Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Tuesday, 2 November 2021
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Defence
COP26 and its Potential Impact on the Developing World: Discussion
Those who are in a position to join us are welcome. Today's agenda includes an important meeting with representatives from Dóchas, Oxfam, Concern Worldwide and World Vision. The purpose of our engagement is to discuss the potential impact and importance of decisions and pledges made at COP26 on developing countries. I welcome our witnesses, Ms Louise Finan, head of policy, Dóchas; Mr. Yousaf Jogezai, country director, Concern Worldwide, Malawi; Mr. Maurice Sadlier, programmes and policy director, World Vision Ireland; Ms Nafkote Dabi, climate change policy lead, Oxfam International; Mr. Simon Murtagh, senior policy and research co-ordinator, Oxfam Ireland; and Ms Olive Towey, senior policy advisor, Concern Worldwide.
We are still under some Covid restrictions. Some members are present in the room, namely, Deputies Brady and Clarke. Others are joining us remotely. It is an important meeting. I have received apologies from Senator Joe O'Reilly, who is in the Seanad chairing at present, as well as Deputy Stanton.
We are at beginning of what is a hugely important UN Conference of the Parties, which is taking place currently in Glasgow, Scotland. I understand that some of our guests are joining us from COP26 in Glasgow. I thank them, on behalf of the members of the committee, for taking the time to join us today.
The format of the meeting is that we will hear the witnesses' opening statements, followed by a discussion with some questions and answers from members of the committee. I ask the witnesses to be concise in their opening remarks. I ask members to be concise in their questions so as to allow for an opportunity to engage and participate. There may be a second opportunity for members to come back in if they so desire.
I remind our witnesses of the long-standing parliamentary practice that they should not criticise or make charges against any person or entity, by name or in such a way as to make them identifiable, or otherwise engage in speech that might be regarded as damaging to the good name of that person or entity. Therefore, if their statements are in any way potentially defamatory in relation to an identifiable person or entity, they will be directed to discontinue their remarks. It goes without saying that any such direction should be complied with. For witnesses attending remotely from outside of the Leinster House campus, which I see to be the case, there are some limitations to parliamentary privilege. As such, they may not benefit from the same level of immunity from legal proceedings as witnesses who are physically present in the precincts of the Houses. Witnesses participating in this committee session from a jurisdiction outside the State are advised that they should also be mindful of domestic law and how it might apply to evidence that they give.
I remind members of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against any person or body outside the Houses, or any official, either by name or in such a way as to make them in any way identifiable. Members may only participate in this meeting if they are physically located in the Leinster House complex.
With that, I welcome the witnesses. I invite Ms Finan to introduce our guests and make her opening remarks to the committee.
Ms Louise Finan:
I apologise that members cannot see me; I am not sure what is happening with my camera. I am delighted to have the opportunity, on behalf of Dóchas and our members, to discuss with the committee the enormously important issue around COP26, which is currently taking place in Glasgow.
First, I thank all members of the committee for their engagement and support during Dóchas's last meeting with them in July. At that point, we were seeking their support for the five key asks in our pre-budget submission, in particular, the need for the Government to increase its spending on official development assistance, ODA, if it is to deliver on its Global Ireland strategy and Irish Aid’s international development policy, A Better World. To that end, we very much welcome the Government’s announcement of an additional allocation of €140 million to ODA in 2022. We see this as an important step towards meeting our international commitments and ensuring no one is left behind. We were also encouraged to hear of the intention of the Minister of State, Deputy Brophy, to work with his own Department and other Departments, including the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, to put in place systems to grow our ODA in line with the commitment of spending 0.7% by 2030. Determined progress will ensure that we meet our pledge and commit to supporting lives which have been upended by Covid-19, conflict and the ever-devastating impact of climate change.
Today, Dóchas members are here to discuss with the committee members why COP26 is a critical moment for multilateral climate action, and to give them a sense of what meaningful action would mean for some of the world's most impacted communities.
