Check against delivery
Dia Dhaoibh a chairde,
Is mór an sásamh dom a bheith anseo in bhur dteannta inniu. Is mian liom mo bhuíochas chroíúil a ghabháil le Dave Callaway agus gach éinne ag Callaway Climate Insights as an cuireadh a thabhairt dom labhairt libh faoin ábhar phráinneach agus casta seo – an t-athrú atá ag teacht in ár naeráid.
Thank you for having me here today to open the second Dublin Climate Summit.
The challenges facing us from climate change are stark.
The serious impacts in recent years from extreme weather events show us the truly enormous cost of not acting.
The truth is that not acting, is not an option.
The recent reports of the IPCC working groups have framed clearly the challenge that we share and the urgency with which we must act.
We have agreed and re-affirmed a global goal under the Paris Agreement to hold temperature increases to close to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
The challenge is profound. Genuine transformation is required.
No sector is, or can be, unaffected by this shared, all-encompassing transition that we have embarked upon.
Events on the eastern borders of Europe, with the illegal and immoral invasion of Ukraine by Putin’s Russia have also thrown into very sharp focus the need to phase out fossil fuels and develop renewable energy at pace in a way that guarantees our energy security.
While Ireland has made significant progress towards the deployment of renewable electricity, we must do much more and we must do it quickly.
We need to take advantage of the unique opportunities afforded to us by our location at the Atlantic edge of the EU and with a sea area seven times that of our landmass – particularly the potential this gives us for offshore renewable energy and green hydrogen.
Renewable electricity can drive the decarbonisation of our society, and also provide new jobs, new opportunities and a more resilient, secure and sustainable energy system for us and for future generations.
Strategic public investment is vital for us to take action at the scale and at the pace that is required, andthe Government I lead is committed to provide this leadership.
However, the investment needs are at a scale and at a pace that they simply cannot be sustainably met by the public sector alone.
I know that the business sector is keen to play its part in meeting this challenge, and many individual businesses are already doing so.
The sustainable finance agenda is advancing at a rapid pace, and there is now an increasing focus from Governments, regulators, and from investors.
The Irish Government, in close cooperation with the EU, has a responsibility to guide these efforts, through investments, strategy-setting, capacity-building, and setting legal and regulatory frameworks and incentives.
We take this responsibility very seriously , and 2021 saw a step change in Ireland’s approach to climate action, with the signing into law of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021, the publication of the National Development Plan and the Climate Action Plan 2021.
These reflect the enhanced ambition set out in the Programme for Government, which includes halving our emissions by 2030 and setting us on a pathway to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by no later than 2050.
The significantly strengthened legally binding framework established under the Climate Act will help ensure that Ireland achieves its national, EU and international climate goals and obligations in the near and long-term.
Achieving these goals will require changes across all sectors of our society and economy, involving collaborative effort by Government, business, communities, and individuals to implement new and ambitious policies, technological innovations, systems and infrastructures.
This will require changes in our collective and individual behaviours, including how we work, heat our homes, travel, consume goods and services, and manage our waste.
Delivering this will require all of our efforts, working together. An honest conversation and a shared acceptance that we all need to change so much of how we do things will be vital if we are to succeed.
The new statutory framework laid out in the Climate Act ensures delivery of successive Climate Action Plans, National Long-term Climate Action Strategies, and National Adaptation Frameworks, supported by a system of carbon budgeting and sectoral targets with appropriate oversight by government, the Oireachtas and the Climate Change Advisory Council.
Last November, I joined with colleagues in launching the Climate Action Plan 2021 – an ambitious plan to put Ireland on a more sustainable path, cutting emissions, creating a cleaner, greener economy and society and protecting us from the devastating consequences of climate change.
Ireland’s first carbon budget programme, proposed by the Climate Change Advisory Council, was approved by Government on 21 February 2022, and adopted by the Oireachtas on 6 April.
