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Special pleader or a climate leader? Enda Kenny’s choice in Paris.

30 Nov 2015

"Ireland's good international standing is at risk"

A growing reputation for “special pleading” on climate action has put Ireland’s good international standing at risk, according to Friends of the Earth. As a result, the environmental organisation says, the Taoiseach has a lot of ground to make up when he addresses the opening day of the landmark UN Climate Conference in Paris.

Commenting from Paris, Friends of the Earth Director, Oisín Coghlan said

The Taoiseach faces a clear choice today. Does he cement Ireland’s growing reputation for special pleading or does he move to position us as a climate leader.

“Mr Kenny has two simple questions to answer, is Ireland ready to do our fair share to reduceemissions and do we have a plan to pay our fair share of international climate finance?”

1. Emissions: Pleading and plodding

Our growing reputation for special pleading comes from the concerted effort Government ministers and officials have made in climate negotiations inside the EU over recent years to water down Ireland’s likely 2030 target. The two-pronged attack has involved the economic formula the Commission uses to divide up the overall EU target and making a case for the special treatment of Irish agriculture.

When scientists and activists talk about climate change and ‘catastrophe’ they are usually referring to what will happen if together we don’t reduce emissions enough. The Taoiseach on the other hand referred to the legacy of the EU’s 2020 climate plan as ‘truly catastrophic’ for Ireland and said that if the 2030 targets were calculated the same way future governments would be ‘screwed’.

The problem is every country can make special case for its favoured industry - Poland for coal, Germany for cars – and Ireland’s claims of exceptionalism are unsustainable politically as well as environmentally”, continued Mr Coghlan.

Ireland’s claims to exceptionalism might have more traction if we were least seen to be doing everything we could to reduce emissions. Instead this Government will go through its entire five year term without producing a National Mitigation Plan to meet our 2020 targets. The last plan expired in 2012 and progress towards a new plan have been plodding at best”, Mr Coghlan said.

2. Finance: Embarrassingly shy

Ireland has been playing the poor mouth in regard to our international commitment to mobilize finance to help the poorest countries in the world cope the climate change they did little to cause and which is already impacting people’s lives and livelihoods. Our shyness may have been met with sympathy during the recession but increasingly it’s being met with derision.

On Day 1 of the COP last year Ireland got awarded its first Fossil of the Day by Climate Action Network (CAN) International for being one of only four developed countries not to have made any contribution to the Green Climate Fund (with Australia, Belgium and Austria). By the end of COP the other 3 countries had made pledges but Ireland had not.

Since then there has been ongoing negotiations between the Departments of Finance, Public Expenditure, Environment and Foreign Affairs to find a way forward. In the Budget in October this year the Government finally made an allocation to the GCF, €2 million in 2016. But with countries of similar capacity to Ireland pledging €20 to €40 million a year over multiple years that was a token downpayment at best. As of now, average EU pledges for the 2015-2018 period are $12 per capita, while Ireland’s pledge amounts to paltry $0.50 per capita.

It flies in the face of Ireland’s hard-won reputation on aid and development to be dragging our feet over a relatively small budget item - especially with Government tax revenues booming - but one which is essential to building trust in the international negotiations process.

It’s up to the Taoiseach now to make a concrete commitment that Ireland will pay its fair share of climate finance and to outline the plan for how that money will be raised”, Mr Coghlan concluded.



  1. Taoiseach Enda Kenny is scheduled to speak at the UN Climate Conference at around 5.30 Paris time.
  2. Oisin Coghlan is in Paris until Wednesday as an NGO observer at the Climate Conference..
  3. The text of Oisin’s speech at the Dublin Climate March on Sunday 29th is online here.

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