Monday 27 January 2020

'Ireland must pay fair share to halt climate change'

A man walks through debris after Hurricane Dorian hit the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas. PHOTO: REUTERS
A man walks through debris after Hurricane Dorian hit the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas. PHOTO: REUTERS

Caroline O'Doherty

Aid agencies are warning it is make-or-break time for climate action after a year that saw at least 15 separate €1bn disasters caused by extreme weather.

Christian Aid Ireland said the terrifying damage and loss of life from droughts, floods, fires, typhoons and cyclones will be repeated unless the rise in global temperatures is contained.

Jenny Higgins, policy and advocacy adviser with the agency, said Ireland needed to do far more to play its part.

"2020 is going to be a make-or-break year for the planet. We are running out of time to make sure temperature rises are kept within the safe limit of 1.5C," she said.

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"This will only happen if governments finally commit to dramatically reducing their emissions. Ireland needs to cut its emissions by more than half by 2030 and right now it is not on track."

Among the disasters that make the devastating list is the extraordinary flooding that hit Australia in January and February, costing nearly €1.8bn in loss of property, infrastructure and livestock.

Australia ends the year with the opposite problem - unprecedented fires that have burned an area bigger than Belgium since mid-November, affecting a third of the country's population.

Argentina and Uruguay were also hit with catastrophic flooding in January, costing €2.3bn, while March brought Storm Eberhard in Europe, Cyclone Idai in Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi, and floods in the American midwest and Iran.

Later, Cyclone Fani and Typhoons Faxai and Hagibis caused havoc in Asia, while Hurricane Dorian killed hundreds along the eastern seaboard of North America.

The most expensive event was the autumn's wildfires in California, costing €21bn. Seven of the disasters cost more than €9bn.

In all cases, according to the Christian Aid report, climate change either exacerbated an extreme weather event or gave rise to it.

Ms Higgins said while the financial costs were higher in wealthy countries, the world's poorest were the hardest hit overall despite being least responsible for rising temperatures.

The recent COP25 United Nations talks on climate action failed to reach agreement on how and to what extent members should collectively aid countries affected by climate change.

Christian Aid has said Ireland needs to increase its €80m annual donation six-fold to adequately reflect the country's contribution to the problem of climate change.

"Countries on the frontline of the climate emergency need considerable financial support in order to be able to pay for damage and destruction caused by extreme weather," Ms Higgins said.

"Ireland needs to dramatically ramp up its contributions in order to pay its fair share."

This year has been one of the hottest on record, according to the World Meteorological Organisation.

Carbon emissions need to fall by almost half by 2030 compared to 2010 if the rise in global temperatures is to be kept to 1.5C and the worst effects of climate change are to be avoided. However, emissions are continuing to rise.

Irish Independent

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