International Development (Assembly)

Northern Ireland Assembly, Monday 01 April 2008, Private Members’ Business

Mr B Wilson: People in Northern Ireland have a long record of support for aid organisations and their appeals, from the famine in Ethiopia to the droughts in India and the floods in Bangladesh. Traditionally, we have regarded such disasters as acts of God, over which we have no control. However, in recent years such disasters have increased in intensity and frequency. Scientists suggest that that is because of climate change, for which we have some responsibility.

Many local aid organisations recognise that respons­ibility: this year, Trócaire’s Lenten campaign focused on the effects of climate change on people in the developing world. As part of that campaign, I hosted a meeting in Stormont that highlighted the Trócaire report, ‘Tackling Climate Injustice’. The guest speakers at the meeting, an economist fromEl Salvadorand a scientist fromKenya, outlined the impact that climate change was having on peoples’ lives.

InKenya, farmers are suffering because nothing happens when it is supposed to — traditional rainy seasons are no longer predictable, and the number of droughts has doubled since the late 1970s. When the rains come, they come in torrents, and that is having a disastrous effect on food security. As crops fail and livestock die, increasing numbers of people are becoming reliant on food aid.

The experience in El Salvadoris similar with extended periods of drought in the dry season and more intense and prolonged rain in the rainy season. There has been an increase in tropical-cyclone activity in the northAtlanticover the past 30 years. In the past decade, there have been three times as many disasters as there were in the 1970s. Those disasters directly impact on peoples’ lives by causing death, destroying homes and crops and polluting water sources.

The World Health Organization estimates that climate change in developing countries is responsible for 150,000 deaths each year because of the increases in the number of cases of diarrhoea, malaria and malnutrition. People in developing countries are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change because that is where the most extreme changes are taking place. The majority of the world’s poorest people live in rural areas and rely on agriculture, which means that they rely heavily on the weather. Even the smallest change in the weather can make poor people more vulnerable because of the impact on basic resources.

In addition, the existing levels of poverty mean that those communities are less able to cope with the impact of changes. People in many of the poorest countries have to adapt their lives to extreme change in climate and require large-scale investment in adaptation projects or face a large-scale loss of life. In a recent report, Oxfam warned that £25 billion was required to fund adaptation projects in poor countries. It added that developing countries cannot, and should not, be expected to:

“foot the bill for the impact of rich countries’ emissions.”

The Green Party believes that the polluter must pay; the countries responsible for the emissions should provide additional financial assistance.

4.00 pm

The population ofNorthern Irelandhas a record of giving generously to aid organisations. However, we also have one of the highest levels of carbon emissions — 35% higher than the rest of theUK. The average person inIrelandemits 100 times more carbon dioxide than the average person inUganda, but it is the Ugandan who suffers the effects of climate change. Our generous donations are, to a considerable extent, undermined by our high levels of carbon emissions.

Although the Assembly does not play a direct role in supplying international aid, we should use our influence to press the developed world to accept its responsibility. We must reduce our own carbon emissions to below 80% of the 1990 levels by 2050, and must ensure that funding for adaptation projects is additional and not taken from the existing aid budget.

I support the motion.

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