EU warns of ‘in­ten­si­fy­ing nat­u­ral dis­as­ters’ due to threat of cli­mate change

Irish Independent - - News - Paul Melia En­vi­ron­ment Ed­i­tor

IRE­LAND and other EU mem­ber states can ex­pect to be hit with more dis­as­ters in­clud­ing flood­ing and for­est fires as a di­rect re­sult of cli­mate change, EU Com­mis­sioner Chris­tos Stylian­ides has warned.

The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion wants to in­vest €280m out to 2021 on wa­ter pumps, fire-fight­ing planes, emer­gency equip­ment and mo­bile hos­pi­tals to be de­ployed across mem­ber states fol­low­ing nat­u­ral dis­as­ters, but needs agree­ment from all mem­bers.

In an in­ter­view with the Irish In­de­pen­dent, Mr Stylian­ides said grow­ing threats from cli­mate change needed an EUwide re­sponse. The RescEU plan will pro­vide coun­tries such as Ire­land with ac­cess to equip­ment in the event of na­tional dis­as­ters, and ad­vice on ac­cess­ing fund­ing for flood de­fences.

“As a re­sult of cli­mate change, nat­u­ral dis­as­ters are in­ten­si­fy­ing across Europe and world­wide. They are more vi­o­lent, fre­quent and com­plex. Un­for­tu­nately this is the new re­al­ity, this is the new nor­mal,” he said.

“We have to ad­just and Europe has to be a pi­o­neer in im­ple­ment­ing the Paris Agree­ment on cli­mate change. Cli­mate change is not fake news.

“Even here in Ire­land, you re­cently wit­nessed an un­prece­dented phe­nom­e­non, Hur­ri­cane Ophe­lia. No coun­try should have to deal with th­ese new phe­nomenons alone.”

RescEU is a new Euro­pean-wide sys­tem to tackle nat­u­ral dis­as­ters, such as the flood­ing which struck Ire­land last year and the for­est fires which raged across much of south­ern Europe.

An EU civil pro­tec­tion re­sponse team al­ready ex­ists, where experts can pro­vide as­sis­tance to coun­tries on re­quest.

Ire­land has sent of­fi­cials to Pak­istan and Eastern Europe over re­cent years to pro­vide tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance and co-or­di­na­tion, but the RescEU plan in­volves a more com­pre­hen­sive re­sponse.

The EU will fund the trans­port, de­ploy­ment and opera- tional costs un­der the pro­posed sys­tem, in­stead of just the trans­port costs as cur­rently ap­plies.

A Euro­pean Civil Pro­tec­tion Pool will share as­sets drawn from mem­ber states, and coun­tries will be asked to share their na­tional pre­ven­tion and pre­pared­ness strate­gies, to iden­tify pos­si­ble gaps.

In ad­di­tion, ad­vice will be given on ac­cess­ing EU funds to adapt to cli­mate change, such as build­ing flood de­fences. Sources said the pro­posal could in­clude the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion hir­ing fire-fight­ing planes from coun­tries such as Aus­tralia, which would be de­ployed in Europe dur­ing our sum­mer, when it is win­ter in the south­ern hemi­sphere.

This is be­cause for­est fires in south­ern Europe tend to af­fect a num­ber of coun­tries, so there might not be the ca­pa­bil­ity to share re­sources.

An is­sue in ne­go­ti­a­tions is the dif­fer­ent risks posed in in­di­vid­ual coun­tries, and con­cerns over the cost of the pack­age.

Mr Stylian­ides said the pri­mary re­spon­si­bil­ity was in the mem­ber state to deal with n

at­u­ral dis­as­ters, but there was a need to in­crease ca­pac­ity.

“I’m not talk­ing about Irish au­thor­i­ties be­cause I be­lieve you have one of the best civil pro­tec­tion mech­a­nisms and sys­tems, but no coun­try is im­mune, es­pe­cially in ex­cep­tional cases,” he said. “Through this pack­age we can of­fer fi­nan­cial in­cen­tives through agri­cul­ture funds and struc­tural funds to in­crease ca­pac­ity. We have to in­crease pre­ven­tion and pre­pared­ness from the lo­cal level to the na­tional level and through vol­un­tary en­gage­ment.

“RescEU is the top of this pyra­mid. It’s the EU’s own ca­pac­i­ties, but no bu­reau­cracy.

“We can pro­vide fi­nan­cial in­cen­tives to cul­ti­vate the cul­ture of pre­ven­tion. Many of our mem­ber states ad­mit it, they need more about cul­ture of pre­ven­tion, not only through their cit­i­zens but also through lo­cal and re­gional au­thor­i­ties.”

The com­mis­sioner was in Dublin last week where he met with De­fence Min­is­ter Paul Ke­hoe, chair of the Govern­ment Task Force on Emer­gency Plan­ning.

Chris­tos Stylian­ides is the Euro­pean Com­mis­sioner for hu­man­i­tar­ian aid and crisis man­age­ment

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