The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report released yesterday is a hugely important statement on international science’s understanding of the climate system and climate change. Its publication could not be more significant or timely, detailing the increasingly dangerous future that is ahead of us, unless action is taken by all of us, now.
For the first time, with the highest levels of confidence, scientists assert that human activity is responsible for the warming that we are seeing on our planet today and its related devastating impacts.
The Report is equally clear in describing the increases in the frequency and severity of extreme weather events, rising sea levels, heatwaves, flooding, droughts and wildfires that we can expect to experience from this increased warming effect. Its publication truly is a ‘code red for humanity’.
For the first time, the IPCC have broken these impacts down to a regional level, showing that climate change will affect us all. Our ways of life - urban, coastal and rural - will all be impacted by climate change, with increasingly devasting consequences for lives, livelihoods and nature unless immediate action is taken.
Every tonne of emissions matters as every fraction of temperature increase will only worsen the impacts experienced.
Climatic changes are no longer assigned to some distant future. The devastating floods across Europe this summer, raging wildfires across the Mediterranean and record-breaking heatwaves in the US and Canada are testament to this.
Keeping world temperatures below 1.5 degrees has been the higher level ambition of the Paris Agreement, but this report now predicts that the world will exceed this temperature limit. Keeping the world below 2 degrees is still possible, but only with concerted efforts across Governments leading to immediate and dramatic cuts in all greenhouse gas emissions.
This is why COP 26 will be so important later this year. Translating science and urgency into policy and action is one of the most important challenges that we as a nation now face, and COP 26 with full and active Irish participation will provide a critical forum to achieve this.
Ireland is also stepping up domestically to the call for urgent climate action. The landmark Climate Act was signed into law on 23rd July 2021, committing us to 51% emissions reduction by 2030 and climate neutrality by 2050.
The Climate Action Plan 2021 will be published this Autumn and will reflect our higher level emissions reduction ambition and will set out the direction of Ireland’s response to the deepening climate crisis. We will set out in detail, sector by sector, the targets and steps necessary to achieve our overall objectives.
The IPCC warns that the window of opportunity to act is closing. The time to act is now and Government is doing so. But Government on its own cannot make the difference required. In our Republic, every citizen, industry and community must embrace this challenge and make the decisions necessary for positive change.
I am absolutely confident that we understand the scale of what needs to be done and that we are equal to the task.