Poor coun­tries urge Aus­tralia to hon­our Green Cli­mate Fund com­mit­ments

The Guardian Australia - - Headlines - Gra­ham Read­fearn

An of­fi­cial United Na­tions group­ing of 47 of the world’s poor­est coun­tries has urged Aus­tralia to “hon­our its in­ter­na­tional com­mit­ments” after the prime min­is­ter, Scott Mor­ri­son, said the coun­try would not be “throw­ing money” into a key in­ter­na­tional cli­mate change fund.

Aus­tralia has pre­vi­ously pledged $200m to the Green Cli­mate Fund (GCF), set up through the UN’s cli­mate con­ven­tion to help de­vel­op­ing coun­tries adapt to the im­pacts of cli­mate change and cut their own green­house gas emis­sions.

But on Mon­day, in the hours be­fore a ma­jor cli­mate re­port was re­leased, Mor­ri­son told ra­dio pre­sen­ter Alan Jones that Aus­tralia would not be “throw­ing money into some global cli­mate fund”.

One in­ter­na­tional cli­mate ex­pert said that geopo­lit­i­cally it was “mildly in­sane” that Aus­tralia was back­ing out of the GCF.

In a state­ment to Guardian Aus­tralia, Ethiopian Ge­bru Jem­ber En­dalew, the chair of the Least De­vel­oped Coun­tries (LDC) Group, said: “Fund­ing from wealthy na­tions such as Aus­tralia is key to en­abling an ef­fec­tive global re­sponse.

“LDCs and other de­vel­op­ing coun­tries have made am­bi­tious plans, but these plans can­not be im­ple­mented with­out suf­fi­cient tools and re­sources be­ing mo­bilised. The Green Cli­mate Fund plays an in­te­gral role in de­liv­er­ing these funds and con­tin­ues to be un­der­re­sourced.”

The LDC Group rep­re­sents 47 coun­tries at UN cli­mate ne­go­ti­a­tions and says its mem­bers are “spe­cially vul­ner­a­ble to cli­mate change but have done the least to cause the prob­lem”. African na­tions dom­i­nate the LDC group, along­side Pa­cific and East Asian coun­tries Ti­mor-Leste, Kiri­bati, Van­u­atu and Tu­valu.

En­dalew said this week’s In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel on Cli­mate Change re­port showed “the science is crys­tal clear that lim­it­ing global warm­ing to 1.5C is ab­so­lutely vi­tal and that ur­gent, col­lec­tive and un­prece­dented ac­tion is re­quired by the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity”.

He added: “Aus­tralia and other de­vel­oped coun­tries are yet to de­liver on their col­lec­tive com­mit­ment to mo­bilise a min­i­mum of US$100bn an­nu­ally by 2020 to sup­port de­vel­op­ing coun­tries. The LDCs will con­tinue to urge Aus­tralia to hon­our its in­ter­na­tional com­mit­ments for the safety and pros­per­ity of present and fu­ture gen­er­a­tions in Aus­tralia, in LDCs, and around the world.”

Aus­tralian govern­ment min­is­ters have been roundly dis­mis­sive of the find­ings of the IPCC re­port. Mor­ri­son dis­missed the re­port’s rel­e­vance for Aus­tralia, say­ing it “deals with the global sit­u­a­tion” and claimed, in­cor­rectly, that the “same re­port” had backed Aus­tralia’s poli­cies “only a year ago”. The lat­est IPCC re­port was one off and did not as­sess in­di­vid­ual coun­try poli­cies.

Mor­ri­son’s dis­mis­sive re­marks about the GCF con­trast with Aus­tralia’s pre­vi­ous en­thu­si­as­tic sup­port for the fund. In 2016, the then for­eign min­is­ter, Julie Bishop, said Aus­tralia’s in­volve­ment with the GCF as a co-chair was “in­stru­men­tal in gain­ing ap­proval for ma­jor cli­mate re­silience in­vest­ments” of US$1.3bn at that time. Chris Tin­ning, chief econ­o­mist for de­vel­op­ment at the De­part­ment of For­eign Af­fairs and Trade, is cur­rently a GCF board mem­ber.

A board meet­ing sched­uled for 17 Oc­to­ber in Bahrain with board doc­u­ments show­ing it will con­sider $1.16bn in fund­ing pro­pos­als. A GCF spokesman said: “We don’t com­ment on con­tri­bu­tion poli­cies of in­di­vid­ual coun­tries.”

Dr Bill Hare, the Aus­tralian chief ex­ec­u­tive of re­spected in­ter­na­tional cli­mate ad­vi­sory group Cli­mate An­a­lyt­ics, said the GCF was a “ma­jor in­stru­ment” that would help lever in­vest­ments away from fos­sil fu­els.

He said: “In the Pa­cific, our neigh­bours are suf­fer­ing from cli­mate change and the dam­ages they are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing are al­ready quite con­fronting for any­one who cares to no­tice, and for them the GCF is a ma­jor source of re­sources to help them adapt and to re­duce emis­sions them­selves.

“Geopo­lit­i­cally it is, to say the least, mildly in­sane for Aus­tralia at this mo­ment in his­tory in such a sen­si­tive re­gion so cru­cial to the coun­try’s se­cu­rity, to back out of sup­port for these

is­land coun­tries.”

The for­mer ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the UN’s cli­mate con­ven­tion, Chris­tian Figueres, who led world to the Paris cli­mate agree­ment, told the ABC on Tues­day that Aus­tralians faced a crit­i­cal mo­ment in his­tory.

“What do you stand for and what do you want his­tory to re­mem­ber you by,” she said, say­ing there were clear choices for Aus­tralia. “Do you want bush­fires rag­ing across the east coast for six months at a time, or do you want a thriv­ing agri­cul­tural sec­tor? Do you want the Great Bar­rier Reef, or the largest aquatic ceme­tery in the world?”

She said Aus­tralia and coal was fac­ing an im­por­tant mo­ment and that con­tin­u­ing a de­pen­dence on coal would de­liver “dra­matic loss of as­sets”.

In com­ments re­ported in late Septem­ber, Trea­surer Josh Fry­den­berg in­di­cated Aus­tralia had no plans to in­crease GCF fund­ing, but a De­part­ment of For­eign Af­fairs spokesper­son said at the time the govern­ment was con­sid­er­ing “fur­ther con­tri­bu­tions”. Guardian Aus­tralia has ap­proached the de­part­ment for com­ment.

Pho­to­graph: Dan Him­brechts/AAP

Scott Mor­ri­son told 2GB’s Alan Jones that Aus­tralia would not be ‘throw­ing money into some global cli­mate fund’.

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