Friday 16 August 2019
Despite strong recent statements from a number of Pacific island leaders about the importance of curbing Australia’s coal mining activities, the final Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) 2019 Communique, including the Kainaki II Declaration, is a significantly weakened version than had been hoped for by many.
Departing from the strong Tuvalu Declaration endorsed by smaller Pacific nations earlier this week, the language of the Kainaki II declaration is considerably weaker regarding the need for countries like Australia to increase its current Paris greenhouse emissions target, curb its coal-mining activities and contribute to the Global Green Climate Fund.
Edmund Rice Centre Director Phil Glendenning said: “As per media reports in the past few days, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has successfully negotiated a much weaker final PIF Communique.
“Australia’s refusal to reconsider its position on coal-mining and its resistance to increasing its current Paris Agreement target is untenable if it wants to retain a respected profile in the Pacific.
“If your neighbour’s house is burning, do you turn up with a petrol hose and make the fire worse? Or do you arrive with a garden hose and make a token, inadequate effort to put the fire out while the house continues to burn? This year, Australia has come to the PIF with both hoses. On the one hand, it is actively undermining the survival of its Pacific neighbours by refusing to commit to a transition out of coal; on the other, it is throwing inadequate sums of money around, which will never solve the climate crisis - a crisis it has helped create and is continuing to inflame.”
Given current greenhouse gas emissions trends, small atolls, including Tuvalu and Kiribati, are projected to become uninhabitable within 30 years. To have a chance of survival, these nations need the world, including Australia, to act urgently in order to maintain the global average temperature increase within 1.5 degrees. This goal necessitates a commitment by all countries to increase their Paris Agreement target beyond their existing one.
“Australia is not even on track to meet its current Paris Agreement target, let alone increase it. It is also worth noting that every year, Australia exports hundreds of millions tonnes of coal, which is burnt overseas, releasing yet more greenhouse gases into our atmosphere.
Co-founder of the Kiribati Climate Action (KiriCAN), Ms Claire Anterea, expressed her disappointment ,saying: "I had hoped Australia would have been prepared to take action, within Australia, to reduce its carbon emissions that impact on us in the Pacific.
"That did not happen in Tuvalu but I hope that the Australian people can stay with us, because this is about the survival of my people and the peoples of the Pacific. Money alone will not save us. We cannot adapt forever." Ms Anterea said.
“Scott Morrison can no longer pretend that cash alone is going to solve the impacts of climate change confronting Pacific island nations. Australia’s position in the Pacific demands urgent action on the climate crisis. No amount of cash and no Communique can take that reality away. Australia has not stepped up, it has stepped down.” Mr Glendenning concluded.