€100,000 was recently distributed by the government to aid the UN FAO Emergency Fund. This is very worthy, but An Taisce urges the government to do more to help international climate victims by seriously reducing GHG emissions.

Recently, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed T.D, has provided €20,000,000 in humanitarian assistance to the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and €100,000 to the UN FAO Emergency Fund. The money, particularly the €100,000 dedicated to the emergency fund, is meant to help families in Ethiopia who are experiencing damages due to a drought that has been brought on by climate change. The minister claims “Our contribution to this project will not only help affected households in Ethiopia to resume food production, but is part of the wider role my Department plays in initiatives on climate change and sustainable agriculture at both national and international level.

In Ethiopia, three quarters of the population of 90 million depend on agriculture for survival. Due to the worst drought in 50 years however, nearly 90% of crops and 1 million cattle have been lost [Note 1].The immediate cause of the drought comes from the strongest El Niño effects ever recorded which has been coupled with increasing high temperatures due to the effects of climate change. The country now faces one of the biggest crisis it has encountered in many years due to the increasing effects climate change is having on the region.

Beatrice Mwangi, resilience and livelihoods director, southern Africa region, World Vision, noted in an article for the Guardian that "In the past it was one big drought every 10 years, then it came to one drought every five years, and now the trends are showing that it will be one every three to five years. So we are in a crisis alright, that is true.” [Note 2].

Additionally, the Guardian has recently reported “Research found that 23% of violent clashes in ethnically divided places were connected to climate disasters.” [Note 3]. An example of how climate change can act as a catalyst to war can be seen in the build up to the ongoing civil war in Syria and the rise of ISIS in the region. Climate change related drought and water shortages before 2011 is accepted as one of a multitude of complex relationships and contributing factors to the ongoing humanitarian situation in region [Note 4].

The recent aid given by the government, while effective in the short term, will not result in overall protection against climate change, if GHG emissions are not addressed for the serious threat that they are.

The Irish government has been lobbying aggressively for lower emissions reduction targets at the EU, thereby undermining EU-level climate change mitigation [Notes 5 & 6]. It seems paradoxical that Ireland is contributing large sums of aid to temporarily patch up problems that the Irish government is simultaneously exacerbating. These dual strategies, however, are both explained by a narrow-minded and short-sighted understanding of Ireland’s role and responsibility in the world today that unfortunately seems to be ingrained in the minds of our decisionmakers. This understanding attempts to deal with problems by prioritising the short-term cost-effectiveness of a ‘solution’, and fails to grasp the interconnected implications of these actions.

Catherine Devitt, Environmental Justice Officer with the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice, correctly remarks that “For a small, progressive global nation that is so outward looking in terms of its impact on the world – movement of people, charity and peace-keeping, investment, even sport – it is disappointing that our Government is so insular when it comes to tackling climate change.” [Note 7].

While the donation does some good for those suffering in Ethiopia, ultimately the most important thing we can do as humanitarians is work on reducing emissions so that those who are severely impacted by climate change have the possibility of a better future than one critically impacted by climate change.

Focus on emissions cuts also would promise a better future for Ireland, as current methods “continue to destroy our uniquely important peatlands and cultural heritage.” [Note 8].

Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce. Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: [email protected]
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland


  1. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/04/23/ethiopia-struggles-with-worst-drought-for-50-years-leaving-18-mi/
  2. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/mar/16/drought-high-temperatures-el-nino-36m-people-africa-hunger
  3. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jul/25/disasters-linked-to-climate-can-increase-risk-of-armed-conflict
  4. https://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/full/10.1175/WCAS-D-13-00059.1
  5. http://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/editorial/climate-change-targets-are-eased-for-ireland-the-land-of-slow-learners-1.2731464#.V5Nbbp2zjoA.mailto
  6. http://www.antaisce.org/articles/game-playing-means-latest-european-climate-targets-entirely-fail-to-meet-paris-agreement
  7. http://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/letters/time-to-look-outward-on-climate-change-1.2735169
  8. https://www.jcfj.ie/2016/07/26/jesuit-centre-says-ireland-s-lenient-2030-climate-targets-do-little-for-climate-justice/

About An Taisce

An Taisce is a charity that works to preserve and protect Ireland's natural and built heritage. We are an independent charitable voice for the environment and for heritage issues. We are not a government body, semi-state or agency. Founded in 1948, we are one of Ireland’s oldest and largest environmental organisations.