Oxfam tells G8 to pay for climate change


Rich countries should provide $50 billion annually to help Africa and other impoverished nations face the consequences of climate change that cannot be avoided, including droughts, floods and declining crops, the NGO has said in a report ahead of the G8 summit in Heiligendamm, Germany.

  • Rich countries responsible

There is a deep injustice in the impacts of climate change,” argues Oxfam in the report, published on 29 May. “Rich countries have caused the problem with many decades of greenhouse-gas emissions (and in the process have grown richer). But poor countries will be worst affected, facing greater droughts, floods, hunger, and disease.” Based on this assessment, Oxfam argues that rich countries must finance developing countries’ climate-change adaptation efforts without diverting funds from existing development-aid commitments.

The Oxfam report on adapting to climate change follows similar conclusions from the United Nations on “Climate Change Impact, Adaptation and Vulnerability” agreed by the IPCC earlier this year (EURACTIV 10/04/07). Even in its final version, the UN report concluded that the poorest nations were set to suffer most from the effects of global warming, with millions in Africa facing water shortages by 2020. 

“It’s the poorest of the poor in the world, and this includes poor people even in prosperous societies, who are going to be the worst hit,” said Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). 

  • The price of adaptation

Oxfam’s report provides a “rough guide” which predicts that costs will be “well above” World Bank estimates of $10 to $40 billion annually, and possibly higher if CO2 emissions are not significantly reduced. The report admits that the $50 billion estimate may not be accurate since “no one knows” how much adaptation will really cost. But Oxfam argues that “the absence of an estimate is not just an accounting delay. It is a gaping political gap in the pressure and impetus for the international community to mobilise resources anywhere near the scale needed.”

  • Dividing the bill

Oxfam ranks G8 countries according to their overall carbon emmissions. The United States is the largest producer of CO2 and thus it should pay for 40% of costs, followed by 30% for the EU and 10% for Japan. Germany, the UK, Italy, France and Spain are the EU’s “top five” contributors.

  • The plight of Africa   

By 2020, up to 250 million Africans will face water shortages, depletion of fish stocks from rising water temperatures and crop failures, according to the report.

The central themes of this year's G8 summit are "growth and responsibility", with a focus on the "human face" of globalisation and the plight of Africa. The members of the G8 are: Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Japan, the United States, Canada and Russia.

Adaptation is also a part of EU efforts to tackle climate change after 2012, as outlined in a February 2005 Communication 'Winning the Battle Against Climate Change'. The Commission's January 2007 Communication on limiting climate change to two degrees Celsius also points out that any future global climate agreement must provide measures to "assist countries to adapt to the unavoidable consequences of climate change".

The Commission is expected to publish a separate Green Paper on adaptation to climate change before the end of June.

  • 6-8 June: G8 Summit, Heiligendamm, Germany.

  • End of June: Commission to publish a Green Paper on adaptation to climate change.

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