How is a small nation like Ireland going to make a difference when countries like China and the US are not on board?

Ireland will make a difference through acting in solidarity within the EU and with other nations. With combined actions we can reduce our emissions in the hope of avoiding dangerous climate change.

Context :
It is widely recognised that climate change is a global problem, requiring a global solution. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) came into existence with the aim of stabilising the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere so as to prevent dangerous interference with the climate system. It recognises that all countries must play a part in this effort, according to their ability to do so, referred to in the Convention as being “in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities”.

Action at EU level:
Without prejudice to the outcome of the international negotiations, the EU made a unilateral commitment to reduce emissions by 20% by 2020 compared to 1990. The legal basis for this commitment was agreed by the European Council and is evidence of the determination of the EU to show leadership in the global effort to tackle climate change. This “climate and energy” package not only supports the EU's climate change objectives but also supports other policy objectives of increasing the share of renewables in electricity generation, improving Europe's energy security, and enhancing Europe's competitiveness.

The package currently commits Ireland to a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 compared with 2005 levels. This is a challenging target and one that may increase in the context of an international agreement. Policies and measures at Government level will be required to meet this target but a significant effort in all sectors and in terms of personal responsibility will also be required in the coming years. The current economic crisis should provide the stimulus for efforts to develop a low-carbon economy generating green jobs and sustainable growth.

Action at UN level:
A comprehensive, ambitious, global international climate change agreement will set new greenhouse gas emission reduction targets and provide for enhanced action on mitigation and adaptation by all Parties. It is crucial that Parties adhere to the targets laid out in the Kyoto Protocol second commitment period that runs to 2020 to ensure adequate actions will be taken.

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 What is the EU ETS (Emissions Trading Scheme) and how does it work?

The EU ETS is a mechanism by which the EU hopes to create incentives that encourage large-scale industries towards lower greenhouse gas emissions by providing access to low cost abatement options to participants. Enterprises such as electricity generation and cement production are included in the scheme. In effect, each of these enterprises shares an allotted amount of emissions, which they are allowed to emit. If they manage to reduce emissions, then they will not have used their full quota of allowed emissions. They can then sell the excess to other enterprises. Over time, the EU intends to reduce the total allotment of emissions, and also enterprises will eventually have to pay for every emission unit they use.

The Environmental Protection Agency has been given the responsibility for implementing the Emissions Trading Directive in Ireland by the Government under the European Communities (Greenhouse Gas Emissions Trading) Regulations 2004 (S.I. 437 of 2004). For more information check out the EU Website or EPA Website.

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 Can ordinary people actually make a difference?

 Yes. Everybody can do something to make a difference. Climate change is the challenge of our generation and it will take the combined effort of everybody to put a stop to climate change. Everybody, whether in their personal lives, at work, in their community, etc. has an impact on climate change, so therefore everybody can make some changes to their lifestyle that will reduce that impact. For real change, individuals, businesses, communities and the government will all have to work together to lower our combined carbon emissions.


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