The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC): Thirty Years of Achievement
August 30, 2018
MacNeill Theatre, Trinity College Dublin
Check against delivery
Ladies and gentlemen.
I'm honoured to be here this evening on behalf of the Irish Government and the people of Ireland to acknowledge and celebrate the work of the IPCC over 30 years. It is a hugely important anniversary and we're very pleased to host tonight's event.
Over the past thirty years, the reports of the IPCC are an integral source of information towards our global understanding of the science of climate change.
Indeed, the evidence from the first IPCC Assessment Report, back in 1990, played a central role in the creation of the United Nations Framework on Climate Change. On foot of the IPCC's fourth Report you were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 and the Fifth Report played a key role in the negotiation of the Paris Agreement. So you can't get more impressive than that!
These Reports are crucial to our understanding of the causes and effects of climate change.
Ireland fully intends to maintain its strong commitment to the IPCC through financial support, academic participation and the hosting of meetings such as the upcoming meeting on the Special Report on Climate Change and Land next month.
As we gather here this evening we do so against the backdrop of a reality that no matter how much scientific evidence is provided people still have doubts about whether man-made climate change is actually real. I come across this every day in my work as Minister and a public representative locally. Even in our national Parliament there are doubters.
Significant studies consistently point to this. Here in Trinity Associate Professor Constantine Boussalis' research revealed that in the US a third of people do not accept human-induced climate change is happening.
This is the reality and indeed it is extremely worrying.
For many the message of climate change seems far too futuristic, far too fatalistic. I've been dubbed the Minister for the Apocalypse by a well-known political satirist, but the reality is if we don't get it right now the next generation will suffer.
The word 'global' in global warming, accurately summarises the incontrovertible science underlying that imminent threat. It is also in its vastness, potentially daunting, even discouraging.
How can any one country, especially a small one, make a difference? How can any one of us meaningfully act to make that difference happen?
The Department that I lead - the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment is the Department of Efficiency. It's about using the natural resources that we have in a sustainable manner to drive change, to transform rural Ireland, to support employment and to protect our people and planet for future generations. My job is to provide the leadership through policies and programmes that translate aspiration into action. Action is the most important word in the title of my Department.
Energy efficiency and climate action are inextricably linked. Using less energy and using it more efficiently is the most cost-effective way to combat climate change. Efficiency is about us using limited resources more responsibly, and more economically. It is not just a different way of doing, it is a different way of thinking and of living.
The Paris Agreement acknowledges the need to tackle climate change in a manner that does not threaten food production. At a global level, we need to support the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions while avoiding the perverse impact of merely displacing agricultural production to less efficient countries and actually exacerbating the problem at a global level.
I am acutely aware of the challenges we face, both at home and internationally, to achieve the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement and tackle climate change.
Since becoming Ireland's first Minister for Climate Action, I have brought about a step-change in Ireland's climate efforts. I published our first statutory National Mitigation Plan just over a year ago, and our first National Adaptation Framework at the beginning of 2018.
Most recently, the National Development Plan allocated almost €22 billion over the next decade to addressing the transition to a low-carbon and climate resilient society. In addition to this, the National Development Plan allocates a further €8.6 billion for investments in sustainable mobility.
This means that well over €1 in every €5 spent under the National Development Plan will be spent on climate mitigation and this capital investment will enable us to deliver a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the period to 2030.
The key Government priorities are:
- energy efficiency upgrades of 45,000 homes every year from 2021 and providing support for a major roll-out of heat pump technologies
- delivering energy upgrades to all public buildings and a minimum of one third of commercial buildings
- implementing the new renewable electricity support scheme to deliver an additional 3,000-4,500 MW of renewable energy, with the initial focus on shovel ready projects which could contribute to meeting our 2020 renewable energy targets
- the roll-out of the support scheme for renewable heat and national smart metering programme
- transitioning the Moneypoint plant away from coal by the middle of the next decade
- having at least 500,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2030 with additional charging infrastructure
- no new non-zero emission cars will be sold in Ireland post-2030 and no NCT will be issued for non-zero emission cars post-2045
- a €500 million Climate Action Fund to leverage investment by public and private bodies in innovative climate action measures, which I launched for applications on July 9th.
The Government is also committed to setting a long term trajectory for carbon pricing, to ensure it sends a sufficiently strong signal to drive changes in the behaviour of households and businesses, and we are examining innovative ways of doing this.
We are also showing global leadership with our landmark Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill.
In saying this, it is important to acknowledge that the journey we are all embarked on is about fundamental societal change, and it is vital that we listen to the ideas and concerns of all our people to ensure their hearts and minds are committed to the transition we are making.
People cannot be commanded, they must be consulted. I must enable people to take action themselves. The change required, requires people to become the agents and the authors of action themselves. Climate action is the move-on from aspiration to policy, and then to specific steps people can take daily. Effective change is putting the levers for climate action into people's hands. Delivery requires fundamental societal transformation.
It must be just and fair.
This evening the panel discussion on the challenges and opportunities associated with understanding and communicating climate change is timely.
I launched Ireland's National Dialogue on Climate Action for the very reason that communication is so crucial to tackling this challenge. The first regional meeting took place earlier this summer, and I look forward to further regional and local meetings in the autumn.
The importance of exchanging ideas, and learning from each other, cannot be overemphasised. Action, at a local, regional, national or global level, relies on open and honest dialogue.
I regret that I won't be able to stay for the panel discussion, but I am very interested in hearing its outcomes. In the meantime, I welcome you all to enjoy the evening's discussions and reiterate my congratulations to the IPCC for its huge contribution to addressing the climate challenge over 30 years.