We ask for the committee's support today to ensure Ireland addresses the climate change challenge by focusing on the actions it needs to take both domestically and internationally to ensure sustainable development is delivered for all future generations.
To that end, we welcome the Taoiseach's comments during COP26, which will be delivered today, which demonstrate we are serious about making progress towards meeting our fair share of climate finance. When this financing is provided for the benefit of those on the front line of climate change it can have a transformative effect.
The members will have read many reports about the effects climate change is having on the poorest people in the world, how it is increasing poverty and inequality, preventable diseases, food insecurity and water stress as well as conflict over scarce natural resources. My colleagues today from Concern Worldwide in Malawi, World Vision Ireland and Oxfam International, present at COP26, will set the scene for the members of the reality of these effects on the communities they work with and the actions they hope will be taken during COP26 and, indeed, actions the members as Irish parliamentarians can take.
I thank the members for their attention and for their ongoing support to Dóchas and its members.
Mr. Yousaf Jogezai:
Chairman, Deputies and Senators, greetings from Malawi, the warm heart of Africa. I would like to begin by recognising the commitments made at COP26 yesterday by the Taoiseach, Deputy Martin. Alongside the very significant financial commitments was an equally significant commitment, namely, that climate justice be at the centre of all our efforts. The Taoiseach said "Countries and communities struggling to cope already must have our support."
I am speaking to the members today from Malawi and I want to share with them some of the realities here and also some good news but, first, I will deal with the realities. Climate change, climate variability and climate related extreme events are having huge negative impacts on Malawi’s economy and the general livelihood of its population. The country has in the recent past experienced erratic rainfall, severe floods and droughts. It is worth noting that Malawi’s economy is mainly based on rain-fed agriculture, with the sector providing employment and livelihoods to more than 80% of the population, which is based in rural areas. Malawi was in March 2019 hit by Cyclone Idai, which left a devastating path of destruction, close to 2 million people were affected and hundreds were killed. Total effects are estimated at more than $370 million with severe damage to roads, bridges, houses, power lines, irrigation infrastructure and, sadly, to crops which were nearing maturity.
It is sometimes hard to take in hard facts and figures and, therefore, I want to share with the members a story about a lady we have worked with. Her name is Sifati James. She and her family of seven children and two parents were devastated when raging winds and rains from Cyclone Idai hit their home. Her house was completely demolished and she lost all her belongings plus the little food she had remaining. Before the disaster, Sifati and her family were expecting a good maize harvest but the floodwaters destroyed their half acre of land and garden that day, further plunging the family into a precarious situation.
Climate related events like these are only going to increase in severity in the future. Malawi is facing a number of challenges that increase its vulnerability to climate change, including high population growth, dependence on rain-fed agriculture and high rates of undernutrition and stunting in young children. That said, the good news is that people like Sifati are able to improve their situation in the face of a changing climate. Following the cyclone, Sifati, with support from Concern funded by Irish Aid and other donors, received a package of support, which enabled her to get back on her feet. A cash donation and farming inputs enabled her to meet both her immediate needs and helped her invest in the farm and grow crops to replace the lost harvest, and thousands like her have received similar assistance.
However, such support to help counter shocks and build back better is not always available. In May this year one of Concern’s climate adaptation programmes suddenly had its funding cut, which meant more than 350,000 people were immediately left without support. Climate related funding has too often been unpredictable and erratic. It should not be like this. At COP15 in Copenhagen 2009, governments around the world made a commitment to allocate $100 billion annually by 2020 to help developing countries address the impacts of climate change. However, this commitment has never been met. In response to this unreliable funding situation, Concern has joined with other members of civil society as well as the Malawian Government to call on OECD countries to meet their $100 billion commitment and ensure it reaches the countries most affected.
