World leaders face the problem of “matching rhetoric to action” – Taoiseach

The challenge of the Cop26 World Leaders’ Summit on Climate Change is to “match rhetoric with action,” said Taoiseach Micheál Martin.

Mr Martin joins world leaders in the Scottish city of Glasgow for the two-week summit, which has been touted as a decisive chance to save the planet from the most calamitous effects of climate change.

Delayed by one year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Cop26 aims to keep alive a target of capping global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels – the limit according to scientists would avoid its consequences. more destructive.

Achieving this goal, agreed to in Paris with great fanfare in 2015, will require political momentum and heavy diplomatic efforts to compensate for insufficient action and empty promises that have characterized much of global climate policy.

Speaking after his speech at Fianna Fáil’s annual Wolfe Tone commemoration of Bodenstown in County Kildare, Mr Martin said Ireland had a ‘strong position’ and there had to be action over the next few years.

“There is no alternative for the world but to face the challenge of climate change very quickly and urgently,” he said.

He said the climate crisis is an “existential threat” to young people and the next generation, and said: “It is absolutely essential that every country plays its part. And it also means Ireland.

Mr Martin said he “hopes we can get a positive outcome from Cop26” when asked for his opinion on the hope that the deal reached by leaders at the conference will be weak.

He said that the fact that the United States, under President Joe Biden, signed the Paris Agreement “gives a very good platform and a safety net for the Carbon Cop26”, and the United States “Create new momentum with the European Union to become even more ambitious”.

“We’ve actually made progress globally, given where we are, for example, ten years ago in 2009,” said Martin.

He said the outcome of the summit will depend on contributions from China and Russia, but added: “I actually think we are now in a better position at Cop26 than we would have been more than a year ago. year.

Mr. Martin will participate Monday and Tuesday in the Summit of the world leaders, which will launch two weeks of discussions between 196 countries and the European Union, to “ensure a renewed commitment in favor of a global action against climate change”.

A roundtable for world leaders on Monday afternoon, hosted by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, tops the Taoiseach’s agenda – before he delivers Ireland’s national declaration to the summit on Tuesday.

The statement should state “how Ireland contributes to [the] achievement of the Paris Objectives, in particular by limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees, and by helping developing and vulnerable countries to mitigate the impacts of climate change ”.

Mr. Martin will also participate in several bilateral meetings and receptions during the two-day summit.

Earlier Sunday, the Taoiseach warned that world leaders must act now “if we are to leave a habitable planet for future generations.”

He said that although the challenge is great, he has “faith in the ability of humans to work together to overcome it.”

“Science is leading the way,” said Martin. “Leaders have to put in place the right policies, like we are doing in Ireland.

“I also hope that Cop26 will see a real step forward in climate finance, by supporting the most vulnerable countries. The transition must ensure climate justice – no one must be left behind. “

Ambitious commitments

The United Nations conference must secure more ambitious commitments to further reduce emissions, lock in billions of dollars in climate finance and complete the rules to implement the Paris Agreement with the unanimous consent of the nearly 200 countries that l ‘have signed.

“Let’s be clear – there is a serious risk that Glasgow will not bear fruit,” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told leaders of the rich countries of the Group of 20 (G20) last week.

“Even though the recent pledges were clear and credible – and there are serious questions about some of them – we are still heading for a climate catastrophe.”

Current commitments by countries to cut emissions would cause the planet’s average temperature to rise 2.7 degrees this century, which the UN says would add to the destruction that climate change is already causing by intensifying storms, exposing more people to deadly heat and flooding, killing coral reefs and destroying natural habitats.

The signals before the Cop26 are mixed. A new pledge from China, the world’s biggest polluter, last week was called a missed opportunity that will cast a shadow over the two-week summit. Announcements from Russia and Saudi Arabia were also lackluster.

Climate activist Greta Thunberg arrives at Glasgow Central Station ahead of the Cop26 summit. Photograph: Andrew Milligan / AP

The return of the United States, the world’s largest economy, to the UN climate talks will be a boon to the conference, after a four-year absence under former President Donald Trump.

But like many world leaders, US President Joe Biden will arrive at Cop26 with no firm legislation in place to deliver on his own climate pledge as Congress wrangles over how to fund it and new uncertainty over whether US agencies can even regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

G20 leaders meeting in Rome this weekend will say they aim to cap global warming at 1.5 degrees, but will largely avoid firm commitments, according to a draft statement seen by Reuters.

The joint statement reflects difficult negotiations, but details few concrete actions to limit carbon emissions.

The G20, which includes Brazil, China, India, Germany and the United States, accounts for about 80% of global greenhouse gas emissions, but hopes that the Rome meeting could open the path to success in Scotland has faded considerably.


Adding to the difficult geopolitical backdrop, a global energy crisis has prompted China to turn to heavily polluting coal to avoid power shortages, and left Europe on the hunt for more gas, another fossil fuel.

Ultimately, the negotiations will come down to questions of fairness and trust between rich countries whose greenhouse gas emissions have caused climate change, and poor countries being urged to decarbonize their economies with support. insufficient financial.

The Covid-19 has exacerbated the divide between rich and poor. A lack of vaccines and travel restrictions mean that some representatives from poorer countries cannot attend the meeting.

Other hurdles – including exorbitant hotel rates in Glasgow – have fueled concerns about the under-representation of civil society groups in poorer countries, who are also most at risk from global warming.

Covid-19 will make this UN climate conference unlike any other, as 25,000 delegates from governments, business, civil society, indigenous peoples and the media will fill Glasgow’s sprawling Scottish campus.

All must wear masks, socially distance themselves and produce a negative Covid-19 test to enter each day – meaning late-breaking ‘caucuses’ of negotiators who made deals in past climate talks are out of the question .

World leaders will kick off Cop26 on Monday with two days of speeches that could include new emission reduction commitments, before technical negotiators dwell on Paris Agreement rules. Any deal is likely to be made hours or even days after the event’s end date of November 12.


Outside, tens of thousands of protesters are expected to take to the streets to demand urgent climate action.

Evaluating progress will be complex. Unlike previous climate summits, the event will not result in a new treaty or a big ‘victory’, but seeks smaller but vital victories over promises of emission reductions, climate finance and investments.

Ultimately, success will be judged on whether these deals represent enough progress to keep the 1.5C target alive, which is still a long way off.

Since the Paris agreement in 2015, scientists have issued increasingly urgent warnings that the 1.5 ° C target is out of reach. To achieve this, global emissions must fall 45% by 2030 from 2010 levels, and reach net zero by 2050, requiring huge changes in transportation systems, energy production , manufacturing and agriculture countries. Current country commitments would see global emissions increase by 16% by 2030.

“The way I think about it is that there is a meteor coming to our planet and it has the very real potential to wipe out humanity,” said Christiana Figueres, the former United Nations diplomat. on the climate that drove the talks that culminated in the Paris Agreement. – Reuters additional reports

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