Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said travel operators should “err on the side of fairness and generosity” for compensating passengers whose holidays are affected by wildfires in Greece.
He said the outbreak of wildfires in Greece is a “really serious situation”, after Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan said unprecedented heat this summer had been “truly scary”.
When Tánaiste Micheál Martin was asked whether the evacuations of buildings in areas affected by the wildfires made changing people’s behaviours to become more sustainable easier, he said “the era of denial is gone, more or less”.
Climate experts have warned that extreme temperatures and weather events in the Mediterranean are more likely in the coming years due to greenhouse gases emitted by human activity heating the Earth’s atmosphere.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Mr Varadkar echoed comments by Mr Martin on offering refunds to customers who no longer wish to travel to Greek regions affected by wildfires.
Mr Varadkar said: “I really think it is important that travel operators put safety first, they’re going to have to make a decision based on the different circumstances in the different resorts, in the different islands, but I really think that they have to put the safety of their customers and holidaymakers first.”
The Taoiseach said there may be a sense that people were evacuated unduly or unnecessarily because of early intervention by authorities, but said that measure prevented deaths and injuries.
“I really think you have to put safety first in these scenarios,” he said.
Earlier on Tuesday, Mr Martin said that the vast majority of the Irish public believed that the world’s climate was changing and Ireland needed to focus more on adapting to withstand extreme weather events.
Speaking to reporters ahead of a Cabinet meeting, Mr Martin said the Government had put a legislative framework in place within the last two-and-a-half years that “will result in progress” on climate issues.
He said the economy and rising population presented challenges to achieving further emission reductions.
Responding to record-high temperatures in Europe and wildfires in Greece, Mr Martin said he believes there has been “an appreciable shift in public opinion” on climate change.
“I mean, the era of denial is gone, more or less, bar the fundamentalists who still don’t believe in the fact and the reality of climate change.
“But the vast, vast majority of people accept that the climate is changing.”
Mr Martin said that there was a need for a greater focus on “adaptation” to climate change, as warnings were issued in recent weeks that Ireland would experience more storms, heavier rainfall and higher temperatures.
“We will have potentially increased flooding, so people need to realise that in terms of the flooding schemes that have been designed by the OPW, you know, a lot of people have been objecting to various aspects of those, but those are critical in terms of our capacity to adapt to the climate change that is occurring in Ireland.”
He added there was also a need to adapt transport and food production systems in the face of a changing climate.
Responding to the warnings from an independent climate advisory group that Ireland will not meet carbon targets for 2025 or 2030, Mr Martin said that a 30 per cent reduction by 2030 should not be “dismissed”.
Mr Martin said that some progress had been made, but it needed to happen faster.
The Fianna Fáil leader said a change of US presidency “has made a difference” in global aims to decrease emissions, and said that policies had been put in place that will lead to reductions in the future.
“The (Climate Change Advisory Council) report does acknowledge progress, albeit not enough,” he said.
“In other words, on current trajectories, we get 30 per cent reduction by 2030, which is not to be dismissed because that is progress and significant progress, more than anything we’ve achieved in the previous two decades.
“But we need to do more and we need to do much faster.”
Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan told reporters “We have to do more, we have to be more ambitious” in delivering low-carbon solutions.
“We do need to think bigger and to act faster because what’s happening in the world now demands real action.
“It’s not just in Europe, it’s the fact that in Europe, America, China at the same time, you have three heat domes, the fact that in the Antarctic, the formation of sea ice has gone down way below anything previously seen, as well as temperatures in the North Atlantic being ahead of anything previously seen.
“This summer it is truly scary because our weather systems have gone into patterns that we’ve never seen in recorded history.
“And that’s why, absolutely, we need to think bigger, act faster, do more.”
Gráinne Ní Aodha and Cillian Sherlock, PA
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