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Get ready for low-carbon economy, businesses warned

Get ready for low-carbon economy, businesses warned

Businesses must prepare for the move to a low-carbon economy or risk being left behind, the climate action minister has said.

Richard Bruton said Irish that enterprise had “failed to break the link” between “economic prosperity and damaging greenhouse gasemissions” as he and Heather Humphreys, the business minister, launched a government strategy to prepare businesses and workers for the transition.

Announcing the plan at Dublin Castle, he described the intention to lower greenhouse gas emissions and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 as “very ambitious”, saying: “Enterprise will be at the very core of that, to mobilise the changes, but also enterprise needs to be aware that if they don’t make the changes now and make them early they will be competing in aglobal environment for which they are not prepared.

“Now is the time to make changes. There are huge opportunities for those who are early movers and this is something that will be beneficial to the country for the long term and for our international competitiveness.”

Ms Humphreys said: “What we are doing through future jobs Ireland is future-proofing our economy, and one of the pillars is how we can transition companies and businesses to a low-carbon economy. Today we have looked at different options. Of course there are challenges but I believe there are many opportunities.

“In the bio-economy, Ireland has been leading in that space so we will work with industry through transition teams, through the regional enterprise plans, our different funds whether it’s the disruptive technologies fund or it’s the regional enterprise development fund, again working with all the stakeholders so that we can see and grasp the opportunities that are there.

”The ministers were also asked about the controversial EU-Mercosur deal, which Mr Bruton said would put Brazil and other countries under pressure to meet their climate responsibilities.

The proposed agreement between the EU and countries including Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay was reached at the end of June after 20 years of talks. It could mean an extra 99,000 tonnes of beef, 18,000 tonnes of poultry and 25 tonnes of pork is imported from South America and has been heavily criticised by environmental groups and beef farmers, who believe the EU will be flooded with poor-quality beef at the expense of Irish farmers.

“You could look at Poland and say ‘they still have all sorts of coal-mining going on, we shouldn’t allow Polish goods into Ireland’, ” Mr Scruton said. “There’s a limit in what you can do or you effectively dismantle a trade arrangement.

“But what’s really exciting about the Mercosur deal in my view is that it puts obligations on Brazil and these countries to meet their climate responsibilities. So it is a new form of trade agreement and it’s forcing countries who get involved to take their climate responsibilities seriously.

”The deal had to be “evaluated” before Ireland made a decision on whether to support it, he added.

Ms Humphreys said that Ireland would not work with countries neglecting their responsibilities under the Paris climate change agreement. “For the first time ever there’s a big chapter in this agreement on sustainability,” she said. “There’s a huge focus and again these people have to bring up their standards otherwise we won’t be doing business with them and that’s very clear.”

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