Minister for the Environment and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has expressed confidence that Cop26 will end with an agreement that keeps alive the goal of limiting global warming since the industrial revolution to below 1.5 degrees.
Speaking to reporters in Glasgow on Friday as the summit ran over its scheduled time and delegates continued to negotiate, Mr Ryan said he believed the final text would be reasonably ambitious.
“My sense of the negotiations is they’re not in a bad place because the ambition is not being scaled back. Certain things are slightly weakened, but it’s not fundamentally been weakened.”
Mr Ryan acknowledged that the commitments made in Glasgow were not enough to reach the target of 1.5 degrees even if they were fulfilled, but he hoped the meeting would help to accelerate movement towards that goal.
He said he understood why many of the activists outside the conference centre were angry and disappointed by the summit’s failure to agree on more radical steps to reach the 1.5 degree target.
“There’s always an issue about political science as well as climate science, not just like in our own country but in every country. How do you get people to change their livelihoods?
“I was talking to the Indian transport minister as an example of this the other day, and he said ‘I have 30 million people working in transport in the current system. How am I going to switch them?’ That’s a reality as well.
“And those people in climate justice are absolutely right. They say you have to have a just transition, but that’s a reality. That’s why you have to get 200 countries together and then each country and the government has to get re-elected while doing this, and that is a real challenge,” he said.
“If we’d started this 20 years ago we’d have been in a very much easier glide path but we didn’t. Why didn’t we? Because change is difficult. People, particularly those whose livelihoods are connected to the current system, are nervous about change.”
Mr Ryan said that among the most valuable outcomes from Cop26 was the message it sent to people in Ireland about the direction the world was moving in and what would be required for success.
“In my mind the most important thing is that there’s a clear message and a clear understanding to everyone: okay, this is the way the world is going. That’s what you need out of it, it’s kind of a signal to everyone at home that this is where we go now.”
European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans suggested that the EU could offer more funding to help poorer countries deal with the impact of climate change and fund the changes they need to make. However, Kevin Conrad, chief negotiator for Papua New Guinea, said the EU’s rhetoric was not matched by its actions.
“The European Union makes grand statements about commitment to adaptation, commitment to a lot of things, but when you look in the text they are part of the group that is unwinding anything solid when it comes to commitments or anything that is automatic in terms of contributions,” he said.
“It’s nice to talk about something, but unless a developing country feels certainty that they are going to be helped it’s just words.”
US climate envoy John Kerry told the summit that the 20 countries that account for 80 per cent of the world’s emissions had the greatest responsibility and must live up to it.
“Climate change is an existential threat today, and people are dying today. All around the world the impacts are being felt today. We have to live up to the expectations of young people that don’t want this to just be a place of words. It has to be in the next hour a place of action.”