Friends of the Earth commends ALP policy on climate change

January 5, 2006

The ALP Policy White Paper released today by Pacific Island spokesperson Bob Sercombe and Environment spokesperson Anthony Albanese, is a welcome contribution to the growing public debate about the human rights implications of global warming.

In the report, the Federal Opposition calls on Australia to take a role in collaborating with other Pacific Nations in the relocation of residents of countries such as Tuvalu, Vanuatu and the Carteret Islands off Papua New Guinea as people are displaced as ‘climate refugees’.

Australia, as one of the world's highest emitters of greenhouse gases per person, has a pressing responsibility to reduce our contribution to climate change. While this is now widely understood and accepted within the Australian community, this has not yet translated into sufficient action on the part of the federal government. “As awareness grows about the impacts of global warming on Australia, and the need to adapt to changed conditions becomes more pressing, it is imperative that we not forget our neighbours in the Pacific” said Friends of the Earth Australia (FoEA) spokesperson Cam Walker.

“Australia is a major per capita contributor to global warming. In contrast, the Pacific nations contribute little, yet are acknowledged by the IPCC as being one of the most vulnerable regions on the planet to the effects of climate change. The paper ‘Climate Change in the Pacific’  must be commended for being forward thinking and proactive. The need to support our neighbours, in both mitigation and adaptation should be obvious to all. Proposals outlined in his paper to accept environmental (or climate) refugees, maintain cultural heritage and provide training should all be included in any Australian policy on the Pacific in this era of changing climatic conditions. The specific proposals mark this paper as being at the cutting edge of current debate about the Pacific and an ethical response by Australia to the pressing issue of global warming”.

"FoEA fully supports proposals to establish training initiatives for people who may be displaced. We would, however, caution against the use of specific skills as a criteria for the relocation and assistance of people from affected Pacific Islands. Whole communities will be at risk in many Island nations and the current barrier of skills requirements for people needing to relocate needs to be dealt with as soon as possible. An appropriate response to this issue would be the creation of a separate category of climate refugee as soon as is feasible”.

“As a Kyoto Protocol skeptic, Australia is becoming increasingly isolated in the global community over the question of a collective response to the threat of climate change. The strong emphasis in this paper on re- establishing Australia as a driving force for positive change in our region is warmly welcomed by Friends of the Earth Australia and, we
would expect, all Australians concerned about environmental sustainability and human rights”.

Further comment: Cam Walker, national liaison officer, Friends of the Earth Australia
03 9419 8700, 0419 338 047