Pacific Island nations have stepped up pressure on their reckless neighbors, warning Australia and New Zealand that their inadequate action on climate change will doom island states – especially if they continue to ignore the call for a moratorium on new coal and the call to keep warming below 1.5DegC. Speaking ahead of the ahead of the Pacific Island Forum, Kiribati President Anote Tong described his government’s motivation for the increased pressure:
“What we are talking about is survival, it’s not about economic development… it’s not politics, it’s survival. I think they need to come to the party, if they really are our friends then they should be looking after our future as well.”
President Tong has urged Australia and New Zealand to “be real friends” on climate change. This means no more coal and oil expansion, no bullying and aid buy-offs at Pacific Island forums, and real, ambitious engagement at UN climate talks. Both Australia and New Zealand are trying to pretend they are doing their bit on climate change, but “inadequate” emissions reduction targets, routine creative accounting efforts, and greedy support for fossil fuel expansion continues to undermine real progress. According to Oxfam Australia CEO, Dr Helen Szoke:
“The two big brothers of the Pacific have largely ignored their neighbours’ calls for stronger emissions reduction targets and greater support to meet the challenges of climate change. The question remains whether Australia will do the right thing by the Pacific and ensure the leaders meeting sends the strongest possible signal ahead of Paris, or whether together with New Zealand, it will use its influence in the Forum to weaken any outcomes.”
Both countries have a history of bullying their small island state neighbours, and with Australia developing climate policy to protect the coal industry and New Zealand having no new policies to reduce emissions since 2008, they are likely to again throw their aid weight around to water down the global climate agreement declaration set to be agreed this December in Paris.
With their small island states facing record cyclones and rising tides, Pacific Island Leaders need Australia and New Zealand to step up climate action, not fill their coffers with fossil fuel profits and try to buy them off with aid. Both countries’ climate targets have been criticized as “inadequate”, and both are complaining that increasing their targets would cost too much, despite evidence to the contrary and vast sums still being spent subsidising fossil fuel exploration.