COP26: Ireland’s future in tackling the climate crisis

By James Hagan

The COP26 climate summit has finished with varying results of satisfaction. Taoiseach Michael Martin announced state plans for drastic changes in Irish climate action yet some question these announcements’ feasibility.

The two-week long summit brought UN member states to Glasgow to discuss plans for dealing with the climate crisis within coming decades, with the main theme of the event to ‘keep 1.5 alive’.

The ‘1.5’ in question refers to the global pact to keep the average worldwide temperature from raising above 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2100. Climate Action Tracker, a research group that follows international progress to tackle climate change, states that these ambitions must be followed through or there will not be nearly enough progress made to keep the 1.5 alive. 

As reported by Sky News, Climate Action Tracker said that while these promises were environmentally beneficial, many of these targets had been previously promised and never achieved. 

One Irish example of a previously announced project was the Taoiseach’s announcement to bring Irish carbon emissions down by 51% between 2018 and 2030, and be net zero by 2050, but such targets had already been set in the beginning of 2021.

Some key announcements tied to Ireland includes the Taoiseach’s announcements to bring Irish carbon emissions down by 51% between 2018 and 2030 and be net zero by 2050. Ireland, along with over 100 other nations, signed a pact to cut methane emissions down by 30% by 2030. 

Also announced by Martin was an increase to the climate finance commitment budget. Currently €93 million annually, the state announced a budget increase to €225 million over the next four years.

RTÉ News reports that environmental blogger John Gibbons spoke to Prime Time on the Taoiseach’s announcements. Although he expressed support for the Taoiseach’s ambition, he explained that planning goals for a decade or longer leaves out the urgency of immediate climate action, claiming the 2030 targets “let the 2020s off the hook”. 

Gibbons also spoke about the need for less dependence on beef and dairy, and to focus on organic agriculture. While this currently makes up 2% of Ireland’s agricultural industry, the EU wants it to be at 25% (via RTÉ News).  

(Above) While many governments claimed COP26 was a landmark in climate action, many environmental groups protested that these plans were not enough (image via U.N. Flickr) 

The City spoke to Pat Barry, CEO of the Irish Green Building Council (IGBC), about his thoughts after the summit announcements. 

When asked about his thoughts on COP26, Barry explained that the announcements met will be enough to keep firms like the IGBC busy. “We’ll be a part of this goal to be net zero by 2050, and we’ll have to figure out how we’ll do it practically. Construction amounts to around a third of all Irish emissions, from transport, to electricity, material usage, and the like” he told.

According to Barry, the IGBC is an environmental solutions firm created to work with the government and businesses in the construction sector in order to transition industry practices to be more environmentally safe. They also ensure education and policy fulfillment in the construction sector.

(Above) The 26th Conference of Parties (hence COP26) meet annually – however people are unhappy with promises made in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement not being met (image via U.N. Flickr) 

Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan said there hasn’t been enough progress at any COP summit, saying nations have got to be “impatient for progress”. When asked on Ryan’s comments, Barry agreed. 

“Politicians may find it difficult to win a vote if they show that they want rapid progress. A lot of them are afraid to tell the truth, and that is that we need to change how we eat, travel, and build. These climate needs require a total change in consumption, but if done properly, it shouldn’t impact everyday life too severely” he explained. 

The Taoiseach also said that it was economically essential that Ireland addresses the climate crisis, as an “enormous disruption” caused by extreme weather would affect Ireland economically. Barry elaborated “that if Ireland doesn’t show that if the nation isn’t serious about the climate crisis, it will be found out, and quickly.” 

“A bad reputation is bad for business, and that will affect (us) if we don’t make a change. It won’t just affect businesses; it’ll affect the public. Increased rainfall, more severe heat, and these more extreme weather conditions will cost home and property owners if its left unaddressed.” 

The City concluded our interview with Mr. Barry by asking what both his and the IGBC’s thoughts on the COP26 summit. 

“Unless politicians know they have their electorate’s confidence in serious campaigning for climate action, they won’t make serious actions to support change. People are going to need to accept that a change in lifestyle, for everyone, will have to be committed. This change is in diet, travel, and in the home. However, not everyone will be able to afford these changes, which is why the government needs to step in and support these changes. Once that’s done, we’ll notice a big difference.”

All images were used with permission from the U.N. Flickr account.

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