Tuesday, 11 May 2021
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
This question concerns the European Council meeting but I have two questions and I am quite prepared to cede the rest of my time to the Minister if he wishes to develop the theme. The Minister mentioned that he called in the Israeli ambassador today and outlined what he said to him. Will the Minister give us some flavour of the ambassador's response?
I understand the Minister had some online dialogue with a former US Senator, Mr. John Kerry, about climate action. Will the Minister inform the House of the fruits of that discussion or what came up?
The Israeli ambassador is able to speak for himself and he will come before the foreign affairs committee tomorrow, potentially to give the Israeli perspective. He will do as the Deputy might expect, which is to give an Israeli perspective on security and the reason the Israeli Government felt it had to respond the way it has to protect its population against rocket fire from Gaza and so on. That is part of the story that we cannot ignore, of course. There is a broader story as well in terms of what has driven the tension that has resulted in this cycle of violence and how we respond to that. That is in addition to trying to create a ceasefire as well.
Influential and connected countries are trying to work on a ceasefire and people involved with the Middle East peace process know who they are. They include Egypt, Qatar and others, and the efforts have been unsuccessful so far. I fear we will see an escalation before we see an end to this cycle of violence. I hope I am wrong but I suspect we may well see many more innocent civilians and children dying as a result of this latest cycle of violence, which is the worst we have seen in a number of years.
I am glad to say the conversation with Mr. Kerry was a much more positive discussion. The exchange with the presidential special envoy, Mr. Kerry, focused on preparations for COP26 and measures that must be taken to ensure success, including bringing along least-developed countries and small island developing states.
My contribution on behalf of Ireland was to focus on the practical co-operation required between the EU and the US in a number of areas. These include climate finance, as we must spend more money and commit more financial resources to climate finance, particularly around adaptation for developing countries, small island developing states and countries that desperately need to invest in infrastructure to adapt to the new realities they are facing on the basis of climate change that is already happening. That is as well as planning for further change in future, whether it arises from desertification, more violent storms in places like the Caribbean or flood risk to small island states in the south Pacific.
Mr. Kerry agreed on much of that. The other area on which I would like to do more work concerns the oceans. We cannot have a credible global climate action agenda without a very serious discussion around oceans from a mitigation and adaptation perspective. The area on which we focused most in terms of transatlantic co-operation, and where we got a very good response from Mr. Kerry, was funding for climate adaptation and resilience. There is much focus on mitigation and potentially not enough focus on adaptation and resilience. There is also the question of oceans, in which I am very interested and something in which Ireland can become a global leader through the combination of good policy decisions and research.
We should not forget that the programme for Government means Ireland is one of the few countries in the world committed to designating 30% of our ocean territory to marine protected areas at different levels. We must develop that policy in the context of COP26.
It is like chalk and cheese. Essentially, we have gone from an American Administration in Washington DC that really denied there was a climate emergency at all to one that wants to be a global leader with the ambition around the required response to deliver the targets of 2030 and 2050, which are dramatic.
The truth is that if the US and EU combined are not effectively a force for change, this cannot and will not happen. This is not the first time Mr. Kerry has reached out to the Foreign Affairs Council and it is the second time we have had a nearly two-hour discussion with him on the level of ambition that comes with both the US and EU working together trying to deliver global action.