Australia must step up as climate deal offers fractured lifeline to the world’s poorest

Media Releases article written on the 13 Dec 2015

The Australian Government should recognise the unstoppable momentum in the global response to climate change, grasp the enormous opportunities for action, and accept its responsibilities to the world’s most vulnerable communities, Oxfam said today.

Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke, who is in Paris for the talks, said what had just been agreed in Paris was a ‘landmark, global agreement’.

“Australia now needs to step up, transition rapidly from a rampant polluter to a modern clean energy economy, provide far greater support to poorer countries to tackle climate change and build a resilient, sustainable future,” Dr Szoke said.

Dr Szoke said that while the Paris negotiations had brought the world’s powers together, the agreement had still fallen short and deprived the poorest and most vulnerable people of what they needed to cope with the burgeoning reality of rising sea levels, floods and drought.

“The Paris Agreement has not done enough to ensure that the goal of limiting warming to below 2C or 1.5C is met, nor secured sufficient funding for vulnerable communities to adapt to increasingly unpredictable and extreme weather,” she said.

Dr Szoke said that the agreement could still be a major moment in the fight against hunger and poverty, but governments must return to the negotiating table before the agreement takes effect from 2020 to strengthen emissions cuts and agree to new finance measures for developing countries.

“To keep the global temperature rise below 1.5C, Australia must rapidly transition away from fossil fuels, provide far more in international climate finance and reach zero emissions and 100 per cent renewable energy as soon as possible,” she said.

Dr Szoke said the agreement had not done enough to ensure responses to climate change would uphold human rights, gender equality and the rights and strengths of Indigenous peoples. The agreement included a separate section on addressing unavoidable loss and damage from climate change, such as loss of land and livelihoods.

“No voices were louder or more determined in Paris than those of our Pacific Island neighbours, for whom climate change is a threat to their very survival,” she said.

The most significant new commitments made during the conference came from the developing world, including an initiative to install 300GW of renewable energy across Africa by 2030 – around seven times Australia’s entire electricity generating capacity.

Dr Szoke said that while Australia had played a more constructive role in the negotiations than in recent years, there remained a worrying chasm between the Government’s rhetoric and the reality of its actions.

“If we are to meet the goals set out in the Paris agreement, Australia must now match its words with action,” she said.  “We have an election in 2016 and people from across Australia are already taking action and demanding the government catch up.  It’s time that the government listened.”

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