The Irish Times

Historic climate change deal expected

Paris agreement set to limit temperatur­e increases to ‘well below 2 degrees’ Higher targets could mean new regime of carbon taxes on Irish agricultur­e

- HARRY McGEE Political Correspond­ent in Paris

The world is on the brink of a major breakthrou­gh on climate change, with an historic agreement expected in Paris today that will limit global temperatur­e increases to “well below 2 degree Celsius” above pre-industrial levels.

The deal has come after two weeks of intensive negotiatio­ns, including three all-night sessions this week, at the COP21 Summit, in Le Bourget.

Crucially, the text for limiting global warming includes a reference to moving towards a more ambitious 1.5 degree target.

Parties, including environmen­tal campaigner­s, have welcomed the addition of the longer-term goals, including a move to “emissions neutrality”; better transparen­cy; guaranteed climate financing of $100 billion a year to 2020 for poorer countries; and five-year reviews to ensure each country keeps up their ambition levels.

The potential of the accord was described by the conference president, French foreign minister Laurent Fabius, as “a big step forward for humanity as a whole”. Mr Fabius was due to present the final draft today with the 50 final bracketed areas of text, denoting disagreeme­nt, removed.

Well-placed sources told The Irish Times they expected the agreement to be sealed later today after difficult negotiatio­ns yesterday.

“I will present a text that is as balanced and as ambitious as possible,” Mr Fabius said last night.

The agreement will have no immediate implicatio­ns for Ireland, which negotiated as part of the EU bloc.

Agrifood sector

However, the higher emissions targets could mean a new regime of carbon taxes or levies on agricultur­e and the agrifood sector, which accounts for a third of Ireland’s greenhouse gases.

UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon said he was optimistic. “This negotiatio­n is the most complicate­d, most difficult but most important for humanity”, he said. On the implicatio­ns for Ireland, climate expert Prof John Sweeney, of NUI Maynooth, said all Irish transport, including trains, would need to be electrifie­d by 2050 and Irish agricultur­e would have to pay a carbon tax. “With economic growth, Ireland will be one of the richest countries again in two-three years’ time,” he said.

“I just do not expect to see any special favours for Irish agricultur­e.”

Polluter pays

With an increase of 300,000 planned in the national herd, and no appreciabl­e reduction in emissions, Prof Sweeney said a price would have to be put on agricultur­al emissions under a “polluter pays” principle.

“We will have to adjust our agricultur­e taxation system to reflect that.” He said the most likely outcome was a carbon tax on agrifood companies.

Minister for the Environmen­t Alan Kelly welcomed the reference to 1.5 degrees and said Ireland, like Europe, had sought an ambitious agreement that included transparen­cy and long-term goals.

He defended Irish agricultur­e policy, which he said was among the most sustainabl­e in the world.

“We have analysis that shows that though the dairy herd is going to increase in coming years, we can do so with the amount of emission we have at the moment,” he said.

 ??  ?? Residents shoring up the flood defences on the River Shannon in Athlone, Co Westmeath, yesterday.
Residents shoring up the flood defences on the River Shannon in Athlone, Co Westmeath, yesterday.

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