Taoiseach Michéal Martin has said that action on climate change must match the rhetoric, as he appeared at the Cop26 summit in Glasgow.
The Taoiseach joined other world leaders at the climate conference in Scotland, where he took the opportunity to defend Ireland’s own record on climate action.
The Irish government is preparing to publish the Climate Action Plan, which will provide greater detail on how the country plans to drastically cut carbon emissions over the next decade.
That plan will be discussed by cabinet ministers this week.
Mr Martin said it was “imperative” that the world responds to the challenge of climate change.
“I think economically we have to do what we’re doing,” he told reporters.
“Because it would not be economically sustainable to carry on the way we are carrying on nationally or globally, because the severe weather events that are happening are very disruptive.”
Carbon taxes, which have been criticised for hiking the cost of living for consumers, are a necessary way of both changing behaviour and funding the measures needed to tackle climate change, Mr Martin said.
“You do need to fund and the carbon tax over time will provide very substantial resources to enable us to do those things, as well as just transition,” the Taoiseach said.
“I don’t see why people would be against cleaner oceans and cleaner water, fresher air and a healthier lifestyle. And that’s actually what we can develop,” he said.
Mr Martin rejected the suggestion that Ireland’s own record on climate action rendered some of his own government’s rhetoric “hollow”.
He said: “I think there’s been a step change since the new government was brought in.
“We’ve increased significantly the ambition.
“There will be challenges in implementing that. They don’t ring hollow.”
However, Mr Martin was unclear whether Ireland would be reducing methane emissions by 30% in the next decade, in line with agreed EU targets.
He said: “We do support that pledge. And we’ll be signing that. That’s a global pledge.
“It’s a global pledge. It’s not a country-specific pledge, in the sense that we will develop our Climate Action Plan which will give our specifics in respect to the sector.
“The specific manifestation of that in each country may differ because different countries have different challenges in that respect, or produce methane at different levels in different sectors.”
Pleased to be here in Glasgow for the #COP26 World Leaders Summit.— Micheál Martin (@MichealMartinTD) November 1, 2021
Great opportunity for the global community to deliver on #ClimateChange – and renew our commitment to the goals of the Paris Agreement.@UNFCCC pic.twitter.com/mutFdKhmVO
Earlier, finance minister Paschal Donohoe said he will not pressure the US to do more to tackle climate change.
He was speaking as US treasury secretary Janet Yellen arrived in Dublin for a series of engagements, including a meeting with Mr Donohoe.
Mr Donohoe praised the close relationship between Ireland and Joe Biden’s administration, but played down any suggestion he might ask the US to do more to reduce carbon emissions.
“I’ll be reviewing where we are in Ireland with regards to how we want to reduce our carbon emissions. And I think when we all need to do so much together, I think we should shy away really from making lectures or describing difficulties that other countries may have,” he said.
“President Biden and Secretary Yellen are very much aware of the obligation that the United States has to reduce its carbon emissions, as I am as a member of the Irish government for Ireland.
“And I think we’ll be focusing on what we can do together and acknowledging the great difficulty that there are at times in executing what we want to do.”
Mr Donohoe said he will not be among the Irish ministers attending Cop26.
“The Finance Bill for the Budget is beginning this week. That Finance Bill includes measures to increase carbon taxation.
“I believe these are the kinds of concrete and practical contributions we can make here in Ireland to how we do better from a carbon point of view, and the government will be represented by a range of other members of government during that time,” he told RTÉ radio.
“The breadth of government ministers that are attending speaks to the importance that we place on what is happening in Glasgow. I need to bring in our budgetary legislation this week into the Dáil, and given the fact that carbon taxation is a very important element of that, I think my time is best spent doing that.”
Mr Donohoe was asked whether he regretted overseeing the expansion of Ireland’s dairy herd.
“If I look back on the last decade, and the many challenges that we have had and faced, the expansion of our dairy herd would not be one of the things that is a cause for the greatest anxiety for me, given all that we’ve gone through over the decades,” he said.
The minister declined to comment on the expectation that agriculture may be asked to cut emissions by between 20%-30% over the next decade, as part of Ireland’s climate targets.
“It is the case that we will be asking our farmers to play a role, and an important role, in how we reduce our emissions. But we will be asking everybody to do that. And we’re particularly conscious of the needs and challenges that (are) coupled with Irish farming,” he said.