The climate minister of Australia emphasizes the importance of maximizing the benefits of the ‘loss and damage’ fund for Pacific countries deemed ‘vulnerable’.
According to Chris Bowen, the minister in charge of climate in Australia, nations in the Pacific and other countries at risk of climate disasters should receive the primary support from “loss and damage” funding. He also suggests that a wider range of countries, along with the private sector, should contribute to the international effort.
On Tuesday evening, Bowen delivered a speech at a foreign policy thinktank to convey Australia’s stance prior to Cop28, the upcoming climate negotiations led by the United Nations in the United Arab Emirates starting this month.
The United Nations has cautioned that the planet is headed towards a catastrophic 3 degrees Celsius increase in global warming. This is due to the rising intensity of heatwaves, floods, and droughts, which have resulted in loss of life and significant economic loss worldwide. In light of this, the Cop27 summit in Egypt, scheduled for November 2022, has decided to create a “loss and damage” fund to aid vulnerable nations in reconstructing their social and physical infrastructure after severe weather events worsened by the emission of greenhouse gases.
However, the specifics of the fund have not yet been finalized.
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Bowen told the Lowy Institute that Australia supported loss and damage funding – a concept that has been contentious for a number of decades. The government had already “contributed constructively to the design of the new fund and future funding arrangements” in the run-up to Cop28.
According to him, Australia’s goal is to guarantee that the updated agreements produce tangible results and have the greatest effect on the Pacific region and other nations that are especially susceptible to the effects of climate change.
Bowen stated that the recently established fund should be supported by a diverse group of donors, including unconventional and private sources of funding. He also emphasized the need for more countries to fulfill their global obligations, not just the developed nations who have traditionally been responsible for providing the majority of climate finance.
Bowen did not specify which countries, but his statement suggests that China, Russia, and the Gulf states may provide financial aid to address the consequences of climate change-induced disasters. However, this stance may encounter opposition at the Cop.
Bowen stated that it is time to have a conversation about the topic. He believes that advocating for climate finance to come from a diverse group of donors will result in the highest amount of funding to support developing countries in managing climate change, which ultimately benefits all of us.
“The world was not predetermined in 1992.”
Efforts to finance international loss and damage have faced obstacles in the past due to conflicting views between affluent and developing countries on responsibility for covering the costs.
In 1992, Bowen acknowledged the principle that countries have varying responsibilities in reducing emissions and addressing environmental damage, which was the appropriate approach at that time.
“The state of the world in 1992 was not definitive,” stated Bowen. “A country’s level of wealth or emissions in 1992 does not necessarily reflect their current status 30 years later.”
“Country contributions should not be considered permanent. To be more explicit, the global landscape has significantly shifted since 1992.”
During the recent Pacific Islands Forum, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced a new agreement with Tuvalu, a small island nation in the Pacific. Through a security treaty, Australia will provide residency to individuals who are affected by climate change in Tuvalu.
On Tuesday evening, Bowen mentioned that Australia has once again become a member of the Green Climate Fund and plans to support the creation of the Pacific Resilience Facility. This facility will be a trust fund designed specifically for the Pacific region and will focus on funding small-scale projects aimed at promoting climate and disaster resilience.
In addition to the debate surrounding funding for loss and damage, Australia’s climate minister stated that this year’s Cop meeting will also feature a global assessment of progress. According to Bowen, this is expected to be a significant and contentious topic, with Australia advocating for stronger language on mitigation.
The International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook revealed a significant shift in global demand for coal, oil, and natural gas. This change is due to the increasing support for clean energy technologies and economic changes worldwide. These findings have significant implications for the use of fossil fuels in the future.
Bowen said Australia would support a tripling of global renewables capacity and doubling of global energy efficiency efforts. In the run-up to Cop, the secretary general of the UN, António Guterres, has urged countries to commit to tripling renewable energy capacity by 2030 and to phasing out fossil fuels with a clear timeframe.
Bowen explained to the Lowy Institute that Australia has a distinctive role to play in this discussion. Similar to Canada, another economy heavily reliant on fossil fuels undergoing a significant transition, we can advocate for progressive outcomes in global forums. We can provide a perspective from a country actively grappling with the daily practicalities of this transition.
Although facing pressure from domestic politics to halt approval of new coal and gas projects, the Albanese government considers the move towards achieving net zero to be more than just a theoretical concept.
“We approach the discussions without being constrained by our experience with fossil fuels, but rather, we are guided by it.”