High income countries announced their plan for meeting the $100 billion commitment this week, but this plan only goes part of the way to addressing the problem. Adaptation has received significantly less funding than mitigation despite a clear and urgent need to adapt to impacts that we are already seeing. Climate finance is also not being effectively targeted at the most climate vulnerable countries.
People like Sifati are already experiencing the worst effects of climate change. They have done the least to cause the problem and yet they are suffering the most. This is deeply unfair, unjust and disproportionate.
Ireland’s leadership, commitment and, above all, its emphasis on climate justice will be critically important in the coming days, weeks and months. Yesterday, the Taoiseach called for a narrative of hope with a focus on solutions and on what we can achieve when we work together. Concern stands ready to help contribute to those solutions by working together in a spirit of hope.
Building on the commitments made today, Ireland can, and I am sure, will be an ever stronger advocate on the issues of greatest importance for those countries and communities most affected, namely, pressing for the delivery of adequate, appropriate, accessible quality funding for adaptation and loss and damage. I thank the members for their time and for this opportunity.
Mr. Maurice Sadlier:
I thank Ms Finan. I also thank the members of the committee for this opportunity to appear before them. Tomorrow morning, I travel to Glasgow with two young people from Galway to participate in COP26 and while we are there we will advocate for the greater inclusion of children and young people in the decision-making process on climate action at all levels. We would very much have liked to have two colleagues from Tanzania join us but, unfortunately, due to Covid restrictions and massive logistics around that it was not possible.
As a representative of a child focused NGO, we want to see how children and young people are meaningfully engaged in decision-making processes around climate action and not left standing on the streets shouting in, but I will come back to that later.
The members may have seen in the news recently that Freetown, the capital city of Sierra Leone, has appointed Africa's first chief heat officer, Eugenia Kargbo. This is in response to the impacts of climate change and the ever rising temperatures in an already very hot city.
World Vision, with support from Irish Aid, is implementing a maternal and child health project on Sherbro Island in Sierra Leone.
Sherbro Island sits at the bottom of Sierra Leone and is reached by an hour-long boat journey following a seven-hour car drive from Freetown. On my first trip to Sierra Leone, I got to sit with members of the community on Sherbro Island to talk to them about the challenges they face in their everyday lives. There are two vehicles on Sherbro, which are two ambulances for the local hospital. There is no power supply or running water to the island so the carbon footprint of its nearly 30,000 inhabitants is almost negligible. When I sit with members of that community and ask them about the challenges, they tell me about their fishing grounds being washed away, their crops not growing as they used to, their growing seasons changing and the fact that they are not able to provide food for their children due to the increasing impacts of climate change.
As I was leaving Sherbro Island the next morning, my departure was delayed for two hours because of torrential downpours. I turned to my colleague and asked what was happening as it was dry season. He said the dry season could not be depended on any more because the seasons are changing. That led to a very interesting discussion about how it was alright for me to be delayed for two hours because I was departing on a very strong boat, but what if a pregnant woman needed essential maternity care from the main hospital on the mainland but could not get off the island that morning. Her life and the life of her child were being put in danger because of climate change.
What can COP26 deliver for the people of Sherbro Island and the many other communities we work with around the world? We need to see greater ambition. We all know the figures. We know the world is on track for 2.5°C warming and not the 1.5°C that is needed. That is disastrous for Sherbro Island, the Pacific islands and many of the places we work. People are already feeling the impacts of climate change and we need to see much more ambition. We need COP26 to send a clear signal that countries are moving towards a 1.5°C warming target. Ireland's official development assistance, ODA, is essential and is contributing to great progress in the sustainable development goals, SDGs, across many countries, but climate change will undermine this more and more. We need to see greater action on climate change to be able to deliver on the SDGs. This means greater action domestically and internationally.
