History has been made at the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris.

Delegates from 195 countries worked around the clock in the latter stages to hammer out an agreement that can be unanimously accepted.

An Taisce endorses its commitment that the previous climate ‘red line’ of +2C above pre-industrial levels is in fact unacceptably dangerous.

As a result of Paris, and in line with the best scientific evidence, the global community must now pursue +1.5C as the absolute maximum ‘upper limit’ that global average temperatures can be allowed to increase by before severe and irreversible impacts occur. The Paris Agreement provides a roadmap for tackling the worst extremes of global climate change. The future pathway to sustainability has been laid out for 195 countries, essentially the entire global community, to offer present and future inhabitants of Earth hope that human-induced climate change can be contained.

However, based on current pledges, the agreement will not avoid the threshold of 2 degrees C of warming which governments and scientist have defined as “dangerous climate change”. Indeed the lengthening of the time scale for implementation and lack of specificity of reduction targets are regrettable.

The hidden power of the Agreement lies in its requirements for 5-yearly stocktaking to ensure countries are delivering on their commitments. Reviews of their pledges are also required to be made on a no ‘backsliding’ basis. The agreement thus provides a ratchet for ensuring progressively stricter actions over time.

However, the greater ambition in this Agreement will necessitate a very significant ramping up over time of national and regional climate targets. As a party to the agreement, Ireland is committing to advocate for such ramping up of ambition. If this is more than mere hypocritical lip service, it must mean that Ireland will exert its full diplomatic weight within the EU to support - on the basis of science and justice - much stronger emission reduction targets for 2030. Of course, such diplomacy can be credible only if Ireland immediately signals its own commitment to aggressive national emission reduction goals; as opposed to current perceptions that it is one of the member states least willing to contribute fully or fairly to this shared challenge (and thus implicitly opposed to any ratchet up to a scientifically defensible level of ambition).

In the words of UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon: “Bold climate action is in the national interest of every single country represented at this conference. The time for brinksmanship is over.” Regrettably, there is little evidence that the current Irish government sees tackling climate as a key national interest or that it is prepared to face down special pleaders and interest groups to act for the common good of this generation and the next.

We earnestly hope that, given the strength and weight of the Paris Agreement, Taoiseach Enda Kenny will at last listen to the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence that concludes that the greatest gamble with Ireland’s social and economic well-being is failing to address climate change.

The latest severe flooding event, fuelled by record rainfall from a climate-changed atmosphere, has badly affected much of our western seaboard. This is a timely reminder that nature, to be commanded, must first be obeyed.

Every year Ireland fails to act, every year we continue to burn our peat bogs for fuel and import billions of euros worth of coal and oil, is another year in which more and more additional greenhouse gas-induced heat energy is pumped into the ocean that surrounds us and the skies above. This is leading to ever more acute weather emergencies that devastate homes, farms and businesses and risk rendering many parts of the country uninsurable.

An Taisce earnestly hopes that COP21 represents the necessary change in how global politics should engage with climate change, ushering in an era of international solidarity in acting to address this grave and growing threat to our way of life, and moving beyond sectional interests and short-term thinking.


For further information, please call:
John Gibbons, An Taisce Climate Change Committee Tel: +353 87 233 2689
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: [email protected]
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland