Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has said a decision at Cop26 to water down commitments on the phasing out of fossil fuels is “gut wrenching” but urged people to look at the “bigger picture”.
global agreement to keep temperature rises below 1.5C was reached at the climate conference in Glasgow on Saturday, but saw a commitment to “phase out” the use of coal reduced to a promise to “phase down” the fuel, following interventions by China and India.
The Environment Minister said the move was “disappointing” but necessary to secure the agreement.
“We shouldn’t let that gut-wrenching amendment at the very last minute to distract from that bigger picture,” he said.
“It wasn’t in the actual legal structures. That political wording can be changed.
“But what was significant in Glasgow, coming out of it, was effectively it has taken us six years, which is too long, this is too slow, but it does actually put legal bones on the Paris Climate Agreement.
“It does actually give us real strong confidence that the whole economic system, the finance system, is going to have to switch to this decarbonised direction.”
Mr Ryan said the compromise was necessary in a deal that 197 countries worldwide had signed up to.
He told RTE’s This Week: “There isn’t another way, it does require that seeking of consensus.
“That won’t stop and the search for greater ambition won’t stop.
“But I think what we should do now is deliver on what was committed and deliver it here at home. This does give real momentum.”
Mr Ryan denied he was trying to out a positive spin on developments.
“If I just came here and said – which I don’t believe to be true – that it’s all bad, that there’s no hope, I think people would give up hope and might give up taking some of the actions,” he said.
Speaking in Enniskillen on Sunday, Taoiseach Micheal Martin echoed Mr Ryan’s comments.
He said: “I would share the disappointment in terms of that particular language. But in the overall context I think we’ve made good progress internationally.
“I think the big change has been the American input, through President Biden’s commitment to climate change, the Paris Accords, partnership with the European Union and indeed the agreement with China to engage with climate change.
“We should be very clear that one conference isn’t going to resolve the climate change issue. We have to make significant steps forward.
“I think progress has been made, but a lot more progress needs to be done.
“The key challenge for us as a country, and the key challenge for other countries in the world, is to deliver on the commitments and the pledges that have been made at Cop26.
“It’s not enough to just make the pledges. It’s really time for action.”