We also need to see COP26 deliver on finance for vulnerable nations. When I sit with colleagues in Sierra Leone, we have a very different discussion about the need for finance and what actions have to be taken because of climate change. We have a high standard of living in Ireland off the back of fossil fuel development. We have been very lucky in that regard. We now have to change our emissions pathway and reduce our carbon emissions. The Government of Sierra Leone, and those of many other countries, have to deliver development for their people in the absence of this fossil fuel-heavy development. They need the funding, capacity building and support to deliver development for their communities in this new green manner. COP26 must set a pathway forward for this.
I will go back to the issue of the participation of young people, and people in general, in climate action. We are hearing very worrying noises from COP26 that negotiations are effectively closed to observer organisations. The negotiations need to be open and transparent and observers need to be given access to them. We understand the restrictions that are based on Covid. However, we encourage Members to speak out against this closing of space for civil society.
We had a very interesting discussion recently, moderated by the Irish ambassador to Ethiopia, Nicola Brennan, that brought together young people from Ireland, Ethiopia and Tanzania, on how young people have much to say about, and give to, climate action. Yesterday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke about the young people outside COP26. This should not be the case. Young people need to be at the tables and part of the discussions. They have to be there and they have to be the decision makers. Those aged between ten and 24 years currently make up almost one quarter of the world's population. They should not be excluded from decisions that impact their lives. They have a right to participate.
During the discussion with colleagues from Tanzania and Ethiopia, it was interesting to see that local government representatives in those countries are far more open to discussions with young people than those in Ireland. It is not as easy to have access to our local councillors. I ask this committee to consider a youth-only hearing to demonstrate leadership on this issue and show how we can lead the way in including young people in climate action in a meaningful manner.
Ms Nafkote Dabi:
Climate change is the defining challenge of our generation. These are not my words. They are the words used by the Taoiseach when he addressed the UN Security Council this year. He also said: “In the Horn of Africa ... droughts are undermining coping capacities”. We are seeing that in our work with Oxfam right across the world and we are struggling to help communities adapt to the effects of climate change. The need to adapt, or for adaptation, is critical to our work. It is an honour to address the committee from COP26. I will say a few very practical things.
We look on Ireland as one of the great brokers of international politics and one of the great dealmakers. Ireland can have a huge influence, not only on the EU but on the United States. As the committee may have heard, America is one of the main nations blocking a finance goal. It will be a huge blow if we fail to agree on this $100 billion goal at Glasgow, not only for this year but all the years ahead. It will mean that vulnerable nations are told, effectively, to fend for themselves in a crisis they did not create. We also know the Biden Administration is being blocked by Congress in reaching a deal to allow the $100 billion climate finance goal. We appeal to committee members, as Members of the Irish Parliament, to use all their influence, perhaps even by reaching out to their fellow members of parliament in America among the committees.
Loss and damage is another issue at these COP26 negotiations. As its name suggests, the idea of loss and damage is an extra layer of security to compensate for the effects of extreme, and slow onset, weather events. These are predicted to happen more as global temperature rises. This goes beyond normal mitigation and adaptation. Often, it falls to women to pick up the pieces of broken lives and families. We would like to support women through the pillar of loss and damage, but we need Ireland’s help to establish loss and damage in the COP framework and to give it a strong funding mechanism. This is a demand that more than 300 civil society organisations, including Oxfam, have made in a letter to the COP26 president.
The issue of agriculture is vital from a developing country perspective, where so many of us are farmers and many of them are women. I know Ireland faces some challenges in this area, but I have no doubt that it will support measures for sustainable agriculture at COP26.
Where does that leave us now, as my time runs short? It would be wrong of me not to mention the overarching goal of this conference, which is to agree to keep the rise in global temperature to 1.5°C by 2030. Equally, I know Ireland has a plan to get there by 2030 and I have every confidence it has the vision to do that. I urge caution, however, on the issue of the definition of net zero. This year, Oxfam issued a major report that questioned the methodology of reaching net zero, especially if it means planting trees and biofuels in Africa that force people off their land. Net zero must not mean a net zero-sum game for the developing world.