Following on from this, work is now underway to set sectoral emissions ceilings. These ceilings will determine how each sector of the economy will contribute to the achievement of the carbon budgets.
Once the ceilings have been prepared and approved by the Cabinet, they and the carbon budgets will be reflected in the next Climate Action Plan which we will publish before the year’s end.
As society transitions towards a low carbon, climate neutral economy, it is essential that adequate funding and sustainable finance is in place to achieve the goals that must be set across all sectors and regions.
For sustainable finance, two key strategies, published last year, set out where we want to be, and the measures we are taking to get there:
The European Commission’s strategy for financing the transition to a sustainable economy; and
Ireland’s national sustainable finance roadmap.
The Sustainable Finance Roadmap sets out 18 actions aiming to make Ireland a leading sustainable finance hub by 2025. In particular, and of critical importance, the roadmap prioritises training and talent development.
Because we need to keep building the capacity of Irish and Irish-based businesses to pursue sustainability opportunities, manage sustainability risks, and comply with sustainability requirements.
The Government supports these initiatives, for example, through Skillnet Ireland. We recognise how they can help Ireland establish itself as a leader on sustainability – one important key to the future of our economy.
We are also committed to having the right enabling environment for sustainable finance to thrive. In this, we are closely linked to the European Commission’s sustainable finance strategy.
The financial services system, and indeed our economies, are so inter-connected that there is clear value in working together at European level to develop common sustainability standards and rules, for companies and for the financial services sector that directs the investment.
In Government and as Taoiseach, we engage closely with our European counterparts and other European Leaders to make these rules ambitious, fit for purpose, and reflective of Ireland’s priorities.
We are at the heart of efforts to develop the regulatory framework, to avoid the risk of greenwashing and to promote consistent and high-quality sustainability disclosures and information for investors.
The EU Taxonomy is on course to be the go-to international standard for sustainable investments, offering investors the peace of mind that they are actually financing worthwhile green activities.
Transparent reporting will be key, and companies and financial services providers will need to disclose sustainability risks and impacts of their products.
Indeed, many companies are already publishing sustainability reports and soon the information legally required will be wider in scope and more comprehensive in coverage, while also becoming clearer, more standardised and more accessible.
The EU strategy also recognises the importance of involving all levels of the economy in these efforts, including SMEs and retail investors.
The need for these advances, and the benefits they will have, are clear.
I recognise there could be challenges in the early stages for companies developing and adjusting their compliance systems – for that reason, I mentioned moments ago how Ireland is prioritising capacity-building.
We are relying on you to participate in these updated systems, to prioritise investments that support the transition, and to operate more sustainably as organisations.
Your efforts will give investors the information they need to push our economy and our society towards a more sustainable footing.
They will enable all of us, governments – and vitally, citizens – to address systemic sustainability risks, hold companies accountable and keep track of our progress towards a net-zero economy.
It is also imperative that we understand and respond to the fact that not all countries have the same financial capacity to respond to the challenges. Wealthy, developed countries must deliver effective, accessible and transparent financial support to those developing countries that are struggling to cope with extreme weather events and climate impacts.
At the World Leader’s Summit at COP26 last November, I announced that we will more than double our climate finance to provide at least €225 million per year in climate finance by 2025.
We are currently developing a Climate Finance Roadmap, which will set out how we can meet the target set at COP26, building on the strengths of Ireland’s international support for climate vulnerable developing countries.
The defining features of Ireland’s international climate finance are evident through our focus on countries that stand to lose the most due to climate impacts, in particular Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States.
Our international climate finance is also characterised by its targeted support for adaptation to the impacts of climate change, and through the provision of grant-based financing.
Together, we must ensure that the goals required by our society and set across our Governments, across industry, and across finance, become reality.
Climate change is the single greatest challenge we face as a country and as a planet, and we must work in unison to meet our goals.
Gabhaim buíochas libh arís as an deis seo labhairt libh inniu. Tá súil agam go mbainfidh sibh sult as an gcuid eile den lá. Beir bua agus beannacht.