Gillard's climate plan gives vital hope to the Pacific

The Edmund Rice Centre has today called on political leaders of all persuasions to support the Gillard carbon plan. "The Gillard carbon plan is an important and significant first step that all Australians should get behind," said Jill Finnane, coordinator of Eco-Justice programs at the Edmund Rice Centre.

"Putting a price on the green-house gas emissions that each one of us is responsible for is an effective means to move towards overall improvements for the planet," she said.

"As a nation we need to look beyond our own short-term interests and consider, not only the legacy we are leaving for our grandchildren, but also the effect that our emissions are having on our neighbours in low-lying Pacific Island nations."

"It is in places like Kiribati and Tuvalu, and in communities of our own Torres Strait islands that the sea encroachments are already having devastating effects. This is too important an issue to play politics with. As Australians we have a choice. We can fight against this legislation and tell our grandchildren that they can deal with our mess later, or, we can embrace this plan and tell our grandchildren that ours was the generation that accepted the reality of carbon pollution and took the first real steps to curtail it."

ERC's Pacific Outreach Officer Maria Tiimon from Kiribati echoed these concerns. "People who live in my home country, Kiribati, are amongst the lowest per capita emitters of green-house gases. And yet with sea-encroachments putting the future of our country in doubt, it is we who are being asked to pay the highest price in the effects of climate change."

"In Tuvalu also, communities are now finding sea-water bubbling up into their veggie patches," Ms Tiimon stated. "So, even though they are desperately poor, they are having to try to buy cement to lay concrete slabs on which they will pile up compost in order to grow their basic crops. This is no small matter for these people living in village communities dependent largely on subsistence agriculture. It is when people look beyond the science and economics to see the human impact of climate change, then we can begin to understand that this really is an urgent issue."

"The Edmund Rice Centre has for the past five years promoted greater engagement with vulnerable Pacific communities through the initiative, the Pacific Calling Partnership," Ms Finnane said. "The goal of the initiative is to promote awareness of the challenges that climate change poses for the most vulnerable low-lying island communities. We work to ensure that voices of the Pacific are heard more clearly within the broader global community, and particularly where policies are defined that seek to monitor and control green house gas emissions."

"This carbon pricing initiative by Australia, will be an important factor in the global discussions for a new climate change treaty in December in Durban, South Africa. The Pacific Calling Partnership has sent delegations to attend the UN climate change summits in Bali, Copenhagen and Cancun. It will be constructive this year in Durban to see that Australia will have taken a significant step from being more a part of the problem, to a direction of being more a part of the solution," Ms Finnane said.

"Expert opinion from scientists and economists support the government's legislation. The suggestion that Australians should stop trusting the weight of learned opinion among both scientists and economists appears to be an appeal for the formation of national policies based less on facts and more on fear and ignorance," Ms Finnane said.

"There is still more that needs to be done - but we congratulate the Government on this vital first step. It is important too, that this initiative has been designed in such a way as to ensure that those Australians who are least able to pay the costs of it, are those upon whom least burden is being imposed," Ms Finnane stated.

"We congratulate the government for the tax restructuring which is designed to ensure that low income people are not further disadvantaged." 

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