Could Ireland do more? Of course, it could. It is significant that the Taoiseach announced a more than doubling of Ireland’s climate finance commitment from €93 million to €225 million between 2019 and 2025. This is something that Oxfam Ireland has advocated for and it is a welcome announcement. It should be remembered, however, that estimates for Ireland’s fair share of climate finance contribution are between €450 million and €500 million so we still have a distance to travel to reach this figure. We have also strongly advocated that any increase in climate finance does not come at the expense of other pressing ODA commitments.
Additionality is one of the core principles of climate finance. As parliamentarians, committee members know the difference between real new money and money which is simply reallocated from one fund to another. It is important that assurances are made that any new climate finance spending is made alongside other increases to ODA funding.
Similarly, on the question of special drawing rights from the IMF, we expect that these will be made available by Ireland to the developing world, and not fudged into existing ODA. We hope that, again, Ireland will be a strong advocate for this among other countries. The strength of Ireland's overseas aid and climate finance is that it is good quality, grant-based funding. That is another message Irish negotiators can strongly convey to their counterparts at COP26.
In concluding, I repeat our main messages: adaptation over mitigation measures; grant-based financing over lending; real aid and real climate finance; support for women as farmers, providers and equal citizens. I will stop here. I thank members for their time.
I thank the witnesses, Ms Finan, Mr. Jogezai, Mr. Sadlier and Ms Dabi for their perspectives. I now turn to members of the committee, some of whom are in the committee room with us, while others are joining us from their offices. I invite Deputy Brady to make a brief observation.
I thank the witnesses that are before the committee. I do not disagree with anything that has been said. One of the references used by a contributor was a quote from the Taoiseach that climate change is the defining challenge of our lifetime. We must face up to that. While the eyes of the world are on Glasgow, with up to 30,000 delegates taking part in the deliberations, it is disappointing that some of those who need to be there are not there. I refer to China and Russia. We all hope for a very successful outcome. As has been stated, it is our best and some would say probably one of our last, opportunities to keep to the 1.5°C target and to keep the target alive. The failure to take radical and ambitious actions coming out of this will have grave consequences.
Some of our contributors this afternoon have alluded to the unfortunate reality on the ground as a direct result of climate change. We see that with the intensification of fires, which are gripping the entire world at this point, the floods and the change of seasons, which was graphically touched on. We simply cannot rely on having a wet season any more. Unfortunately, the consequences of that is famine, which is now gripping the world and spreading at a frightening pace. This is the stark reality. We hear of some countries that simply will not exist in 20 years' time if we do not immediately address and live up to the radical and ambitious plans that are needed.
I wish to respond to a couple of points Mr. Sadlier made about young people. I concur with everything he said on the need for young people's voices to be heard. Young people have been to the fore of this movement in trying to force people like us to take action. When I say "us", I mean politicians in this country. I remember the movements and the protests that took place outside this institution. That was fired up by activists such as Greta Thunberg, who has inspired so many young people across the world. It was disappointing to hear some of the commentary from her at COP26. She said it was "blah, blah, blah" that was going in inside, and that it was people pretending to take the future seriously. While I do not disagree with that, it is unfortunate that young people are not in there participating and having their voices heard as well. There is a lot of concern about what is being said.
I listened to Mary Robinson as well, who is watching and listening with worry and hope, as to what may come out of COP26. We need to be ambitious. The world is eagerly waiting to see what happens over the course of the deliberations. Mr. Sadlier suggests having a youth-only hearing. I am not sure whether he was referring to this committee, but as a committee member I am really up for that. Prior to Covid, in the previous Dáil term, the Ceann Comhairle had a number of hearings within the Oireachtas that involved young people coming in and making their views known. I would be open to that, if that is what has been suggested by Mr. Sadlier.
I propose to take a number of observations and submissions from committee members and then I will come back to Ms Finan. She can order the priority of replies, or the destination of the replies, as she deems appropriate. Is that okay?
