Australia missed opportunity to move UN climate talks forward: Oxfam

Campaigns and Advocacy, Media Releases article written on the 13 Dec 2008

Poznan, Poland: Developed countries including Australia have not stepped up to do their fair share to fight climate change, international aid agency Oxfam said today at the wrap-up of UN climate negotiations.
Oxfam Australia Executive Director Andrew Hewett said that while Oxfam welcomed the last-minute decision to allow developing countries direct access to funds to help them cope with climate change, developed countries still had not put enough money in the coffers.
The Adaptation Fund was established under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to support adaptation programs in developing countries. The aim is to protect vulnerable communities from the impacts of climate change and support them to adapt.
Mr Hewett said a deal was on the table right until the end of the two-week conference, but had been blocked by Australia, the EU, Canada and Russia until the last hours of the negotiations.
“The elephant in the room is still where the money for adaptation is going to come from,” Mr Hewett said. “We urgently needed a decision on increased future funding for adaptation, but we didn’t get there.”
He said developed countries had been unwilling to engage in constructive discussions with developing countries to move further towards a global deal in Copenhagen next December.
“It’s disappointing that Australia is one of the developed countries to have missed the opportunity to move the negotiations forward,” Mr Hewett said.
Bangladesh – with a negligible carbon footprint – is just one of the poor countries that went to Poznan with a detailed action plan to address the impacts of climate change already happening, such as water-logging of agricultural land, increased salination and increased and more severe flooding.
“Here in Poznan, the negotiators have failed to open their cheque books to make good with past promises and provide the funds urgently needed for countries like Bangladesh to address these devastating impacts,” Mr Hewett said.
“The lack of progress in Poznan merits outrage – most of all from the millions of poor people already experiencing the devastating impacts of climate change, from rising sea levels swamping their homes, worsening droughts killing their crops or malaria destroying their health. They cannot afford delay,” he said.
“This inaction is at odds with the urgency of the crisis and the ambition voiced at Bali. Instead of motoring along the Bali Road Map, political leaders have been asleep at the wheel. They must wake up and take action immediately, as they have left themselves with a huge amount to do to secure a global deal at Copenhagen next year.”
Oxfam says that a deal in Copenhagen next December is not only possible but more urgent and necessary than ever.
“In the coming year, developed countries must stop floundering and demonstrate commitment and leadership at the highest levels,” Mr Hewett said. “Australia must step up a gear to ensure we play a proactive role at the negotiations.”
At least US $50 billion a year is needed to help poor people face the impacts of a changing climate according to Oxfam’s estimates, and far more if emissions are not cut fast and far enough.
“It is irresponsible that wealthy countries should use the financial crisis as an excuse,” Mr Hewett said. “The amounts of funding required are a tiny fraction of the finance bail-outs.”
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