1 December, 2015 - PM’s $1bn climate change commitment a disappointing aid diversion: Plan

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s return to the international fold in working to fighting climate change is a welcome development. However, it is disappointing to see a $1 billion in climate change adaption programs is to be diverted from an already savagely cut Australian aid program, says Child rights organisation and INGO Plan International Australia.

Currently in Paris for the COP21 climate change talks, the Prime Minister announced overnight that $1 billion from our aid budget would be directed towards projects that reduce emissions or help developing countries adapt to climate change. However, the commitment represents no new spending and will come from Australia’s existing aid budget.

“It is certainly encouraging to see the PM recognise that we need to help developing nations fight climate change. After all, it is developed countries that are the greatest contributors to climate change, but it is developing countries that are paying the highest price – especially children, who are more vulnerable than anyone to dangers like powerful typhoons, droughts and rising seas,” says Plan International CEO Ian Wishart.

“The international community has made it clear that climate funding is meant to be new and additional funding but this is certainly not that. This is particularly important right here in the Pacific, a region that is hugely vulnerable to climate change and which is already seeing the catastrophic impacts it causes.”

“However, it is deeply disappointing to see the Prime Minister’s $1 billion commitment is not a new commitment, but rather a repurposing of funds already earmarked for Australia’s aid program. What we are seeing here is the Government robbing Peter to pay Paul – not something the developing world can afford on the back of years of the most savage cuts we have ever seen in our aid program,” Wishart says.

“As a child-focused agency, we are particularly concerned that the Government is essentially doing nothing new to help children, who are the ones really paying for climate change,” he adds.

A recent report by Plan International Australia, We Stand As One: Children, young people and climate change, highlighted the fact that, of an estimated more than 150,000 deaths attributable to climate change early last decade, almost 90 per cent were children. The report also found that more than nine out of 10 young people in Australia believe the Government is not doing enough to address climate change.

“International development and the impacts of climate change are inextricably linked. By diverting funds to tackle climate change, you are robbing someone else of a chance to find their way out of poverty. Repurposing or diverting funds is not meeting the challenges we as a world face – it is a failure to meet a pressing moral challenge,” Wishart says.

“What we are doing is failing the children of the world. One day we will have to explain to them why we did not act when we had the chance. What will we tell them?”

“We urge the government to do its fair share to keep global warming below two degrees. The future of Australian children and all children around the world depends on the commitments we make and the actions we take today,” he says.

Plan International Australia’s report, which was produced by young people working for Plan International in consultation with hundreds of children and young adults around Australia, called on the Government to act by:

  • Reducing domestic emissions by at least 40 per cent below 2000 levels by 2025; 60 per cent by 2030 and progress towards zero net emissions by 2050;
  • Increasing investment in renewable energy in Australia, and fund access to affordable renewable energy across the developing world;
  • Placing a greater emphasis on Australia’s contribution to climate change in the national curriculum, including impacts on the poorest countries, and conducting national consultations on what young people want from the government;
  • Addressing the causes and impacts of climate change in the poorest countries by contributing new and additional funds to Australia’s existing aid commitments.

Editors’ notes:

  • Plan is one of the oldest and largest children's development organisations in the world, founded 77 years ago, working in 51 developing countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas and supported by 21 donor countries. Plan is independent, with no religious, political or governmental affiliations.

Media contact: Adam Cathro, Plan International Australia, Media Relations Manager, 0488 202 945