Oxfam is horrified and deeply saddened by the catastrophic bushfires that are affecting communities across Australia, Chief Executive Lyn Morgain said today.
“This is a devastating national disaster, sadly brought home by countless heart wrenching stories of people facing the loss of loved ones, homes and livelihoods,” Ms Morgain said.
“This ongoing and unprecedented bushfire crisis has people in imminent danger, forced from their homes and facing the destruction of their livelihoods with an urgent need for vital aid and support.”
Ms Morgain said that clearly at this time the overwhelming priority was to assist those Australians bearing the brunt of this national emergency and in immediate danger and distress.
Ms Morgain said Oxfam stood with all Australians in its support for the impacted communities. She said people wanting to support Australians in crisis and their recovery could find information about organisations that were providing vital aid services to people affected by the disaster here.
Ms Morgain said communities, however, were also saying that this disaster underscored the urgent need for real action to tackle the global climate crisis, and there could be no question we need to plan for the impact on people and communities.
“Sadly, what this disaster does bring home is that we’re already seeing the effects of the global climate crisis here in Australia, with the catastrophic bushfires made worse by higher temperatures and shifting rainfall patterns,” Ms Morgain said.
“Unfortunately, the Australians join other communities, who are also being forced from their homes by extreme weather disasters that have been exacerbated by the impacts of global heating. Globally, climate fuelled disasters have forced more than 20 million people a year from their homes over the past decade.”
Ms Morgain said scientists had been warning that climate change would increase the risk of extreme bushfires – and the current disaster was evidence that there was no excuse for any further delay in Australia scaling up the action that was needed to limit global warming to 1.5C and in strengthening its commitments under the Paris Agreement.
“The Australian Government must develop a timeline for the complete phase-out of coal and other fossil fuels from Australia’s energy system, including shifting to 100% renewable electricity by 2030,” she said. “It must also commit to an end to new coal mines, shift rapidly from coal and gas exports to clean exports and ensure that no Australians are left behind as we transition to a zero emissions future.”
“This year, culminating at COP26 in Glasgow, will be a defining year in the battle against climate change. Australia should be leading by example, encouraging stronger action internationally and ensuring a better future for Australians and communities everywhere. But as recently as COP25 in Madrid last month, we have seen Australia trying to put the brakes on global cooperation. We can only hope that will now change.”