In early October, both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Intergovenmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned of the need for urgency action to combat climate change.
The EPA’s Director General Laura Burke, highlighted the “relentless implementation of policy needed to combat effects of climate extremes”. She was reflecting on how weather events in the last twelve months - from storms and an ex-hurricane to a prolonged drought and heat wave - severely tested the resilience of Ireland’s infrastructure, economy, health-care services as well as people’s wellbeing, when stating “This last year has been a turning point in the minds of the public and sectors about what we need to do to build and assure resilience. Mitigation is essential, adaptation is necessary, anything less is unsustainable, indeed, irresponsible.” Ms Burke welcomed the advancement of the National Mitigation Plan and National Adaptation Framework and highlighted that it is now a priority to ensure committed, coherent and relentless implementation of plans and policy measures to meet national and international commitments, ensure the well-being of society, the stability of the economy and the safeguarding of the environment: “The systemic nature of the climate challenge emphasises the need to deliver enduring, integrated, all-of-government structures with clear responsibility and accountability. We need to move from a focus on achieving compliance with international commitments to driving the transformational change that is urgently needed across our entire economy and society so as to deliver on Ireland’s ambition to be a leader in tackling climate change and in doing so protect our health and well being.”
Ms. Burke’s comments came only a few days before the IPCC’s issued a stark warning in a special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels. The report, prepared by the world’s leading climatologists, predicts the immediate consequences of climate change are worse than previously thought, with extreme weather, food shortages and coral die-off predicted by 2040. The report stated that avoiding the likely immediate damage requires transforming the world economy at a speed and scale that has “no documented historic precedent”. Limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees by mid-century would require “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”. There is only a dozen years for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5 degrees, it finds – beyond which even half a degree will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.
Some commentators, such as Prof Peter Thorne of Maynooth University, a contributing author of the IPCC report, have questioned the Irish Government’s “real appetite for action”. Pref. Thorne said “The true cost of carbon, if accounting for the warming impact, is likely somewhere in the range of €150-€200 per ton. It’s currently taxed at 10 per cent of that. The result is a huge IOU to future generations.