Tuesday, July 28, 2009

75 million to flee climate change: report

By Linda Mottram for Radio Australia

ABC News Online, Mon Jul 27, 2009


The report can be downloaded here - http://www.oxfam.org.au/campaigns/climate-change/reports/

A new report says climate change could produce 75 million refugees in the Asia Pacific region in the next 40 years.

It urges Australia to put new immigration measures in place to help with people movements, and to cut deeply into its own climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions.

The report, by aid agency Oxfam Australia and think-tank the Australia Institute, says the effects of climate change are already being felt in the region.

It says addressing the immigration question is vital, as is giving more financial assistance to the region targeted specifically at measures to help communities adapt.

The release of the report is timed to add to pressure on Australia over the issue when it chairs the Pacific Islands Forum leaders' meeting in the Queensland city of Cairns next week.

Climate change is expected to be a major issue for the regional leaders.

The Australia Institute's executive director, Richard Denniss, says the Rudd Government has failed to live up to promises it made to the Pacific before its election, going silent in particular on immigration.

"Some areas, some low-lying atolls, are already becoming impossible to inhabit and we do need to assist these people. We need to be talking to their governments about how we can help them move within their countries," Dr Denniss told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat program.

"But in time, we do need to discuss the very real possibility of some of these people having to move."

Oxfam Australia's executive director, Andrew Hewett, says the impact of climate change is already being seen in the Pacific.

"They're facing increasing food and water shortages, they're losing land, they're being forced from their homes, they're dealing with rising cases of malaria and they're facing much more intense weather patterns," Mr Hewett said.

He says Australia should be helping to build on work already being done by Pacific countries.

Australia has allocated $150 million to help with climate change in the Pacific.

The government says it is conducting research and already helping with local initiatives, such as building water tanks in Tuvalu.

The groups say at least double that amount will be required from Australia and they say tighter controls are needed to make sure the money is spent on adaptation-specific measures.

The groups also say that as the region's richest country and one of the world's biggest polluters, Australia has a responsibility to make deep cuts to its greenhouse gas emissions.

"Prevention is better than cure on this and step one is to demand tougher targets of ourselves and of other developed countries," Dr Denniss says.

The report has also called for a fixed percentage of Australia's planned carbon trading scheme to be allocated to the Pacific for climate change and for the Rudd government to fulfil an election promise to set up a Pacific Climate Change Alliance to strengthen the Pacific voice in international climate change talks.

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