Over the weekend world leaders visited Rome, Italy, as part of the G20 summit, travelling on private jets from across the globe and taking part in elaborate cavalcades of 85 vehicles.

Next, they sat aboard these planes once again and flew to Glasgow in Scotland in order to attend the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26 – how do these people not see the irony of it all? Were they absent for the last two years as the rest of us became accustomed to using Zoom and other platforms to facilitate meetings?

If you take Joe Biden for example, his participation in G20 and COP26 will mean a 10,000 mile roundtrip from Washington to Rome and then home again via Glasgow. But as is customary with US presidents, he won’t be flying in economy class. Instead his fleet consists of Air Force One, a Boeing 747, which carries the president, an identical decoy and two cargo planes to accommodate his stream of vehicles.

In Rome, President Biden sat into his Cadillac named the ‘Beast’ – which is an apt name, given it only does about eight miles to the gallon. As part of the entourage, the Beast was joined by another identical decoy vehicle as well as 80 other cars – some of which were flown in from the States.

One estimate indicated that Biden’s trip to both international events was going to generate approximately 2.2 million pounds of carbon, which is almost 100t. While the amount of carbon a person creates in a year varies depending on where you live, globally the average stands at about 4t per annum. Reports indicate that the minimum a person produces, from the moment food is grown to when they consume it is 2t every year.

It was reported in the media that in the region of 40,000 people have attended the COP26 event, with many more expected over the 2-week event. Meanwhile, it is believed that 400 private jets will be utilised to transport politicians and business executives in and out of the UK for the climate event, emitting an estimated 2t of carbon for every hour in the air. And yet fuel for planes, as well as ships, seems to be escaping from the carbon tax.

In the leadup to COP26 I was very interested to read recent research reports in the media. It was noted that half of the world’s 4 billion population live in cities; and this figure is set to grow to almost 70% by 2050. As it stands, about two thirds of people live in urban areas in Ireland. But while cities only represent 3% of land cover globally, they account for 70% of global energy consumption and 75% of global CO2 emissions, the report outlined.

And despite the world population continuing to grow, some of the proposals being discussed at COP26 could limit food production. In the next 30 years, the global population is set to grow by almost 2 billion people. If we begin to limit food production, how do we expect to feed these people? A major reality check needs to happen when planning for the future.

One item that needs to be addressed is the Mercosur trade deal. We all know the importance of the Amazon rainforest when it comes to climate change. Well, in 2020 it is report that 1.7 million hectares of primary forest was lost in Brazil, a 25% increase on the previous year. A recent audit of JBS SA, the world’s largest meatpacker, noted that nearly a third of the cattle the company bought – over 300,000 head – in the Brazilian Amazon state of Para came from ranches with “irregularities” such as illegal deforestation. How can we suggest to limit food production in sustainable parts of the world, while simultaneously encouraging deforestation in another?

When you look at league tables, Ireland are far from table toppers. If you look at the worst polluters, China clearly tops the charts with 9.8 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions. The United States comes second with 4.9 billion tonnes of CO2 emitted, while India sits in third with 2.4 billion tonnes. Meanwhile, Ireland produced closer to 60 million tonnes – that’s quite a difference.

This week the Taoiseach Micheal Martin announced, what I believe to be, unattainable plans when it comes to decarbonising the transport sector here. The wish list includes electrifying bus routes, 2,000 extra on-street charging points for electric vehicles and retrofitting 75,000 homes per year. And while I accept that technology will progress and help us to reach some targets, we have to be more realistic. Show me a lorry that is powered by electricity; they just aren’t available yet.

When you look at the power situation in Ireland, both Eirgrid and this Government have acknowledged the already significant burden on power generation in this country. Last week, a number of plants were down across the country. Eirgrid previously confirmed that there was a real possibility of planned power outages this winter if demand outgrew supply. And yet here we are talking about putting more and more electric vehicles on the road. The idea of achieving retrofitting 75,000 houses per year is also fanciful, given that we cannot meet our house building targets.

The wave of lunacy around the climate change debate is just breath taking at the moment and people need to come back down to earth and stop living in the clouds. The facts are that if the population continues to grow, then we must be able to feed them. This food should be produced in countries where it is sustainable to do so, and not involve the illegal deforestation of a rainforest.

Instead of kicking the daylights out of farmers at every single turn, maybe we should be recognising what they are already doing for economy and the environment. Farmers are prepared to put their shoulder to the wheel, but the farmer bashing must stop. And if the migration of people to cities and urban areas is to reach 70% in the coming decades, one would have to wonder if the man power will be left in rural areas to continue to feed the rest of the world.

For further information contact Michael Fitzmaurice at 086-1914565

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