Ireland becomes second country in the world after UK to declare 'climate emergency'

Toyin Owoseje

The Republic of Ireland has become the second country in the world to declare a climate emergency.

The country's climate action minister, Richard Bruton, warned climate change was the greatest threat facing humanity and the level of urgency was justified.

"We're reaching a tipping point in respect of climate deterioration," he said.

"Things will deteriorate very rapidly unless we move very swiftly and the window of opportunity to do that is fast closing."

A amendment brought by the Fianna Fáil party calling on the parliament “to examine how [the Irish government] can improve its response to the issue of biodiversity loss” was accepted without a vote on Thursday.

It followed the release of a parliamentary report presenting a "cross-party consensus for action" on climate change.

Swedish teenage environmental campaigner Greta Thunberg welcomed the outcome and urged other nations to follow suit, tweeting: “Great news from Ireland!! Who is next?”

The 16-year-old activist, who has spearheaded protests across Europe and is fast becoming one of the leading voices of the green movement, added: “And remember: #ClimateEmergency means leaving fossil fuels in the ground.”

The Irish Green party leader, Eamon Ryan, who moved the amendment, described the landmark decision as “historic”.

Fine Gael's Hildegarde Naughton, who is chair of the climate action cmmittee, said that while the move was “an important statement” more action was needed and urged the government to fast-track legislative changes.

The move comes weeks after a national climate emergency was declared by the UK parliament on 1 May.

The symbolic motion followed 11 days of street protests and disruption in London by Extinction Rebellion environmental campaign group.

The activists hope to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2025 and to end biodiversity loss - steps that have won the backing of left-leaning politicians across the world.

The British government has set a 2050 target date to reach net zero emissions, which it says can be achieved without causing substantial economic damage and at a relatively low cost.

EU leaders have also put action on climate change at the top of the agenda in the next five years.