Australian climate inaction: Undermining lives and security in the Pacific

Media Releases, News article written on the 04 Sep 2018

Australia’s continued recklessness on climate change flies in the face of a landmark declaration due to be adopted by the Pacific Island Forum tomorrow acknowledging it is the single greatest threat to the region’s security, Oxfam Australia said today.

Oxfam Australia Climate Change Policy Adviser Simon Bradshaw said as the region’s leaders prepared to meet for the annual Pacific Island Forum leaders’ meeting in Nauru, Australia’s inaction on climate change would not be ignored.

Dr Bradshaw said a draft of a declaration to be considered tomorrow stated that climate change “is the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and wellbeing of the peoples of the Pacific” and reaffirms countries’ commitment to the Paris Agreement.

“Make no mistake – Australia’s utter recklessness on climate change is undermining the security and prospects of our Pacific neighbours,” Dr Bradshaw said.

“The cost of our burgeoning coal exports and failure to reign in Australia’s domestic emissions will be measured in people being forced from their homes, more lives being lost to humanitarian disasters, and a future of increasing dangers and hardships for Pacific peoples.”

Dr Bradshaw said there was a striking contrast between the determination of Pacific countries and communities to lead on climate change and Australia’s continued failure to rise to the challenge.

Pacific climate diplomacy was central to securing the Paris Agreement, including the goal of limiting warming to 1.5C – a matter of survival for many Pacific nations. Pacific Island countries are also taking bold action to transform their energy systems and build resilience to the impacts of climate change.

“While Australia remains in a never-ending war with itself over climate policy, Pacific Island countries have been moving ahead with ambitious renewable energy plans and working to catalyse stronger action from the international community,” Dr Bradshaw said. “No region is at greater risk from climate change than the Pacific, nor more determined to lead by example.”

Mr Bradshaw said in recent months, Australia had been scurrying to shore-up its position as an influential player in the region amidst growing competition.

“If Australia is to remain a trusted partner of Pacific nations, it must get serious about addressing the number one threat to the security of Pacific peoples – climate change,” he said.  “We must be under no illusion as to how Australia’s backwardness on climate change is perceived by our Pacific neighbours.”

“At a minimum, Australia must follow other countries that have committed to step up their contribution to the Paris Agreement before 2020, join the global transition away from coal, and transition to 100 per cent renewable energy as soon as possible.  Any less risks further tarnishing Australia’s reputation in the Pacific and undermining the region’s future. This week, Australia has a crucial opportunity to signal to the international community – including our closest neighbours in the Pacific – a commitment to action on climate change.”

A secure region also requires ongoing investment. Australian aid to the Pacific is a crucial way for the Australian Government to promote a vibrant and stable region.

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