The election is in the closing stretch. The final leaders' debate is tonight. Will they discuss climate change? Probably not, but even if they do it'll be short and superficial at best. The reality, however, is that whoever forms the next Government will find climate change high on the policy agenda because of the Paris Agreement, looming EU targets and competing interest groups at home.
So how much thought have the parties actually given it? Below you can see and read for yourself.
We now have 6 parties who have confirmed they will have a representative there: Fine Gael (Senator Cáit Keane), Sinn Fein (Lynn Boylan MEP), AAA-PBP (Richard Boyd Barrett TD), Green Party (Eamon Ryan). Fianna Fail and Labour have yet to name their representative.
Whenever candidates call to the door over the next three weeks, say you’re concerned about climate change. Tell them now by email.
You can mention the flooding, fracking, or Ireland doing its fair share, on the doorstep if you want but, actually, even just saying you’re concerned means the TDs in the next Dáil will be that bit more likely to listen to us.
With less than 48 hours to go in the United Nations’ climate negotiations, you’d think we’d have some idea of what shape the global agreement on climate might look like, but the Pareto principle seems to apply to COP21: It takes 80% of the effort to complete the last 20%. They’ve whittled down the text considerably but the core messages remain unclear.
In simple terms, the three most contentious issues that have yet to be resolved in the Paris climate agreement are:
Yesterday, I arrived at my first COP. What surreal world this is – A mini city where thousands of people go about their daily work of trying to combat climate change. It’s a tiered community where the colour of the badge around your neck determines what work you can and can’t do.
I have a pink badge with the words “Party Overflow” written across it. This badge is allocated by the Irish government to representatives from Irish civil society groups. It is supposed to allow greater access than the yellow “Observer” badge many of my NGO colleagues have, though I have yet to find out how.
The "Paris Committee" of all 194 countries at COP21 meeting on Wednesday evening to discuss the draft text produced by France. Photo: Cara Augustenborg
By this stage in the second week, COPs usually enter a crucial stage where the negotiations hit a wall. The issues are always the same, namely how the principle of Common But Differentiated Responsibility (CBDR) is handled.Essentially, how much mitigation by the Developed Countries will occur and how much climate finance will they guarantee to the Developing World to aid their sustainable development and climate adaptation strategies. How should rapidly developing countries such as China, Brazil and South Africa be accommodated in a new world order of climate governance? Positive sentiments often give way to hard realities at this stage, and so it was today (Wednesday).
Is it normal to be this excited about going to United Nations Conference of Parties (COP)? Last night, I was like a child on Christmas Eve, unable to sleep with the anticipation of today’s journey. I’ve heard from colleagues that the COPs can be awful, frustrating events and that I didn’t miss anything in Lima last year at COP20, but I’m cautiously optimistic that COP21 will be worth the effort to attend.
Change is in the air
Part of my optimism is borne from a growing sense I’ve had lately that public opinion and acceptance of the climate crisis has shifted considerably in the last few years. There are a number of possible reasons for this:
I was in Paris on Monday to hear the Taoiseach address the opening of the UN Climate Conference. In the plenary hall he told the assembled world leaders "this requires action by everyone, Ireland is determined to play its part".
But he told the Irish media that he wanted special treatment, that the recession meant we couldn't hit our emissions targets and that climate change wasn't a priority.