Australian FM defends 'redirection' of USD 720M in foreign aid

December 1, 2015 11:05 am 

CANBERRA, Dec. 1 — Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on Monday defended the "redirection" of at least USD 720 million of aid to help fund climate-change schemes for Australia's less affluent Pacific neighbors.

The remarks followed the announcement of Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull that australia would redistribute a large portion of the nation's foreign aid budget to cash-poor Pacific countries over the next five years, helping them enact their climate change policies.

Turnbull unveiled the policy in his opening address at the Paris climate change summit, the 21st Conference of Parties (COP-21), Monday night (local time).

But, back in Canberra, Bishop spent Tuesday morning hosing down talks from the Labor and Greens parties that the government was playing accounting tricks, which would ultimately leave the smaller Pacific island nations without sufficient funds if a natural disaster were to occur.

"They won't lose funding because this is exactly what the small island developing nations of the Pacific are asking for," she told the Chanel Nine on Tuesday.

"We provide aid in a partnership with each country and they discuss with us where they want the aid dollars spent … and many of them ask for it in the natural disaster resilience area … because the Pacific is one of the most natural disaster prone regions in the world.

"This is what the aid budget is designed to do."

The Climate Institute, Australia's leading independent climate change watchdog, said the five-year commitment only represented two thirds of what the organization deemed a "fair contribution" — USD 1.10 billion — on the global scale.

In other developments at the COP21 summit in Paris, Turnbull officially signed australia on for the second phase of the Kyoto Protocol.

The second commitment makes Australia's pledge to reduce greenhouse emissions by 5 percent, based on levels recorded in 2000, by 2020.

Last week, Environment Minister Greg Hunt, who is accompanying the Australian prime minister in Paris, released a report stating Australia had already surpassed the 5-percent marker. (PNA/Xinhua)

JBP/EBP

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