I bid the witnesses a good afternoon on this fine day. It is wonderful to have the opportunity to engage with them again. I have a couple of observations and questions to put to the witnesses. I will start with Mr. Sadlier. He should please not think that this is anything to do with him personally. It is just that a couple of statements in his presentation struck me. One such statement was: "The changing climate is making people's right to food impossible to realise." If that does not hit home, I am not sure what will. He also stated: "Poverty makes her vulnerable, but climate change is affecting her right to health". That is a stark warning from Sierra Leone. I was following the proceedings from COP26 this morning. Mr. Sadlier referred to the lack of a carbon footprint in Sierra Leone. It is not the only country that does not have a carbon footprint, but it is suffering hugely because of the carbon footprint and actions of others and climate change in total.
A contributor mentioned the conflict over scarce resources. What effect is that having in the countries in which the witnesses work on the political, health and education systems and what is the societal impact of the conflict over scarce resources? I agree with what Deputy Brady said earlier. We need actions not words. That is what I hear when I speak to the younger members of my constituency in Longford-Westmeath. It is actions not words that they want. What does that look like from the perspective of the witnesses? Is there a timescale that the witnesses could put on this, whereby the impact of the failure to act now could be reversed? I understand the point about the coping capacity that is affected by the drought but that simply is not good enough. Every country should continue to grow, develop and strengthen itself. If what we are speaking about is a country's ability to cope, then the bar is set very low for us as politicians and legislators to put solutions in place. Time is not on our side. It is getting very close to the tipping point and where the bar that will be set for developing countries is a level of coping as opposed to a level of strengthening and developing.
I thank the witnesses. It was fascinating to listen to the presentations of the witnesses. I have one question about the expectation of state actors going to COP26.
Do we get any sense that states are going there to act as global citizens or are we still in the mould of 20th century diplomacy whereby individual countries are representing their own interests? Is more of a global approach being taken? I heard the announcement today regarding deforestation and countries that had previously not signed up to preventing deforestation are now doing so. Is that something we are hopeful about or is lip service being paid? Is global citizenship happening at COP26 or it is a return to 20th century diplomacy?
Ms Nafkote Dabi:
I thank the Deputy for the question. We are hoping for everyone to come together but, of course, countries are coming here to represent their issues and interests. Deputy Clarke have touched upon the issue. For developing countries, their interests relate to limiting warming to 1.5°C, which will be critical. However, they are also keen for that to happen based on a fair share and equity because rich countries have historical responsibility and so on. There are, of course, differences between countries in terms of protecting their interests. Some of that is understandable, but we must come across these issues. Everyone is impacted by the crisis. We used to talk about countries in the global south and drought in the Horn of Africa or in Madagascar, as is the case now, but we also saw flooding in Germany this summer. Oxfam protested yesterday in an effort to bring the public with us and put pressure on leaders and so on. We hope to create a global village at COP26 and come up with concrete actions.
Mr. Maurice Sadlier:
I thank Ms Finan. This is not a specific response to what has been asked but I will return to what was said by Deputy Brady. Young people are fed up, annoyed and tired of how slow the response has been. I recently met an impressive young woman from Kenya who said that young people's voices in climate change must move from the streets to the halls where decisions are made and change happens. Young people are sick of being left on the outside while lip service is being paid on the inside. The media coverage of COP26 has been brilliant. I have never known a COP meeting to get so much media coverage, but I am also asking how much bluster is happening there. There has really been a lot of big talk but we need action now. Deputy Clarke asked when we need to see action and we need it now. In fact, it is already too late for some places. I have met people from Papua New Guinea who have had to move their entire community from their island because it is going under. People are already losing their homes. They have left behind the graveyards where their ancestors are buried. They have had to move because of climate change. It is too late for some communities. They will never recover. We need to make sure we do not continue to let that happen.
