Irish government must commit to loss and damage as new report shows that climate disasters will damage women and girls’ human rights for years

  • Date: 02/11/2022
  • Author: Jo-Ann Ward

Women in communities vulnerable to climate disasters say ‘world is ending’ as climate disasters set to stifle their rights for decades to come, with the number of people facing starvation in East Africa now more than four times the population of Ireland. 

A new report by ActionAid reveals that lack of loss and damage funding for climate disasters will damage women and girls’ human rights for years to come. The report highlights the long-term extent of climate disasters on women and girls as vulnerable countries with no access to loss and damage funding are pushed further into debt. ActionAid is calling for a long-overdue financing facility to address loss and damage and urges the Irish government to commit to showing political leadership on this issue at COP27 in November. 

‘The Long Shadow of the Climate Crisis: Why a new funding facility must address loss and damage’ demonstrates how women and girls are even more affected by climate disasters than previously recognised in UN climate discourse, with their lives being impacted for years, decades and even generations to come.  

The financial toll of climate emergencies like floods, cyclones and drought is causing devastation and pushing nations even deeper into debt. Instead of being offered debt relief after a climate disaster, countries are often forced to draw finances from the public purse, diverting funds from public services, and adopting punishing austerity measures in order to repay their creditors. 

Impact of climate crises on women and girls

During climate disasters, women and girls are disproportionately affected by hunger, displacement, debt and violence. Then, in the aftermath of disasters, when national budgets are severely strained, they are impacted more by reductions in public service provision such as education and healthcare, and public sector job cuts. These cuts also mean women and girls are expected to fill the gap in care provision with their own unpaid time and work, affecting their education and ability to earn incomes.  

Government cuts in essential public services to cover the costs of recovery from climate disasters and to repay debt, results in millions of people losing their rights, their opportunities for development, and key lifelines out of misery. 

Karol Balfe, CEO of ActionAid Ireland said:

“This report shows for the first time just how far-reaching and long-lasting the consequences of not having a financing facility to address loss and damage are on women and girls at the sharp edge of the climate crisis.” 

“Across the global South nearly half of the agricultural workforce are women, and in sub-Saharan Africa the number is far greater. This means women’s livelihoods and food security are particularly vulnerable to climate crises.” 

“Women are several times more likely to die from climate disasters as men, and the greater the gender and economic inequality, the greater the disparity. 80% of people displaced by climate disasters are women. Girls are pulled out of schooling before their brothers either to save on school fees or to send them to fetch water, setting them on an unequal path for life.” 

Today the Cabinet meeting will discuss Ireland’s engagement with next week’s COP27 negotiations, Ireland can show leadership on Loss and Damage to address the glaring loss of financing for countries facing the impact of the climate crisis. For too long, wealthy countries who are the heaviest polluters, have blocked this call for justice from the Global South” 

“In the aftermath of disasters there’s a window of opportunity to help communities bridge crises, recover and rebuild. But if no help is forthcoming, countries are likely to fall into spiralling poverty. Cuts to the public purse mean that critical lifelines out of hardship, such as investment in education, healthcare and climate adaptation – are all lost to the communities that need them most.” 

Read the full report here.

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