November 1, 2021

Ireland sends largest-ever delegation to COP26 climate summit

Climate Action in Ireland

The Minister for the Environment has stated that Ireland has sent its largest-ever delegation to the COP26 climate summit. Eamon Ryan informed the Joint Committee on Environment and Climate Action that Ireland is sending approximately 30 representatives, including several people from NGOs and civil society. The committee members explained that the COP26 highlight that things have never been worse on the planet.

The committee also discussed the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Minister Ryan emphasised significant changes in our climate system, highlighting that some changes such as rising sea levels are irreversible.

There is the potential for flooding and drought problems in Ireland. The minister told the committee that some of the projections point directly towards accelerated flooding in the northern and western regions of Ireland and drought issues in southern and eastern Ireland. Minister Ryan explained that domestic action represents one of the best ways to tackle the challenges we face.

Minister Ryan believes the climate summit represents the best chance of protecting the planet from uncontrollable climate change. Ireland is due to announce the relaunch of the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) grant system for retrofitting homes. Ryan believes Ireland could develop into an international leader and is well placed to display rela leadership.

Several committee members indicated several climate-related problems in Ireland, including rural connectivity. The Government has committed in the budget to invest in transport networks for rural regions, improving the connections of villages and other communities into the national networks. 

Ireland needs to start investing in farmers to maintain marginal lands, rather than maximising the use of rural areas, as prioritised in EU policies. Peatlands and wetlands in Ireland act as important carbon sinks and should be carefully managed in climate policies.

Last week, the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine with special responsibility for Horticulture, Pippa Hackett, attended a COP26 reception “Celebrating the UK and Ireland Collaboration Climate Action”. The event highlighted the strong partnership that exists between Britain and Ireland in tackling shared challenges and objectives. It also provided a chance to explore the pathway to net-zero from an agricultural side and assess how Ireland and the UK can collaborate to support the bigger goals of COP26.

Minister Hackett explained at the event that climate change and biodiversity loss are the biggest challenges of our lifetime and can only happen by working together. Agriculture in Britain and Ireland share similar challenges, and so working together and focusing on creating nature-based solutions to these issues is crucial.

The event took place before the start of the climate summit and offered an opportunity to highlight the shared goals of both governments. Minister Hackett delivered Ireland’s perspective ahead of COP26 and the priorities for working together on agriculture, land use and biodiversity.

Hackett explained that it was positive to see that one of the priorities in the UK for COP26 concerned nature-based solutions. 

Nature is a priority for Ireland and one that enables collaboration. Hacket highlights that we need to produce food that supports nature rather than creating challenges. Ireland and the UK also need to find techniques to protect and enhance soils as they represent the core of our food systems.