I had the privilege to work for Mary Robinson for three and a half years, at which time I got to meet many people who told desperate stories of how their lives were impacted by climate change. I have been working in development for 15 years now and it is not getting better for some people. In fact, it is getting worse. Climate change is eroding everything. If you look at recent reports coming out of South Sudan and you look at security, people are being displaced because of floods which are a direct impact of climate change, which is causing conflict. People are on the move because of climate change. It is happening here and now. We can no longer continue to wait, we must take action. That means providing the finance, capacity building and support for our official development assistance, plus our support for increased climate finance. It also means taking serious action at home. What right do I have to sit in Dublin, burning coal and driving my fossil fuel car, when my friends on Sherbro Island are sinking? That is the challenge we must face. We really need to cop on now. We do not have time.
Mr. Yousaf Jogezai:
Concern Worldwide published the Global Hunger Index report three weeks ago. Within the report, we refer to a toxic cocktail of the climate crisis, the Covid-19 and violent conflicts. Those forces are having a negative impact on the hunger situation in the world. Violent conflicts are becoming increasingly severe and protracted, and are destructive to virtually every aspect of the food system. Climate change is one of the major contributors to insecure food access. The rise in hunger is among the most pressing challenges of our time and requires decisive and sustained actions.
We can see, even in some of the major conflicts in the world, that the roots are in the move towards climate change. There have been limited responses from governments that have limited capacity and resources. There has also been a lack of action from the international community. We feel there is an urgency that should be dealt with through immediate actions.
I will return to a point that Mr. Sadlier made in his opening statement. Forgive me if I am the only person in the room who is not familiar with the term "chief heat officer" in public administration. There was a reference to Africa's chief heat officer, who was appointed in Sierra Leone. Mr. Sadlier might expand a little on the nature of the work of the chief heat officer, the manner of the appointment and the public reaction to the appointment. Would he anticipate other affected states and countries following suit? COP26 will obviously deal with a range of issues touching on personal, national and international responsibility. Even if money were to be made available to the chief heat officer, how would it be spent in a place such as Sierra Leone? I make the point to highlight the enormity of the task across a range of issues. Does Mr. Sadlier feel that the office of the chief heat officer is something we will hear much more about in forthcoming times?
Mr. Maurice Sadlier:
I wish I had read more about the job of the chief heat officer. My understanding is that the person in question is looking at the impact of climate change on the city and how they can plan for a city that is being impacted by climate change, including consideration of what sort of public planning needs to be done, what sort of services are in place, how the population can be protected against increasing heat and what sort of measures can be put in place. I understand that while it is the first role of its sort in Africa, there is a chief heat officer in Athens as well. It is symptomatic of the bigger challenge around climate change, that is, loss and damage. This takes us into the realm of loss and damage. Countries are having to deal with the severe impacts of climate change. Even if we stop carbon emissions today, many of the countries with which we work are already feeling the impact of climate change so we will need adaptation funding for many years to come.
In many places, we are in the realm of loss and damage. All these roles are symptomatic of it being too late or too far down the track for some countries. I am not advocating for funding of a chief heat officer for the entire world but that shows innovation. It shows how Sierra Leone is looking at the challenges it is facing.
That is what we seeing from many of the countries we work in. Malawi, Ethiopia and the marginal islands have some of the most ambitious climate action plans in the world. Their road to net zero or to carbon-free development is far better than those of many of the developing nations that have huge resources behind them. This is what many of the countries we work with have to do with funding because of the impact of climate change.
I forgot to respond to Deputy Brady. We would love this committee to have a child-only meeting. It should not be me sitting here today but rather one of the young people I am attending COP26 with, if I was really practising what I preach. We are hoping to have some of the young people who participate in our project from Tanzania early next year. It would be great to have a discussion with them and colleagues in Galway. I am sure many other agencies in Dóchas have many young people and children we work with. It would be a real show of leadership regarding how to listen to young people.
