Climate change: Stop harming and start helping, Oxfam tells G8 summit

Published: 29 May 2007

G8 countries must act to keep global warming below 2° Celsius and pledge their share of $50bn to help poorest cope with impact.

G8 countries owe around 80 per cent of the $50 billion or more needed each year by developing countries to 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 people, who are the least responsible for emissions and least able to adapt to climatic shocks.

“Developing countries cannot be expected to foot the bill for the impact of rich countries’ emissions,” said Celine Charveriat, head of Oxfam’s Make Trade Fair campaign. “G8 countries face two obligations as they prepare for this year’s summit in Germany, to stop harming by cutting their emissions to keep global warming below 2° Celsius and to start helping poor countries to cope by paying their share of $50 billion per year in adaptation funds.”

Oxfam says the $50 billion a year figure is a conservative estimate that will rise sharply if emissions are not cut drastically in order to keep global warming below 2° Celsius. It also says that the G8 must follow the lead of the Netherlands and ensure the money is over and above the UN agreed aid target of 0.7% of national income.

The report “Adapting to Climate Change” estimates the share that each country should contribute towards financing adaptation. It ranks countries based on their responsibility for carbon emissions from 1992 (when virtually all of the world’s governments committed to fight climate change) up to 2003, and on their capability to pay, based on their position in the UN’s Human Development Index:

  • United States, responsible for meeting nearly 44% of developing country adaptation costs;

  • Japan, nearly 13%

  • Germany, more than 7%

  • UK, more than 5%

  • Italy, France, Canada, 4-5% each

  • Spain, Australia, Republic of Korea, 3% each

“Justice demands that rich countries pay for the harm already being caused to those who are least responsible for the problem,” said Charveriat. “But it’s also crucial in building the trust between nations essential for the success of any truly global agreement to tackle climate change.”

Oxfam works in more than 100 countries with poor communities already on the front lines of climate change. It says adaptation funds must not be diverted from current aid which is already needed to meet the Millennium Development Goals. “This is not about aid, it is about the world’s biggest and richest polluters covering the costs forced upon those who are most vulnerable – an entirely separate and added responsibility,” Charveriat said.

Oxfam field staff and partners are seeing first-hand the harm that climate change is already causing poor people, particularly farmers. This mirrors the consensus of the world’s leading scientists. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says Africa will be hardest hit by global warming. Food production is predicted to drop, and as many as 250m people could experience water shortages by 2020. Increased flooding is forecast in Asia, especially in the delta regions that are home to one billion people.

“From the deltas of Bangladesh, to the arid lands of northern Kenya, to the Peruvian Andes, we are seeing climatic stresses that are impacting on people’s livelihoods and their ability to manage natural resources. Oxfam and other NGOs face a huge long-term challenge to help communities build their resilience,” Charveriat said.

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. But the report says this is no excuse for rich countries having pledged “a fraction of a fraction” to date, just $182m for all developing countries, and even this small amount is taken from existing aid budgets. “Rich countries are already making huge investments at home to adapt to climate change – so they know the scale of the problem – but they are stalling when it comes to providing money for poorer countries to do the same,” Charveriat said.

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

Rich country donors meet in Washington DC later in June to pledge money into two special adaptation funds, as happens every two years. So far they have delivered just $48m for all 49 of the world’s Least Developed Countries (LDCs). The LDCs need between $1bn-2bn simply for their most immediate and urgent adaptation projects.

Contact Information

For more information, please contact:
Helen Palmer on +44 7876 476403 or hpalmer@oxfam.org.uk
Matt Grainger on +44 1865 339128 or matt.grainger@oxfaminternational.org