Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has pledged half a billion dollars more to help the Pacific and Southeast Asia address the climate crisis, acknowledging during his final announcement at COP26 that there was “no greater threat to our Pacific family than climate change.”

The latest climate finance injection takes Australia’s commitment to $2 billion until 2025, double the previous five-year period. 

At least $700 million will be reserved exclusively for the Pacific, Morrison confirmed. 

"Australia’s assistance will support Pacific and Southeast Asian countries to enhance climate resilience for future infrastructure investments, including roads, schools and bridges. It will also drive private-sector-led climate solutions that support clean technology, jobs and growth across our region,” Morrison said in a statement. “We must empower and enable developing countries to industrialise and lift their incomes and standards of living in a new, decarbonised energy economy.”

Twelve years ago, in 2009 at COP16 in Copenhagen, leaders of the world's richest nations agreed to deliver a US$100 billion per year climate finance plan to aid less wealthy, climate-vulnerable countries by 2020. The policy, however, was never legally binding, and negotiators didn't decide how to gauge countries' commitments or the amount of money each nation should give.

Wealthy nations have, however, failed to deliver on this commitment — conceding in October, ahead of COP26, that the $100 billion a year target wouldn’t be hit until 2023.

Australia, specifically, is thought to have supplied less than 20% of its “fair share” of the target.

While Australia's latest pledge narrows the divide slightly, experts and campaigners say much more is urgently needed.

The World Resources Institute, a non-profit research organisation, says Australia needs to spend around US$3 billion a year if it is to play its part to help limit global warming to under 1.5 degrees Celsuis, while activist group Avaaz wants to see Australia deliver at least US$3.4 billion annually. Independent global think tank ODI, meanwhile, believes the country should make a yearly contribution of US$2.9 billion.

Global Citizen has backed ODI, with Policy Advisor William Naughton-Gravette saying there’s no time to delay further action.

"It’s only fair that countries like Australia, which have built their wealth on fossil fuels, play their part in correcting this problem. It’s our mess to clean up,” Naughton-Gravette said. “This new commitment is a great start, but the Australian Government still isn’t close to contributing its fair share. We want to see Australia help meet the US$15-20 billion funding shortfall of the US$100 billion promised annually.”


Defend the Planet

COP26: Australia Commits More Climate Financing for Pacific and Southeast Asia. It’s Not Enough.

By Madeleine Keck