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Pacific needs Australia to stop obfuscating on climate change

Scott Morrison and Tuvalu prime minister Enele Sopoaga (Mick Tsikas)
Scott Morrison and Tuvalu prime minister Enele Sopoaga (Mick Tsikas)

KATHARINE MURPHY | Guardian Australia | Extract

Link here to Katharine Murphy’s full commentary

CANBERRA - Pacific leaders are fully aware that things are not under control when it comes to Australia’s climate change efforts.

You can understand their impatience. They are standing on the frontline of a climate crisis, and trying to prod laggards around the world.

The Pacific needs the big emitters, and countries that can influence them, like Australia, to stop obfuscating and start acting while we’ve got a chance of averting the worst scenarios.

So, this past week, entering the global arena, Morrison found himself wedged between the campaign calm down offensive at home, and Australia’s demonstrable absence of climate leadership.

This cycle will repeat again and again as Australia fronts up to the rolling international discussions about climate change, unless the government can find the will to get serious.

Speaking of the sequence of global discussions, the next milestone is the United Nations climate summit in September.

Pacific leaders, who exert significant moral leadership given the existential threat they face, will have wanted to emerge from this week’s Tuvalu forum with the strongest collective statement possible to project ambition at the UN.

Morrison will attend the UN in September, and ahead of those discussions, the secretary general, António Guterres, has already written to Australia asking the government (and, of course, other governments) to outline plans to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

Some countries will go to the UN armed with new commitments, and the countries with new commitments are given prominent speaking spots. Australia is not expected to be one of those countries. The current guidance is September is too soon for Australia to have a settled position on a 2050 strategy.

This is all pretty depressing, but there is one glimmer of light on the horizon.

Despite all the arm twisting in Tuvalu, Australia did, in the end, sign up to a statement that commits us to pursuing efforts to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees, and to produce a 2050 strategy by 2020. That would be next year.

By signing up, Morrison has pushed the government past the Paris horizon, meaning Australia has entered a new round of policymaking on emissions reduction.

Bear in mind emissions reduction has generated civil war inside the Liberal party for much of the past decade.

Comments

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Daniel Wakena

One thing I've noticed about sea level rise is it seems to affect relatively small sandy fragile islands. Ela Beach for example has remained the same since i've been in Moresby for twenty plus years. Looking at old colonial pictures of the beach it appears to be unchanged as well. Can anyone explain this discrepancy or am I noticing an elaborate ruse at play here?

AG Satori

Hey, the Arabs dug up the sea to build a palm shaped island.

The Pacific could do the same. We just need a sponsor. Perhaps Australia should take the lead and incorporate New Zealand, perhaps China and Japan, even the USA even though Trump thinks that climate change is a hoax.
The islanders don’t want to move to Australia or Papua New Guinea. They will want their lifestyle and to keep their traditions. They can only do that well if they can have their own island.

How do we ensure that these islanders keep their islands without going under.

Here's what we can practically do:

1. Ship all the scrap and rusting vehicles all around the country in Australia and Papua New Guinea to say Tuvalu and line them up on the shorelines to retain or push back on the sea.

2. Ship all the waste rocks, stones and soil from all the open pit mines in Australia and Papua New Guinea in containers to Tuvalu and stating from one end of the island to dump these rocks and soil to raise the land up by 10 meters.

The American levelled several mountains in the jungles of Papua New Guinea to build an airstrip that could accommodate the biggest aircraft in the world at Komo. They have the expertise and know how to amass enough rocks and soil to build up an island.

3. Ship all the coffee pulps, coffee husks, betel nut skins, coconut husks, cocoa pod shells from Papua New Guinea to build a layer of 3 meter thick dump which will in 3 months to a year turn out be the top soil.

4. On top of that built up mound, the islanders can start building their gardens and eventually their houses.

I think you can build up Tuvalu and Nauru both in a year. We need money for that. Australia is adamant that its money in the region is fair compensation for the islands as against the agony to stare at despondently as all the sea water moving up to their door steps, never mind that the same sea waters have moved in underground to poison their food gardens. Thank you.

Most of that money could be better spent rebuilding the island and giving them height above the sea level. Mr Morrison could do well to rethink this. This will also fit well into the boomerang aid concept but in the end the islanders will retain their place.

I don’t know the economics of such outrageous idea but it could work with Nauru, Tuvalu and other low lying islands. Even where islands have mountains, it is the issue of having sufficient arable land for food gardens that is of concern.

We could have done this for the Carteret islands in Papua New Guinea but we slogged it there and these groups of islanders are now refugees in their own country where life is physically and spiritually tied to the land.

Philip Fitzpatrick

The last couple of paragraphs of Katherine's article are interesting.

"If you were into conspiracy theories, you might speculate that Morrison made a lot of noise in the Pacific about protecting Australia’s coal industry to provide cover internally as he piloted the government into the post-Paris phase of proceedings without unhinged mayhem breaking out on 2GB or Sky News.

The statement issued after the Pacific forum notes this post-Paris phase “may include commitments and strategies to achieve net zero carbon by 2050”.

Shhh. Whatever you do: don’t tell Craig Kelly."

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