IRELAND has declared a climate and biodiversity emergency, becoming just the second country in the world to do so.
The Dáil made the decision on Thursday evening after an amendment to a parliamentary climate action report gained cross-party support.
The Fianna Fáil motion passed without a vote as it was agreed to by both the Government and opposition parties.
The move follows a decision by the UK Parliament to declare a national climate emergency back on May 1.
It also comes as EU leaders put action on climate change at the top of the agenda in the next five years.
Eight European countries – France, Belgium, Denmark, Luxemburg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden – have proposed that a quarter of the entire EU budget be spent on fighting the issue.
But speaking at a major EU summit in Romania last night, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said Ireland was unlikely to be able to sign up to the scheme.
Just arrived at the @EPP meeting in Romania ahead of the Informal Summit. Good to meet up again with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis. Important discussions today on #futureofeurope pic.twitter.com/4e45lq1SEg
— Leo Varadkar (@LeoVaradkar) 9 May 2019
"We support the intent behind it but we've a difficulty signing up to more targets for 2030," he said.
"Our CO2 emissions are falling by about 7 percent a year, we still think it will be very difficult for us to meet the 2030 targets".
Reacting to the Dáil's decision, 16-year-old climate change activist Greta Thunberg tweeted: "Great news from Ireland!! Who is next?"
— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) 9 May 2019
Fine Gael's Hildegarde Naughton, who is chairwoman of the Oireachtas Climate Action Committee, welcomed the news as "an important statement" but added "action now needed".
She said the Minister for Climate Action Richard Bruton would bring further proposals to the Dáil and she looked forward to working "with all parties and none" to scrutinise them.
Good news at the end of the Dail Motion today supporting the report of the Climate Action Committee, which I chair. We now have cross party support in declaring a climate and biodiversity emergency. Action now needed. #ClimateEmergencyhttps://t.co/XfzgCi0tgw
— Hildegarde Naughton (@1Hildegarde) 9 May 2019
Mr Bruton said climate change had "rightly" been described as the greatest challenge facing humanity.
"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."
Fianna Fáil's Climate Action spokesman Timmy Dooley, who moved the successful amendment, said: "Unless we cut emissions significantly by 2030, the consequences will be dire.
"Biodiversity loss is an existential threat that is fundamentally linked to the climate crisis and Ireland's response is similarly lacking."
Glad Dail Eireann (in unusual circumstances) has just declared a climate & biodiversity emergency & has endorsed the report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action https://t.co/M6d66BfNrq We now must act on the report, with a #GreenNewDeal delivering a #JustTransition pic.twitter.com/z31N5R9D1d
— Eamon Ryan (@EamonRyan) 9 May 2019
Green Party leader Eamon Ryan also welcomed the development, but warned that "declaring an emergency means absolutely nothing unless there is action to back it up".
He added: "That means the Government having to do things they don't want to do."