I thank Mr. Sadlier. Given that our guests are busy both at the conference and monitoring from afar what is happening in these crucial few days in Scotland, I might ask Ms Finan to bring matters to a conclusion by summing up or providing us with her best and final message. We too will look forward to the publication later this week of the national statement on Ireland's further engagement. I acknowledge what she said about the additional budgetary allocation of €140 million for our development assistance. She mentioned the Minister of State, Deputy Brophy's, plan to map a route towards the 0.7% figure. I assure our guests this committee will also monitor the plan and will have regular opportunities to engage directly with him to ensure Ireland will fulfil this long-standing commitment, which, unfortunately, is often less than certain. We were very pleased when the Minister of State expressed to this committee his intention to proceed by way of a definite plan. We will assist our guests in that regard.
Mr. Simon Murtagh:
I thank the Chairman. I wanted to come in on some of Deputy O'Callaghan's questions about what is happening at COP26 and what sense of urgency there is among the negotiators. I might add to my colleague Ms Dabi's comments that there is a healthy sense of competition among nations because they are being pushed by the protestors outside and the activists, whom we see as our supporters in Oxfam and the people we work with throughout the world. We mentioned loss and damage in our submission. There is a sense of competition even between Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon, whereby Scotland is trying to move faster than the UK, which has made the most ambitious pledges thus far. On the issue of loss and damage, Ms Sturgeon came out with the first significant pledge of any country to fund loss and damage, which we see as vital as a policy area. It is a way of financing people who have been hit by extreme weather events throughout the world and who have no other recourse to protection other than this fund for loss and damage. That is something we would like the committee to convey to the Irish negotiators. We need to create a funding mechanism for loss and damage.
The other point we made, in the context of hard policy goals, relates to the pledge of $100 billion in climate finance. It is, in a way, an emblematic goal but it has existed for 11 or 12 years and we are still not getting there. It is our understanding that the US is the main stumbling block and in particular the Houses of Congress, as we mentioned. We reiterate Ireland is the great broker of deals internationally, so if there is anything our members as negotiators or brokers can do to convey that to the appropriate committee on Capitol Hill, or in general to convey that sense of urgency to our American friends, that would be good.
That is how we read it here among Oxfam and the Irish delegation at COP26.
Mr. Yousaf Jogezai:
I thank the committee for the additional time. In Malawi, a couple of months ago, in advance of COP 26, there were several engagements between the youth, the Malawian Government and civil society organisations. The main issue that arose related to the lack of financing for countries such as Malawi to cope with climate change. It is often said that within Malawi, only 10% of the population has access to electricity and that is hydro-powered. As a country, therefore, we are not contributing to climate change but we are the worst affected. Since the economy is so small, it is difficult for countries such as Malawi or others in a similar position to adapt.
Based on suggestions from young people and civil society organisations, we started a Twitter campaign to advocate for a fund of $100 billion for climate change. It has gone viral within Malawi. There have been tweets from ministers, various embassies and UN agencies, which has given voice to the civil society organisations and young people there to allow them to contribute. Some of the same young people are attending COP 26 in Glasgow, where they will interact with young people from Ireland. That is a good example of how we are able to create links between young people in our country's programmes and in Ireland.
Ms Louise Finan:
I thank the committee for inviting us to attend. It has been wonderful to get this opportunity. I do not think I can put anything more passionately or strongly than our speakers did. They have given the committee good reason to understand the urgency of why we need to act. We ask it to continue to follow this issue closely. Post COP 26, it should organise a session to which it invites in the Government and civil society to analyse what happened at the conference, what needs to happen and what the impact will be. That is our key ask from today. I thank members for their time, attention and focus on one of the greatest issues facing mankind.
I thank Ms Finan.
Once again, I stress the importance of this engagement and thank all of the witnesses for taking time away from the conference, albeit briefly. It is important we had this engagement. We too are members and most committees in Leinster House this week will be keeping a close eye on matters as they develop in Glasgow. I thank the witnesses for joining us. We wish them continued success in their good work and endeavours on behalf of the people of our planet. Thank you.