A Facebook user claims Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has committed Australian taxpayers to $2 trillion per year in international climate change payments.
The post, made on November 23, comes on the heels of the COP27 climate talks in Egypt, where richer nations – including Australia – were under pressure from vulnerable countries to commit funds to help manage the costs of climate change.
But the claim is false. Australia indicated support for a UN-backed “loss and damage” fund but has not yet committed any money.
Experts told AAP FactCheck it is likely Australia will contribute to the fund. However, the suggestion Australia has committed to fork out $2 trillion every year – more than the country’s entire annual GDP – is wrong.
The Facebook post in question claims Prime Minister Albanese has committed Australia “to spending 2 trillion dollars on payments to the Climate Change Organization every year. So, in the next 3 years… the Taxpayer will pay 6 trillion Dollars”.
Another Facebook post, published by the same user on the same day, encourages people to contact MPs to “express the rage you feel about giving away AUD$ 2,000,000.000,000 per yr to Global Climate Change Lobby” (sic).
The posts appear to refer to the decision on November 20, 2022 by COP27 delegates that rich countries should pay into a global fund to help developing countries bear the costs of loss and damage caused by climate change.
When contacted by AAP FactCheck, the Facebook user who made the claim pointed to this news article, which quotes Sky News host Chris Kenny saying the proposed UN fund “could see the additional transfer of $2 trillion… every year” from “developed countries to developing nations”.
However, none of those politicians nor Mr Kenny claimed Australia would be solely responsible for these payments.
Professor Jacqueline Peel, director of Melbourne Climate Futures at the University of Melbourne, told AAP FactCheck that the $2 trillion figure appeared to be a misinterpretation of the November 2022 report, ‘Finance for climate action’.
The report, published by the Grantham Research Institute at the London School of Economics and Political Science, said around $US2.4 trillion per year would be needed by 2030 to meet the projected climate change costs of developing countries (page 7).
“What the COP27 decision establishes is the fund mechanism but it’s an empty shell. The rules on how much and from where are still to be worked out,” Prof Peel said in an email to AAP FactCheck.
Even if the loss and damage fund were in the trillions of dollars, “this is not an immediate liability and would fall on developed countries collectively not just one nation like Australia”, she continued.
Boston University professor Adil Najam, a climate change expert who has written about COP27 commitments here, told AAP FactCheck the proposed fund would likely be voluntary but “the expectation is that industrialised countries (including Australia) will make voluntary contributions”.
However, Prof Najam said the idea the fund would total $2 trillion per year was “practically an impossibility”, even across all contributor nations.
“Right now, the money [in] the fund or committed and pledged stands at ZERO dollars,” he said in an email.
These experts are supported by minutes from COP27, which show that delegates welcomed consideration of a loss and damage fund (page 5) but did not detail the likely value of the fund, nor which countries would contribute.
Environment minister Chris Bowen indicated that Australia supported the possibility of a fund but told media that details had not yet been agreed upon and it was “too early” to say how much money would be involved.
Prof Najam added: “I think the number comes from people who have been trying to calculate the extent of total loss due to loss and damage in the worst cases because of climate change. That does NOT mean that will be the amount in the fund.”
The claim that Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has committed $2 trillion per year to an international climate fund is false.
In November 2022, the Australian government – along with a number of other developed nations – supported the possibility of a UN-backed fund to help developing nations cope with “loss and damage” caused by climate change. However, the total value of the fund and the size of Australia’s contribution has not yet been agreed.
Experts said it was unlikely the total value of the fund would hit $2 trillion – and wrong to claim Australia was liable for a $2 trillion annual contribution.
False – The claim is inaccurate.