There is still time for Australia to influence global climate negotiations

Campaigns and Advocacy, Media Releases article written on the 02 Nov 2009

Australia must distance itself and refuse to be a part of attempts by the US, Japan, Canada and the EU to drive down ambition in international climate negotiations in Barcelona this week or risk helping to undermine a global climate agreement, Oxfam Australia said today.

The UN climate change negotiations, from Monday 2 November – Friday 6 November, is the final round of negotiations before the deadline Copenhagen meeting.

Oxfam Australia climate change spokeswoman Kelly Dent said the last negotiations in Bangkok ended with a deepening of the rift between rich and poor countries, as countries including Australia had not put serious money on the table to help poor countries adapt to the escalating impacts of climate change and reduce emissions.  The rift threatens the chance of securing a global climate agreement.

Australia and the US, with backing from Japan, Canada and Europe, also outraged developing countries by pushing for a new climate agreement that would go back on commitments made two years ago in the Bali Action Plan which commit industralised countries to take the lead in cutting emissions.

“There is still time to secure a fair, safe and binding global climate agreement, but what the Australian negotiators need is a clear signal from the Prime Minister or Senator Penny Wong that they are willing to contribute finance for poor countries to adapt to climate change and develop on a low carbon pathway,” Ms Dent said.

She said Australia needed to ensure that any deal in Copenhagen upheld the principles of the Bali Action Plan and Kyoto Protocol – that rich countries, responsible for most of the carbon in the atmosphere, would continue to take the lead on climate action and affirm that their commitments needed to be greater than those of developing countries.

“As a high per capita emitter, Australia should not be allowed to get away with transferring climate actions to developing countries which have been least responsible for causing climate change and are already suffering the worst impacts,” Ms Dent said.

She said China, India, and other emerging economies had made it clear since Bali that they were willing to do their share if rich countries stepped up to their own responsibilities.  What they and everyone else were waiting for was commitments from high-income countries that matched the scale of need.

“What we need to see in Barcelona is Australia pulling its weight, using its often cited middle-power diplomacy role to show real leadership which can move the negotiations forward,” Ms Dent said.

“We also need to see Kevin Rudd commit to attending Copenhagen with other world leaders to inject the necessary political momentum into the negotiations.  UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown has already pledged his attendance.”

Oxfam calculates that globally, at least $164 billion (US $150 billion) is needed to help developing countries adapt to the escalating impacts of climate change and reduce emissions.  Australia’s fair share is $3.8 billion (US $3.5 billion).

She said this money must be on top of existing aid commitments otherwise the fight against poverty would be reversed.

“Financing must be new and additional,” she said. “If climate finance comes out of existing aid budgets, rich countries are simply telling the world’s poorest countries to choose between building flood defenses and building schools.”

Ms Dent said the third typhoon to hit The Philippines in weeks highlighted the heightened vulnerability of people in developing countries to climate impacts.

She said the EU’s suggestion on Friday that global public financing worth 22 – 50 billion Euros per year was needed for developing countries to tackle climate change fell short of what was needed.

“The continued resistance by industrialised countries to set adequate emissions reduction targets and a significant figure on climate finance is eroding trust in the process.  Rich countries need to recognise their responsibilities and act now.”

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1.  Poor countries need help to build up their resilience by, for example, upgrading national flood early-warning systems, planting mangrove ‘bio-shields’ along coasts to diffuse storm waves and growing drought-tolerant crops. If countries fail to adapt to the new reality of climate change, they will suffer far greater damage from floods, droughts and hurricanes, and at much higher cost, both in human and financial terms.

2.  Oxfam estimates that at least 75 million fewer children are likely to attend school and 8.6 million fewer people could have access to HIV/AIDS treatment if money that would otherwise have been spent on health and education is diverted to tackle climate change.