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Oxfam: Loss And Damage Report Reveals Significant Gap In NZ Climate Support For The Pacific

Oxfam Aotearoa along with Oxfam Australia, and Oxfam in the Pacific have released a new report titled Breaking through red lines. Oxfam says that the report draws attention to gaps in the latest funds announced for overseas climate action by the New Zealand government. The funds will go towards supporting efforts to reducing emissions in the Pacific.

Oxfam in the Pacific’s Climate Justice Lead Ilisapeci Masivesi says that while funds to support community adaptation and mitigation are crucial, the report shows that climate change is causing unavoidable loss and damage, which needs distinct funds to help communities recover and restore what has been lost:

“New Zealand’s recent increase in support for adaptation in the Pacific is very welcome. However, while it is a huge help, it does not address the full picture of what we are experiencing in the islands.

“At COP26, it is crucial that governments around the world listen to the voices of those on the frontlines of climate change. Communities in the Pacific have been calling for loss and damage finance for 30 years.

“My country of Fiji is among the most disaster-prone in the world. To survive we are developing solutions that help farmers to restore their crops after a cyclone or villagers to shift their entire homes because of sea level rise. Communities are mostly paying for this themselves even though they did nothing to create the problems. Rich countries that are most responsible for causing climate change, including New Zealand and Australia, need to help more and support Pacific leadership that is calling for finance solutions to compensate these unavoidable impacts globally.”

The report, which outlines the loss and damage faced across the Pacific, includes the effects cyclones and flooding are having on Fiji. Despite efforts to adapt, climate-charged cyclones and flooding causes asset losses equivalent to five percent of GDP in Fiji each year. Cyclone Winston in 2016 caused damage equivalent to 20 percent of GDP. Oxfam says that these events are becoming more frequent and more intense pushing over 25,000 people into poverty every year in Fiji.

The report also shows that loss and damage is being experienced by Māori communities within Aotearoa, and that this needs a distinct response from the New Zealand government to uphold Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Alex Johnston, Oxfam Aotearoa Campaign Lead said that New Zealand’s policy position ahead of COP26 on loss and damage focuses on avoiding and mitigating loss and damage through adaptation finance but not addressing the unavoidable loss that is already occurring:

“New Zealand's position does not align with Pacific Island countries’ policy position. At COP26, making progress to mobilise sufficient funds to address loss and damage requires political will, as well as new and innovative sources of finance.”

“New Zealand and Australia have contributed funds to help set up insurance schemes to support Pacific Island communities recover from cyclones and extreme weather, but to be maintained these rely on payments from affected communities and on the private market to make a profit. Very little has been done to help communities cover the costs of slow-onset events like sea level rise, and what has been done is treated as adaptation – not loss and damage finance.

Johnston said, “Oxfam Aotearoa is calling for the New Zealand government to align with Pacific Island Countries’ positions on loss and damage at COP26, scale up financial support to existing loss and damage finance solutions in the Pacific, and develop distinct responses in the Climate Adaptation Act to the loss and damage that Māori experience on these shores.”

See the full report here.

Notes:

  • Tropical cyclones and floods in Fiji push over 25,000 people into poverty every year. Cyclones have made entire communities homeless. Almost USD 4.5 billion (equivalent to nearly 100 percent of Fiji’s GDP) is needed over the next 10 years to strengthen Fiji’s resilience to climate change and natural hazards (Oxfam, 2021).
  • Insurance cover is not enough. In 2018, Cyclone Gita caused USD 164 million in economic damage, equivalent to 37% of Tonga's GDP. Tonga received a “record” insurance payout of just USD 3.5 million. The Pacific needs greater scale and predictability of finance to cover loss and damage from climate change due to sudden onset events.
  • Not enough is being done to help communities cover the costs of slow-onset events like sea level rise as well as non-economic losses. New Zealand has contributed $2 million to a fund that helps support villages in Fiji to relocate, but most of this fund is so far being contributed to by Fijian taxpayers themselves.
  • Pacific Islands have been calling for loss and damage finance to be addressed globally for over 30 years. Solutions exist in the region, but the affected communities are mostly paying for this themselves even though they did nothing to create the problems.
  • Solutions where wealthy countries carry the costs, and funds reach those most affected need to be scaled up. Oxfam’s Unblocked Cash program provides social protection through digital cash payments to already vulnerable communities following sudden onset events. It has so far provided cash assistance to 35,000 people in Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea
  • Wealthy countries that are most responsible for causing climate change, including New Zealand and Australia, need to align with Pacific Island Countries’ positions on loss and damage at COP26, and scale up financial support to existing loss and damage finance solutions in the Pacific.

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