ACT member Christian Aid is to make an initial £25,000 available to partner organisations providing emergency supplies in the aftermath of Cyclone Pam which hit the Pacific island chain of Vanuatu on Friday, killing at least eight people, injuring many more, and reducing many houses and shops to matchwood.
The money will go to sister organisations in the ACT Alliance that are best placed to provide immediate assistance to the islands’ 270,000 strong population. The alliance is a global coalition of more than 140 churches and affiliated organisations working together to fight acute poverty.
As well as making money available, Christian Aid says the ferocity of Cyclone Pam must be seen as a stark warning of the kind of disasters that will become more commonplace if the global community fails to take significant measures to combat climate change.
“While it is difficult to attribute any one event to climate change, scientists are clear that it makes extreme events like Cyclone Pam more likely,” said Mohamed Adow, Christian Aid’s Senior Climate Change Advisor.
“The UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction revealed earlier this month that 87 per cent of all natural disasters over the past 10 years have been climate-related. That means a significant proportion of the 700,000 people that have died over that period through disasters, together with the 155 million that were displaced and the $1.4 trillion of economic losses that have piled up, are all down to global warming.
“This is a crucial year for tackling climate change, with a UN summit in December supposed to produce an international climate deal to come into force in 2020. Rich countries must put forward in advance their own carbon cutting targets and set out their support for the poorer countries which are already bearing the brunt of climate change to help them cope with further inevitable impacts.
“But all we have seen so far is a deeply worrying lack of ambition on the part of rich countries. Short-term emergency measures are no longer sufficient. Massive adaptation programmes commensurate with the projected level of warming are needed.
“At the same time, Governments have got to slash their carbon budgets, undertaking to move speedily away from fossil fuels for energy generation and investing instead in renewables if the global temperature rise is to be kept below 2oC, the point beyond which scientists predict climate chaos.”
Speaking today at a UN conference on disaster risk reduction in Sendai, Japan, Vanuatu’s president, Baldwin Lonsdale, said the storm, which virtually wiped out Vanuatu’s development, was directly linked to climate change.
“We see the level of sea rise …The cyclone seasons, the warm, the rain, all this is affected. This year we have more than in any year … Yes, climate change is contributing to this,” he said.
As well as making extreme weather events such as cyclones more powerful, climate change has also triggered rising sea levels which means the tidal surges that accompany storms are stronger, deeper and more lethal.