More money needed to help Pacific cope with climate change

Campaigns and Advocacy, Media Releases article written on the 29 Aug 2008

Aid agency Oxfam Australia welcomed the Rudd Government’s announcement of $14.8 million to help vulnerable Pacific countries adapt to the effects of climate change, but warned that the government’s contribution would need to increase to at least $300 million annually to tackle the rapidly escalating problem around the world.
The funds, announced today by Minister for Climate Change and Water Senator Penny Wong, are drawn from the government’s $150 million commitment over three years (announced in the 2008/9 Budget) to meet priority climate adaptation needs in vulnerable countries, with an emphasis on those in the Pacific region.
“Oxfam believes that the focus on adaptation – helping people adapt to the impacts of climate change – is the number one priority for the Pacific,” Oxfam Australia executive director Andrew Hewett said.
“The need is urgent. Within the Pacific region, people living in low-lying islands and river deltas are already experiencing the negative results of climate change, including rising seas and salt water inundation.
“This contributes to crop losses, destruction of fresh water sources and flooding. The nation of Kiribati faces the prospect of disappearing completely, as do other low-lying islands in the Pacific, including Tuvalu, the Marshall Islands and the coast regions of Papua New Guinea.”
He said the government was taking the right steps, such as signing the Kyoto Protocol and committing funds to tackle climate change in developing countries, but the amounts committed were going to be much greater in future to comprehensively address the needs of poor countries.
“It is the poor who are most at risk, and will suffer most from climate change. Poor people are already bearing the brunt of the impacts of climate change in our region through more frequent droughts, floods and severe weather events,” Mr Hewett said.
“The injustice at the heart of climate change is that poor people in developing countries are the least responsible for causing climate change, however are the most affected.”
As a leading agency working with communities around the world to end poverty and social injustice, Oxfam is already seeing the impacts of climate change on poor and vulnerable people in the developing world, including in the Pacific.
“Climate change is borderless, it is happening, and everyone is affected,” Mr Hewett said.
“Australia has the responsibility to act and the capacity to do so. Australia, as one of the biggest carbon emitters per person in the world and an important neighbour in the Pacific region, has a greater responsibility for addressing the problem.”
Oxfam has been working in the Pacific region since the 1960s, particularly in Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Fiji. Oxfam’s work focuses on conflict reduction and peace building; livelihoods – particularly the impacts of mining, forestry and trade; disaster management, and sexual health and HIV.
Oxfam has offices in Papua New Guinea (Port Moresby and Goroka), Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.
For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact Laurelle Keough at Oxfam on 0409 960 100,