Australia must take lead and urgently ramp up climate funding for at-risk countries: new report

Oxfam Australia

Australia should immediately double its climate finance to $3 billion over five years to help ensure at-risk countries can adapt to climate change impacts, leading groups have urged ahead of the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow.

In a new report, Fairer Futures, an alliance of groups led by Oxfam Australia and ActionAid Australia outlines a detailed roadmap showing how the Government can play its part in easing the burden on the world’s poorest communities now facing climate-fuelled disasters on top of the COVID-19 crisis.

The funding required to support low-income countries to respond will be high on the agenda at COP26, where the world’s so-far unmet ambitions may be extended even further. The report outlines how Australia can progressively expand its funding to ensure we are contributing our fair share by 2030.

The United States, the United Kingdom and Canada have already committed to doubling their climate finance commitments this year, with the US alone committing to $11 billion annually by 2024.

Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Lyn Morgain said while emission reduction targets were important, there was far more Australia could be doing now to allow tangible support to reach those who needed it most.

“In the past year alone, we’ve seen deadly cyclones, huge locust swarms and unprecedented heatwaves and bushfires, all turbo-charged by climate change – it’s clear the climate crisis is here. And those on the frontline are those who have contributed to their situation the least,” Ms Morgain said.

“This is clearly a human rights issue. We owe it to all low-income countries – but particularly our Pacific neighbours who are facing the very real threat of rising sea levels compounded by the COVID-19 crisis – to help them deal with the consequences of our rampant consumption and recent inaction.”

While Australia currently sits near the bottom of global rankings for climate finance and broader climate action, in 2009 the nation took a leadership role in the establishment of the Green Climate Fund. The Morrison Government then abandoned the fund amid scathing criticism by Pacific leaders.

ActionAid Executive Director Michelle Higelin said COP26 offered a critical opportunity for Australia to reclaim its historic role as a leader in climate financing.

“Australia has the power to play a critical role in shaping and strengthening the way our world responds to this crisis,” Ms Higelin said. “How we respond to climate change over the next decade will determine the fate of billions of people globally, and the stability and prosperity of our region.

“Ambitious international climate finance pledges, alongside bold domestic emission reduction targets, are critical for successful and just global climate solutions.

“In some ways, Australia is showing the way when it comes to climate finance. Unlike many other wealthy countries, we have equally distributed our funding between mitigating against rising emissions and supporting countries to adapt to the impacts we are already seeing. We’ve also given that funding through grants rather than loans. But we can do so much more.”

Analysis to determine Australia’s fair share contributions to global climate finance found Australia should:

  • Immediately commit to doubling its finance to $3 billion over the next five years
  • By 2023, shape regional and global climate responses by replenishing the Green Climate Fund with up to $990 million
  • By 2030, scale up Australia’s climate finance to $12 billion annually, which will meet its fair share.

Ms Morgain said it was important to acknowledge these contributions don’t take into account the massive damage that is already being caused by climate change.

“Support to address the damage already being done must be in addition to this funding. But the good news is that if our emission reduction ambitions increase, the amount we need to contribute to support other nations reduces,” Ms Morgain said.

Ms Higelin said climate finance also creates an opportunity to address gender inequality and poverty.

“Women and people living in poverty are bearing the brunt of climate change impacts but taking a gender-responsive approach to climate mitigation and adaptation strategies can both strengthen gender equity and promote poverty reduction on a global scale,” Ms Higelin said.

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