Government should upgrade climate change position after CPRS failure

Campaigns and Advocacy, Media Releases article written on the 13 Aug 2009

Government should upgrade climate change position after CPRS failure: NGO coalition

The Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has been urged to upgrade Australia’s climate change policy, and take an emissions reduction target of 40% below 1990 levels by 2020 to negotiations in Copenhagen in December.
Leading Australian aid agencies World Vision, Oxfam and Caritas made the call after the CPRS legislation was voted down this morning.

“We must now take a more ambitious approach to the negotiations at Copenhagen in December, beyond the 4 – 24% emissions cuts below 1990 levels by 2020 that Australia has currently committed to,” said Jack de Groot, Chief Executive of Caritas Australia. “Australia must take a stronger leadership role into the global talks, offering practical solutions for developing nations including financial support for emissions reductions in developing countries and adaptation financing.”

“Just last week in Cairns the leaders of Small Island States reiterated their call for developed country emissions to average reductions of 45% below 1990 levels by 2020. For Australia this debate has been about economics and politics – but for our neighbours it’s literally a matter of life and death,” said Tim Costello, Chief Executive of World Vision Australia.

The agencies emphasised that an agreement at Copenhagen that protects the world’s poor is also in Australia’s national interest, and could be achieved without sacrificing Australia’s economic security.

“Australia needs to weigh up the cost of stronger targets against the huge financial costs of assisting in a future torrent of humanitarian crises,” said James Ensor, Acting Executive Director of Oxfam Australia.

“Recent research by Oxfam has predicted the number of people affected by climatic crises will increase by 54 % over the next six years, costing the world US $42 billion in humanitarian aid a year.”

The Australian Government’s own modelling has shown that a 24% target would shave only around 0.1 percentage points off Australia’s annual real per capita GNP growth.

“But this doesn’t take into account the benefits of avoiding the severe economic impacts of dangerous climate change. We can afford a more ambitious target – it’s an investment in our future,” said Mr de Groot.
If the rest of the world set their ambitions at a similar level to Australia’s current range of targets, severe climate change impacts would be unavoidable.

“A one-metre sea level rise would displace up to 150 million people, which is entirely possible this century,” said Mr Ensor.
“We could see up to 600 million people in Africa and more than a billion in Asia short of water by the 2050s. There will be serious impacts on the Australian and global economies as food and water shortages, heatwaves and losses of coastal land lead to mass migrations, social dislocation and conflict.”

“The science points to catastrophic changes in the climate,” said Mr de Groot. “Our daily experiences on the ground, in the least developed countries, are confirming this.”

The group also called on the government to get serious about providing funding to help developing countries adapt to the effects of climate change.

“In June, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown outlined a plan for a A$150 billion adaptation fund by 2020. The proposal rightly recognises the need for adaptation funding to be accessible and separate from overseas development assistance,” said Mr Costello.

“Adequate financing of adaptation measures for poor countries, will be a key component to negotiating a successful agreement in Copenhagen. Yet so far Australia remains silent on this issue.

“The only people who know what adaptation funding they will receive are Australia’s biggest polluters.”
To achieve global adaption funding of A$180 billion per annum, Australia’s fair contribution would be at least A$4.3 billion by 2020.


Editor note: Australia’s targets use a 2000 base year. The UNFCCC, IPCC and most other countries use 1990. This causes some confusion. Australia’s targets of “5, 15 and 25%” below 2000 levels by 2020 are in fact only 4, 14, and 24% below 1990 levels.
Media contacts
Jack de Groot, James Ensor and Tim Costello are all available for interview.
Caritas: Tim O’Connor – 0417 284 831
Oxfam: Kate Thwaites – 0407 515 559
World Vision: Dominic McInerney – 0428 584 809