Morrison’s coal embrace a slap in the face for Pacific ‘family’
WITH the very future of their island nations at stake, Pacific leaders gathered in Tuvalu declared climate change the single greatest threat to the region, even before the Pacific Island Forum leaders' meeting had kicked off.
It's a message that everyone in the region seems to have taken to heart - all except the one country best placed to do something about the crisis.
Enter, Scott Morrison.
By now, we should all be familiar with Morrison's not-very-subtle use of platitudes when talking about the Pacific. We're no longer just development partners, we're neighbours. We're not just friends anymore, we're "family". So as "dad" travels to the Pacific to butter up the kids again with more dosh, let's have a look at what he's likely to walk into.
In the lead-up to the meeting, Pacific leaders signed the Nadi Bay Declaration, which called on countries to stop using carry-over credits to meet emissions reductions targets. While the document failed to single out any particular nation, the declaration was widely interpreted as a rebuke of the Morrison Government's non-existent climate policy, rising emissions, and its stated intention to meet its Paris obligations with Kyoto carry-over credits.
The Morrison Government then swiftly removed any doubt about who the declaration's authors had in mind when Australia's Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Alex Hawke, stated, "yes, we are going to use carry-over credits."
Scott Morrison clearly thinks that Australia knows what's best for the Pacific. Much to the disappointment of the region's leaders, it's not what they have repeatedly asked for, which is a commitment to stop burning coal and oil.
But this Australian recalcitrance is nothing new. Morrison has proven he is out of touch with scientific thinking on the climate crisis for some time. And it shouldn't come as a surprise, seeing as he's even out of step with the world's biggest mining company. BHP, which has benefited more than most from fossil fuels, and particularly coal, calls the climate crisis what it is.
While the head of BHP recognises climate change as "existential risk" to the planet, Scott Morrison's Government celebrates extending the life of an ageing and unreliable coal-burning power station that spews toxic air pollution daily.
Morrison has dubbed Australia's re-engagement with the Pacific as the "step up", so it's ironically tragic that every time Pacific leaders throw the slogan back at him, he looks the other way. Australia's rising emissions trajectory is the clearest evidence of Morrison's duplicity.
If throwing money at your neighbours to fix a problem that you are escalating was a viable climate policy, Australia would be a world leader. But as it stands, cash handouts for the Pacific to mitigate climate impacts are useless while Australia continues to burn millions of tons of coal and exports even more to the rest of the world.
In a seemingly direct attempt to head off further criticism of Australia at the Forum on Wednesday, Morrison has announced that $500 million will be diverted from the Pacific aid budget to help nations invest in disaster resilience.
Coming after regional leaders called on Australia to "do everything possible to achieve a rapid transition from coal to energy sources that do not contribute to climate change", this is a slap in the face to those who have explicitly called on Australia to address its own soaring climate pollution before pontificating to others.
The biggest driver of climate change is coal, and the Morrison Government remains obsessed with it. This $500 million accounting trick will do nothing to address the cause of the climate crisis that threatens the viability of the entire Pacific.
Scott Morrison has no right to call the Pacific family as long as he continues to prioritise the profits of coal barons over the lives and livelihoods of millions of Pacific people.
The Morrison Government's actions are not what you would expect from family. Morrison is the gaslighter of the Pacific, exacerbating the climate crisis daily, while simultaneously behaving as though less-than-nothing is an acceptable course of action.
But sure. We're "family."
Morrison hasn't covered himself in glory so far, and the signs aren't good. But Australia is such a massive polluter that it has a lot of scope to make big cuts in emissions. Under the Coalition Government, Australia's emissions are rising, but it's not too late to reverse the course.
Australia has a chance to genuinely embrace its professed belief in the 'fair go' and stand up for what is right. Morrison has a chance to show the region's leaders he is serious and he should seize it for the good of Australia and our Pacific family.
After all, that's what family is for. Let's hope Morrison learns that this week while he's here in the islands.
Joseph Moeono-Kolio is the Head of Pacific for Greenpeace Australia Pacific.