Abbott dodging the real issue with climate change - Tong | Pacific Beat

Abbott dodging the real issue with climate change - Tong

Abbott dodging the real issue with climate change - Tong

Updated 13 June 2014, 10:43 AEST

The impact of climate change on Kiribati, Tuvalu and Marshall Islands has already gone beyond the point of no return in the view of Kiribati's president Anote Tong.

His dire preduction comes with Australia's Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, and his Canadian counterpart, Stephen Harper, seeking a conservative alliance which wants to block moves to introduce carbon pricing on a global scale.

Both leades says efforts to control climate change can not be allowed to impact on economies and jobs.

President Tong says the Abbott-Harper strategy throws previous regional agreements to which Australia was a signatory into doubt, but as far as Kiribati is concerned, it doesn't matter what Australia or any other country does now, it's already too late.

Presenter: Richard Ewart

Speaker: Anote Tong, president, Kiribati

TONG: This is obviously a change from what Australia was embarking on which had a lot of credibility from the previous administration. What is happening now, we really have to fully understand the differences, but I think what's more important is the real implications for what we are trying to escape or the problems that we are taking and I think that's really what it would mean. What would these implications for countries on the front line of this challenge.
EWART: Is it still your view and the view of other countries in the Pacific that carbon pricing is the right way to go, whereas Tony Abbott believes obviously that it's not?
TONG: Well, I'm sure there will be a lot of formulations, but I think what is important is it be a very genuine effort at the threatening the issue, but we keep dodging it and not really genuinely addressing it in the interests of other priorities. For example, I know that there continue to be competing priorities and I'm sure this is what is being faced in Australia, it's really economic growth and really addressing the issues of climate change.
EWART: What impact though do you think that this new strategy might have in terms of reaching a global deal, as it's been hard enough to reach agreements in the past. Is it going to be harder still now?
TONG: No, I think there's got to be absolute honesty in dealing with climate change, but I think if we are pretending to deal with it, then we would never address, because it requires a call for action by everybody and obviously, what is happening in the United States at the moment is very, very interesting and I think that is a very positive progress by someone from the position maybe even last year or the year before and so we watching a lot of this with a lot of interest. I know that what the new government in Australia has done in the Pacific, we have made a declaration of which Australia was a part and I think what is going to happen is we're all going to be accessing what Australia is doing in the lines in their declaration which was agreed in Majuro, in the Marshall Islands last year, and so there is no doubt that this will be an issue that will be given some attention, if not a lot of attention at the forthcoming Forum meeting in Palau.
EWART: In the end though, do you think that the influence of the United States and the intentions of Barack Obama would outweigh whatever Australia, Canada and any other interested parties might do?
TONG: I think what the United States is doing is really the beginning of what I hope will be a challenge for the rest of the, particularly the larger economies to come to the party. I know that and I mean I'm grateful for what is happening. Things happen by steps, they don't happen in one great leap and bound, so I see what is happening in the United States as a positive step and a step which other countries I'm sure would follow.
EWART: It's interesting that both Tony Abbott and his counterpart in Canada, Stephen Harper, said that it's important to try and deal with the greenhouse gas emissions, but not at the expense of their respective economies. Now, I'm wondering whether you and the other Pacific Island nations might argue that your economies are at the mercy of climate change and the two things go hand-in-hand?
TONG: No, I think it's not that. Our survival is at the mercy of policies like that and that has been the problem up to now. What we have done is actually considered the probably loss of accounts, considered the rate of growth and totally ignored what it cost and what the other countries are saying is in terms of their future and here we are talking about our future. We're not talking about the growth in GDP, we're not talking about what it means in terms of the profits and losses of the large corporations. We are talking about our survival and that is simply what it has to be. There is no doubt in my mind that in the future, other countries will be talking about their survival.
EWART: Are you therefore, frustrated, disappointed or what sort of emotions have you experienced seeing this debate change gear over the last few days?
TONG: It's been more frustrating in the past than perhaps it has been. I seen some quite positive, a lot of positive progress since Copenhagen in 2009. I think there's a lot of coming to the party. But let me make the point very clearly that what will happen in terms of greenhouse gas emissions levels agreed to internationally will not affect us, because our future is already here. We will be underwater, that is what the science and the IPCC reports up to their fourth assessment report and reaffirm the assessment report. They've simply confirmed that and so the outcome of the international agreement in terms of greenhouse gas emission levels, in terms of what temperature rises we should agree to are not relevant to our situation, because we're already gone. But I think the point that I want to make is so we are this time, but there will other countries next on the front line, not from, maybe not from sea level rise, but certainly from other impacts of climate change.  Already the global community is witnessing this, but we are not listening and reading the signs well.

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