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Pacific leaders demand Australia dump coal

Australia has been called upon to commit to no new coal or gas projects by former leaders of the Pacific, and for the region to press the world’s largest polluters – including China and the United States – to make deeper and more consequent cuts to emissions this decade.

A group of former leaders of Pacific island nations, called Pacific Elders Voice have called for urgent actions to reduce global carbon emissions.

Former leaders of Tuvalu, Kiribati, Marshall Islands and Palau said the latest assessments were clear that global emissions must be halved during this decade.

Sea flooding in Lakeba, Lau, an island in the Eastern division of Fiji. Australia has been called upon to commit to no new coal or gas projects by former leaders of the Pacific. Picture: Fijian Government

“There is no room for new coal and gas. The primary security threat to the Pacific islands is climate change,” wrote the group as foreword in a report by the Climate Council.

Unlike the previous government, the new administration has made bolder commitments which include reducing greenhouse emissions by 43 per cent by 2030 and legislating their climate change commitments.

Salt water inundation in Fiji as a result of climate change. Australia has been called upon to commit to no new coal or gas projects by former leaders of the Pacific. Picture: Fijian Government

The report called on Australia to go harder and faster to act on the climate crisis to repair the relationship with Pacific neighbours and address the growing security threat climate change poses for the region.

Australia has been asked to take decisive action to act on climate change in accordance with what the science demands and in partnership and close consultation with Pacific communities and leaders.

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With the Pacific Islands Forum leaders meeting in Suva next week and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in attendance, it will show how much is Australia willing to commit.

Australian PM Anthony Albanese and Foreign Minister Penny Wong. Australia has been called upon to commit to no new coal or gas projects by former leaders of the Pacific. Picture: Anthony Albanese Twitter

“Our seas are rising, oceans are warming, and extreme events such as cyclones, flooding, drought and king tides are frequently more intense, inflicting damage and destruction on our communities and ecosystems and putting the health of our peoples at risk,” the group wrote.

“This new report from the Climate Council provides a timely update on the science of climate impacts in the Pacific. Drawing from the latest scientific assessments, it is a dire warning that some impacts cannot be avoided and the window to avoid catastrophic impacts is closing fast.”

Children in Fiji sit near their homes where flood levels have started washing away parts of their homes. Australia has been called upon to commit to no new coal or gas projects by former leaders of the Pacific. Picture: Fijian Government

According to group, the first step toward meaningful collaboration between Australia and the Pacific would be tangible Australian support for Pacific priorities at COP27 in Egypt in November – including real progress on critical issues such as mitigation, adaptation, climate finance, and loss and damage.

This is not the first call made to Australia to be over ambitious with their climate goals. The last time the Forum met in 2019 in Tuvalu a similar call was made but that year, the actions of the then Australian prime minister Scott Morrison were frowned upon.

Australia’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong in her visit said climate change would be a priority. The question is will it be enough for Australia to go beyond 43 per cent.

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