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Stop harming and start helping on climate change

Rich countries must increase their spending to help developing countries adapt to the harmful effects of climate change, according to a new report published today by international agency Oxfam. Human-induced climate change is already causing harm to the world’s poorest countries, especially those in the Pacific, which are the least responsible for the problem.

“Developing countries cannot be expected to foot the bill for the impact of rich countries’ emissions,” said Barry Coates, Executive Director of Oxfam New Zealand. “Rich countries including New Zealand must stop harming by cutting their emissions to keep global warming below 2° Celsius and start helping by paying their fair share of what is needed to help poor communities cope with the damage already being done.”

“Climate change adaptation funds should be additional to and not diverted away from current aid funding,” Coates said. “This is not about aid. It is about the world’s biggest and richest polluters covering damages owed to the most vulnerable – an entirely separate and added responsibility.”

The new report, “Adapting to climate change,” estimates the share that each country should contribute towards financing adaptation based on their responsibility for polluting and their ability to pay. According to the report, the United States owes nearly 44 percent of developing country adaptation costs, followed by Japan (nearly 13 percent), Germany (more than 7 percent), and UK (more than 5 percent). New Zealand is responsible for 0.3 percent.

Although adaptation costs are difficult to estimate because the scale of inevitable harm is still uncertain and will depend on how fast greenhouse gas emissions are cut, the report states that at least US$50 billion a year is required for developing countries to adapt to climate change. It notes this is a conservative estimate that will rise sharply if emissions are not cut drastically in order to keep global warming below 2° Celsius.

To date rich countries have pledged “a fraction of a fraction” or just US$182 million for adaptation in all developing countries. These donor governments will meet in Washington DC in June 2007 to pledge money into two special adaptation funds. So far they have delivered just US$48 million for all 49 of the world’s Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

Oxfam notes that more innovative solutions will be needed to raise funds on the scale required. These could include creating carbon and aviation taxes, extending levies on carbon trading, and ending fossil fuel subsidies.

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