Push for Pacific nations to be central to COP26 negotiations

By Jackson Graham

October 28, 2021

Pacific nations need to be central to COP26’s upcoming discussions, according to four Australian researchers due to attend the summit talks.
Pacific nations need to be central to COP26’s upcoming discussions, according to four Australian researchers due to attend the summit talks. (Andrew Milligan/PA Wire)

Pacific nations need to be central to COP26’s upcoming discussions, according to four Australian researchers due to attend the summit talks.

Momentum is building in the Pacific as two Torres Strait community leaders are attempting to sue the federal government for failing to act on climate change, arguing it breached a duty of care. 

Lawyers for Pabai Pabai and Paul Kabai say in the Federal Court that Australia should reduce greenhouse gas emissions to a level that will prevent their communities from harm. 

Kabai told the ABC he worried one day “we’ll be underwater” and the island communities would lose their culture and identities.

“We’ll lose everything,” he said. “We’re not going to survive if the government is not going to help us.”

Dr Virginia Marshall, from the Australian National University, will attend COP26 as a delegate of the Indigenous Peoples’ Organisation Australia and the UN Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples’ Platform. 

She’s aiming to build collaboration across Pacific Indigenous communities and through her engagement with Latin American ambassadors. 

“Climate change will have major impacts on biodiversity, water security and fire regimes across Australia’s vast expanse of Indigenous estate,” Marshall said, adding the cause should be part of the government’s National Roadmap for Indigenous Australia.

Also attending the UN conference in Glasgow to represent various Pacific island nations are ANU’s Dr Siobhan McDonnell, Dr Ian Fry and Salā Dr George Carter.

McDonnell, a lecturer at the Crawford School of Public Policy who negotiated for Vanuatu on loss and damage at COP25, will be supporting the Fiji delegation on loss and damage.

“These are actual costs that are borne now and into the future by Pacific island nations and their people in terms of spiritual loss of place, loss of aspects of culture, burial grounds and loss of attachment to place,” she said. 

Fry said his focus was to finalise the rules for carbon markets for least developed countries. 

“At the last COP in Madrid, we got very close to a final decision that would implement the carbon market, but Brazil blocked an outcome,” Fry, who first attended COP in 1997, said. 

“Since then, we have been having many online informal negotiating sessions to resolve some of the outstanding issues.”

The key issue, he said, was to ensure the carbon market delivered real emissions reductions with rigour that stopped countries buying their way out of meeting goals. 

Carter lamented that representatives for Pacific island nations had lobbied for climate action since 1990.

“The signs are detrimental and there is an existential threat to the livelihoods, the security and the well-being of Pacific people,” Carter said. 

He said the states were “like-minded, multi-actor coalitions” and were “at the forefront of making sure the current negotiations for the Paris Agreement uphold environmental integrity”.


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