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