The Australian government has pledged AUD$150m (US$99.04 million) climate finance for Pacific countries but has not contributed to a newly created global loss and damage fund.

Nearly 200 countries reached an historic consensus agreement on the first day of the Cop28 climate summit in Dubai to set up the loss and damage fund to help the world’s poorest and most vulnerable countries pay for the irreversible impacts of climate disaster.

The Albanese government supported its creation but has not financially backed it.

Instead, it said it would contribute a foundational $100m (US$66.02 million) to the Pacific Resilience Facility, a trust fund to invest in small-scale climate and disaster resilience projects, and $50m (US$33.01 million) for the Green Climate Fund, the world’s largest climate financing mechanism. The commitments, but not the sums, were announced at the Pacific Islands Forum in the Cook Islands last month.

The support for the Green Climate Fund formalises Australia’s return to the UN body after the Morrison government withdrew from it in 2018. Scott Morrison announced Australia was pulling out of what he called “some global climate fund” in an interview with Alan Jones, blind-siding the government officials who were working on it.

Labor’s commitment to the fund is significantly smaller than the AUD$200m (US$132.06 million) over four years that then foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop announced when it was established in 2014. The Albanese government had signalled last month when it rejoined the fund that its contribution would be “modest”.

The funding announcements coincided with the climate change and assistant climate ministers, Chris Bowen and Jenny McAllister, arriving in the United Arab Emirates for the final week of negotiations over how the global community should escalate its respond to the climate crisis.

In a statement, the government said it was “responding to Pacific needs by delivering climate finance directly to the region to deal with the climate crisis and protect people, housing and infrastructure”.

The foreign affairs minister, Penny Wong, said: “We call on other donor countries to follow Australia’s lead and pledge serious funding towards the US$500m target for the Pacific Resilience Facility.”

The government said its commitments built on $75m (US$49.5 million) it had dedicated to renewable energy programmes in the remote and rural Pacific, and support for more than 50 Pacific delegates to attend Cop28.

“Climate change is the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and wellbeing of climate vulnerable countries and regions, including the peoples of the Pacific,” four government ministers said in the statement.

The opposition leader, Peter Dutton, has previously railed against the idea of Australia contributing to a loss and damage fund to “send money overseas and beyond our region”, prompting the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, to accuse him in parliament of “dog whistling”.

The international director with the Smart Energy Council, Richie Merzian, who’s also a former Australian climate diplomat who worked on the Green Climate Fund, said the announcements reinforced that the Pacific was the Australian government’s primary climate funding focus.

He said that Australia giving the Green Climate Fund only a quarter of what the Coalition contributed under Tony Abbott in 2014 was “far from ideal”, and proportionally less than other developed countries, but the commitment was “the direction we need to be going in”.

“Australia rejoining the fund even in a modest way will help the region and demonstrate Australia’s bona fides as a good global citizen when it comes to climate change,” Merzian said.

The creation of the loss and damage fund was a hard-won victory by developing nations after years of campaigning and lobbying but pledges so far have fallen short of what experts say is needed.

The wealthy countries most responsible for the climate emergency have pledged a combined total of about US$700m – equivalent to less than 0.2 percent of the irreversible economic and non-economic losses developing countries face each year due to global heating.

Italy and France have each promised US$108m, and Germany and Cop28 hosts the United Arab Emirates US$100m each. The U.S, which is historically the worst greenhouse gas emitter, has so far pledged just $17.5m.

Estimates of the annual cost of climate damage linked to greenhouse gas emissions vary from US$100bn to US$580bn a year.

The two-week climate summit is due to finish on Tuesday

Meanwhile, the Pacific climate finance package announced by the Australian government Thursday does not go far enough to address accelerating climate harm, says Greenpeace Australia Pacific.

The announcement comes as Climate and Energy Minister Chris Bowen arrives in Dubai for week two of COP28, where fraught battles over fossil fuel phase out and climate finance are set to be waged.

Head of Pacific at Greenpeace Australia Pacific, Shiva Gounden, said that to meet its responsibility to ‘the Pacific Family’, Australia must take action to phase out fossil fuels and to make fair contributions to the Loss and Damage fund.

“I am frustrated by another piecemeal announcement from the Australian government that does not go far enough to address the climate-driven loss and damage that is devastating communities across the Pacific.

“$150 million barely scratches the surface of what Pacific communities need to deal with the impacts of the climate crisis — peanuts, considering the billions of taxpayer dollars poured into the fossil fuel industry as subsidies every year, which could be channelled towards supporting our Pacific family.

“As the third largest fossil fuel exporter in the world, we can not shirk our responsibility to help pay for the climate damage we have helped to create. The funds committed today will not save the Pacific from the climate destruction it is facing — we must tackle the root causes and stop approving new fossil fuel projects now.

“Australia has a responsibility under the UNFCCC process to help fill the Loss and Damage Fund, operationalised on day one of this year’s COP. Instead, we are seeing unilateral side deals which are not in the spirit of the COP process, nor our obligations under the international agreements to which we have signed up. Australia must do better.”

Head of Advocacy at Greenpeace Australia Pacific, Dr Susie Byers, acknowledged the finance package as a good first step, but urged the Australian government to go much further.

“This finance package, while welcome, is a down payment on the real action required to meet our responsibilities as a major contributor to the climate crisis globally.

“It does not negate our obligation to make fair payments to the Loss and Damage fund, a hard-fought victory at COP27 that will help support those countries least responsible for creating the climate crisis to deal with its impacts.

“Of course, we must help the world prepare for the climate disasters that are already coming towards us, but we must also stop making the problem worse. By expanding, subsidising and exporting coal and fossil gas, we are exporting climate harm to our Pacific neighbours and to the whole world.

“We can not afford another COP without radical action and a commitment to phase out fossil fuels globally. Australia must help fill the Loss and Damage fund and outline a clear, ambitious plan to phase out fossil fuels for good,” she said.