09/07/15 Senator Daly Speaks on Sustainable Development Goals and Ireland’s 60th Year of UN Membership

Senator Daly: I thank the ambassador for his presentation. My focus is on the COP21 conference which is one of the most important to be held not only this year, but this decade. I read an interesting piece by Lara Marlowe on the conference in which she referred to the experience of an adviser to President Hollande at a previous conference in Morocco.

A participant there said that people in Paris will decide who lives and who dies. Of course, half of the mammals, birds and reptiles of the world have disappeared in the last 45 years as a result of human activity but particularly due to climate change. When one sees the US military classify climate change as more dangerous than global terrorism, which is on our news every day, one would have to consider it to be a serious and perhaps extinction level event for humanity. Unfortunately, however, the immediate takes over importance at present and global terrorism is what makes the six o’clock news while the incrementalism of climate change, even though its effects are all around us, is not as dramatic as the stories about ISIS.

The humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean is partly caused by ISIS and global terrorism but is also caused by climate change, yet there is what can only be described as a very poor response by the developed countries across the European Union. When one sees that level of response to what is more manageable compared to the scale of climate change, it is nothing short of a disaster. It is only the beginning of the migration season; it has not yet hit its height. This year will not be the last year of it. In fact, we will probably look back in five years’ time and think 2015 was not such a bad year when there were only half a million people trying to cross the Mediterranean, because it is just going to get worse. One sees the inability of Europe to address it. We have just commemorated the anniversary of Srebrenica where Europe could not stop a massacre on its doorstep, yet it is faced with something colossal in terms of what must be dealt with. The world’s and humanity’s ability to deal with something so colossal is probably not good, as history will tell us.

As Mary Robinson and others have pointed out, this is the most important issue facing humanity as it affects everybody, yet our trade agreements and economics tell us that trade should not be affected by anything decided in respect of climate change. The two are not compatible. We cannot continue to insist on making profits or China cannot consistently open one coal burning electricity generating station a day, as it was commissioning at one stage, and expect that things can continue as normal. As China now knows, life expectancy there has dropped by five years as a result of climate change. Can the world agree before it is too late? That sounds desperately dramatic but all the evidence is before us. We had a global economic crisis and the evidence was there telling us that there was such a crisis, yet everybody was denying it was happening. Then it happened and everybody said it was predictable. It was predicted but nobody was listening. How realistic is it that there will be something comprehensive and that the major powers will abide by it? There have been too many failures in the past.

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