Climate change - We must do a lot more to have a future

OUR Environment Minister John Gormley yesterday launched a website to help us reduce our carbon emissions. The site is to encourage all of us to commit to a 10% cut in carbon emissions by next year.

Addressing climate issues on a different scale the Environmental Protection Agency, also yesterday, warned us that Ireland must adapt to the unavoidable impacts of climate change as well as engaging in international efforts to curb global emissions.

The EPA’s Summary of the State of Knowledge on Climate Change Impacts for Ireland report describes how higher temperatures, wetter winters and warmer seas will have profound impacts in areas as diverse as agriculture, fishing, disease control and infrastructure systems.

The report said changes in the Irish climate over recent decades were in line with global and regional trends associated with “human-induced” change.

The EPA said average air temperature had experienced a 0.7 degree Celsius rise since 1890, with 0.4 of this occurring since 1980. Air temperatures are predicted to increase by between one and three degrees over the next century. The EPA anticipates significantly wetter winters especially in the west, and drier summers in the southeast.

Earlier this week the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security presented its Climate Bill. “A Bill that attempts to save the planet,” was how committee rapporteur Liz McManus described it.

The Bill also seeks to make the Taoiseach personally responsible for achieving emissions targets so that ministers undermine it at their peril. Let us hope this recommendation is accepted as it would bring focus and a clear line of responsibility to an issue that is still regarded as peripheral by far too many of those capable of leading change

Continuing this theme, Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen yesterday warned that he does not think a legally binding deal on climate change will be reached in December in Copenhagen. He spoke before EU leaders held talks about how much aid to offer developing nations to bring them into a new global climate change pact.

Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt — who is chairing a two-day summit in Brussels — said the EU’s credibility was on the line and failure to reach agreement could jeopardise the Copenhagen conference.

The Finnish premier agreed. “A good outcome in Copenhagen requires a concrete financial offer for developing countries,” Matti Vanhanen said, insisting the EU should pledge its fair share to an annual global fund of €100 billion by 2020.

In the face of this growing momentum this week’s pre-budget submission from employers’ group IBEC is just another indication of how we have yet to realistically engage with these issues.

IBEC, in what can only be described as denial on a grand scale, called on Government not to introduce a carbon tax in the forthcoming budget.

Let us hope that Finance Minister Brian Lenihan, already under tremendous pressure, rejects this advice.

We have many immediate issues, some are complex and others driven by sectional interests.

In reality we have only one long-term issue and we need to do much more to confront it before it changes our world utterly.

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