Australia’s climate change targets a major blow for Pacific neighbours: Oxfam

Media Releases article written on the 11 Aug 2015

The Australian Government’s announcement of its weak contribution to the Paris climate change agreement is a major blow for the poorer countries in our region already having to cope with the effects of climate change.

Oxfam Australia’s Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke said the commitment to reduce Australia’s carbon pollution by a mere 26 – 28 per cent by 2030 below 2005 levels showed the government was still failing to recognise the economic opportunities for Australia in transitioning to a zero-carbon future, and most of all the devastating impact of climate change on hunger, poverty and inequality.

“With this provisional target the government has shown it is willing to accept a future of growing risks and hardship for the world’s poorest communities,” Dr Szoke said.

“This is a major blow for our Pacific neighbours, who are already paying a serious price for the failure of Australia and other rich nations to act faster, with saltwater inundation, shifting seasons and extreme weather destroying homes and livelihoods.

“Importantly, this must be understood as a provisional offer – there is still time for Australia to up its game and commit to a stronger target in Paris.”

Dr Szoke has recently returned from Vanuatu and Kiribati, where she witnessed the escalating impacts of climate change and viewed the determined efforts of communities in rising to the challenge.

As a leading international agency, Oxfam is seeing the world’s poorest people made even more vulnerable through the increasing risk of droughts, floods, hunger and disease due to climate change.

“2015 has delivered some forceful reminders of the consequences of climate inaction. In March, Cyclone Pam brought devastation to Vanuatu and other Pacific nations, leaving a trail of hunger and homelessness. In May and June, heat waves killed thousands in India and Pakistan,” she said.

“Developing countries are already putting in place ambitious climate action plans and setting about building the resilient, equitable, low-carbon economies of the future, while the Australian Government seems intent on making Australia a polluting backwater.”

Oxfam has said that the government should be committing to reducing Australia’s carbon pollution by at least 45 per cent below 2005 levels by 2025 and at least 65 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, with a plan to reach zero emissions as soon as possible and well before mid-century. As a wealthy developed country, Australia must also substantially increase support to poorer countries with adapting to climate change and implementing their own climate action plans. Progress on international climate finance remains critical ahead of Paris.

Countries must submit their ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contributions’ (INDCs) – an outline of their climate action plans and how far they propose to reduce their emissions – well ahead of the Paris climate conference, where governments will finalise a new global climate agreement.

Australia was the last developed country to submit its INDC. Several developing countries including China, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mexico and the Marshall Islands submitted well ahead of Australia.  Oxfam said that Australia’s INDC fell well short of a fair contribution towards the internationally agreed goal of keeping the global temperature rise below 2°C.

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