WWhen I was elected president of Kiribati in 2003, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had released its third assessment report and, like my predecessors, I believed the report’s projected rise in sea levels posed a real threat to the survival for those of us on the frontline. In 2004, I addressed the UN General Assembly, drawing attention to the dangers that climate change poses to small island nations such as Kiribati, and other Pacific island nations.
I was concerned that no other leader had made any mention of it in their statements. This worried me, especially considering the fact that the international attention was focusing on more serious threats like terrorism. Fortunately, by 2005’s next assembly, other leaders of the Pacific islands had joined in the call for action. This movement has gained great momentum over the years.
However, as the years went by, the fossil fuel lobby changed its strategies and focuses their efforts to manipulate political leaders into making climate change a partisan issue. This could lead to political divisions.
It was therefore not surprising to hear this month that the Australian government had been elected just before Cop26. tried to lobby the IPCCIt was necessary to soften the language in the latest report before it was released. Today’s climate science is solid. Countries that did not consider the climate crisis relevant to their lives in the past are now experiencing unprecedented bushfires, deadly heatwaves, and more powerful storms.
This is undisputed evidence that the climate crisis is a global problem and not a distant reality. Over the past two decades, Pacific leaders have repeatedly drawn attention to the existential dangers faced by our people, especially those living in low-lying atoll islands. It is becoming increasingly obvious that the future survival of humanity on this planet depends on how we collectively reduce our emissions.
The Pacific region has the most vulnerable island nations and is at greatest risk. It has been consistently at the forefront of climate change advocacy and the political and community leaders. Pacific islandsMultilateral climate negotiations have made significant progress.
The weakness of our campaign was the lack of unity among the larger members of the Pacific family. We have been disappointed to see the constant changes in climate policy with the eddies from political parties in power in Australia as well as in Pacific. New Zealand. It has always been, and continues to be, our hope that Australia – with its higher international profile – would provide us and the international community with the leadership we need on an issue of such critical importance to our people, our Pacific family.
The withdrawal of Australia’s support to climate financing through suspending its contributions to the Green Climate FundThis was a huge blow to the hopes of building much-needed climate resilience in the Pacific islands. The additional $500m in bilateral aidThe Cop26 Summit in Vancouver this week saw Scott Morrison as prime minister. While it is a welcome step up, it falls short of what is necessary to build Pacific climate resilience.
But, worse still, is the Australian government’s continued commitment to extracting, burning and exporting the coal and gas that is putting my country in direct climate danger.
The recent announcement by Morrison, on the evening of his departure for Cop26, of his government’s revised climate policy does not indicate a change of positionNeither its emission targets nor the climate financing they are targeting reflect a meaningful or genuine contribution to addressing this existential risk. Australia has not made any adjustments to its weak 2030 emissions target and remains far short of the commitments made in the G20.
The burning question is: “With all of the science available to us today and with all of what we are witnessing happening in different parts of the world, why do we still not take the action needed to avoid the projected cataclysmic end to humanity?”
Australia can and should be bolder about climate action by increasing its climate finance contributions, and strengthening its emission reduction targets. It is a necessity for both Pacific peoples as well as Australians, who are part of a Pacific family.