Rich countries such as Australia must dramatically increase funds spent on assisting poor countries to cope with the worst effects of climate change such as environmental and human disasters, warns a new report published today by Oxfam.
‘Rich countries such as Australia need to provide a significant contribution to enable poor people in developing countries to adapt to protect against the impacts of climate change,’ said Executive Director of Oxfam Australia, Andrew Hewett.
‘Adapting to Climate Change,’ says that at least $60 billion a year is needed to enable developing countries to adapt to the harmful effects of climate change. Oxfam’s report warns however that this figure will rise sharply and cost the world economy dramatically more if carbon emissions are not cut drastically and rapidly to keep global warming below two degrees Celsius. The aid and development agency, an advocate for the world’s poor, also insists that a global adaptation fund must constitute new funds and not be siphoned off existing aid commitments.
The report features Oxfam’s new Adaptation Financing Index, which estimates the share that each country should contribute towards financing developing country adaptation to climate change. It ranks countries based on their responsibility for carbon emissions from 1992, the year nearly all of the world’s nations committed to tackle climate change, up to 2003 as well as their capability to pay based on their ranking in the UN’s Human Development Index. It found USA needs to meet 44% of developing countries adaptation costs, Japan, nearly 13%, Germany, more than 7%, UK, more than 5%, Italy, France and Canada, 4-5% each and Australia, 3% or a minimum of $1,800 million a year.
The Australian Government has so far spent approximately $280 million over the last decade on climate change related activities through its overseas aid program. Recently it committed $200 million for programs to reduce forest destruction in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. Oxfam’s Andrew Hewett acknowledges this is a step in the right direction but wants Australia to do a lot more to help poor countries tackle climate change.
‘This is not about aid. It is about the world’s richest nations and biggest polluters covering the costs endured by those poor countries that are most vulnerable to the worst effects of climate change. This is an entirely new and separate responsibility.’
According to Mr Hewett, Oxfam staff working in less developed countries are eye witnesses to the harmful impacts climate change is already having on the world’s poor. ‘In the South Pacific incidence of storms has increased and king tides are deluging low-lying islands. In Bangladesh, millions of poor people live on shifting silt banks and risk losing their homes and livelihoods as a result of melting waters in the Himalayas and rising sea levels,’ he warned.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says increased flooding is forecast in Asia, especially in the delta regions that are home to one billion people. Africa will be hardest hit by global warming. Food production is predicted to drop and up to 250 million people could experience water shortages by 2020.
And last week in Australia a CSIRO scientist warned global carbon emissions were growing faster than anticipated, singling out Australia as one of the worst offenders and adding that emissions per person in Australia were increasing at more than double the US rate.
Adaptation costs are difficult to estimate because the scale of inevitable harm is still uncertain and will depend on how fast greenhouse gas emissions are cut. But Oxfam’s report says this is no excuse for rich countries having pledged ‘a fraction of a fraction’ to date, just $222m for all developing countries.
‘Rich countries are making huge investments at home to adapt to climate change. They know the scale of the problem but they’re stalling when it comes to providing funds for poorer countries to do the same. It’s time justice was done and rich countries took responsibility for the damage their actions had or will have on poor countries as a direct effect of climate change,’ Mr Hewett added.
Download the report here (PDF 494 KB).
To arrange an interview with Andrew Hewett call Ian Woolverton 0409 181 454