By Hon. Matthew Wale, Leader of Opposition, and MP for Aoke/Langalanga
I was surprised to read in last Friday’s Solomon Star that the Australian High Commissioner Dr. Strahan said he is proud of his government’s climate change policies. Australian leaders, when they are not in Canberra waving pieces of coal in Parliament, like to claim they are part of the Pacific Family; Australia is our kind and generous big brother – in Fiji they called themselves the vuvale. However, as in families, this one needs some plain speaking on climate change.
His Excellency reports at length about financial assistance Australia is providing to the region for climate adaptation. Yet according to their own official figures Australia’s aid to the Solomon Islands is being reduced this year, as is Australia’s overall aid budget.
HC Strahan wrote, “emissions reductions need to occur across all economies”. Australia’s per capita greenhouse gas emissions are the highest in the world at 17 tonnes annually. Solomon Islands are among the lowest at less than 0.25 tonnes. Australia urgently needs to stop spreading blame to the poor and take full responsibility for its climate pollution.
HC Strahan says that he and PM Sogavare “could see the impact of rising sea levels when we flew together over the Russell Islands.” Peering out of the window of a aeroplane gives a very limited view of real climate impacts. I invite the High Commissioner to join me in visiting my constituency of Aoke Langa Langa Lagoon to meet the people whose sea walls have toppled, whose food gardening areas are too salty to be useful, whose water sources are ruined and whose soup soup gardens are inundated by saltwater. He might explain to them how grateful they should be that Australia is providing billions to ensure jobs are kept in the Australian gas and coal industries.
His Excellency stated “how vital the voice of Solomon Islands will be at the Glasgow conference, enabling the rest of the globe to understand your perspective and your climate priorities.” This is patronizing and hypocritical. Not only is Australia proactively lobbying for diluted wording on regional statements on climate policy, but it has also been doing this at the UN level. In truth, totally ignoring the constant pleas of Pacific Island Forum leaders for real leadership and more urgent action, Australia’s role at the UNFCCC has gone from bad to worse in recent years.
➢ Withdrawing Australia from the Green Climate Fund;
➢ Setting a weak 2030 Paris Agreement emissions reduction target and being the only country in the world to try using ‘Kyoto carryover credits’ to meet it;
➢ Being the only rich country in the world still refusing to commit to a zero net emissions target by 2050.
➢ Opposing Pacific nations’ attempts to negotiate an effective mechanism under the UNFCCC to justly account for loss and damage caused by climate change.
I strongly agree with UK’s Prime Minister in his recent comments to PM Morrison: ambitious legislated targets to reach zero emissions are the single best signal to markets to make long-term investments in no-emission technologies.
I urge the Australian Government to follow the lead of the new US Biden Administration in completely reviewing its climate agenda. The Pacific expects much more from our unfeeling insensitive Big Brother.