Cop26 saw groundbreaking proposals passed. but it still might not be enough

Eoin Ryan

Net neutrality by 2050 may seem extreme but is completely necessary to build a sustainable future. What should be done over the next few years, however, has been highly debated by different world leaders.

Progressive proposals, which would have been deemed extreme ten years ago, were accepted by world leaders and major producers alike.

Countries possessing 90% of the world’s forests to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation. manufacturers representing approximately one third of the global car market committed to ending the sale of polluting vehicles.

There was much controversy, however, on a last second to “phasing down” rather than “phasing out” of coal subsidies due to Indian representatives just before it was passed.

India’s climate and environment minister Bhupender Yadav explained that the lowest-income households rely on these to keep energy costs down. He said richer nations should not expect poorer countries to stop subsidizing fossil fuels such as gas for this reason.

Meath East Green Party representative Seamus McMenamin said the change in wording was “disappointing but not surprising.”

“Although THE COP process should be thought of as an incremental process rather than a one off opportunity to make change, given the scale of the challenge we are facing I had hoped for more from  COP 26,” McMenamin said.

Alok Sharma, president of Cop26 believes this was more successful than many believe because “for the first time, it commits to a plan to move away from coal power and inefficient fossil-fuel subsidies.”

Cop26 was the biggest political gathering ever held in the UK according to Alok Sharma. Representatives from 194 countries, and 120 world leaders, with 38,000 accredited delegates attended in Glasgow.

The Adaptation Fund, a support for countries badly affected by climate change, held its annual contributor dialogue during Cop26. and received US$ 232.6 million. For the first time the US and Canada are contributing to it with the EU pledging 100 million, much greater than any previous funding.

Despite the increase, high-income nations failed to meet an earlier pledge to provide US$100 billion in climate finance annually from 2020 onwards.

No matter what, changes need to be made or nations across the globe will feel the consequences, including Ireland.

Ireland’s Climate Action Plan roadmap is promising to achieve a 51% reduction in emissions by 2030, setting the republic up for net zero emissions by 2050. 

Global temperatures will still rise 2.4 °C above pre-industrial levels by 2100 even if countries meet their 2030 targets, according to an analysis by Hoehne and colleagues that was published on the website Climate Action Tracker during the first week of COP26.

more frequent and extreme rainfall events and heatwaves are the two most obvious effects across the republic. Flash floods, droughts, and forest fires are just a few environmental issues we may be facing in the future as weather continues to get more unpredictable. This is already occurring today as shown by 2018’s flash floods and summers which only get hotter. Dublin, Cork, Galway, and any location next to open seas will be at serious risk constantly unless drastic changes are made.

Proposals are necessary to prevent this outcome but current carbon taxes and emission regulations are constantly scrutinised due to their effects on Irish citizens. Current climate change proposals regarding fuel prices and carbon emission regulations are a cause for outrage among the farming communities as shown by the 80 tractors rallying to Henry Street, Dublin.

“We are the best in the world at producing dairy products in this country,” IFA Dairy Chairman Stephen Arthur said. “We can produce our milk, we have the lowest carbon footprint in the world, and what’s happening now is they’re telling us we have to cut our cows, we’re going to have to cut back on our systems, on what we’re doing. We can do this, but what happens is, the dairy from countries who are non-environmentally with higher carbon footprints, they’ll just increase their cow numbers more, and we’ll lose our exports on this.”

“The industrialised model of farming was needed at the time but as technology and knowledge progresses we will need to look at all aspects of farming.The existing model does not work for all farmers as we can see from the average farm incomes,” Seamus McMenamin said.

Current Climate change regulations targeting agriculture may reduce national Co2 emissions, but increase global emissions. Countries with less strict climate regulations will boost agricultural production as eco-friendly countries such as Ireland stem dairy and beef production only in their own countries.

Income for farmers has always been less than stable and McMenamin notes how current changes only make the situation worse.

“I grew up in a farming family and despite a second job my father had to give it up as we were losing money.”

Alternative solutions to reduce methane such as adding seaweed to food, changing age of slaughter, and using multi sward grasses have been suggested. “We will need to work with farmers and Teagasc to identify practical and effective ways of doing so. “

Rising fuel prices issues caused by both international increases and national emission taxes are causing massive increases to the cost of living for lorry drivers, leading to a protest in Dublin late last month organised by Irish Truckers Haulage Association Against Fuel Prices . In a Facebook post, the group said: “We want lower costs and lower taxes, rebates are no good”.

Many workers say the Diesel Rebate scheme does not work for most hauliers and “the scheme is so complex, any savings made are lost to the accountancy fees,” according to Sinn Fein TD Darren O’Rourke. 

Electric lorries are not an option for the HGV sector, so there is no eco-friendly alternative for hauliers and truckers.

“While international fuel prices are obviously having an impact on prices at the pumps, the Government are exacerbating the issue by continuing to heap carbon tax on fuel in the absence of alternatives.

“They want the government to address the nation on the fuel issue and warned of the possibility of an additional protest in the week before Christmas.”

“The HGV driver shortage has been a growing issue across Europe and globally for a number of years but has been exacerbated in an Irish context by Covid and Brexit,” a spokesperson forThe Department of Transport  said. The department said it is working on the country’s first 10-year strategy for its haulage sector.

At the conclusion of Cop26, UN secretary general Antonio Guterres reiterated: “We remain on a catastrophic path. We can either save our world or condemn humanity to a hellish future.”

Another approach to reducing emissions may be necessary and a more profitable approach seems readily available through renewable energy sources abundant in Ireland.

Ireland’s Climate Action Plan involves a 62% to 81% reduction in emission for the electricity sector, and wind power is Ireland’s best solution to this daunting task.

Wind energy is Ireland’s most abundant and easily tapped resource, with wind power accounting for up to five times that of solar by 2050 according to the report, Our Climate Neutral Future- Zero by 50.

The main  problem with this strategy is the intermittent nature of wind and solar power that are heavily reliant on weather which will become much more unpredictable as global temperatures increase. The need for backup energy sources,such as hydrogen production, as well as a large storage capacity, are a necessity for natural power to develop.

Offshore wind energy across the east coast is also a viable option, but is more expensive than onshore wind farms.

What’s preventing this plan from coming to reality is the permits and licences required for the planning and construction of both onshore and offshore wind farms. A simpler and more streamlined bureaucratic system is a simple yet effective solution to this.

Offshore and onshore wind development has the potential to decarbonise Ireland’s energy while also contributing to the energy needs of other countries.

Cop26 may not have been the complete success many wanted, but it showed world leaders are beginning to notice major changes need to be made and fast. At its conclusion UN secretary general Antonio Guterres said “We remain on a catastrophic path. We can either save our world or condemn humanity to a hellish future.”

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