COP23: Naughten delivers ‘Alice in Wonderland’ speech to the world

Published by Niall Sargent on

November 16th, 2017

Minister Naughten’s speech at the Bonn climate conference confirms Ireland’s support of “tokenism” over concrete action to tackle our changing climate, a leading expert has said.

Speaking alongside Heads of State and other Ministers at a high-level event at COP23 today, the Minister for Climate Action said that Ireland must play its role in tackling climate change.

He said that while small countries “cannot do everything,” the Paris Agreement requires action by all nations, including the “great and the small”.

While we can’t be expected to do everything, the problem is that Ireland is “failing to do anything like its fair share”, according to Dr Cara Augustenborg of the Stop Climate Chaos coalition.

None of the measures outlined in the Minister’s speech, including efforts to genotype the beef herd, reduce food waste, and increase broadband coverage, “would result in direct and immediate emissions reductions”, the UCD lecturer said.

“Our own Minister for Climate Action doesn’t even seem to understand that doing our fair share to prevent climate change requires far more than mere tokenism,” she added.

holstein-cattle Photo: CallyL

Agricultural ‘Breakthroughs’

Minister Naughten said that Ireland is playing its part by contributing with some “major breakthroughs” in the agriculture sector.

Agriculture accounts for one-third of total emissions in Ireland, including almost 90 per cent of total nitrous oxide emissions and 85 per cent of methane emission.

The Minister said that Ireland is acting as a global leader through its support of an analysis of the genetic make-up of one million beef-producing animals.

“On this scale, this is a global first and we want to share our knowledge with the global community so that we can all benefit,” he said.

Director of Friends of the Earth, Oisin Coghlan, however, said that the Minister’s comments on Irish agriculture has the “Alice in Wonderland feel of Soviet-era grain harvest reports”.

COP23 Photo: UNclimatechange

COP23 Photo: UNclimatechange

Alice in Wonderland Speech

He said that, despite all the rhetoric about Ireland’s moves to reduce emissions, our Government has been “found out” by new international and European reports released in the past week.

The highly regarded 2018 Climate Change Performance Index release yesterday singled out Ireland as the worst performing country in Europe for taking concrete action to tackle climate change.

The latest emissions analysis from the European Environment Agency released last week also outlines Ireland is one of only seven EU Member States set to miss its 2020 emission reduction targets.

“The sad truth is Ireland plans to ramp up climate pollution from agriculture and is lobbying feverishly in Brussels for loopholes to avoid any consequences for that recklessness,” Mr Coghlan added.

A report commissioned by the European Parliament this year found that Ireland has the least climate-efficient agricultural sector in Europe.

The report indicates that Ireland emits more greenhouse gas emissions per euro of agricultural output than any other EU member state.

internet server cables

Broadband as a Transport Solution

The Minister also said that plans to extend fibre broadband to one-third of rural Ireland by 2018 will help to combat transport emissions by “reducing the need to drive… in such a disperse country”.

He also pointed to Ireland’s role as a “global leader” in managing wind-generated electricity on a small isolated grid and the Goevernment’s investment in over 20 ocean energy prototypes. A quarter of electricity currently comes from renewables, the vast majority generated from wind.

While there is a “very positive trend in the development of renewable energy” in Ireland, the Climate Change Performance Index released yesterday found that the current share of renewables in the overall energy mix is “insufficient”.

The Minister also said that the publication of the long-overdue National Mitigation Plan earlier this year has now put “Ireland on a clear pathway to achieve our own long-term decarbonisation targets”.

“The task of political leadership by all of us is to bridge the gulf between the global challenge and national responsibility, between each countries’ obligation and the responsibility of every citizen, young and old, alike,” he added.

The plan, however, has been heavily criticised by environmental groups, as well as the Chair of the Climate Change Advisory Council, Professor John Fitzgerald.

Speaking in front of the Citizens’ Assembly earlier this month, Prof Fitzgerland said that the Plan lacks a “commitment to concrete new polices and measures that would reduce our emissions.”

With the curtain set to fall on the talks in Bonn tomorrow, Mr Coghlan questioned if the Minister is going to make any decisions that will “substantially cut Irish emissions” upon his return to Dublin.

“It’s decision time for Denis. The next election is 12 to 18 months away. What does he want his legacy to be?”

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Niall Sargent

Niall is the Editor of The Green News. He is a multimedia journalist, with an MA in Investigative Journalism from City University, London