Australia lags on climate action as Pacific considers world first treaty

Climate Change, General, Media Releases, News article written on the 15 Jul 2016

Coal and fossil fuel developments could be banned in the Pacific under a proposed treaty presented to regional island leaders at a summit in Honiara this week.

Oxfam Australia climate change advisor Dr Simon Bradshaw, an observer at this week’s Pacific Islands Development Forum Leaders Summit, said the Pacific Climate Treaty would be a pioneering step in accelerating action on climate change.

Dr Bradshaw said the bold proposal would set a global example to countries such as Australia, which was significantly lagging in meeting its responsibilities on tackling climate change.

“The proposed treaty would build on the momentum of the Paris Agreement,” Dr Bradshaw said.

“It would enable islands to work together by phasing out fossil fuels, building resilience to climate impacts and finding solutions for those who face irrecoverable losses from climate change, which is one of the biggest threats to ending global hunger.

“The initiative can be compared to the historic South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty, which acted as a braking mechanism in the nuclear arms race.”

Dr Bradshaw said leaders from 14 Pacific Island countries had set in train a process of consultation on the proposed treaty, with a report expected at next year’s summit. The proposed treaty follows last year’s Suva Declaration – a landmark call to action and commitment from the Pacific that helped secure a strong outcome from the Paris negotiations.

Discussions at the summit highlighted the growing impacts of climate change on the region including sea level rise, more destructive storms, shifting rainfall patterns and damage to coral reefs – a vital source of food.

Dr Bradshaw said Pacific leaders continued to show immense determination in responding to climate change.

“Pacific communities are not waiting for the rest of the world to take action,” he said. “Despite having contributed almost nothing to the causes of climate change – and being hit first and hardest by its impacts – they are showing courageous leadership.

“The contrast between the pioneering example set by Pacific Island countries and the backward steps taken by Australia could not be more striking.”

The Paris Agreement provides a strong foundation for action, including agreement to pursue efforts to limit the average temperature rise to 1.5C. But current commitments from the international community, notably Australia, remain a long way short and risk dangerous impacts for communities.

“Australia must start living up to its responsibilities on climate change,” Dr Bradshaw said. “This means achieving zero emissions well before mid-century, committing to no new coal mines or expansions in Australia and doing more to support developing countries.”

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