Climate change on our doorstep, says Caritas

Australia must increase its aid to its Asia-Pacific neighbours who face looming economic and social disaster as a result of climate change, says Caritas Australia in comments on a CSIRO report published yesterday.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Caritas is part of a coalition of church, charity and environment groups which commissioned the CSIRO report.

The world's poorest people, many of whom are experiencing the effects of climate change, will be the worst hit as temperatures and sea levels rise, according to the report entitled Australia responds: Helping our neighbours fight climate change.

Many of these people are living on Australia's doorstep, prompting the coalition to call for Australia's overseas aid to be increased to 0.5 per cent of gross national income by 2009-10, and to 0.7 per cent by 2015.

In a statement, Caritas Australia says that the new report illustrates "the dangerous impacts that will affect the Asia Pacific region if urgent action is not taken to address the serious issue of climate change".

Commissioned to examine the likely impact of dangerous climate change, the CSIRO report "paints a bleak future for our neighbours with the hardest hit likely to be the poorest communities, unless strong leadership is shown by the Australian Government", Caritas says.

Among its key recommendations, the report calls on the government to prioritise renewable energy and energy efficiency programs in developing countries and to help communities withstand the impacts of climate change and prepare for disasters.

It also calls for a review of immigration programs to consider support for people displaced in the region.

"Climate change will fundamentally change the way we aid the world's poor," the chief executive of World Vision, Tim Costello, told The Age.

"It will undermine the value and impact of current aid spending and will lead to far greater calls for assistance from those hurt most.

"The impacts of climate change will require Australia to respond far more frequently."

The CSIRO report also finds the Asia-Pacific region will suffer threats to water security, prolonged drought, storm surges and rising sea levels and more extreme weather events.

That report says millions of people in the region will be forced from their homes by a rise in the sea level of up to 50 centimetres by 2070.

It said king tides had exposed a need for better coastal protection and long-term planning to potentially move half the 4000 people living in the Torres Strait islands.

The Climate Change and Development Roundtable that funded the research includes the Australian Conservation Foundation, Climate Action Network Australia, Environment Victoria, Friends of the Earth, and Greenpeace.

Church groups involved include the National Council of Churches Australia, Anglicord, Oxfam Australia, Tear Australia, the Uniting Church, World Vision and Caritas Australia.

Urgent action is required to address climate change (Media Release, Caritas Australia, 9/10/06)
Calls to help poor neighbours as they feel the heat (Sydney Morning Herald, 10/10/06)
Climate for change (Herald Sun, 10/10/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Climate Change and Development Roundtable | Australia responds: Helping our neighbours fight climate change (PDF)
Caritas Australia
Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Research Organisation (CSIRO)
Climate Action Network Australia (CANA)

Indigenous Aussies among first climate change victims (CathNews, 4/10/06)
Oceania bishops voice concern on climate change , AIDS (15/8/06)
Catholic leaders warn of 'environmental refugees' scenario (22/11/05)
Greenhouse gas emissions report 'alarming' (CathNews 21/11/05)
Catholic Earthcare highlights Vatican climate change intervention (CathNews 10/11/05)

10 Oct 2006