Policy and Advocacy

Scientific and medical experts call on Government to commit to addressing global vaccine inequity

More than 350 leading scientists and medical professionals to date have signed a public statement urging the Irish Government to support the generic production of Covid-19 vaccines and treatments to address global vaccine inequity.

The statement published today (17.11.21) comes just 14 days before the World Trade Organisation (WTO) will decide upon the proposal to suspend intellectual property (IP) rights for vaccines, diagnostics and treatment of Covid 19 (TRIPS Waiver).

The call is being issued to coincide with an event today with leading Irish and international experts organised by Oxfam Ireland, Amnesty International Ireland, Doctors for Vaccine Equity and the Irish Global Health Network as part of the People’s Vaccine Alliance in Ireland.

The public statement is calling for four actions to be taken by the Irish Government and the international community.

Key Actions for Global Vaccine Equity

Signatories of the public statement, including Professor Kingston Mills, Professor Sam McConkey, Professor Cliona Ni Cheallaigh, and Professor Luke O’Neill, are calling on the government to commit to four specific actions:

  1. Support the TRIPS waiver to allow vaccine production in low- and middle-income countries as a sustainable solution.
  2. Ensure vaccine makers facilitate the open sharing of know-how and tech transfer to all relevant vaccine producers to increase vaccine production. This should be done through the World Health Organisation (WHO) COVID Technology Access Pool (C-TAP).
  3. Facilitate urgent global redistribution of current vaccine supplies and commit to rational purchasing to avoid vaccine hoarding and wastage.
  4. Ensure that any strategy for booster vaccines is evidence based and ethical within a global context.

The statement calls for the distribution of vaccines to be based upon public health need rather than commercial gain, hence the proposal to the WTO to suspend IP rights temporarily on Covid 19 related health technologies. According to the signatories, Ireland could have an immediate short-term impact by redistributing surplus vaccines.

To date, less than one percent of all manufactured vaccine doses have gone to low-income countries

Human Rights Issue

Speaking today on the launch of the statement, CEO of Oxfam Ireland Jim Clarken said: “We are all acutely aware of the extraordinary scientific effort, heavily supported by public funding, that brought a number of vaccines into being in the shortest time in history and the positive impact they are having here at home.

“However, in many parts of the world it may be years before populations are vaccinated. The unwillingness to waive patents, as a temporary measure, is costing lives and livelihoods, and will ensure that this pandemic lasts far longer and causes far more human suffering and economic damage than it already has. This is a human rights issue and a completely unacceptable situation given that we have the knowledge required to protect millions of people.

“The western world is now moving to booster campaigns for the vaccinated, yet billions of vulnerable people are yet to receive a first dose. Western countries are once again hoarding vaccines at the expense of poorer countries. But this does not have to be a discussion on who the vaccines being produced are given to. Rather, waiving patents would dramatically boost global production and supply of lifesaving vaccines, treatments, tests and other health tools - for everyone, everywhere.

“We are calling on the Government today to support the TRIPS waiver at ongoing World Trade Organisation negotiations, and to effectively and efficiently redistribute the huge quantity of surplus vaccines with have access to over the coming months.

Also commenting on launch of the statement was Professor Clíona Ní Cheallaigh, Consultant in Infectious Diseases at St James’s Hospital and Associate Professor at TCD who said: “Our experience with HIV clearly demonstrated that we cannot ignore disease prevention and control in the Global South without it impacting on disease control and prevention in the Global North.

“We urgently need to share the know-how, reagents and technology needed for production of COVID vaccines with many companies in the Global South who are ready and willing to produce vaccines. Until we do this, we will continue to face new variants and we, as well as those living in the Global South, will be facing the consequences of protecting the financial returns of vaccine companies at the expense of human lives for years to come.”

Please see the following for the full public statement and full list of medical and scientific expert signatories

 

COP26 Deserves A Guarded Welcome

13th November 2021.

