New smoke, old mirrors

IN Paris last month, Australian Prime Minister Turnbull announced that “Australia will contribute at least $1 billion over the next five years from our existing aid budget, both to build climate resilience and reduce emissions.”

At first glance, this is a welcome initiative, reversing the policies of former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who Turnbull replaced as Liberal leader last September. On closer analysis, Pacific calls for “new and additional” climate funding have come to nothing. Behind the smoke and mirrors, the Turnbull pledge is a reversion to the status quo before Abbott came to office.

About $200 million (US$145m) will be allocated each year for multilateral, regional as well as bilateral climate programmes. This sum is equivalent to the funding allocated during the “Fast Start Finance” period of 2010-12 under the Rudd and Gillard Labour Governments. However the Fast Start funding came at a time when Australia’s aid budget was expanding towards $8 billion (US$5.8b) – those days are long gone!

Turnbull’s Paris pledge includes funds already announced by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop at the 2014 climate negotiations in Lima. Funds will be reallocated from the existing aid budget, rather than drawn from innovative financial mechanisms like taxes on financial speculation.

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