Highly polluting sectors should contribute more to tackle climate change – Ryan

Environment Minister Eamon Ryan has said that business in highly polluting sectors – including aviation, shipping and fossil fuels – should be contributing more to tackle climate change.

Mr Ryan also called for the reform of international financial institutions to allow developing countries access to better finance.

He said there should be less spending on “mega super yachts” and more funding pumped into the basic provisions for people living in countries adversely effected by climate change.

Mr Ryan made the comments after he returned from the Cop27 conference in Egypt.

Mr Ryan, who was appointed as the European Union’s lead negotiator in loss and damage talks at the climate summit, said the momentum is increasing for climate action.

He said the last-minute deal reached at Cop27 will protect the countries most vulnerable to climate change.

Mr Ryan said that there is now more widespread support for the aviation and fossil fuels sector taking on part of the bill to address damage caused by climate change.

“This is not easy – the aviation sector in general, because it’s transboundary, doesn’t pay the same taxes as other sectors on the likes of fuel, same as shipping,” Mr Ryan said on Monday.

“The oil and gas sector, to take that one example, this year will make 3.9 trillion dollars in net income, which is twice what it did last year, twice. Our message, and when I say our I mean European Union, is that we should be looking for contributions from those sectors.

“This will not be easy to do because tax is a national competency. But there is now 200 countries agreeing for us to look at how we could do it.

“The reason is because the scale of the problem, the scale of the damage that’s already being done, the scale and the losses we can expect to continue as climate change becomes more apparent, more severe, is its those sort of scale of revenues.

“If we just put the burden on a number of Western countries, including Ireland, and say you have to soldier the entire burden of that, we won’t be able to do so.

“We won’t be able to provide the scale of funds that are needed. People talk about as a mosaic of solutions. So it’s not just the aviation, shipping and the fossil fuel industry, not just governments, but also looking at reform of the international financial institutions, so that they, particularly for indebted poorer developing countries can have access to finance.

“It’s a whole variety of different solutions we need.

“The developed world is borrowing at 4% and the developing world at 14% and it’s those sort of measures, including the recouping some of the extraordinary super profits from the oil sector and gas sector. So maybe there’s a bit less money spent on mega super yachts and a bit more spent on the basic provisions and protections people in the developing world want and we stand up.”

Mr Ryan made the comments as the Department of Children published the report of the National Youth Assembly on Climate.

The report presents the group’s recommendations for consideration to include in Ireland’s Climate Action Plan 2023.

The key recommendations from the youth assembly relate to the areas of transport, just transition, agriculture, circular economy and communication.

Mr Ryan said Ireland’s new climate plan will “deliver the scale of change” that is needed to hit its climate action targets.

The Government’s Climate Action Plan is set to be published in two weeks and will include measures Ireland must take to meet its targets.

Cabinet meeting – Dublin
Environment Minister Eamon Ryan attended Cop27 (Brian Lawless/PA)

Speaking at the launch of the report, Mr Ryan said he is more optimistic about the agreement reached at Cop27.

“(The glass) is more full than empty in my mind,” he added.

“The reason why more glass half full is because if we got the sense of justice right, that would help us deliver mitigation and reduction in emissions.

“We need to be so fast, the scale of the threat is so great that if you want to get a fast transition it has to be a just transition so people are willing to buy into it.”

Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman said the report makes young people’s views on climate action “open and very transparent”.

“As government we are accountable for translating those views into action and young people we know have led the way in terms of calling for stronger, more urgent climate action,” he added.

“It is our role in government to listen and it’s our role to act. Minister Ryan has assured me that the recommendations of the National Youth Assembly on Climate will be considered as a focus for the Climate Action Plan 2023.

“We’ll continue to liaise with our colleagues across government to ensure that the views of young people are taken into consideration as much as possible and acted on in policy-making and in the actions we take on these very important issues.”

Earlier on Monday, Mr Ryan said the agreement reached the climate conference over the weekend has to work.

The deal will create a fund for compensating poor nations that are victims of extreme weather worsened by rich countries’ carbon pollution.

Poorer nations have long called for funding because they are often the victims of climate-worsened floods, droughts, heatwaves, famines and storms despite having contributed little to the pollution that heats up the globe.

“A transition committee will look at the issue of how we get a range of different funding sources, how we reform perhaps most significantly the global financial system, the IMF, the World Bank, the multilateral development banks, so that they provide better debt relief and financial flows for countries that are in difficulty due to climate,” Mr Ryan added.

“Secondly, that we broaden the base of countries who contribute, that the likes of China, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, countries that were back in 1992 designated as developing are now very wealthy and need to contribute.

“Thirdly, we need to protect the most vulnerable.”