Ireland is "falling seriously short in its contribution to avert the gravest crisis facing humanity and must step up its commitments to pay its fair share of the devastating costs of climate change", according to overseas development agency Trócaire.
In a policy document issued ahead of Cop26, it says while Ireland’s recently published Climate Action Act sets out a target of reducing emissions by 51 per cent by 2030, “we remain the second highest emitters per capita in the EU”.
“It is unacceptable that the gap between Ireland and our neighbours is widening at a time when we need to be catching up as fast as possible,” it adds.
Collective global action on emissions, climate finance and “loss and damage” is needed to stave off a humanitarian disaster fuelled by the impacts of climate disruption, it warns.
Success at Cop26 can be achieved only if high-emitting countries show genuine leadership and strongly commit to closing the gap and keeping global temperatures below 1.5 degrees, it concludes. “While recent progress is welcome, climate policies in place across the world will not keep global warming within the limits that governments agreed in Paris.”
Climate finance for adaptation to prepare for the inevitable consequences is essential, it says, to support countries least responsible for creating the problem, but who suffer the worst of climate impacts including sea level rise, floods and droughts.
"Cop26 must establish a new financing facility for loss and damage, specifically to support low-income countries. The international community must seize the historic opportunity to agree crucial decisions to put the world on track to deliver on climate action," said Trócaire chief executive Caoimhe de Barra.
She added: “The harsh reality is 2021 was a year of unprecedented climate impacts compounding existing health, poverty and inequality crises. Trócaire’s work across the world has given us first-hand experience of the unequal impact of climate change, especially on women and indigenous peoples who are bearing the brunt of climate impacts. The ability of people to bounce back is being severely eroded . . . This is a matter of global justice.”
Trócaire policy and advocacy adviser Siobhan Curran said that while Ireland had increased its climate finance contributions it was short of its "fair share", which should be in the order of €475 million a year.
The reality was that the developing world, responsible for 10 per cent of global emissions, was facing 75 per cent of the costs arising from the climate crisis, she added.
Cop26 must move to protect some of the world's poorest people from the impact of climate crisis which is currently threatening the future of millions of lives, Concern Worldwide warned.
"Climate change is now a major driver of hunger, with many of the world's poorest communities engaged in the fight of their lives," said Concern chief executive Dominic MacSorley.
“The subsistence farmers, the coastal communities – those most dependent on the seasons and closest to the elements – are the ones that are already being decimated by the climate crisis.
"Whether it is rising sea levels in Bangladesh, prolonged drought in east Africa or desertification across the Sahel, the mounting effect of climate breakdown is already leading to loss of crops, livelihoods, increased hunger, and even starvation."
This is the moment of political reckoning, “a time to hold polluters to account and to meet the needs of the most vulnerable”, said Mr MacSorley.
Deputy chief executive of GOAL Mary Van Lieshout said the climate crisis had multiplied the threat of humanitarian crises that would degrade global health, threaten food security and have a major impact on economies, livelihoods and gender equality.
The Covid-19 response and recovery plans should provide inspiration to integrate climate objectives and sustainable development targets, she added.
“We have to put the health and sustainability of the planet and its most vulnerable people, who suffer the impact of climate change the most, at centre stage. Decisions made at Cop26 have the potential to change the course of our world, which is currently going towards increased incidences of disaster and poverty. Crises are certain to increase if we don’t act now,” she believed.
Minister of State for Overseas Development Aid Colm Brophy said with more than 140 countries submitting new commitments to reduce emissions in advance of Cop26, "something is shifting in the international arena".
“Another positive is that developed countries, including Ireland, are increasing our climate finance to developing countries. This will help resource-poor countries to be able to cut emissions, as well as to adapt to the present dangers of climate change that are already affecting many of their populations so drastically,” he added.
In relation to helping small island developing states (SIDS) and least developed countries (LDCs), Mr Brophy accepted most of the climate finance from developed countries was not well targeted to the poorest and most vulnerable countries.
“But I am glad to say that Ireland’s climate finance almost entirely goes to these countries. This focus of ours on the most vulnerable countries is due to the fact they are not only the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, they have also done the least to deserve it,” he said.
This an issue of climate justice, Mr Brophy acknowledged. “Gradually over the years SIDS and LDCs are being heard more in the international negotiations at the COPs and, actually, this is part of what Ireland supports with our climate finance. We support the negotiating groups so that they are equipped to raise their voices to tell the stories from the frontline of climate change.”