Australia’s Pacific side-step

Campaigns and Advocacy, Climate Change, Media Releases, News article written on the 16 Aug 2019

Australia has critically undermined its Pacific step-up by working squarely against the number one priority of Pacific Island countries this week, Oxfam Australia said today.

Speaking from the Pacific Island Forum leaders’ meeting in Tuvalu, Oxfam Australia Climate Change Policy Adviser Simon Bradshaw said by failing to heed the warnings of our Pacific Island neighbours, the Australian Government was risking all of our futures.

“We are dismayed and astonished that Australia could show up here – at ground zero of the global climate crisis – yet resist every request to play is its part in tackling this defining challenge for our region,” Dr Bradshaw said. “This is sadly reflected in Australia’s stubborn refusal to do more to tackle its rising climate pollution, and its watering down of the Forum’s ‘Kainaki II Declaration for Urgent Climate Action Now’, issued today.

“Tuvalu and other Pacific Small Island Developing States could not have done more to encourage Australia to step up. But while their skillful diplomacy, moral authority, and a united Pacific Islands voice may have ensured some key elements of the final outcome survived the unrelenting pressure from Australia, overall Australia refused to do anything new to stem it’s contribution to the climate crisis.”

Dr Bradshaw warned that Australia was now playing a very dangerous game in the region.

“We cannot remain a member of the Pacific family if we continue to undermine our neighbour’s futures through our climate recklessness,” Dr Bradshaw said. “A strong family looks after all its members, especially its most vulnerable. It does not risk their futures.”

Dr Bradshaw said this year’s Pacific Islands Forum came at a time when great powers from China to the United Kingdom were stepping up their engagement with the region. He said Vanuatu was lined up to host next year’s Pacific Islands Forum, with Fiji proposing to host the following year – two powerful members who would be working hard to hold Australia accountable.

“The Morrison Government may consider today’s outcome a win. But it is a Pyrrhic victory that sets us down a very dangerous path,” Dr Bradshaw said.

During the Forum, Pacific Island countries reaffirmed in the strongest possible terms – as they have done for many years – that the climate crisis is a matter of survival for them.

“Being here in Tuvalu is a powerful reminder of the human toll and grave injustice of the climate crisis, as well as the determined leadership of Pacific peoples in responding to this challenge,” Dr Bradshaw said.

The group of Pacific Small Island Developing States issued their own statement earlier in the week – the Tuvalu Declaration – calling on all states to take the actions necessary to limit warming to 1.5°C and secure the future of our region: a swift and just transition from coal, strengthening current, inadequate contributions to the Paris Agreement, and achieving zero emissions before mid-century. All calls that were amplified by the UN Secretary General when he visited Tuvalu this year, yet which were either absent or watered down in the Kainaki II Declaration, adopted by all Forum members including Australia and New Zealand today.

Australia’s only concession this week was to redirect $500 million from within the existing aid program towards supporting climate change adaptation in the region.

“While such support is of course going to be welcome, no amount of money can compensate for risking the very survival of our Pacific brothers and sisters,” Dr Bradshaw said.

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