Aust must act now on climate change: Oxfam

Aine Fox

Australia must take responsibility for the part it plays in global warming by urgently cutting emissions and better funding those neighbouring countries worst affected by climate change, Oxfam has warned.

The charity says extreme weather disasters fuelled by climate change were the number one cause of internal displacement - where people are forced from their homes but remain within their own countries - over the past decade.

An estimated 20 million people a year are internally displaced and the world's poorest countries are hardest hit despite contributing the least to global carbon pollution, according to the Oxfam report Forced from Home released on Monday.

The recent unprecedented bushfires across Australia are a reminder that nowhere can escape the consequences of climate change, Oxfam Australia adviser Simon Bradshaw said in a statement.

"The current bushfires in Australia have shown that nobody is immune to the impacts of the climate crisis," he said.

Homes have been destroyed and lives lost as bushfires hit NSW and Queensland particularly hard, with emergency services warning people to be prepared for more difficult conditions to come over the summer months.

People living in the Pacific face a particularly high threat from global warming, Dr Bradshaw said.

Australia's neighbours Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands are among the top 10 most at-risk countries in the Pacific from climate-fuelled displacement.

"Our research reaffirms that communities in the Pacific face particularly severe impacts from global heating, including being forced from their homes by extreme weather disasters," Dr Bradshaw said.

As the UN Climate Summit was due to begin in Madrid on Monday, Oxfam called on governments to "deliver deeper and more urgent emissions reductions" and to commit to a "loss and damage" fund to help poor communities recover from climate disasters.

Dr Bradshaw said the federal government must play its part.

"The Australian government needs to move beyond coal and back the Pacific Islands and other vulnerable nations in their calls for a new loss and damage finance facility under the Paris Agreement.

"It's only fair that we add our support to this, as well as further cutting our emissions, considering our much greater responsibility for the crisis."

While small island developing states make up seven of the 10 countries facing the highest risk of internal displacement from extreme weather events, emissions from those states are less than those of high-income countries, the charity said.

"Our governments are fuelling a crisis that is driving millions of women, men and children from their homes and the poorest people in the poorest countries are paying the heaviest price," Oxfam International acting executive director Chema Vera said.

"Governments can and must make Madrid matter."