ETS failure no excuse for inaction on Copenhagen

Campaigns and Advocacy, Media Releases article written on the 07 Dec 2009

The Australian Government must not use the failure of the Emissions Trading Scheme legislation as an excuse for inaction at the UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen, intinernational aid agency Oxfam Australia said today.

Oxfam Australia climate change spokeswoman Kelly Dent said Australia should show the world it is serious about contributing to a global agreement by raising its un-ambitious five per cent target.

“The Government must not use the recent rejection of the ETS legislation as a reason for not committing to meaningful action on climate change in Copenhagen,” Ms Dent said.

“The ETS is only one of several mechanisms that would contribute towards reducing Australia’s emissions, others being greater energy efficiency measures and a boost in renewable energy investment.”

She said the Australian Government should raise the chance of a successful outcome from the next two weeks by also announcing how much finance it would put on the table to help developing countries adapt to the escalating impacts of climate change and reduce emissions.  The lack of commitment from rich countries on finance is seen as a deal-breaker in these negotiations.

Ms Dent said Australia and other rich countries could set off a chain reaction that would lead to a global climate agreement if together they put forward at least US $200bn per year in new public funds.

“Providing climate finance is not about charity,” Ms Dent said.  “It’s about the responsibility of rich countries, who have directly contributed to the climate crisis, to support poor people in developing countries, who are least to blame but are already suffering from its effects.  It is also about rich countries living up to what they have already promised to do.”

She said US $200 billion a year was less than the annual subsidies provided as agricultural support by rich countries to their industries (US$250 billion a year) and made financial sense compared to the costs of inaction on climate change.  The International Energy Agency recently estimated an extra US$500 billion would be needed for each year significant action on cutting emissions was delayed.

Big developing countries such as China have signaled that they are willing to increase – and formalise –already significant pledges to reduce emissions if rich countries provide the necessary support.

Oxfam warned that recent announcements on short-term emergency funds – called ‘fast start funds’ – for the world’s most vulnerable countries were no substitute for ongoing, predictable financial support.  The recent meeting of Commonwealth Heads of State agreed that US$10bn a year is needed in fast-start funding between 2010 and 2012.

Ms Dent said all climate finance must be additional to current aid commitments, otherwise recent gains in the fight against poverty would be reversed, as aid money would have to be diverted from building schools and hospitals to building flood defenses or testing drought-tolerant crop varieties.

“Rich countries are mistaken if they think that less than a third of the emissions cuts demanded by the science and US$10bn in re-packaged aid promises can be spun as a success in two weeks’ time,” she said.

“It underestimates the real needs of billions of poor people who are already suffering and overestimates the patience of poor countries who have clearly signaled their preference for no deal over a green wash.”


Oxfam, a development and humanitarian organisation that works with local partners in over 100 countries around the world, is campaigning for a strong and fair deal that will avert catastrophic and irreversible climate change and help the world’s poorest cope with the changes that are already locked into the system.

Oxfam is calling for a deal in Copenhagen that guarantees action in two key areas:

  • Binding emissions reduction targets for rich countries – at least 40 per cent cut in domestic emissions by 2020 relative to 1990 levels;
  • A global fund worth US $150 billion from 2013, rising to US $200 billion or more by 2020.  As a high per capita emitter, Australia’s fair share is US $3.5 billion, rising to US $4.6 billion.

In Copenhagen: (10 hours behind Sydney)

Contact the Oxfam media team at or:

Laura Rusu +1 202 459 3739 / +447540702656

Anna Mitchell +44 7796 993 288 / +447545719593

In Australia:

Laurelle Keough +61 409 960 100