Rich Countries Must Not Raid Aid to Pay Climate Debt

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Natalie Curtis (In the UK until 18th September and then in New York until September 24th):

Phone: +44 (0) 18 65 472498 or + 44 (0) 7824 503108
ncurtis@oxfam.org.uk

Rich Countries Must Not Raid Aid to Pay Climate Debt

LONDON - A new Oxfam report has
today warned that at least 4.5 million children could die unless world
leaders deliver additional funds to help poor countries fight the
growing impact of climate change, rather than diverting it from
existing aid promises.

The warning comes as world leaders prepare to join President Obama
at his first United Nations address on climate change, at next week's
Climate Summit in New York on 22nd September.  The meeting will be
followed by the G20 Summit on the 24th September, where climate finance
will be high on the agenda.  With only Denmark, the Netherlands and the
UK in support of additional funds, Oxfam is concerned that December's
climate negotiations in Copenhagen could fail, unless action is taken
now by Heads of State.

The report, 'Beyond Aid,'
also warns that at least 75 million fewer children are likely to attend
school and 8.6 million fewer people could have access to HIV/AIDS
treatment if aid is diverted to help poor countries tackle climate
change. Without at least $50 billion a year in addition to the 0.7 per
cent of national income rich countries have already pledged as aid,
recent progress toward the Millennium Development Goals could stall and
then go into reverse.

There have been great strides toward the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) since their inception in 2000. In just seven years,

  • 90 per cent of children in poor countries have been enrolled in school.
  • Between 1999 and 2005 there was a 24 per cent drop in the number of people living in extreme poverty,
  • and between 1990 and 2007 the number of deaths in children under five plummeted by 3.6 million, despite population growth.

But despite these gains, poor countries are struggling to meet the
MDGs and many goals still fall short of the mark. Diverting aid for
climate adaptation would strain an already overstretched system. For
example, whilst Zambia now has free healthcare for all people living in
rural areas and around 149,000 people are receiving lifesaving
treatment for HIV/AIDS, one in six children still die before they reach
the age of five and the number of mothers losing their life in
pregnancy and childbirth is increasing. Ghana has abolished all primary
school fees, resulting in 1.2 million more children being able to
attend school. Yet almost half of Ghana's population lives on less than
US$1 a day and four out of ten men and women in Ghana cannot read or
write.

"Funds must be increased - not diverted - to help poor countries
adapt to climate change and this cannot be seen as a two for one deal
by politicians.  Rich countries must not steal money from poor
hospitals and schools in order to pay their climate debt to the
developing world," said Jeremy Hobbs, Executive Director of Oxfam
International.

"World leaders must show they are not content to stand by and watch
recent successes in combating poverty, such as children attending
school, mothers surviving child birth and the sick receiving life
saving drugs, reversed," he added.

Oxfam points to the Global Fund, set up in 2002 to fight AIDS,
tuberculosis and malaria, as an example of how political will on a
global scale can mobilize money quickly and effectively. To date, the
Global Fund has approved funding for $15.6 billion in more than 140
countries.

Like the Global Fund, a fund for climate adaptation
must be made available quickly, equitably governed, managed under
streamlined arrangements and transparent. Currently there is no single
route for delivering money for adaptation. A ‘spaghetti bowl' of aid
channels means it is impossible to determine which governments have and
have not delivered their promises. To date, less that half the money
pledged for adaptation funding has been delivered.

Climate shocks and the short-term measures that poor people take in
order to cope can have long-term impacts, potentially spanning
generations. Without adequate support to adapt to the changing climate,
the effect is a downward spiral into deeper poverty and increased
vulnerability. In the absence of additional adaptation funding, Oxfam
is seeing people in poor countries going without food, pulling their
children out of school or selling off cattle and other assets critical
to their livelihoods, so that they can pay for debt caused by
continuing failed crops and other climate shocks.  

Efforts to help communities adapt to climate change have proved
successful in Oxfam projects around the world. In Char Atra in
Bangladesh, where increased flooding has caused people to lose both
homes and lives, 70 per cent of people now have access to clean water
during flooding, death due to diarrhea has been virtually abolished and
over 100 homes have been raised above flood level.  Likewise investment
in small-scale farmers, such as training in new cropping techniques,
the introduction of drought-resistant seeds and effective irrigation
systems has helped ensure that food is available even in times of
drought and failing rains. With 20 million people under threat of
rising sea levels, 26 million people displaced as a direct result of
climate change and many facing hunger and loss of life due to climate
shocks, the twin challenge of addressing poverty and alleviating
climate change has never been more pressing for aid agencies.

Download the report: Beyond Aid: Ensuring adaptation to climate change works for the poor

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Oxfam International is a confederation of 13 like-minded organizations working together and with partners and allies around the world to bring about lasting change. Oxfam works directly with communities and that seeks to influence the powerful to ensure that poor people can improve their lives and livelihoods and have a say in decisions that affect them.

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