As COP26 reached a deal in Glasgow, Oxfam Ireland has given a guarded welcome to an agreement that does not go far enough to avert the risks and injustices of climate change.

According to the charity, while there has been incremental progress in several policy areas, this compromise agreement does not contain the urgent measures required for the planetary and humanitarian emergency we face.

The charity is calling on all nation states to turn the focus of action to national levels, in order to hold to global heating to 1.5 degree Celsius.

Focus must also turn to real measures of international solidarity in order to redress the global injustices of climate change.

Commenting on the deal agreed in Glasgow, Simon Murtagh, Senior Policy and Research Coordinator for Oxfam Ireland said: “At every level, COP26 did not deliver the goals we sought urgent action on.

“The process couldn’t deliver for small island states facing immediate destruction. Nor could it deliver for two million Kenyans currently left destitute by the effects of climate change, nor for millions more in Yemen, Madagascar or central America, who face hunger and destitution caused by climate change.

“At COP26, developing countries and small island states strongly made their voices heard, demanding justice and accountability in historic terms.

“Their words and actions did make a difference and improved the outcome of the conference on a number of levels, politically as well as technically.

“The results were a better wording to restrict global warming to 1.5C, a fairer balance of mitigation and adaptation policies, vital to the developing world, but a failure to move forward on the crucial issue of Loss and Damage.”

Jim Clarken, CEO of Oxfam Ireland added: “It is possible to see green shoots of progress in the agreement from COP26.

“The agreement to double the level of climate finance allocated to adaptation measures, vital to the developing world, represents real progress, as does the mention of fossil fuels and coal as the drivers of global warming that must be phased out.

“We understand that the improved measures in climate finance were supported by Ireland and by the EU.

“It is now left to us, and to all nations at COP26, to return home and drive emissions down through policies agreed by all social partners, government and citizens.

“For our part in Ireland, we must reach the 7% average reduction per year in Green House Gases (GHGs), set out in the Programme for Government, sooner rather than later.

“We owe it to our children, and to the people of the world facing the deadly effects of climate change right now, to make an urgent, just transition.

“In all our ways of living and working, we must act now to create a fairer, more sustainable world following COP26.” 

ENDS

Contact: Darragh McGirr, Alice PR & Events, media@alicepr.com, 086-2599369

3 reasons why we need to take action for climate justice

Companies continue to pollute. Politicians keep talking, doubting and procrastinating. But the climate does not wait. The climate crisis rages on tirelessly. The time for talk is over: it's high time for climate action! 3 reasons why we (must) take action now for a fair approach to the climate crisis.

1. The effects of climate change are already being felt, especially for the most vulnerable

The climate is changing rapidly. And it is becoming increasingly clear that we humans are the cause of this. Because we have started to emit more and more greenhouse gases, the heat from the sun is retained. As a result, floods, storms and droughts increase in intensity. 


We are feeling the dangers of the climate crisis worldwide. In vulnerable countries in Asia, Africa and South America, people have been experiencing the devastating effects of climate change for years. Harvests fail due to extreme drought, while forest fires or large floods drive people out of their homes. Millions of people are threatened in their very existence, even though they have contributed the least to the climate crisis. They don't have the money to protect themselves against extreme weather and crop failures. Climate change thus perpetuates poverty and inequality.

'Sometimes our cattle die from lack of rain'


Major droughts, alternating with periods of extreme rainfall, ravage the Zimbabwean countryside. Crops fail, for farmers like Sarah (55) it is becoming increasingly difficult to live off the land. “The weather pattern has changed in the last 25 years. That affects our harvest, because if the rain doesn't come as expected, our crops grow poorly. What we eat at home comes from the land. So if the rain doesn't come, it will have a big impact on our lives. Sometimes our cattle even die for lack of rain.'

