The warning comes ahead of next week's United Nations Climate Change Summit, in New York, and a meeting of the powerful G20 countries, during which climate change adaptation will be discussed. A new report released by Oxfam, today, says raiding aid budgets to pay for climate adaptation will come at a huge humanitarian cost, as Oxfam Australia's Economic Justice Co-ordinator, Kelly Dent, explains.
Presenter: Jemima Garrett
Speaker: Oxfam Australia's Economic Justice Co-ordinator, Kelly Dent
DENT: Oxfam is extremely concerned that unless new money is found over and above the existing aid budgets, then we're actually going to see significant winding back of the development that has been made towards reducing poverty over the last few decades. And to be a bit specific about that or a bit concrete ??? what this could mean is that by next year, 8.6 million fewer people would have access to HIV and Aids treatments that they need. We could also see 75 million fewer children in school and we could also see up to 4.5 million children dying through inadequate infant care.
It's pretty vital that we continue the development gains that have been made as well as I guess the very urgent need of adapting to a changing climate.
GARRETT: To what extent is Australia guilty of raiding its aid budget to pay for climate change adaption?
DENT: Australia has been silent on the issue of needing to have money over and above the aid budget and we have grave fears that Australia, that the government in Australia is not going to commit to additional funding. Now we OXFAM sincerely hopes that those fears are unfounded, but the silence does not give us much confidence. And as I explained earlier, it is in our view inexcusable.
GARRETT: So just how much do you think it will cost to help developing countries adapt to climate change?
DENT: In terms of adapting to climate change, OXFAM has a fairly conservative estimate. There are now higher estimates and we say that at least 50 billion is needed for adaptation alone, and that's from immediately. Of that, we estimate that Australia's fair share would be around the 1.5 million and these figures are in US dollars and in terms of the immediate needs in the Pacific over the next three years, again the estimates are around the 365 to kind of 700 million Australian dollar mark and that's just the most immediate adaptation need in the Pacific now and for the next few years, not when we look at some of the other projections and promises which are going well into the future, which is a little bit too late for poor people living in poverty.
GARRETT: You are talking about a lot of money. Is it realistic to expect that sort of money to be made available, especially in the current climate, where Western governments are still struggling to cope with the global economic crisis?
DENT: A good question. It is a lot of money, but as we've seen from the global financial crisis, where there is will, there is a way. So if there is a political will to find this money, it can be found. The money was found to deal with the worst impacts of the global financial crisis, both in terms of stimulus packages in developed countries which we support and also in terms of bailing out the banks. So firstly we think it is entirely possible the money can be found. And secondly, it just makes good economic sense, because for every dollar we spend now or that the Australian Government commits to now, on adaptation funding, so to mitigate us against the worst impacts of climate change. We're going to save $60 for every dollar spent further down the track in terms of responding to humanitarian emergencies, which we know are increasing and there is credible evidence to point to those increases in humanitarian emergency increasing because of climate-related events.
GARRETT: So what action would you like to see from Australia's Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd to respond to the urgency of this problem?
DENT: We would like in the lead up to the G20 and beyond, as we head into the climate change talks at the end of the year in Copenhagen. We definitely need to see a really clear signal from the Australian Government of the scale of money that they are prepared to put on the table and that they are prepared to put this money for adaptation and emission reduction in developing countries and that it will be over and above the aid budget.