Friday, August 16, 2019

Australia Selling Out Small Island Nations in Tuvalu

Tuvalu. Click for photo credit.
The small island nations of the Pacific Ocean are at the front lines of climate change. Many of them, like Tuvalu, are very low-lying and face existential challenges due to rising sea levels. This week, Tuvalu hosted a meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum where climate change was front and center on the agenda. 

One of the more contentious issues is the use of coal powered power plants in the region. Australia, which has an abundance of coal, is seeking to expand its use and is even marketing coal in India where it has worked with that country to develop a major new coal burning power plant. 

The meeting, which by all reports was rather contentious, ended Thursday with a very weak agreement. The countries agreed to try to meet particular goals and stop coal mining, but the agreement also allowed countries to accept or reject anything in the agreement. In other words, the agreement means almost nothing. Australia, by all accounts, was the country that torpedoed the agreement.

There has been quite a backlash against Australia in the region that could lead to a realignment of the Pacific Island governments from Australia to other powers like China which has had a rather ambitious, although mixed, climate change policy. Plus, a rather major kerfuffle emerged when the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia criticized the leaders of the island for their criticism of Australia's energy policy by stating that the people in the islands will continue to survive since they come to Australia as seasonal laborers to "pick our fruit". Such disrespectful comments did not help Australia's standing in the region.

Clearly a major rift has formed between the small island states which are facing some of the worst impacts of climate change and large nations which continue to produce and even expand their greenhouse gas emissions.

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