Thursday, 16 September 2021
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
Climate Change Policy
7. To ask the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he will report on his approach to preparation for the COP26 summit in Glasgow; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44063/21]
A headline in today's edition of The Guardiannewspaper states, "Governments falling woefully short of Paris climate pledges, study finds". In that light, I ask the Minister if he can report to the House on his approach to preparation for the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties, COP26, summit in Glasgow in November?
Ireland is committed to concerted global action to address the climate crisis and engages in negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC, and the Paris Agreement through its membership of the European Union. Ireland has actively engaged with its EU partners in preparation for the 26th meeting of COP in Glasgow, which takes place from 31 October to 12 November 2021. The EU’s official position for the COP will be finalised at the Environment Council in October, which I will attend.
Ireland's national climate delegation for the COP comprises representatives from a range of Departments and Government agencies and is co-ordinated by my Department which also acts as the national focal point for the UNFCCC secretariat and UK COP26 presidency. The Taoiseach will also attend the opening leaders’ summit from 1 to 2 November, and a number of Ministers will attend sectoral events over the course of the two-week period.
COP25 closed without agreement on some key areas and Ireland is committed to engaging constructively in the finalisation of the Paris rule book. This includes agreement on matters such as transparency, climate finance and adaptation, as called for by developing countries. Throughout the negotiations, maintaining environmental integrity, participation of non-party stakeholders, and a science-based approach will be key.
Does the Minister feel any embarrassment whatsoever about going to Glasgow as the representative of a Government that is rolling out the red carpet for unlimited data centres? He will be going to an international convention at a time when data centres account for 2% of global electricity use. He will represent a State that allows data centres use 11% of its national electricity output. More than that, he will go as the representative of a State that is planning to allow data centres consume 27% of national electricity output within seven and a half years, making Ireland a complete and utter energy outlier, which is a situation without comparison anywhere on the planet.
Singapore put a moratorium on new data centres in 2019. Amsterdam stopped issuing permits in certain parts of that city for a time. I ask the Minister to inform the House of what actions he intends to take and if he will keep bowing down before the demands of Facebook, Google, Amazon, Twitter and the other big tech corporations.
I have no intention of doing that but I will be honest that I see the key diplomatic issue in Glasgow as a slightly broader one. The real issue in Glasgow will be how we get agreement with the developing world in terms of a global response to climate action that is socially just. I will go proudly as a representative of a country that has lived up to its commitments, unlike other countries, to provide climate finance for adaptation, particularly in Africa and other countries, which are the first places bearing the brunt of climate change. Our diplomatic effort at present is focused on the Taoiseach's attendance at the UN General Assembly next week in addition to addressing the food system summit being held as part of that assembly. Our central critical role in COP on the diplomatic side is in trying to get European agreement on climate adaptation and resilience for the developing world as the key element to try to unlock the diplomatic glue around the climate talks. That, rather than our national data centre policy, is where we need to focus. By all means we have to manage that policy, but we need to think slightly bigger and more globally about what is happening in this world and the measures we need to take to address that.
Let us look at some of the global issues. Part 3 of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, report is not due to be published until March next year. However, scientists associated with Scientist Rebellion and Extinction Rebellion Spain took a decision to leak the early drafts over the summer. Part 3 states that "The character of social and economic development produced by the nature of capitalist society" is viewed by many political and economic critics "as ultimately unsustainable". In other words, the continued existence of human society is not, ultimately, compatible with the continued rule of capitalism.
It is not surprising that scientists and climatologists are beginning to draw this conclusion, given that 71% of carbon emissions since 1988 are the responsibility of just 100 corporations. How can the Minister and the Green Party continue to defend the capitalist system when it is so clearly at the root of this climate crisis?
We are in Government to try to change the system. We will work with the international system to make it work. We will work with other countries in the implementation of the Paris climate agreement and the global biodiversity conventions, which are equally important. In terms of systems not working, we have an ecological system crisis. That is why I go back to focusing on adaptation and resilience because it will be about nature-based solutions, often supporting much more local initiatives and less big corporate, big tech and big everything else. It will be more about what we can do on the ground, often with small family farms. I keep coming back to the point about how Ireland can play a role through the good work our development aid policies have done. We will try to work through the UN, including the UN Security Council, to look for definitions around methane. One example of an area I am working on is fossil methane. We do not represent big corporate interests; we represent planetary interests.
Second, in the agricultural sector, we must try to promote nature-based solutions that will change the economic system but also, more critically, address the ecological crisis, which is the key thing we have to change.