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Fairness must be at the heart of Ireland’s climate action

2 Nov 2021

Taoiseach addresses COP and Government finalises landmark Action Plan

Detailed COP briefing here

As the Taoiseach prepares to address the UN COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, Friends of the Earth has said fairness must be at the centre of Ireland’s climate action if it is to succeed. The call comes as the Government puts the finishing touches to its Climate Action Plan due to published this week.

Commenting, Friends of the Earth Director Oisín Coghlan said:

“Fairness must be at the heart of Ireland’s climate action if we are going to prevent complete climate breakdown while leaving no one behind. That means climate justice for poorer countries that have done least to cause climate change, fairness for young people who face such an uncertain future, fairness between the different sectors that have to cut pollution and a fair and just transition for those most impacted by the radical changes we need to make so urgently.”

Friends of the Earth has today laid out the benchmarks by which it will judge the Taoiseach’s speech in Glasgow and the forthcoming Climate Action Plan.

Climate justice
Rich countries have failed to keep their word on providing the €100 billion a year in climate finance they promised to help the poorest counties in the world cope with climate change, and even that figure is a fraction of what is needed. Given how strong Ireland’s aid programme is generally our contribution on climate finance has been particularly miserly. Estimates for Ireland’s fair share contribution are between €450-€500 million. In 2019, the last year we have figures for, our climate finance amounted to just €93. Progress on this in the Taoiseach's speech today will be key.

Intergenerational justice
People born since the UN climate convention was signed in Rio in 1992 are bearing the brunt of our failure to act over the last 30 years. We owe it to them, and to the countries of the Global South, to do our fair share to prevent complete climate breakdown. That means Ireland needs to get to net-zero emissions much sooner than 2050. That is when the world needs to get to zero but by any measure of fairness richer countries who have done more to cause climate change should get there quicker.

Germany and Sweden and have already pledged to get there by 2045 and Finland by 2035. The 2021 climate law says Ireland will reach net zero by 2050 at the latest. The Government should ask the Climate Change Advisory Council to carry out a specific study on when Ireland should aim to reach net-zero.

Fairness between sectors
Ireland now has a legally binding target to cut our pollution in half by 2030. Every sector has to do its fair share. That doesn’t mean every sector has to do the exactly the same but no sector has sit out this transition. If we meet the target we are all winners with a cleaner, healthier and safer future, if we fail we are all losers with runaway climate change and all the costs and devastation that will bring.

The big focus has been on agriculture. It is clear that agriculture has to reduce its pollution by at least 30% by 2030. Even then the rest of society and the economy will have to cut by twice as much to hit our overall target. If agriculture only cuts by 21% the rest of society would have to make cuts of more that two-thirds and that is neither fair nor feasible.

A fair and just transition
The race to zero pollution must leave no one behind. Many of the changes we need to make carbon savings will be positive, with warmer homes, cleaner air, lower fuel bills, and healthier more liveable and walkable cities. And the transition will create tens of thousands of jobs in the transition will require investment and short-term inconvenience at times. Nothing compared to the cost and disruption if we don’t act but we need to make sure those most affected are supported and protected.

The mantra must be to make the zero pollution options available and affordable for all.

Government investment and support must be focused on those most at risk of fuel poverty, those living in colder homes relying on coal and oil for heating, and those whose work will change as we move away from more polluting activities. That must include dialogue with trade unions and farming groups as we move away from pollution-intensive forms of both power generation and agricultural production. 

Friends of the Earth's briefing on the COP is online here.

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