Climate Change and our neighbours: risk and responsibility

Campaigns and Advocacy, Media Releases article written on the 04 Jul 2008

Australia faces geo-political and economic risk if it does not help its developing neighbour-countries to cope with climate change.
The stark analysis of the regional risk to Australia comes in today’s draft report from Professor Ross Garnaut, which says if the impact of climate change on the poorer countries in our region is not mitigated, “the problems of our neighbours would inevitably become our problems”.
“We live in a region of developing countries, which are in weaker positions to adapt to climate change than wealthy countries with robust political and economic institutions,” the report finds.
“The problems of our neighbours would inevitably become our problems.”
Make Poverty History Climate Change spokeswoman Charlotte Sterrett said Australia had both a responsibility as a regional leader and a clear self-interest in using a proportion of the revenue from an Emissions Trading Scheme to help developing countries cope with the ongoing impacts of climate change.
“Climate change threatens to undermine progress made in the global fight against poverty,” Ms Sterrett said.
Ms Sterrett said that within our region, people living in low-lying islands and river deltas were already experiencing the negative results of climate change, including rising seas and salt water inundation. This contributed to crop losses, destruction of fresh water sources and flooding.
“The nation of Tuvalu faces the prospect of disappearing completely, as do other low-lying islands in the Pacific, including those in Papua New Guinea, Kiribati and the Marshall Islands,” Ms Sterrett said.
Ms Sterrett said that as Professor Garnaut had pointed out, the increase in greenhouse gases, which cause climate change, was the result of activities in countries that are now rich.
“The Rudd Government’s response to the Garnaut draft report this Friday must tackle the injustice at the heart of climate change – that poor people in developing countries, who are the most affected, are least responsible for causing climate change,” Ms Sterrett said.
“As one of the major carbon emitters per capita in the world and an important neighbour in the Pacific region, Australia has a greater responsibility for addressing the problem.”
Ms Sterrett said as part of this, the Australian Government must pay its fair share of adaptation financing for developing countries – scaling up to an estimated $1.7 billion annually by 2015. She said Australia should also set a strong target to reduce its own emissions and encourage other developed countries to set similarly strict targets. Developed countries need to reduce their collective emissions by at least 25% – 40% of 1990 levels by the year 2020 to give the world a chance of avoiding dangerous climate change.
An analysis of the Garnaut draft report will be included in Make Poverty History’s report, See the Bigger Picture, to be launched later this month.
Make Poverty History in Australia is a coalition of more than 60 member organisations working together to tackle global poverty. Go to 

To interview Charlotte Sterrett please contact Laurelle Keough, on 03 9289 9336, 0409 960 100,