A new plan to tackle the climate change crisis will be published in the Autumn and will set out fresh targets in every sector, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said.
In a statement on Tuesday, Mr Martin said that “the time to act is now” as he pledged Government action on climate change.
He was speaking following the release of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report which was compiled by more than 230 climate scientists. The report warns that major climate disruption is inevitable and, in many instances, irreversible.
“The Climate Action Plan 2021 will be published this Autumn and will reflect our higher level emissions reduction ambition and will set out the direction of Ireland’s response to the deepening climate crisis,” the Taoiseach said.
“We will set out in detail, sector by sector, the targets and steps necessary to achieve our overall objectives.”
Mr Martin pointed to warnings from the IPCC warns that the window of opportunity to act is closing.
“The time to act is now and Government is doing so. But Government on its own cannot make the difference required. In our Republic, every citizen, industry and community must embrace this challenge and make the decisions necessary for positive change.
“I am absolutely confident that we understand the scale of what needs to be done and that we are equal to the task.”
He described the IPCC report as a “hugely important statement on international science’s understanding of the climate system and climate change”.
He said: “Its publication could not be more significant or timely, detailing the increasingly dangerous future that is ahead of us, unless action is taken by all of us, now.
“For the first time, with the highest levels of confidence, scientists assert that human activity is responsible for the warming that we are seeing on our planet today and its related devastating impacts.”
The Taoiseach said the report makes it clear what the impact will be in terms of the frequency and severity of extreme weather events, rising sea levels, heatwaves, flooding, droughts and wildfires.
“Its publication truly is a ‘code red for humanity’.
“For the first time, the IPCC have broken these impacts down to a regional level, showing that climate change will affect us all. Our ways of life - urban, coastal and rural - will all be impacted by climate change, with increasingly devastating consequences for lives, livelihoods and nature unless immediate action is taken,” he said.
“Every tonne of emissions matters as every fraction of temperature increase will only worsen the impacts experienced.”
The Taoiseach also said that climactic changes are no longer viewed as being in “some distant future”.
“The devastating floods across Europe this summer, raging wildfires across the Mediterranean and record-breaking heatwaves in the US and Canada are testament to this,” said Mr Martin.
“Keeping world temperatures below 1.5 degrees has been the higher level ambition of the Paris Agreement, but this report now predicts that the world will exceed this temperature limit. Keeping the world below 2 degrees is still possible, but only with concerted efforts across Governments leading to immediate and dramatic cuts in all greenhouse gas emissions.”
The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, will be held in early November this year.
Mr Martin described this meeting as being of significant importance.
“Translating science and urgency into policy and action is one of the most important challenges that we as a nation now face, and COP 26 with full and active Irish participation will provide a critical forum to achieve this.
“Ireland is also stepping up domestically to the call for urgent climate action. The landmark Climate Act was signed into law on 23rd July 2021, committing us to 51% emissions reduction by 2030 and climate neutrality by 2050.”
Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe earlier defended the Government's actions on climate change, saying that it is committed to increasing levels of taxation on carbon in each budget until targets are met.
Speaking on RTÉ radio's News at One, Mr Donohoe said that the Climate Action Plan next month aims to reduce emissions by 51 per cent by 2030.
“It is the reason why we have made decisions to tax carbon emissions and invested revenue in activities that will reduce emissions.”
The commitment to increasing levels of taxation on carbon in each budget to come was in recognition of the climate threat, he added.
Government decisions in the future will be made through the prism of climate change and all departments will have to develop plans highlighting the part they will play in doing this, said Mr Donohoe.
When asked about the taxation report published on Tuesday, the Minister said it highlighted that the Government’s tax collection for this year and last year had been “incredibly resilient” in the face of public health challenges.
Mr Donohoe said it is too early to signal what other changes may be needed in this year’s budget, in light of the IPCC report.
He said it had been an ongoing feature of the last two budgets that carbon tax had been increased.
“We have now legislated for automatic increases in carbon taxation across each year until we hit our target of 100 euro per tonne of carbon emissions and I remain committed to doing that,” he said.
“I would expect when we begin the next phase of our budgetary preparations in September that climate will continue to be central to our discussions. But it will be a lot later in September or October until we are clearer if there could be any specific further changes as a result of the report yesterday.”