Taoiseach warns of costs in climate change battle

IRISH families will have to pay more in order to bring climate change under control, Taoiseach Brian Cowen has warned as China signalled new momentum in the battle to combat green house gasses.

Global warming dominated a special meeting of the United Nations general assembly as Mr Cowen and more than 100 other heads of government gathered to try and break the deadlock on cutting carbon emissions.

With China now the biggest polluter in the world, Chinese President Hu Jintao pledged to set targets for reducing his country’s emissions for the first time, but western nations expressed disappointment he did not specify numbers.

However, the move was seen as hopeful ahead of crunch negotiations in Copenhagen this December intended to put in place a global reduction schedule to replace the Kyoto protocol.

Mr Cowen stressed major progress was needed to clinch a deal on climate change, but made it clear he believed there would be “short term” economic effects on the pockets of Irish consumers as we moved to a more low carbon economy.

“Yes, of course there will be impacts in the short term, but the cost of doing nothing, the cost of inaction is far greater. Indeed those who talk about the need to take decisions now, point to the fact that these in fact can become the drivers of growth in the future,” he said.

With a carbon tax expected in the December budget, Mr Cowen insisted Ireland was doing its bit to bring down emissions, despite its efforts being derided as poor by some environmentalists when compared with other European countries.

The Taoiseach again said he backed EU ambitions to cut carbon emissions by 30% by 2020. “Unless we take such decisions then we face the prospect of irreversible changes that will greatly militate against the future health and survival of this planet. This is a fundamental question after 150 years of industrial revolution.”

The Chinese move was seen as a move in the right direction ahead of getting progress in Copenhagen as Mr Hu said the economic super power would curb its carbon emissions per unit of gross domestic product, a measure also known as carbon intensity, by a “notable margin” by 2020 from the 2005 level.

US President Barack Obama, meanwhile, admitted America, the planet’s other main polluter, had been slow to act, but promised a “new era” of promoting clean energy and reducing CO2 pollution.

China and the US each account for about 20% of the world’s greenhouse gas pollution from coal, natural gas and oil, with the European Union responsible for 14%, followed by Russia and India with 5% each.

The Copenhagen negotiations are intended to agree a way to prevent a global temperature rise of more than 2C above present temperatures by limiting emissions.


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