2. Those responsible are doing far too little to tackle the climate crisis fairly

The good news: people worldwide are doing their best to do their part in the fight against climate change. But while many of us consciously separate waste, fly less and opt for a day without meat, politicians do not dare to make real choices. Polluting companies continue to put profit before people. Financial institutions continue to invest in the fossil fuel industry . And the promised support from rich countries to poorer countries to arm themselves against the consequences of climate change is seriously lacking .

Meanwhile, people in the most vulnerable countries are already paying the price. That is unjust. The lives of millions of people, and the future of all of us, are at stake.

"It's time we saw the money. It's time, it's time, it's time.'


24 years old, and watching victims of a devastating storm being evacuated by the police. Vanessa Nakate lived through it. The speech that the Ugandan climate activist gave during an international youth climate meeting in September was emotional and impressive . She emphasized the major impact of the climate crisis on Africa, which "ironically has the lowest CO2 emissions of any continent except Antarctica."


“We have been promised money for 2020, and we are still waiting. No more empty conferences. It's time to show us the money. It's time, it's time, it's time.'

3. COP26: Now is the time for world leaders to act


High time for politicians and big polluters to take an example from courageous people like Vanessa and Sarah. World leaders meeting in Glasgow now for COP26, this is perfect time to turn empty promises and empty words into powerful climate action. Show courage now and tackle the climate crisis honestly: that is climate justice!


As far as we're concerned, an honest approach looks like this:

  • Give vulnerable countries the promised financial support to arm themselves against climate change; 
  • Raise the climate ambitions to ensure that the earth does not warm by more than 1.5 degrees , so that we can bear the consequences together; 
  • Limit the CO2 emissions of companies and accelerate the transition to sustainable energy.

Finding climate solutions to farming in dry times

Inoussa Sawodogo checks his fruit trees for insects on his farm in central Burkina Faso, an area affected by dry weather due to climate change. Samuel Turpin/Oxfam


In Burkina Faso, a farmer turns to compost and fruit trees to diversify his crops and earn better income as rainfall becomes more and more scarce.

Inoussa Sawodogo spreads compost in his field in Burkina Faso. He produces his own organic fertilizer to make the soil more productive, but lack of rain (one of the effects of climate change in the Sahel region) makes it hard to grow enough cereal crops in this arid region.

“My harvests are growing ever poorer,” he says, adding that reduced yield from cereal crops is “not enough to feed my family for the whole year. I have to buy more food to make up the shortfall.”

He’s found a solution thanks to a project in the area carried out by two organizations fighting climate change with Oxfam, the Alliance Technique d'Assistance au Développement (“Technical Alliance for Development Assistance” or ATAD) and the Association pour la Gestion de l'Environnement et le Développement (“Association for Environmental Management and Development,” AGED).

Faced with poor yields from his grain crops, Inoussa Sawodogo added fruit trees to his farm and is now making enough money to support his family. Samuel Turpin/Oxfam


Their work is helping farmers like Sawodogo, 35, to diversify his crops and earn more money. They teach farmers climate change adaptation: They produce their own compost, and build stone walls to capture moisture around crops and reduce erosion. ATAD and AGED also help improve wells and install pumps in this area of central Burkina Faso that is affected by global warming, about 100 kilometers (60 miles) northeast of the capital Ouagadougou. It’s an area where farmers are working to survive an unforgiving environment and climate change.

Fruits of his labor

Facing more and more difficult cereal harvests, Sawodogo began also growing fruit trees. He planted a tree nursery and fertilizes the seedlings with his own compost, and works on building a fence around his fruit trees to prevent animals from wandering in and eating the fruit. He is also concerned about pests infesting his trees.

But the addition of fruit trees is paying off. “Today the income I make allows me to meet all of the family's expenses, such as healthcare and paying for my four children to go to school,” he says proudly.

Inoussa Sawodogo builds a fence around his field to protect his crops. “Today my main problem is water, and the animals that come to eat and step on my crops,” he says. Samuel Turpin/Oxfam


Climate change is making it more and more difficult for farmers like Sawodogo to grow enough food. And when a pandemic hits, movement restrictions and other economic effects are also hitting the poorest farmers hard, increasing economic inequality.

