Jul 18, 2018 Last Updated 12:05 AM, Jul 17, 2018

New smoke, old mirrors

IN Paris last month, Australian Prime Minister Turnbull announced that “Australia will contribute at least $1 billion over the next five years from our existing aid budget, both to build climate resilience and reduce emissions.”

At first glance, this is a welcome initiative, reversing the policies of former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who Turnbull replaced as Liberal leader last September. On closer analysis, Pacific calls for “new and additional” climate funding have come to nothing. Behind the smoke and mirrors, the Turnbull pledge is a reversion to the status quo before Abbott came to office.

About $200 million (US$145m) will be allocated each year for multilateral, regional as well as bilateral climate programmes. This sum is equivalent to the funding allocated during the “Fast Start Finance” period of 2010-12 under the Rudd and Gillard Labour Governments. However the Fast Start funding came at a time when Australia’s aid budget was expanding towards $8 billion (US$5.8b) - those days are long gone!

Turnbull’s Paris pledge includes funds already announced by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop at the 2014 climate negotiations in Lima. Funds will be reallocated from the existing aid budget, rather than drawn from innovative financial mechanisms like taxes on financial speculation.

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TWENTY years of negotiations culminating in intense and physically as well as emotionally draining deliberations in which negotiators burnt the midnight oil right over the wee hours of the next day for 13 days in Paris last month produced the world’s new agreement on climate change world leaders have hailed as historic and ground breaking.

“The Paris Agreement allows each delegation and groups of countries to go back home with their heads held high,” says Laurent Fabius, who was President of COP21 in Paris in his capacity as the French Foreign Minister. “Our collective effort is worth more than the sum of our individual effort,” he added. Standing beside him, a clearly proud French President Francois Hollande who took the bold decision to go ahead with the hosting of COP21 just two weeks after Paris was a capital under siege when Islamic radicals killed 130 people in a series of terrorist attacks, congratulated the world’s negotiators for the new deal.

“You’ve done it, reached an ambitious agreement, a binding agreement, a universal agreement. Never will I be able to express more gratitude to a conference. You can be proud before your children and grandchildren.” 

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Pacific people, of all faiths, are deeply grateful for the leadership shown by Pope Francis on climate change. We must respond by pressing for an ambitious, and just, global agreement at climate negotiations in Paris in December.

IN a powerful letter, addressed not only to the Catholic Church but to all people, Pope Francis explained that climate change is real, and must be urgently addressed. The encyclical letter, called the Laudato Si’ (Italian for ‘Praise Be to You’) called on all people to remember their responsibilities as stewards of creation. Released on June 18, the encyclical emphasised the connection between environmental degradation and poverty, and the connection between love for creation and poverty reduction.

The Pope’s message is clear: we must care for the world and for each other. We cannot steal resources from future generations. To celebrate the release of the encycliby Fenton Lutunatabua cal, two Pacific Climate Warriors – representing the global climate organisation 350.org – travelled to Rome to take part in a march organised by Green Faith and the Global Catholic Climate Movement on June 28. The march, under the banner of ‘One Earth, One Human Family,’ was held to acknowledge how grateful people were for the leadership shown by Pope Francis on climate change.

Arianne Kassman, a young Climate Warrior from Papua New Guinea, said she felt ‘validated’ that Pope Francis had strongly aligned himself with the global climate movement. “To be able to travel to Rome is an incredible moment to be part of,” said Arianne. “Climate change threatens so many aspects of our lives as Pacific islanders. For some of us, it threatens our connections to our land and everything our land represents. When we lose our land, we lose our homes and if we lose our homes our customs, traditions and identity are at risk of being lost too.” George Nacewa, from Fiji, said he was encouraged by the encyclical.

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But rise won’t be uniform

The world’s leading panel of climate change specialists warned in a report issued in September that the world’s oceans will rise on average between half a metre and a metre by the end of the century. But the picture painted by the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change is hazy because the rise will be unevenly spread across the world: land is rising in some places and sinking in others. In addition, even in a single place, the rise won’t be uniform: for instance, the periodic warming of the Central Pacific known as the El Niño phenomenon can change the level by up to 45cm in a single year, as it did in 1998.

In most years, it’s a 15cm increase—as much as the average sea-level rise in the Pacific for the last 60 years. So far, it’s unclear whether these warming events will become more frequent or not. What is clear is that over time, storm surges will cause more damage. Predicting the effects of sea-level rise in a given place—say the Pacific Ocean—is complicated because the average rise is of no true significance: what matters is how high it will reach during a storm and what damage will it inflict on water tables and buildings.

And that is virtually impossible to predict. In coral atolls that emerge only a few metres above sea-level, the picture is further clouded by widespread perceptions that broken seawalls, flooded homes and disappearing islands are all caused by already-risen seas. In fact, scientific studies have shown that they are usually caused by dredging, building causeways between islands, man-made expansion into swamps or reef flats and other human disturbances. Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Tuvalu and the Maldives in the Indian Ocean are considered to most threatened by the rising seas.

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US firm crashes in on pacific

A US-based company (International Registries) is making money operating the Marshall Islands shipping registry that is used to promote and conduct drilling operations in the Arctic and other seas of the world.

Lagi Toribau, who heads Greenpeace’s global tuna project, says the actions “will drown the Marshall Islands”

“Climate action starts at home, so if Marshall Islands is serious about stopping climate change, we need to get oil rigs and drill ships out of the Marshall Islands Shipping Registry. Now.”

DeBrum said he has “considerable sympathy for the cause Greenpeace has highlighted”. But, he added, “there is a large element of finger-pointing at the expense of the Marshall Islands when they were in fact leading the world in trying to get the IMO on target (for emissions rules)”.

Toribau said drilling in the Arctic needs special attention for climate action.

“The influential science journal Nature published an article earlier this year that specified and quantified the regions of the world where the oil, gas and coal must stay in the ground if we are to avoid dangerous climate change,” said Toribau.

“The article concludes that ‘all Arctic resources should be classified as unburnable.’ Going for Arctic oil means that we have no chance to keep climate change on levels that won’t drown Marshall Islands.” Greenpeace has asked the Marshall Islands Government to:  Revoke registration of the Transocean Polar Pioneer and Transocean Spitsbergen from the RMI ship registry.

                                    Publicly announce disapproval of Shell, Transocean and Statoil oil drilling plans in the Arctic and reaffirming your global commitment to combating climate change.

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