Australia’s next Government must listen to Pacific leaders and act on climate crisis

Campaigns and Advocacy, Climate Change, Media Releases, News article written on the 15 May 2019

Pacific leaders have just sent a loud and very clear message to whoever forms Government after this weekend’s Federal election – the climate crisis is “an unprecedented global catastrophe” and all countries must “take decisive and transformative action”.

Oxfam Australia Climate Change Adviser Dr Simon Bradshaw said a statement released by Pacific leaders today urged all countries to do more to confront the climate crisis – and this included Australia.

The statement was released following the leaders meeting with United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres in Suva, who is in the Pacific to build momentum ahead of the UN Climate Summit in September.

“Climate damage is a matter of survival for many Pacific peoples,” Dr Bradshaw said. “Already, entire communities are being forced from their ancestral homes by rising seas and more powerful storms.

“Right now, Australia’s woeful lack of commitment to climate action is risking the lives, security and wellbeing of people throughout the Pacific, just as it’s taking a heavy toll on Australians.”

Australia is both among the highest per capita emitters of climate pollution in the world and the world’s largest coal exporter.

“The annual emissions flowing from the proposed Adani mine alone would be greater than the annual emissions from all other Pacific countries combined,” Dr Bradshaw said.

“Neither major parties have the policies to ensure Australia plays its part in limiting warming to 1.5°C – the long-term goal of the Paris Agreement. This demands no new coal and, for a wealthy country like Australia, achieving zero emissions well before mid-century.”

Last October, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change laid out the catastrophic consequences of a temperature rise beyond 1.5°C, and concluded that the world as a whole has around a decade to roughly halve global climate pollution for a chance of keeping to this goal.

The UN Secretary General is urging all countries to come to the UN Climate Summit in September with new and concrete plans to strengthen their existing commitments to the Paris Agreement.

Dr Bradshaw said the Pacific leaders’ statement continued many years of strident advocacy by the region – the ‘Blue Pacific’ – to catalyse stronger international action and hold big polluters like Australia to account.

“Pacific Island countries have contributed almost nothing to the causes of the climate crisis, but remain determined to lead by example through shifting to renewable energy, building the resilience of their communities, and being at the forefront of international negotiations,” he said. “The poorest and most vulnerable communities around the world are being hit first and hardest by climate change.”

Dr Bradshaw said years of Australian Government recklessness on climate change had harmed its relationship with the Pacific region.

“Make no mistake, the actions during this next term of government will impact profoundly on the lives and prospects of Pacific communities far into the future,” Dr Bradshaw said. “If we’re to remain a trusted member of the Pacific family – we need to step up to stop climate damage.”

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