Oxfam and our partners are finding innovative ways to help farmers in arid areas adapt to climate change by improving access to water, and maximize it with erosion control measures that also capture more moisture in their fields. It’s all part of our work to help those most vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change, but who are least responsible for the greenhouse gas emissions causing it, to adapt and find long-term solutions to climate change and poverty.

Adapting to dry conditions is hard work, but Sawodogo is ready. “Everything you see here is the result of my own work,” he says. “I did everything myself, with the help of my family.”

Carbon emissions of globe’s richest 1% set to be 30 times the 1.5°C limit in 2030

The carbon footprints of the world’s richest 1 percent are set to be 30 times greater than the level compatible with the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement in 2030, according to new research out today. It comes as delegates grapple with how to keep this goal alive at the COP26 meeting in Glasgow.

In 2015, governments agreed to the goal of limiting global heating to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, but current pledges to reduce emissions fall far short of what is needed. To stay within this limit, every person on the planet would need to emit an average of just 2.3 tonnes of CO2 per year by 2030 – this would be a reduction of roughly half the average footprint of every person on Earth today.

Today’s study, commissioned by Oxfam based on research carried out by the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) and the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), estimates how governments’ pledges will affect the carbon footprints of richer and poorer people around the world. It treats the global population and income groups as if they were a single country and finds that globally by 2030:

  • The poorest half of the global population will still emit far below the 1.5°C-aligned level in 2030.
  • The richest 1 percent and 10 percent of people are set to exceed this level by 30 times and 9 times, respectively.
  • Someone in the richest 1 percent – leading emitters, would need to reduce their emissions by around 97 percent compared with today to reach this level.

While research on carbon inequality in Ireland undertaken by Oxfam Ireland last year revealed that:

  • The average carbon footprint of the Irish population is currently nearly 4 times where it needs to be in 2030 to be 1.5°C-aligned
  • The top 1 percent and 10 per cent of the Irish population is currently almost 30 times and 10 times where it needs to be in 2030, respectively
  • The bottom 50 percent of the Irish population emits nearly half the carbons emissions of the average person in Ireland

This data related to Ireland need to be considered, as Ireland updates its plans to address climate change and seeks to fulfil its commitments to the Paris Agreement. Those most vulnerable to climate breakdown are the very same people that have contributed least to causing the problem. To achieve climate justice, those most responsible for causing climate change, both in Ireland and around the world, have the most responsibility for addressing this issue. To do this, Ireland must put tackling addressing carbon inequality at the heart of its climate action plans.

Speaking from COP26 in Glasgow, Simon Murtagh, Oxfam Ireland’s Senior Climate Policy Lead, said: “The emissions from a single billionaire flight would exceed the lifetime emissions of someone in the poorest billion people on Earth. A tiny elite appear to have a free pass to pollute. Their over-sized emissions are fuelling extreme weather around the world and jeopardising the international goal of limiting global heating. The emissions of the wealthiest 10 percent of the world alone could send us beyond the agreed limit in the next nine years, creating deadly storms, hunger and destitution.”

Oxfam said world leaders should focus on targeting deeper emissions cuts by 2030, in line with their fair share, and ensure that the richest people worldwide and within countries make the most radical cuts. The richest citizens have the potential to speed up this process dramatically, both by leading greener lifestyles, but also by directing their political influence and investments towards a low-carbon economy.

Specific recommendations for the Irish Government include:

  • Ensuring that all climate actions are equality proofed and that mechanisms are put in place to offset any negative impacts of climate action on low-income groups
  • Introducing focused policy measures targeting excessive and luxury emissions, for example progressive carbon pricing, targeted at luxury carbon goods and services (private jets, SUVs), to fund investment in energy efficiency measures in low-income households
  • Designing a new decent job guarantees for those sectors of the economy that will be most impacted by the transition to a post-carbon future.
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