On the eve of the UN Climate Summit, Oxfam has released research showing that since global leaders last met in Copenhagen to discuss climate change five years ago, climate-related disasters have cost the world almost half a trillion dollars.
Oxfam Australia climate change policy advisor Simon Bradshaw said that given tens of thousands of Australians took to the streets over the weekend, Oxfam was disappointed the Prime Minister was not attending the summit in New York, and urged the Australian Government to start living up to its international responsibilities on climate change.
“While others forge ahead with ambitious plans, Australia is continuing down a path of irresponsibility and recklessness,” Dr Bradshaw said.
“Oxfam’s research shows that over the five years since the Copenhagen summit, more than 650 million people have been affected by climate-related disasters and more than 112,000 lives have been lost.
“Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s expected no-show at the landmark summit is yet another affront to our neighbours in the Pacific who, despite their limited resources, are working determinedly to confront the climate challenge.”
The 120 or so world leaders expected in New York – the largest group that has ever come together to discuss climate change – include the heads of most of Australia’s major trading partners and the leaders of almost all Pacific island countries.
“As an international development agency working in countries throughout the region, we know that even the poorest countries – those with the least responsibility for the climate crisis – are no longer waiting for rich countries like Australia to get their houses in order,” Dr Bradshaw said.
“From Timor Leste to Vanuatu, communities are working with whatever means they have. They are leapfrogging the dirty technologies of the past and drawing on their strengths to build the sustainable, resilient economies of the future.”
He said Australia must have an ambitious long-term plan to cut its own emissions, increase support to developing countries, and play a constructive role towards a strong global climate agreement.
“A decision by a rich country like Australia to roll back its climate policies and flout its international obligations is a decision to place an even greater burden onto poor communities in developing countries, who are already being hit first and hardest by climate change,” he said.
Oxfam also said that in pushing to expand its fossil fuel sector, Australia was not only increasing its contribution to dangerous climate change but risked being left behind in the global transition to renewable energy.
“For now, Australia appears willing to ignore pleas from the international community, remain wilfully ignorant to the situation of its Pacific neighbours, and work against its own long-term national interest,” Dr Bradshaw said. “Australians have sent the strongest possible signal this weekend that they expect better.”
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