The Australian government is committing an additional A$500 million (US$374.4 million) over the next five years to help neighbouring developing nations tackle the impacts of climate change.

The funding is in addition to the A$1.5 billion commitment the government had already made last year and doubles Australia’s previous five-year commitment of A$1 billion between 2015 and 2020 towards nations in South-East Asia and the Pacific.

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Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrsson noted that the investment would include an increase for the Pacific from A$500 million to at least A$700 million.

The move follows other countries, such as the UK, US and Canada, in doubling their climate financing commitments.

“Now we're not putting this through other worldwide institutions or other groups like this. We're doing this direct, because we want to make sure that the climate finance investments that Australians are making are being invested in our backyard amongst our Pacific Island family and amongst our South East Asian partners and friends,” Morrison said during a press conference at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.

“We want to cut out all the red tape and get rid of all the bureaucracy and make sure that this funding is going to work directly within our region, making a big difference for their resilience and their mitigation to ensure that they can deal not just with trying to reduce their own emissions, but more significantly being able to deal with the consequences of climate change, which they're already experiencing in their many Pacific island nations.”

However, Australian non-profit the Climate Council hit out at the government, claiming Australia was still not fulfilling its full responsibility to help developing nations deal with the impacts of climate change.

“On an annual basis, Australia’s commitment (of A$2 billion between 2020-2025) represents only around 0.3% of the international goal of mobilising US$100 billion per year,” the Climate Council said Tuesday.

“Independent assessments have placed Australia’s fair share of this goal at around 2.4% – or US$2.4 billion every year, instead of over five years. Even with this announcement of increased international climate financing, Australia is well behind where it needs to be.”

Indo-Pacific Carbon Offsets Scheme

The announcement of the additional funding also came as the Australian government unveiled Fiji as the first international partner to join Australia’s Indo-Pacific Carbon Offsets Scheme.

The scheme is modelled on Australia’s Emissions Reduction Fund and is designed to develop a high-integrity carbon offset scheme in the Indo-Pacific region.

The scheme will also see Australia share technical expertise in carbon accounting with countries in the region to help them meet new Paris Agreement emissions reporting obligations.

“Australia is the gold standard when it comes to transparency and accountability in emissions reporting,” Australia’s Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor said in a statement.

“We expect all major economies to be held to the same high standard and we will support countries in our region to build the capability of their emissions reporting.”

The government confirmed it would also top up funding of the carbon offset scheme by A$44 million, to a total investment of A$104 million over 10 years.

Australia facing criticism for lack of 2030 ambition

Morrison's appearance at COP26 comes after he last week confirmed Australia's commitment to reach net zero emissions by 2050, in line with many other western nations.

While the setting of the net zero target has been welcomed, Morrison has drawn criticism at home and abroad for his refusal to increase the nation’s 2030 emissions reduction targets, which currently stand at a reduction of 26-28% below 2005 levels.

The Australian Prime Minister admitted to journalists at COP26 that other leaders, including those in the Pacific, had asked for Australia to set a more ambitious 2030 target, however, it appears the government is unlikely to change its current target, despite claiming Australia is already on track to exceed it.

“We will achieve, we believe, a 35% reduction in emissions by 2030 and that will significantly outstrip the commitments that we've made of 26 to 28%,” Morrison said.

“But that 26 to 28% is a commitment I made with the Australian people. That's what I took to an election, and we always saw that as a floor, not a ceiling.”

Morrison also pointed out that Australia had already achieved a 20.8% reduction in emissions, while also claiming Australia’s emissions intensity for carbon emissions reduction in the G20 was second only to the United Kingdom.

He also claimed Australia’s installation of renewable energy was “eight times the global average and three times some of the most advanced economies in Europe”.

However, the Climate Council took exception to Morrison’s boast on Australia having already cut emissions by more than 20% since 2005.

The Climate Council claims three quarters of the emissions reductions came from changes in land management, while stating Australia had made “almost no progress” in reducing emissions from electricity and moving beyond fossil fuels.

“If the PM wants to speak on behalf of Aussies then he must announce a strong 2030 emissions reduction target,” Climate Council chief executive Amanda McKenzie said.

“This protects Australians, our way of life, and all humanity. We can provide more support for our vulnerable neighbours, and our country needs action now, to build solar and wind plants, phase out coal and slash our pollution.”