Guest essay by Eric Worrall
According to The Guardian, Australia’s reputation amongst Pacific islanders is at rock bottom because we haven’t made enough effort on climate change – though providing lots of aid money would help repair that reputation.
Australia’s standing in Pacific has plummeted because of our climate change failure
It’s about the very survival of people, nations and cultures. If action isn’t taken there are islanders who may have nowhere to go.
Scott Morrison flew to the Solomon Islands last weekend to “show our Pacific step-up in action” but this policy will fail if his government doesn’t take meaningful action on climate change. A successful step-up must include stopping our own pollution, defending the sovereignty of our friends in the Pacific and offering a safety net to those who may need it.
Over the past five years Australia’s standing in the Pacific has declined dramatically because of an unwillingness to take strong action on climate change. It’s not as if the Pacific hasn’t been clear. From female fishers to the Fijian prime minister, to remote communities in the Solomon Islands, climate change is a top-order issue. It’s about the very survival of people, nations and cultures. If action isn’t taken, in 40 years there are people in Pacific island states who may have nowhere to go.
It’s difficult to overstate how upset Pacific Islanders are when they look at Australia’s track record on climate. We are one of the world’s worst per-capita polluters and biggest exporters of thermal coal. While the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs has a strong track record of support to Pacific islands, that record is totally contradicted by political rhetoric on climate and our lack of emission reductions.
Third, we need to rebuild Australia’s beleaguered aid program which should have the Pacific step-up at its heart. It’s essential Australia expands programs that are helping Pacific nations build resilience and adapt to climate change impacts in line with their rallying cry: “We are not drowning. We are fighting.”
But in a worst-case scenario no option should be off the table, up to and including the granting of Australian permanent residency for the entire populations of those nations at greatest risk. As Kevin Rudd pointed out in his February 2019 essay, this would now include Tuvalu, Nauru and Kiribati – the combined populations of which are less than half of Australia’s annual regular migration intake.
…Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/commentisfree/2019/jun/08/australias-standing-in-pacific-has-plummeted-because-of-our-climate-change-failure
It would be easy to mock this blatant cash demand as a bunch of lazy islanders using climate as an excuse for a new handout, but in my opinion there is a deeper problem, a problem which probably actually is our fault.
A friend who used to manage a major business on a Pacific Island once told me a sad story. A teacher asked senior last year students to develop a plan of what they would do if they wanted to start their own business.
The first step of every student’s business plan was to apply for aid money, from the United Nations, or from some other aid organisation.
Decades of deluging Pacific Islanders with ridiculous amounts of free cash seems to have created an almost total welfare handout mentality. If my friend who spent years living in the islands is right, many Pacific islanders find it difficult to imagine any economic activity which does not start with a large chunk of free aid money.