Rich countries must not raid aid to pay climate debt

By Oxfam

Washington, DC— International humanitarian organization Oxfam America warned that at least 4.5 million children around the world could die if world leaders divert existing aid promises to help poor countries cope with the growing impacts of climate change. In a new report released today, Oxfam called for a new and additional stream of funds to be invested in increased resilience for vulnerable communities as part of a new global climate change deal.

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 United Kingdom 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.

“This shouldn’t be about robbing Peter to pay Paul. New funds must be put on the table to help poor communities on the front lines of climate change adapt to the realities of a changing climate,” said Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America.

The report, Beyond Aid, outlines the dangers of raiding aid budgets to pay for necessary adaptation efforts, estimating that at least 75 million fewer children would be likely to attend school and 8.6 million fewer people could have access to HIV/AIDS treatment if aid is diverted. Without at least $50 billion a year in addition to the 0.7% of national income rich countries have already pledged as aid, recent progress toward the Millennium Development Goals could stall and then go into reverse.

“Despite having contributed little to the climate crisis, most poor families around the world are just one climate related disaster away from total ruin,” said Offenheiser. “Without adequate support to adapt to the changing climate, the effect is a downward spiral into deeper poverty and increased vulnerability. This could mean millions going without food, pulling their children out of school or selling off cattle or other assets critical to their livelihoods to pay for mounting debt caused by failed crops or lost homes. Such dramatic human consequences will also threaten to undermine global stability and security.”

There have been great strides toward the Millennium Development Goals since their inception in 2000.  In just seven years, 90% of children in poor countries have been enrolled in school.  Between 1999 and 2005 there was a 24% drop in the number of people living in extreme poverty. 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.

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 than half the money pledged for adaptation funding has been delivered. Oxfam also emphasized that adaptation support should be aligned and integrated with broader development strategies and objectives, especially country led development plans.

“Quality, long-term aid does make a huge difference, as poor country governments have used it to scale up spending on education and health to help fight poverty,” said Offenheiser. “As developing countries governments undertake adaptation efforts, they should not have to make the choice between education and storm warning systems, or between children’s vaccines and drought resistant seeds.”


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