Voices from the Front Lines

2 December 2019

Australia burned this spring. Not the regular
fires that the country sees every year at the height of summer, but a
conflagration. These were fires so hot they started their own
thunderstorms, with associated lightning starting yet
more fires
. At one point, the combined fire front was 6,000 kilometres long.
If you drove from Bonn to Madrid, back to Bonn and then returned to Madrid
again, you’d still be almost 700km shy of the length of the front. So far six people have died.

Vast swathes of national parks,
farmland and ecosystems have been destroyed. An estimated 1,000 koalas have
died. Rainforests – places once described as “permanently wet” – burnt for the
first time. More than 500 homes were lost. And it’s not even summer yet.

Bushfires of this scale are
unprecedented in spring. Driven by increasingly hot days and one of the most
extreme droughts ever recorded, now in its 36th month, the realities of climate
change have arrived for the Australian people, flora and fauna.

The impacts go beyond the
direct threat to lives, farms and businesses. Smoke from the fires has seen the
air quality in Sydney the worst in the world in November .The threat to health
led to dozens of schools being closed, a hospital evacuated, and more than
twice the usual number of presentations to emergency departments for asthma and
breathing difficulties.

Black carbon particles with the smoke plume were lofted
12-13km and were tracked by NASA across the
Pacific, across South America and even detected above the southern Atlantic
Ocean. ECO thinks Australia needs to act on climate to stop spreading smoke
pollution particles to other nations along with its climate damaging greenhouse
pollution (Cough Cough).

This is what “loss and damage” due
to climate change looks like in nations like Australia. But will it change the
stance of the Australian Government? ECO believes there is an urgent need to
set up a financing facility under the Warsaw International Mechanism to deliver
new and additional finance to address loss and damage in developing countries,
who cannot rebuild as Australia can. This should include new and innovative
sources of finance to generate additional resources (such as levies on air and
maritime transport, and climate damages tax on fossil fuels) at a scale of
$US50billion by 2022. The Australian delegation has undoubtedly seen the damage
done by climate change in their very own backyards, surely it is not a stretch
for them to support the delivery of very real support for their Pacific

This year, the Australian
delegation will be led by their Energy Minister Angus Taylor, whose record of
inaction on climate change speaks for itself. Australians need action on
climate change urgently, with the height of summer yet to come. ECO calls on Mr
Taylor to stop his political point scoring and instead to deliver real and
meaningful action on climate change, restart Australia’s contribution to the
GCF and support serious action on loss and damage. Australia has a burning need
for it.

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