Today's Guest Blogger is Oisín Coghlan, Director of Friends of the Earth. Oisín is in Paris as a civil society observer at the UN Climate Conference. Here he gives his view on Taoiseach Enda Kenny's comments at COP21.
Sometimes, the Taoiseach goes off-script when he is overseas and gets in trouble for telling tall tales, as was the case with the army and the ATMs story he told in Madrid recently. At the climate talks in Paris, however, Enda has landed in hot water for going off script and telling the truth. Enda Kenny's unscripted remarks in Paris reveal Ireland's real position on climate change, and it is unacceptable.
He had one story for the world leaders gathered here in Paris and a completely different story for Paddy back home. In the plenary hall the Taoiseach said 'This requires action by everybody – big and small. Ireland is determined to play its part'. But then he effectively turned to the Irish media present, winked, and said to the audience back home 'don't worry, I didn't mean it'.
In his unscripted remarks to journalists Enda Kenny revealed his Government's real approach to climate action, and it is both cyncical and unsustainable, poltically nevermind environmentally.
He cited the recession as the reason we're not on track to meet our 2020 targets. That makes no sense. The recession is the only reason Ireland met our 2012 Kyoto targets as emissions declined rapidly from 2008. That doesn't make meeting our 2020 targets harder, it makes it easier.
The reason we are not on track to meet our 2020 targets is because this Government has made no concerted effort to do so. It will go through its entire five year term without producing an Action Plan to reduce emissions. Compare that to the Action Plan for Jobs and you see what policy looks like when the Government is serious about setting and meeting targets.
Government purposefully not trying
In fact, Friends of the Earth has reluctantly concluded that the Government is deliberately not trying to meet the 2020 targets, because they want to say to the European Commission 'look, we told you that they were too hard, make our 2030 targets easier'.
This approach is deeply cynical. And it won't work. Every country has its favoured industry and if the Commission grants special treatment to Irish agri-business you can be sure that German carmakers and Polish coal merchants will be next in line. There is already pushback from other members states to Ireland's special pleading for an opt-out for agriculture.
It would be far more effective, not to mention ethical, to be seen to be doing everything we can to reduce emissions, in all sectors, to get as close as possible to our 2020 target and meanwhile make the case for a new EU-wide scheme for agricultral emissions from 2020 on.
I see no reason to believe that when they come to set national targets for 2030 that either the Commission or other member states will be inclined to reward Irish inaction, espcially not that we are the fastest growing economy in Europe.
And on climate finance what sounded like the announcement of an increase in the speech was actually a fudge. The €175 million the Taoiseach promised over the next 5 years is no more than existing Irish Aid spending repeated into the future. There was no concrete pledge to the Green Climate Fund beyond the €2 million promised for 2016. To reach the EU average Ireland would need to commit €45 million over four years but the Taoiseach came to Paris empty-handed after Ministers Kelly and Noonan could not agree how to raise it.