Australia's authority in Pacific 'being eroded by refusal to address climate change'
Pacific Islands Forum Australiaâs authority in Pacific 'being eroded by refusal to address climate change'
Top climate scientist says leaders disenchanted with Australiaâs promotion of coal and slowing down action on meeting Paris targets
Australiaâs regional authority and influence is being eroded by its refusal to address the threat climate change poses to many of its Pacific neighbours, according to a pre-eminent scientist.
As part of the Pacific Islands Forum, Australia was a signatory to the Boe declaration in Nauru on Wednesday which said climate change represented âthe single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and wellbeing of the peoples of the Pacificâ.Australia tried to water down climate change resolution at Pacific Islands Forum: leader Read more
But Australia attempted to water down the language of the declaration, other Pacific countries have said, resisting language around urgent action to cut emissions, and issued qualifications to part of the Pacific Islands Forum communique over the Paris climate agreement.
The prime minister of Tuvalu, Enele Sopoaga, said the name of the country seeking qualifications â[started] with capital A â. Australia is the only country in the PIF beginning with A.
Several sources from the PIF forum have confirmed Australia's efforts to weaken the Boe Declaration. Vanuatu's minister for lands and natural resources Ralph Regenvanu said: âI was there, and can confirm this is true. And unfortunate.â
Dr Bill Hare, managing director of Climate Analytics and a lead author on the IPCC fourth assessment report, told Guardian Australia that Pacific leaders were growing increasingly disenchanted with Australiaâs refusal to commit to cutting carbon emissions, even as their nations faced massive economic, physical and social disruption, even existential threat.
âThe leaders are not fools, and they are increasingly confronted by the problems of climate change, in all its different dimensions,â Hare said. âThe problem for Australia is it doesnât have credibility on climate. Australia is an important player for many of the Pacific Island countrie s, well-respected and well-liked by the populations and the political leaders, but on climate change there is a chasm opening up.
âI hear it from Pacific leaders all the time: they are fighting to save their countries and their people and they cannot understand why the Australian government leadership canât see the problems theyâve got.â
Hare said while the language in the Boe declaration was strong, the real test for Australia would be in its actions to address its own emissions, and in helping the Pacific with adaptation.
âThe actions will not match the gravity of the declaration or the gravity of the need. There is a credibility gap: Australia is not acting on reducing its own emissions. All the leaders know that whenever the prime minister or energy minister says Australia will meet its Paris targets âin a canterâ, that that it is wrong, it is factually incorrect â" it is bullshit.
âThey know Australia is working to slow down action o n meeting Paris targets, they know Australia is promoting coal, and they know itâs going to cause a climate catastrophe. Australia has dedicated and able diplomats across the region, but the political leadership of the government is so far removed from reality, it opens up major problems for the country.â
Pacific leaders were confronting losing large proportions of their territory, and the forcible displacement of their populations, Hare said. He said leaders did not want their next generations to grow up dislocated, living in foreign cities like Sydney and Auckland, with the attendant loss of identity, culture and self-esteem.
Support for Australia could ebb away, with Pacific Islands looking to other benefactors â" in particular China â" which has made massive in its aid spending and diplomatic engagement in the region. China is set to overtake Australia as the largest donor to the Pacific, after pledging US$4bn in aid to the region last year.Scott Morr ison contradicts energy advice, saying Paris targets can be met 'at a canter' Read more
The Australian Conservation Foundation chief executive officer, Kelly OâShanassy, said Australiaâs Boe declaration commitment was welcomed but must be matched by domestic action.
âItâs not surprising that Pacific leaders have been unhappy with Australia on climate change with the Morrison government turning up at the Pacific Islands Forum with no real plan to cut our domestic pollution and without a clear indication that it intends to develop one.â
Ahead of the Pacific Islands Forum, Xavier Matsutaro, the national climate change coordinator for Palau, said Australiaâs relationship with the Pacific was âdysfunctionalâ and akin to an abusive spouse, saying Australia was also responsible for diluting the strength of previous regional declarations on climate change.
âAustralia is a bit of an anomaly, because on the floor [of climate summ its] theyâre basically sometimes as far right as Trump in some of their views on climate change â¦ but then on a regional basis theyâve actually given a lot of support to our region.â
Hare said Matsutaro spoke the âreal and growing truthâ about Pacific sentiment towards Australia.
âIt reflects a major political and diplomatic crisis in the Pacific. If Pacific leaders lose faith in Australia, then they will turn to others, and this is already becoming a major source of discussion. Pacific leaders are not naive about the strings that will come with development from China, but they are beginning to feel abandoned.â
- Pacific Islands Forum
- Climate change
- Australian politics
- South Pacific
- Paris climate agreement
- Greenhouse gas emissions
- Share on Facebook
- Share on Twitter
- Share vi a Email
- Share on LinkedIn
- Share on Pinterest
- Share on Google+
- Share on WhatsApp
- Share on Messenger
- Reuse this content