Foreign Aid Budget Tapped for Climate Change
1 December 2015 at 10:59 am
Australia will redirect at least $1 billion of its foreign aid budget to tackle climate change, in a move that has been criticised by overseas development organisations.
Speaking in front of world leaders at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced that his Government would commit $1 billion to help developing countries deal with global warming.
The pledge means an extra $800 million on top of the $200 million commitment made by former prime minister Tony Abbott at climate talks in Peru last year.
While making the announcement Turnbull said Australia would “meet and beat” its 2020 emissions reduction target.
“Some of the most vulnerable nations are our Pacific neighbours and we are helping them to build resilience through practical action and assistance,” Turnbull said.
“To this end, Australia will contribute at least $1 billion over the next five years from our existing aid budget both to build climate resilience and reduce emissions.
“Our agreement here in Paris must provide a common platform for action, the dynamism to build ambition and a robust and transparent reporting system.”
— Malcolm Turnbull (@TurnbullMalcolm) November 30, 2015
But CEO of international aid organisation Oxfam Australia, Dr Helen Szoke, who will be in Paris for the second week of negotiations, said the funds should not be drawn from Australia’s existing aid budget.
“It is encouraging that Australia has recognised developing countries must be supported to fight climate change,” Dr Szoke said.
“However, it is disappointing that the funds committed – at least $1 billion over the next five years – will be drawn from an already diminished aid budget and represent no increase to what has been committed before.
“In fact, it is far less than what comparable countries including Canada, UK, Germany and France have committed.”
Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) CEO, Marc Purcell, was highly critical of Turnbull's commitment.
“The Australian Council for International Development is deeply disappointed by the Prime Minister’s announcement of $1billion over five years to help poor countries deal with the impacts of climate change,” Purcell said.
“Let’s be clear – this is not new money.
“Australia is already spending close to $200 million per year through its aid program on climate change initiatives.
“ACFID has been calling on the Government to more than double to $550 million, its expenditure on climate change aid and development programs if we are to play our part in helping our Asia-Pacific neighbours deal with the challenges of climate change.
“We need to rebuild and grow our aid budget to fund this commitment and other vital aid initiatives. Our aid budget is already depleted, and next year will reach its lowest level on record.”
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop defended the Government’s announcement, saying Pacific Island nations had been calling on Australia to spend part of its foreign aid budget on climate change.
Greens Senator Larissa Waters was in Paris for the talks and said Turnbull’s announcement was “insulting”.
— Larissa Waters (@larissawaters) November 30, 2015
It is the most recent blow to foreign aid after former prime minister Tony Abbott, in May, delivered the biggest single-year cut to the aid budget.
Treasurer Joe Hockey announced at the time that $1 billion, or 20 per cent of Australia’s foreign aid budget, would be cut, bringing the total cuts to the aid program since the Government was elected to $11.3 billion.