Oxfam Paris climate talks report reveals massive costs of warming for the world’s poorest

Media Releases article written on the 25 Nov 2015

Developing countries will be crushed under the burden of US $800 billion to adapt to the impacts of climate change and twice that number in economic losses every year by 2050 if pledges to cut emissions are not improved.

In a new report released for the UN Climate Change Negotiations in Paris that begin on Monday, Game-changers in the Paris climate deal, Oxfam sets out seven steps to a global climate change agreement that will better protect vulnerable people from climate change.

The steps include an initial commitment from developed countries of at least US $35 billion a year by 2020* in funding for climate change adaptation, a robust five-yearly review mechanism that will strengthen emissions targets from 2020, and provisions for loss and damage to ensure that poor people get the support they need where adapting to climate change is no longer possible.

Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke, who will be in Paris for the negotiations,

said that as Australia was surrounded by some of the most vulnerable countries in the world to the impacts of climate change, it must help reach an agreement that can deliver for these communities and ensure they were protected.

“Australia must substantially increase both its emissions reduction target and its contribution to helping developing countries adapt to climate change.”

She said that while there was growing momentum for a global climate deal, what was currently on the table was not enough.

“Our report today shows the scale of the challenge facing the world’s poorest people as a result of climate change – which they have done very little to cause,” Dr Szoke said.

“World leaders need to step up. We need further cuts to emissions and more climate funding so vulnerable communities – who are already facing unpredictable floods, droughts and hunger – can adapt to survive. The human cost of climate change must be central to discussions in Paris so we get a better climate agreement for poor people.”

The report finds that developing countries face losing US $1.7 trillion annually to their economies by the middle of the century if global average temperatures rise by three degrees. This is US $600 billion more than if warming was contained to two degrees – four times more than rich countries gave in development aid last year.

If current public climate change adaptation finance pledged by developed countries were to be divided among the 1.5 billion small-holder farmers in developing countries, they would get the equivalent of just $3 a year to protect themselves from floods, severe droughts and other climate extremes – the cost of a cup of coffee.

The cornerstone of a Paris deal is expected to be the pledges by more than 150 countries to cut emissions. But even if these targets are met, the world is likely to experience devastating warming of around 3 degrees. Around 100 countries are calling for the global temperature rise to be kept below 1.5 degrees, given that even warming of 2 degrees will push many beyond their ability to adapt 

Dr Szoke said the deal reached at Paris must have people at it core: “The Paris deal needs to be a solid foundation for further global action to tackle climate change, and the more we see poor people at its heart, the stronger it will be.”

For further information or interviews, please contact Roslyn Boatman on 0409 549 049 or roslynb@oxfam.org.au


Notes to editors:

Links to pictures and testimonies showing the human impact of climate change:

Viet Nam – Coastal erosion and the salinisation of land; communities using renewable energy

Laos –Rice farmers adapting to the changing climate

Cambodia – Villagers facing eviction due to a new dam flooding their valley

Honduras – The affect of coffee rust on coffee farmers

Oxfam commissioned this research to Climate Analytics. The results from the AD-RICE model were adjusted to 2012 dollar value. Different assumptions were imputed into the model to obtain projections (e.g: number of sectors, adaptation options, damage function (a mathematical representation relating economic loss to future warming levels induced by climate change) and discount rate (rate used to define the present value of future cash flows). The model projections are sensitive to changes in the parameters imputed so results should be interpreted as an indication of magnitude as opposed to exact estimations. The numbers are therefore presented to the nearest 10 billion. Exact figures from the modelling were: by 2050 developing countries could face adaptation costs of about $794 billion per year, an additional $274 billion annually, compared with the estimated adaptation needs under a 2 degree scenario (about $520 billion annually). The results should be considered conservative because of the top-down nature and high level of aggregation of the AD-RICE model. Both economic losses and adaptation costs could be significantly higher than projected. To see details on the calibration of the model and the research results in more detail, click here: https://climateanalytics.box.com/s/cu3roavlzlpt6adyjizskaw76i9eyoo6

* While developed countries are committed to mobilizing US$100bn a year by 2020 in support climate action in developing countries, with a balanced allocation between adaptation and mitigation, currently only 16% of international climate finance flows to adaptation (according to the OECD’s recent assessment of progress towards the US$100bn goal.) Oxfam’s assessment is that a commitment to US$35bn in public finance for adaptation by 2020 (which equates to 50% of anticipated public finance flows in 2020) is the minimum needed to start to address the current gap. By 2025, a commitment to a minimum of US$50bn should be made, subject to review based on national assessment of needs.