Future generations will not forgive us for climate change inaction – Martin

The Taoiseach has warned that if the current generation does not urgently step up to act on climate change, future generations will “not forgive us”.

Micheal Martin told the Cop27 climate summit in Egypt that Ireland is doing all it can to reach its climate targets.

Giving Ireland’s national climate statement at the climate summit in Sharm El-Sheikh, Mr Martin said that as political leaders, it is their responsibility to drive the transformation necessary.

“What were once exceptional events are now occurring with increased frequency and ferocity,” Mr Martin said in his address on Tuesday.

“People in the poorest parts on the planet are being driven from regions that can no longer support and sustain them.

“Climate change is fuelling conflict, global instability, competition for resources and abject human misery.

“If this generation doesn’t step up urgently, future generations will not forgive us.

“As leaders, it is our responsibility to drive the transformation necessary. In Ireland, the Government has set legally-binding emission reduction targets of 51% by 2030 and has committed Ireland to becoming climate neutral by 2050.

“We have fixed sector sectoral emissions ceiling limiting greenhouse gases emissions for each economic sector.

“Achieving these targets will be challenging, so we have enacted a legal framework to guide and underpin our efforts.

“The burden of climate change globally is falling most heavily on those least responsible for our predicament.

“Ireland has therefore published an international climate finance roadmap, reaffirming our commitment to supporting the world’s most vulnerable people.

“We are more than doubling our finance to almost 225 million euro a year by 2025.”

Mr Martin is on a two-day trip to Egypt, while Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications Eamon Ryan, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney and Minister of State for Overseas Development Aid and Diaspora Colm Brophy is also attending.

In Dublin, the Dail heard that “more urgent action” is needed from the Government to address Ireland’s high greenhouse gas emissions.

Labour leader Ivana Bacik said: “We are just over seven years away from the 2030 deadline. It’s impossible for many of us to see how we’re going to reach our target.

“We’ve got missed targets, we’ve got rising emissions with low investment in critical infrastructure, huge delays in generation of offshore wind capacity.

“Ireland being the second highest emitter of greenhouse gases per head of population in the EU. So we need to see more urgent action.”

Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath said that while it will not be easy to reach the targets, there is some hope, adding that some progress has been made.

“I believe that the Irish people will lead, that they will deliver on the commitments that we’ve entered into, and I can assure you, the House and the Irish people that the Government will not be found wanting,” Mr McGrath added.

“The next generation and future generations will not thank us if we do not deliver on our commitments to them.”

Meanwhile, former Irish president Mary Robinson said she will call out countries that do not stick to their climate objectives, and that “a positive narrative” is needed to motivate members of the public.

The vocal climate change activist said she believes the world’s best times are ahead, but that civilisation is currently on track for its “worst, worst times”.

“I think very strong language may be necessary for governments, but actually it doesn’t help motivate people,” she said.

“I think what motivates people is thinking about: our best times are there if we just move rapidly, and we’re heading in the wrong direction but we can change, and we can do it with this moonshot mentality.”

Mrs Robinson said “a positive narrative” is needed to convince people to make the drastic changes necessary to cut global emissions.

“I’m working at the moment with a lot of women leaders globally, and something that we learned from an indigenous member of our group… in her tribe in New Mexico, they say ‘What if our best times are still ahead of us?’ And they are,” she told RTE Radio’s Morning Ireland programme.

“Our best times are still ahead of us, and we’re heading for our worst, worst times.”

Mrs Robinson is among those attending the Cop27 climate conference.

She said switching to green energy globally is part of the positive change that is needed.

“That will be incredible in cities that will be full of green and gardens and even farms in cities.

“The 600 million in Africa will get access to green energy, it will be a whole sea change, and we’re almost there, but we just don’t have the political will.”

Mrs Robinson said she and her colleagues in The Elders non-profit group of statesmen and activists will be “calling out” governments that do not stick to their climate commitments.

“We call out the United States if necessary, we call out Europe if necessary, but we also call out the ones who are supporting too much the fossil fuel lobby,” she said.