Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has told the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York that the Government is planning to phase out oil exploration in Irish waters.

"Our independent Climate Change Advisory Council recommended that exploration for oil should end ... I accept this advice and Ireland will now act on it," he said.

"We will take coal off our electricity grid by 2025. Our renewable electricity will rise from 30% today to 70% in ten years," Mr Varadkar added.

He is in New York at the start of a five-day visit to the United States.

Speaking earlier today, Mr Varadkar had said: "I will be informing the UN that after requests from Richard Bruton and I, we received advice from our Climate Advisory Council, and they recommend to change the policy when it comes to exploration, recognising that we end exploration for oil in Irish waters.

"We will continue to explore for natural gas given that it's a transition fuel that we are going to need for the next few decades, as new technologies are developed and deployed," he said.

"What we're doing in exploration is a big move, one of the few countries in the world now to make the decision to start phasing out exploration for oil and gas, precisely because we're committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050," he said.

Mr Varadkar was also due to tell the UN that from next year Ireland will ring-fence all new revenues from carbon tax.

The money will be used to fund the transformation of transport, electricity, buildings and food production systems as well as protecting those most exposed to higher fuel and energy costs and those for whom new jobs must be found.

"Any extra money raised from carbon tax will be ploughed back into climate action.

"Whether it's retrofitting buildings, whether it's renewable energy, whether it's greener farming, all of those things, and I think that's a very serious commitment to say that any money raised from carbon tax in the future will be reinvested in climate action," he said.

The Government's Climate Action Plan has been well received in New York, according to the Minister for Climate Action and Environment.

Speaking on RTÉ's Six One, Richard Bruton said that despite the positive reception, there is "no doubt we have to go faster and further" to tackle climate change.

He said two policy developments have been added to the plan - no new exploration for oil in Irish waters and the ring-fencing of carbon tax.

Mr Bruton said the move away from fossil fuels is at the heart of the plans and the new developments reflect that.

He said that there is value in continuing gas exploration to make the transition away from fossil fuels "simpler".

The minister said revenue from the carbon tax would be used to help people "very exposed to fuel property or who are undergoing a very difficult transition as we abandon some of these fossil fuels".


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The Taoiseach met European Council President Donald Tusk for around 45 minutes today to take stock of the latest situation regarding Brexit.

Both agreed that they want a deal.

They both also agreed that the EU side has not seen proposals from the UK that achieve the objectives of the backstop, and said that time is very short if there is to be a positive outcome at the Europe Council.

Mr Varadkar has said his meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tomorrow is an opportunity for them to compare notes and see "if there is common ground".

He said the position all along is that the EU is willing to examine alternative arrangements that achieve the same objectives as the backstop.

He said those objectives are no hard border, north/south cooperation and protecting the all-island economy.

If the UK can come up with alternative arrangements - that meet those objectives and are legally binding as well - "we are willing to accept that and examine those", he said.

However he said that so far anything they have come up with "falls very far short of that".

"The message I would say to him, is the message that we've said all along - our bottom line is that we need legally binding assurance that there won't be a hard border between north and south, that the all-island economy will continue to operate, that north-south cooperation will be able to continue and we can't accept some half-way house," he said.

Ahead of the UN summit, a new report has been released in which scientists warn that climate change is accelerating, with carbon dioxide levels increasing, sea levels rising and ice sheets melting faster than ever.

This evening, Mr Varadkar joined other world leaders, including Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand, President Emmanuel Macron of France and King Abdullah II of Jordan, to discuss the 'Christchurch Call to Action', an initiative aimed at tackling online terrorist content.

Tomorrow, the Taoiseach will meet fellow leaders at the UN General Assembly.

Mr Varadkar will also use the opportunity to make Ireland's case for a seat on the UN Security Council.

Ireland is hoping to secure a two-year rotating term on the council in 2021 with member states due to vote in June.

Canada and Norway are also in the running for the two available seats.

Ireland has previously served on the UN Security Council in 1962, 1981 and 2001.

On Wednesday, the Taoiseach will travel to Los Angeles for a two-day visit that will focus on tourism and investment. He will also open a new Irish Consulate in LA.

Also on Wednesday, President Michael D Higgins will deliver an address to the UN.

The Chairman of the Climate Advisory Council has said some of the revenue that is expected to be ring-fenced needs to go towards protecting those who are on low incomes.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland programme, UCD economist John FitzGerald said revenue should also be set aside to help workers in places such as peat stations who may lose their jobs.

Mr Fitzgerald said: "The people of Ireland need to know that yes we're going to make major progress on climate change and it's going to cost us money, but those who are worst affected will be protected, and I think there is a genuine commitment to do this."