Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action

Conference of the Parties, COP, 25: Discussion

Photo of Alice-Mary HigginsAlice-Mary Higgins (Independent) | Oireachtas source

Some of my questions will echo the questions asked earlier.

The point has been made that the rationale behind the carbon tax, with the increase in carbon pricing, has been economic externalities and the fact that the social and environmental costs of fossil fuels have not been reflected in their price. Building on this rationale, the case is clearly made that if all carbon tax is a reflection of the costs of fossil fuels and of climate change, surely all the carbon tax Ireland collects, not simply the increase, should be designated to and ring-fenced for mitigation or adaptation. I am not asking for comment on that point specifically - I know it is a domestic policy matter - but it relates to the question of climate financing and the concomitant but differentiated responsibilities. We have heard about Irish Aid and heard some very good testimony about individual Irish Aid programmes that are quite good. However, I would like the witnesses to comment on climate financing beyond simply the Irish Aid programme, which is one frame and has some good practice of which we can be proud. Deputy Pringle raised the question of scale. We know that a number of countries effectively have something like $60 per capitagoing into the Green Climate Fund and that Ireland is contributing a fraction of that. Many countries are putting effectively ten times the amount we are putting into the Green Climate Fund. Notwithstanding our aid programmes, it is a requirement that climate financing be additional. Regarding the Green Climate Fund, which allows countries to make development choices that will contribute to action on our collective crisis, is Ireland planning to increase our very low contribution levels?

I refer specifically to the loss and damage fund, and I have heard about the Least Developed Countries Fund. The latter is an established Irish Aid programme. While there is some overlap between the two funds, the Least Developed Countries Fund relates specifically to the climate damage that has already been done to some of the most vulnerable countries and small islands on earth. Ireland is a purported champion of small islands. Will we speak out and be champions or engage on the loss and damage fund?

Another key issue is the 55% target, a question which has been answered. Looking to our long-term strategy, it will be important to know Ireland's position on this. We may have faced short notice in the past but we certainly have a long lead-in now. Will we engage with the increasing ambition regarding the 55% target - yes or no?

Another issue is that the research we have seen is escalating. We know that the previous COP did not welcome the research from the IPCC report. Will Ireland champion a welcoming of the report? Will we consider a scaling up of ambition in that regard? One of the key areas where it seems action could be taken is Ireland's carbon credits. I am quite concerned that Ireland is assuring us and members of the committee through various correspondence and telling us not to worry, that we will not have to pay fines because we have lots of credits. I think we know that we need action in every part of the world, so there is a move to argue that overhanging credits - that is, credits that countries such as Ireland purchased a long time ago, before we knew the increase in the scale of the problem - should no longer stand because we now need to use everything we have. Will Ireland support the move to abandon overhanging credits? That is a key point.

Those are the very technical questions. We have talked about political statements, which are a crucial part of the COP. They are what makes it different from the other meetings that take place. Mr. Maughan referred to the technical stream. In the very important political debates that will take place, what position will Ireland take? Will we champion anti-fracking measures? Will we champion divestment and not simply boast that we have done it? Will we press other countries on that? Regarding the narrative, which I know OPEC and other countries will push, of gas as a transition fuel, which is counter to our divestment and fracking message, will Ireland speak up? Will Ireland contribute to a narrative of gas as a transition fuel? Will we stay silent or will we raise the many concerns expressed?

My final question concerns the other key topic we know will be raised, namely the United States. I imagine that that will dominate some of the discussion at the forthcoming COP meeting. The witnesses might comment on that. As the United States pull away from the Paris Accord, will an increase in our other collective ambitions be required? What position will Ireland take on, for example, the proposals to look at imports or other measures in order to ensure we do not reward or engage with countries with upstream, outside costs?


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