with 1990 levels.

Environment Minister Alan Kelly signed the deal on behalf of Ireland in New York yesterday and said the deal represents a “major milestone” in the collective response to the impacts of climate change.

“The Paris Agreement echoes Ireland’s resolve, underpinned by my enactment last December of Ireland’s first ever climate change legislation, the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015, to continue the process of pursuing a transition to a low carbon and climate resilient economy,” he said.

However, John Gibbons of An Taisce’s climate change committee, said Ireland’s response to the global crisis was to miss EU targets which themselves fall far short of what is required under the Paris Agreement.

“At Paris, knowing the extreme danger of inaction, we agreed to act urgently to cut our economy’s greenhouse emissions year on year to reach near-zero carbon emissions by 2050,” said Mr Gibbons.

“Our new Climate Act mandates a transition pathway to a low-carbon future. Instead, we are doing the exact opposite.

“We are choosing a path of short-term financial gain, intentionally adding to global impacts and undermining our future wellbeing. Why are we being so foolish?” he said.

Data from the Environment Protection Agency last month indicated that Ireland is likely to miss its EU-mandated 2020 emissions reductions targets.

The EPA said that, even under the best case scenario, greenhouse gas emissions will remain relatively static up to 2020.

As a result, emissions in 2020 will be between 5% and 12% below 2005 levels, and will not meet the 20% reduction target.

“Instead of the sharp reductions we are legally mandated to achieve, Irish agriculture is due to increase its emissions by 6%-7%, while transport emissions are set to climb by between 10% and 16% versus their 2014 levels,” said An Taisce.

Meanwhile, EPA data issued this week showed that, while across the EU, participants in the Emissions Trading Scheme recorded modest emissions cuts in 2015, Ireland’s ETS companies increased emissions by 5.3%.

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