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Environment, Political

‘If you break it, fix it’: Australia urged to rectify climate finance discrepancy ahead of Pacific Islands Forum

Oxfam Australia 3 mins read

The ratio of Australia's spending on domestic climate action is six times higher than its support for global initiatives, falling short of its obligations to assist developing countries like the Pacific in responding to the impacts of climate change, according to new report – ‘If you break it, fix it: Australia’s global obligations for a just climate transition' – released today co-authored by Oxfam and Professor of Political Philosophy at UNSW Professor Jeremy Moss.  

The Pacific Island Forum will be held on November 6-10 in the Cook Islands. Pacific Island communities are calling for Australia to dramatically increase climate finance, end fossil fuel subsidies and commit to the Port Villa Call for a Just Transition to a Fossil Fuel Free Pacific. 

Australia is one of the largest contributors to climate change in the world, both as a heavy domestic emitter of greenhouse gases and a major exporter of fossil fuels. Having contributed so much to the problem Australia has a global climate debt, yet Australia spends only one fifth as much assisting developing countries with climate change as it does on domestic climate mitigation. 

Further, this international climate spending is not new and additional to aid spending; rather, it represents aid double-counted as climate finance, which is contrary to the spirit of international funding goals.  

“If Australia is to lead a just climate transition, it must acknowledge the full extent of its climate change contributions, including its past and present domestic emissions, and emissions from fossil fuel exports. It must commit to allocating greater resources to assisting developing countries to mitigate and adapt to climate change and compensate them for their climate losses,” said report co-author Professor Jeremy Moss.  

Australia's aid funding has been in decline over the past decade, currently flatlining at 0.19% GNI, among the lowest in the OECD. This decline, coupled with the double counting of aid as climate finance, is a moral and strategic failure Australia must urgently address.  

Oxfam is concerned that the government currently gives over $11 billion per annum in subsidies for fossil fuel consumption, primarily by big mining and transport corporations already making billions in profits. This is more than double the annual aid budget. 

Notably, Australia's emissions from fossil fuel exports, often overlooked, are double domestic emissions, making continued support for the fossil fuel export industry a significant contributor to climate change, and to our moral burden of responsibility to act. 

Oxfam in the Pacific Executive Director, Eunice Wotene calls on Australia to show genuine commitment to working with Pacific leaders. 

“Recent comments by Fiji’s Prime Minister that the Pacific does not expect Australia to shut down their fossil fuel industry has come as a shock, particularly after Pacific Island countries including Fiji itself endorsed a call earlier this year for a fossil fuel free Pacific. Instances like this are a clear indication that Australia is still engaging in coercive practices that pressure Pacific leaders into absolving Australia of any responsibility for its climate destruction,” Ms Wotene said.  

“Australia needs to take responsibility by showing genuine commitment to working with Pacific leaders, and by paying their fair share through increasing climate finance to their Pacific ‘vuvale’. The unfair ratio between Australia’s domestic spending on climate action and their commitment to supporting their neighbours in dealing with a climate crisis they have little responsibility for is an injustice that has persisted for far too long. It’s time to change that,” she said.  

It is beholden on the government to listen to the calls of Pacific leaders to stop fossil fuel expansion, phase out fossil fuel use and fast-track a global just transition. To address discrepancies in climate finance and support people in our region to respond to the climate crisis, Oxfam Australia is calling on the Australian government to:  

  • Substantially increase funding for international climate assistance, ensuring it is additional to the current aid budget 
  • Re-divert funds spent on fossil fuel subsidies to support people in Australia and our region to respond to the climate crisis. 
  • Act as a climate leader regionally and internationally, supporting leaders in their call for a Fossil Fuel Free Pacific and accelerating progress towards a global just transition 
  • Ensure its support is underpinned by strong principles of justice and equity, recognising Australia’s outsized contribution to climate change, and our Asia Pacific neighbours' unique vulnerability to its impacts 

Oxfam Australia Climate Justice Strategic Lead Melissa Bungcaras highlighted the importance of better supporting our Pacific neighbours and listening to their voices, particularly in the lead up to Pacific Island Forum and COP28.  

“Time and time again we highlight the gross injustice that those who contribute the least to the climate crisis are suffering the worst from its impacts” Ms Bungcaras said.   

“To create a safer world for all, we must ensure people in our region are not driven further into poverty by climate change. We must support Pacific countries to secure the prosperity of their people and the stability of their nations in the face of devastating cyclones, droughts and sea level rise.”  

 “Australia must strive for a just transition to climate change, meaning we must act to minimise the harms on people and ensure a genuine sharing of the benefits of climate action within and between societies,” she said.  

For interviews, contact Lucy Brown on 0478 190 099/ lucyb@oxfam.org.au

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