“We’re talking Survival”: Pacific Islanders call out Australia on Coal

The Tree | – –

Pacific Island nations have stepped up pressure on their reckless neighbours, warning Australia and New Zealand that their inadequate action on climate change will doom island states – especially if they continue to ignore the call for a moratorium on new coal and the call to keep warming below 1.5DegC. Both Australia and New Zealand are trying to pretend they are doing their bit on climate change, but “inadequate” emissions reduction targets, routine creative accounting efforts, and greedy support for fossil fuel expansion continues to undermine real progress. Both countries have a history of bullying their small island state neighbours, and with Australia developing climate policy to protect the coal industry and New Zealand having no new policies to reduce emissions since 2008, they are likely to again throw their aid weight around to water down the final climate declaration. Kiribati President Anote Tong has warned that Australia and New Zealand could be asked to leave the forum if they don’t commit to stronger action on climate change, declaring that Kiribati cannot be “bought off” with aid.

Pacific Island nations are calling for a moratorium on new coal mines, and for governments attending the UNFCCC Paris talks to agree to hold warming below 1.5DegC. The Suva Declaration and the Smaller Island States Declaration set out similar calls for the action the world needs to take to protect their future. The Pacific Island Climate Action Network has also tabled a regional proposal to be discussed at this week’s Forum. But an Oxfam report warns of “fundamental differences” between the Island states and the two developed country forum members, Australia and New Zealand, particularly over climate change policy, where it describes them as “two of the worst performing governments”.

Friends don’t let friends drown. President Anote Tong of Kiribati, one of the lowest-lying island states in the world, and which has already been suffering from the effects of king tides, has urged Australia and New Zealand to “be real friends” on climate change. This means no more coal and oil expansion, no bullying and aid buy-offs at Pacific Island forums, and real, ambitious engagement at UN climate talks.

Fossil fuel expansion is fundamentally incompatible with climate action and protection of Pacific island nations. With their small island states facing record cyclones and rising tides, Pacific Island Leaders need Australia and New Zealand to step up climate action, not fill their coffers with fossil fuel profits and try to buy them off with aid. Both countries’ climate targets have been criticised as “inadequate”, and both are complaining that increasing their targets would cost too much, despite evidence to the contrary and vast sums still being spent subsidising fossil fuel exploration.

Key Quotes

  • “What we are talking about is survival, it’s not about economic development… it’s not politics, it’s survival. I think they need to come to the party, if they really are our friends then they should be looking after our future as well.” – Kiribati President Anote Tong
  • “[The Pacific Islands Development Forum] has produced a declaration that reflects the concerns of small island countries. Of course next week Australia and New Zealand will be in the mix so it will be considerably more difficult to reach agreement that satisfies everyone. We have seen here, Prime Minister Bainimarama try and get out in front and try and develop a strong voice from the small island states that isn’t confused by Australia and New Zealand’s position.” – Lowy Institute’s Jenny Hayward-Jones
  • “The two big brothers of the Pacific have largely ignored their neighbours’ calls for stronger emissions reduction targets and greater support to meet the challenges of climate change. The question remains whether Australia will do the right thing by the Pacific and ensure the leaders meeting sends the strongest possible signal ahead of Paris, or whether together with New Zealand, it will use its influence in the Forum to weaken any outcomes.” – Oxfam Australia CEO Dr Helen Szoke
  • “New Zealand should Join Pacific leaders in a strong regional statement ahead of the Paris climate negotiations. Like previous declarations from Pacific island countries, that statement should include calls for a strengthening of the global temperature goal to 1.5°C and adequate long-term financing for climate programmes in the Pacific. Finally, New Zealand must increase its own targets to reduce climate pollution and set a plan to make it happen. Failure to do so will mean our island neighbours continue to see their homes destroyed and the land of their people disappear – and the world will continue to lose more of its most precious taonga.” – Oxfam New Zealand Chief Executive, Rachael Le Mesurier
  • “Tony Abbott should feel deeply ashamed when he is at the Pacific Islands Forum this week. Australia is the biggest polluter per capita and Tony Abbott’s plan is to keep it that way. Far from the moratorium on new coal mines that low-lying Pacific nations are calling for, Tony Abbott is trying to re-write environment law to suit mining companies and is attacking clean energy. Our Pacific neighbours must shake their heads in disbelief and despair at the Minerals Council’s embarrassing assertion that “coal is amazing” and Tony Abbott’s proclamation that “coal is good for humanity.” – Australian Greens Deputy Leader and climate change spokesperson, Senator Larissa Waters
  • Via The Tree

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    Related video added by Juan Cole:

    CCTV: “Climate showdown at Pacific leaders’ forum”

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    And Australia PM Tony Abbott & his Immigration Minister Peter Dutton laugh at prospect of ocean swallowing Pacific Islands:

    ABC Australia: “Dutton quips about Pacific Islands facing climate change”

2 Responses

  1. “Australia is the biggest polluter per capita …”

    I suspect that correlates with them being the most productive, per capita.

    I don’t know the answer,
    but these island nation representatives seem to be calling for Australians to inflict economic wounds on themselves, and in return get what ?

    I know some Australians. I have some in my family. These are hard-working folk, and it takes energy to be productive.
    What compromises are being offered ?
    What incentives ?
    .
    and yes, I have some idea of the harm that comes from getting energy from coal.

    • Australia has so much sun energy and panels are now so inexpensive that just closing the coal mines and going solar would save the country billions in the coming years. Moreover it is not just Tuvalu you are endangering. Much of Sydney and Melbourne are not going to be there. What does that loss come to? How many billions?

      Coal is evil.

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