Rich countries must not raid aid to pay climate debt

Campaigns and Advocacy, Media Releases article written on the 16 Sep 2009

A new Oxfam report today warns that recent gains in the fight against poverty will be reversed if world leaders raid existing aid budgets to find the funds to help poor countries fight the growing impact of climate change.

The warning in the report, Beyond Aid: Ensuring Adaptation to Climate Change works for the

Poor, comes as Prime Minister Kevin Rudd prepares to join other world leaders at the UN Climate Summit in New York (22 September) and the G20 in Pittsburgh (24 September), where adaptation finance for climate change will be high on the agenda.

Oxfam Australia Executive Director Andrew Hewett said that unless Australia and other developed countries committed extra money to help people in poor countries adapt to climate change, more people would be plunged deeper into poverty and a much-needed global climate change agreement would be unreachable this December in Copenhagen.

“Aid must be increased, not diverted,” Mr Hewett said. “Taking the US $50 billion that Oxfam calculates is needed to help poor countries adapt to climate change from existing aid promises undermines efforts to reduce poverty. It could mean that by 2010, 8.6 million fewer people will have access to HIV and AIDS treatment, 75 million fewer children will be in school, and 4.5 million more children die than would have otherwise been the case.”

Investing in aid has led to progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – targets set by world governments to halve poverty by 2015. Between 1999 and 2005 there was a 24 per cent drop in the number of people living in extreme poverty, and between 1990 and 2007 the number of deaths in children under five plummeted by 3.6 million, despite population growth.

Mr Hewett said despite these gains, poor countries were struggling to meet the MDGs, and many goals still fell short of the mark. Diverting aid money for climate change adaptation would strain an already overstretched system.

“People in poor countries are least responsible for causing climate change but are bearing the brunt of its impacts, from more frequent storms and cyclones to increased drought,” Mr Hewett said. “The climate change agreement to be negotiated by governments this December must include an early commitment to a Global Fund of at least US $50 billion a year for adaptation, on top of existing aid commitments.”

As a high per capita polluter and a country grown wealthy from burning fossil fuels, Australia’s fair share of this fund is calculated at $1.74 billion (US $1.5 billion). Globally, Oxfam calculates the amount of money needed for adaptation and emissions reductions in developing countries is US $150 billion.

Mr Hewett said investing in adaptation made business sense for countries such as Australia, as the report calculated that under ‘business as usual’ emissions over the next two centuries, every dollar spent on adaptation could save about $60 in avoided losses.

“World leaders must show they are not content to stand by and watch recent successes in combating poverty, such as children attending school, mothers surviving childbirth and the sick receiving life-saving drugs, reversed,” he said.

Read the full report here

For more information, please contact Laurelle Keough on 0409 960 100.