Pressure on Ireland to cut emissions after IPCC issues ‘final warning’

UN secretary general calls on wealthy countries to mobilise resources to keep global temperature down

UN secretary general António Guterres is to push G20 countries to commit to a global climate solidarity pact, whereby all big carbon emitters scale up efforts to cut their greenhouse gas emissions.

This is in response to the “final warning” contained in a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued on Monday. It confirms rising emissions are pushing the world to the brink of irrevocable damage. This can only be averted by swift and drastic action this decade, the report concludes.

Mr Guterres called on wealthier countries to “mobilise financial and technical resources to support emerging economies in a common effort to keep global temperature rise to within 1.5 degrees”.

The report sets out a range of available solutions but accepts a strong likelihood that the temperature threshold will be exceeded in the coming decade.


Mr Guterres outlined an “acceleration agenda” whereby wealthy countries immediately hit the fast-forward button on their deadlines to get to global net zero by 2050.

Climate change graphic

The proposal puts pressure on developed countries including Ireland to achieve net-zero emissions by 2040, 10 years earlier than planned. Such a target would be especially demanding as Irish emissions are currently rising.

The “synthesis report” completes a global assessment known as AR6, and “is a clarion call to massively fast-track climate efforts by every country and every sector and on every time frame”, Mr Guterres said.

His agenda envisages a range of policy actions including ceasing all licensing or funding of new oil and gas; stopping expansion of existing oil and gas reserves and shifting fossil fuel subsidies to “a just energy transition”.

The chair of the Climate Change Advisory Council Marie Donnelly said the report was clear on the need for accelerated implementation of policies and enhanced ambition and action.

Ms Donnelly remained concerned, however, “that a significant acceleration of existing and planned actions is required for Ireland to achieve its legally-binding targets in full and on time”.

“There is an urgent need to decarbonise our economy and society through climate change mitigation while taking account of impacts on the economy, society and environment while ensuring a just transition. Every reduction in emissions in Ireland will make a difference,” Ms Donnelly said.

Ireland was not sufficiently prepared to adapt to climate disruption, she warned. “Much of our infrastructure was built to cope with the climate of the mid-20th century, and therefore significant efforts are required to ensure resilience to the changed climate of the 21st century. Failure to urgently address these issues will magnify future costs and risks to society,” Ms Donnelly said.

Irish climate scientist Prof Peter Thorne, a lead author on the report, said a series of urgent Government responses should be undertaken in light of the findings, including plugging gaps in sectoral targets set last year; full implementation of the Government’s climate action plan; and “getting the planning cycle right, to get things in place quickly”.

Minister for Climate Eamon Ryan acknowledged “climate change is causing widespread and increasingly-irreversible losses and damages, [with] a rapidly-closing window of opportunity to maintain a liveable future for all”.

He defended the 2023 climate action plan which “sets out our response – as a country – to the climate crisis”.

“This plan implements the carbon budgets and sectoral emissions ceilings. It sets out a roadmap for systemic change to reach our national climate objectives – to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions by 51 per cent by 2030 and to reach net-zero emissions by 2050,” Mr Ryan said.

On the report’s conclusion that “the time to act is now”, Mr Ryan insisted: “This Government is doing so; passing one of the most ambitious climate laws in the world and mobilising the public and private sectors to deliver the emissions reductions required.”

The only barrier to global progress “is the lack of political will”, said Sadhbh O’Neill, coordinator of the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition. Ireland was not on track to achieve its promised emission reductions by 2030, she said, “and without an urgent injection of renewed political commitment, we will slip back into the climate laggard category”.

Dr Frank McGovern of the Environmental Protection Agency, who was a Government representative at negotiations to finalise the report in Interlaken, Switzerland, said it was “the longest and most challenging IPCC assessment cycle” but also the most productive.

“This synthesis report is based on [its] findings and provides the essence of our current understanding of climate change and the responses needed if we are to safeguard the Earth’s climate. Actions to protect our climate and reduce the risks of climate impacts are possible across all sectors. Delays increase these risks so now is the time to act,” Dr McGovern said.

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times