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Dear Australian PM

Dear Prime Minister (Hon. Anthony Albanese MP),

Re: An Open Letter from Pacific and Australian Civil Society Organisations ahead of the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting, 12-14 July 2022

We firstly extend our warm congratulations on your victory in the Australian federal elections and wish you a successful term. We are heartened by the Australian Government’s renewed focus on climate change, welcoming a new era of Australian engagement with our Pacific family (Vuvale) – your Pacific neighbours (Tuakoi). We also extend our heartfelt sympathies in relation to the recent, disastrous floods that have affected the east coast of Australia. We stand with you and all Australians in grief but also in hope – hope that we can learn from this tragedy; hope that we can act swiftly enough to minimise the likelihood of such events in the future.

Ahead of the upcoming Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Leaders Meeting later this month, the first face-to-face gathering of Pacific leaders since 2019 where climate will be front and centre of discussions, we write as Pacific and Australian civil society organisations to urge your government to do whatever is in its power to accelerate climate action and climate justice across our region.

Alliance for Future Generations members attending a Marine Debris Activism Workshop. The session highlighted the importance of practicing or having access to proper waste management, and plastic pollution being a major crisis in the Pacific. Picture: Alliance for Future Generations Twitter

In 2018, PIF Leaders, including Australia, endorsed the Boe Declaration, re-affirming that climate change remains the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security, and wellbeing of the peoples of the Pacific. We now look to Australia for genuine leadership on this issue and for an authentic commitment to the wellbeing and survival of smaller Pacific nations.

1. End Reliance on Fossil Fuels

In order to ensure the survival of Pacific islands, the Australian Government must work quickly to keep all fossil fuels in the ground. The International Energy Agency has warned that no new coal mining projects can be built past 2021 if we are to limit warming to 1.5 degrees. This means that Australia cannot continue to approve coal expansion. Currently, we understand that there are 27 coal mining projects referred for assessment under Australia’s Environment Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act. These coal mining expansion projects are awaiting the approval decisions of your government. If approved, together, they would produce over 16 billion tonnes of carbon emissions over their lifetime. This is equivalent to 35 times Australia’s current annual reported emissions. New coal, oil, or gas projects must come to an end and all fossil fuel subsidies must immediately cease.

Whilst we welcome Australia’s new emissions reduction target of 43%, this still does not align to the 1.5 degrees celsius temperature goal. The 1.5 degrees target is a lifeline for Pacific communities. Therefore, sustained, radical, and socially just cuts to emissions are required now, not later. We strongly urge the Australian Government to strengthen its target to 75% (based on 2005 levels) by 2030 and aim to reach net-zero by 2035. The use of clever accounting techniques and carbon offsets to reach its targets is not the way to go. The abatement should be at the source, and not through mechanisms such as avoiding deforestation, investing in so-called ‘blue’ carbon and other speculative carbon removal technologies.

2. Increase Climate Finance, Supporting Frontline and Climate-Affected Pacific Communities

Finance available to the Pacific for climate change is woefully insufficient and just 0.28% of the global total reached our islands in 2019. Without drastically upscaled finance, the Pacific cannot meet its climate targets or sustainable development goals, enable adaptive action and resilience in our communities, or respond to the devastating levels of loss and damage already experienced. We, therefore, call on the Australian Government to recommence its contributions to the Green Climate Fund and make a specific request that the Australian Government contributes 50% of its climate finance allocation to the Pacific Resilience Facility, ensuring dedicated and predictable finance to build resilient Pacific peoples and communities. The funding should be new, additional climate finance, not repackaged official development assistance.

In order to ensure the survival of Pacific islands, the Australian Government must work quickly to keep all fossil fuels in the ground. Picture: UNICEF

Australia must also use its diplomatic influence to pressure other developed and industrialised countries to mobilise all of the promised US$100 billion annually until 2025, and agree that polluters must pay the trillions actually needed for resilient Pacific peoples and communities.

3. Support and endorse the initiative to seek an Advisory Opinion from the International Court of Justice

We ask your Government as a matter of urgency to increase your efforts in support of the International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion initiative that is being championed by the Vanuatu Government. An advisory opinion would finally consider all aspects of international law through a climate and human rights lens, clarifying the obligations of states to current and future generations, in the context of human rights and climate change.

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Vanuatu intends to table this at the PIF Leaders Meeting, and we strongly urge the Australian Government to affirm its support for this initiative and that your leadership should extend to engaging directly in the drafting of the legal question (in due course), with a view to becoming a co-sponsor of the necessary United Nations General Assembly Resolution.

4. Loss and Damage

Loss and Damage is life and death in the Pacific. Your political will is required now to finance and deliver support to the Pacific people who are already losing everything. Pacific Islands are well into the era of loss and damage from climate change. Every year, unprecedented extreme events and low onset hazards cause billions of economic and non-economic losses to our island homes, community infrastructure, food and water sources, livelihoods, cultures, identities and lives. We strongly urge the Australian Government to support the Alliance of Small Islands States in their efforts to take the Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage into a new action-based direction beyond dialogues, taskforces and clearinghouses. This means supporting the urgent establishment of a Loss and Damage Finance Facility with new, additional, needs-based and predictable finance. This finance should not compete for limited resources within existing mechanisms and must be targeted and channelled to vulnerable people who need it most, including in the Pacific.

“An advisory opinion would finally consider all aspects of international law through a climate and human rights lens, clarifying the obligations of states to current and future generations, in the context of human rights and climate change.” Picture: Pacific Islands CAN Twitter

The Australian Government must come to the PIF Leaders Meeting with good faith to embrace Pacific-led action, otherwise, it will continue to remain on the wrong side of history whilst the smallest and most vulnerable lead the fight for our common future.

Yours Sincerely,

Pacific Islands Climate Action Network
Edmund Rice Centre for Justice and Community Education
Pacific Islands Association of Non-Governmental Organizations
350 Pacific/ Pacific Climate Warriors
ActionAid
Alliance for Future Generations – Fiji
Australian Forests and Climate Alliance
Australian Religious Response to Climate Change
Climate Action Moreland
Climate and Health Alliance
Climate Council
Climate Tok (Fiji)
Greenpeace Australia Pacific
Kioa Island Community Organisation
Pacific Conference of Churches
The Climate Reality Project – Australia & Pacific
Tuvalu Climate Action Network
Environment Centre NT
Friends of the Earth Australia
Gudanji For Country
Indigenous Peoples’ Organisation – Australia
Jubilee Australia
People’s Climate Assembly
SISI Initiative Site Support Group
Solomon Islands Climate Action Network
Surfers For Climate
The Climate Action Radio Show
United Nations Association – Fiji
Vanuatu Climate Action Network
Vote Earth Now

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