More than 10 groups of NGOs in an open letter called for Canberra to halve its emissions by 2030
Pacific environmental and humanitarian organisations are calling on Australia to commit to halving emissions ahead of U.S President Joe Biden’s climate summit this week.
More than 10 groups including Greenpeace, Oxfam, Climate Action Network, Conference of Churches and the Edmund Rice Centre used a full-page newspaper advertisement and open letter to urge Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to at least match the ambition of other large emitters such as the US, UK, EU and Canada.
The groups pleaded with Morrison to ‘substantially strengthen Australia’s emissions reduction target and contribute to the Paris Agreement’.
In the open letter, the groups called for Canberra to halve its emissions by 2030. “Global emissions must be cut in half by 2030 and Australia needs to play its part.”
Australia also needs to commit to net zero emissions well before mid-century, the letter stated.
The head of Greenpeace Australia Pacific, Steph Hodgins-May, said Australia must provide new funding to support climate action in the most vulnerable countries including recommitting to the Green Climate Fund.
Hodgins-May said as a major global contributor to climate change and Pacific Islands Forum member, Australia had a responsibility to amplify Pacific voices that would not have a seat at Biden’s summit table.
“Pacific Leaders have been united and consistent in their calls for the world’s biggest emitters to take stronger action to address the climate crisis,” she said.
“Scott Morrison needs to commit to ensuring emissions plummet to well below half of their current levels this decade.
“Halving Australia’s emissions will help safeguard the future of Australians and our Pacific family who are both on the front-lines of the climate crisis and are suffering the impacts of droughts, fires, floods and cyclones.”
Oxfam Australia’s chief executive Lyn Morgain said the impacts of climate change were generally felt first and hardest by those who had contributed least to the problem, particularly Pacific Island communities.
Morgain said recent Oxfam analysis found the energy consumption of Australians produced eight times as much carbon emissions each year as Pacific Islanders.
“We know that tackling climate change and ending poverty can, and indeed must, go hand in hand,” she said.
“It’s time for our Prime Minister to commit to actions that will tackle climate injustice and secure an equitable and prosperous future for our region.”
The Pacific’s Climate Action Network’s Lorenzo Raplili said that like Australia, the Pacific Islands had been experiencing deadly impacts of climate change for years and the damage would only get worse unless the biggest emitters, like Australia, took immediate steps to reduce their carbon pollution.
Raplili said most Pacific leaders would not have a seat at the summit table, but as the biggest emitter in the region and a member of the Pacific Islands Forum, Australia had a responsibility to ensure strong Pacific voices calling for bold climate action were heard on the world stage.
Scott Morrison should echo the clarion call, he said. “If we save the Pacific, we can save the world.”
Gordon Melsom, an Australian of Pacific island heritage is Project Officer at the Edmund Rice Centre.Melsom said over the past 18 months, his family in North Western Sydney had endured drought, bushfire and floods made worse by climate change.
“At the same time, my family in the Pacific is also facing extreme weather, turbo-charged by climate change.
“I urge Scott Morrison to show the climate leadership that Australia and the Pacific need by ensuring that emissions plummet well below half of their current levels this decade.”
Signatories to the open letter included Greenpeace Australia Pacific, Oxfam Australia, the Pacific Islands Climate Action Network, the Australian Conservation Foundation, the Australia Institute, the Climate Council, Climate Action Network Australia and the Edmund Rice Centre.
The Marshall Islands’ President David Kabua will join New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her Australian counterpart Scott Morrison at Biden’s virtual summit table this weekend.
That no other Pacific Islands representatives were among the 37 leaders invited by Biden has raised eyebrows in the region, particularly with the Marshalls no longer a member of the Pacific Islands Forum following its decision to withdraw from the regional body after the outcome of the recent election of the secretary-general position.
The Fijians are fuming about the lack of an invitation. Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama’s government had sought an explanation from the U.S Embassy in Suva on Fiji’s omission.
An embassy official confirmed a meeting was held between the US mission and Fijian government representatives. But the official could not say what was discussed.
Despite presiding over the UN climate negotiations during COP23, Fiji was not included among the 40 nations invited by Biden to the talks.
When quizzed about Fiji’s non-inclusion, the US Embassy said the summit’s main focus was to encourage and improve the world’s major economies in limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
In a statement, the embassy said to ensure the summit captured as many diverse viewpoints as possible, the U.S had invited other voices such as “leaders charting innovative pathways to a net-zero economy.
The summit is only one of several major climate-related events in the run-up to COP26 in the UK in November, the embassy said.
It said all leaders were invited to watch the virtual meeting and “”we welcome public statements from all governments in support of the summit’s objective of enhancing global ambition on climate change”.
“The summit will reconvene the Major Economies Forum (MEF) on Energy and Climate, a US-led initiative that played a vital role in delivering the Paris Agreement.”
The embassy stated that President Biden wanted a united front in addressing the climate crisis including emissions reductions, finance, innovation and job creation, and resilience and adaptation.
This story was produced by RNZ Pacific Journalist Christine Rovoi, originally posted on RNZ, reposted via PACNEWS.