Australia must not ignore responsibility to poorest neighbours at Paris climate talks

Media Releases article written on the 30 Nov 2015

Australia can broker a deal that will protect vulnerable countries, not hurt them, as world leaders gather in Paris for the UN climate change conference.

Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke -who will be in Paris for the second week of the conference- said Australia was surrounded by developing nations, many suffering the worst impacts of climate change, yet Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull would go to Paris with one of the weakest emissions targets of all developed countries and no new funding commitments to poorer nations.

“As the conference begins, Mr Turnbull must show a commitment that reflects the enormity of the challenges posed by climate change in our region,” Dr Szoke said.

“Australia is surrounded by countries that are literally drowning from the impacts of climate change. They have contributed the least to climate change but are suffering the most from its impacts, from shifting seasons making it harder for people to grow food, to more intense cyclones.”

Unlike other developed countries, such as Canada, which has made significant new commitments in climate finance, Australia has made no new contribution towards helping poor countries adapt to climate change and grow clean economies.

Australia is also trailing the pack with emissions reduction targets that are weaker than almost all comparable countries, as well as many developing countries.

Australia’s current commitment to reduce emissions by 26-28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 falls far short of a fair contribution to the global emissions reduction task and will mean that in 2030, Australia will be one of the highest per capita emitters in the world.

To do its part towards keeping the average global temperature rise below 2 degrees, Australia needs to reduce its domestic emissions by at least 45 per cent below 2005 levels by 2025, 65 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, and achieve zero emissions well before mid-century.

To provide a good chance of remaining below 1.5 degrees, the level that our Pacific neighbours are demanding for their very survival, will require even stronger action.

Dr Szoke said that as well as the devastating impacts of climate change, the region now faced the compounding impact of a ‘Super’ El Nino event, which had already contributed to droughts, erratic rains and frosts, affecting as many as 4.7 million people in the Pacific, including 2.4 million people in Papua New Guinea.  The impact of the current El Nino and the threat of more such conditions in the future added further to the imperative of reaching a strong and effective outcome in Paris.

“Australia must help ensure the agreement provides solutions for vulnerable communities,” Dr Szoke said. “Many are already facing irreversible loss and damage. The agreement must recognise this reality and provide provisions to support those affected.

“Australia, too, is seeing the impacts of climate change and EI Nino as farmers across the country face the likelihood of greater droughts and extreme weather events.”

Dr Szoke said Australia’s future prosperity would be harmed if we did not join the momentum around the world, as countries increasingly moved away from reliance on fossil fuels.

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