Australia Today

Australia Is Screwing Smaller Nations on Climate Change

Australia, like Canada and the United States, has failed to keep billions of dollars worth of climate change commitments.
World leaders gather for COP27 in Egypt
Photo by Sean Gallup / Getty Images

Australia has failed to meet key short-term climate commitments, new analysis has found, as the government tries to convince the international community that it’s serious about climate change.

Carbon Brief, a think tank based in the United Kingdom, released new analysis on Tuesday that showed Australia is among the worst-ranked developed countries in the world on sticking to its commitments to pay for the protection of developing countries from the worst effects of climate change. 


On the opening day of COP27, the UN’s annual climate summit this year hosted in Egypt, Climate Brief said Australia had cheaped out of its commitments by more than $AU2.6 billion, joining the United States and Canada in collectively falling “tens of billions of dollars” short of their pledges to developing nations in 2020 alone. 

By contrast, major economies like Germany, France and Japan “each gave billions of dollars more” than they needed to, based on promises made nearly 30 years ago.

In 1992, some of the world’s richest developed countries—including the U.S., Canada and Australia, otherwise known as “Annex II” nations—committed to supporting developing nations with funding for adaptation, both because they agreed they were better positioned to cope with the worst of a warming climate, and were most responsible for causing it. 

At that point, these countries produced some 46 percent of the world’s cumulative emissions. Come 2020, they had only been able to whittle down their bloated collective contribution down to 40 percent.

In 2009, setting aside crucial funding for developing nations was given a new focus. At the time, these Annex II nations—mostly made up of OECD countries across Western Europe, the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan—agreed to set aside “$100bn per year by 2020”. 

Now, the world’s Annex II nations aren’t expected to reach their collective target until at least next year.


The issue has become a key focus of COP27, after UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, last week called on world leaders to take immediate short-term action on adaptation strategy to ensure that “those on the front lines of the climate crisis” are no longer relegated to the “back of the line for support”.

In a statement released in the lead up to the conference, Guterres urged world leaders of major economies to join developing nations in a Climate Solidarity Pact that would both help them fund their adaptation ambitions, and also help them fund a faster transition to renewable energy.

Guterres said that both the U.S. and China would have a “particular responsibility”—likely given their mammoth greenhouse gas emissions and tremendous wealth—to help make that Pact a reality. 

In the short-term, though, he said he wanted leaders to focus on finding a way to bring the cash needed to fund everything agreed to in Glasgow at COP26 late last year. In numbers, he said that means double support to $40 billion every year, until at least 2025. How and where that money is spent, however, remains to be seen.

Over the coming days, it’s likely that U.S. President, Joe Biden, and newly-elected British prime minister, Rishi Sunak, will each play central roles in figuring that out, while Australian prime minister Anthony Albanese stays at home, a notable absentee.

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