AUSTRALIA USED diplomatic strong-arm tactics to water down outcomes in Pacific climate negotiations, and to buy silence on climate change, a new investigation from Greenpeace Australia Pacific has revealed.

The report draws on dozens of interviews with present and former Pacific leaders, Australian diplomats and academics to reveal the tactics used by Australia to thwart stronger regional action on climate change and to shift focus away from Australia’s responsibility to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Greenpeace’s new report, Australia: Pacific Bully and International Outcast reveals:

  • The Australian government uses bullying tactics in regional negotiations on climate change, according to former Pacific Island leaders interviewed by Greenpeace Australia Pacific, including former Kiribati President Anote Tong and Bikenibeu Paeniu, Former Prime Minister of Tuvalu.
  • Australia’s aid to the Pacific has been greenwashed, with some of the largest and most expensive ‘climate adaptation’ projects having no link to climate change or increasing the climate resilience of Pacific peoples.
  • The Australian government’s climate position harms its international relations and economy with Australia’s export markets for coal and gas shrinking as major trading partners such as Japan and South Korea commit to net-zero emissions.

The report also uncovers the greenwashing of Australian aid in the Pacific, finding that millions of aid dollars have been given to ‘climate adaptation’ projects that do not have any link to climate change.

Greenpeace Australia Pacific researcher and international relations expert Alex Edney-Browne said the investigation showed Australia’s international standing has been damaged by its climate obstruction. “Australia has lost its once-respected position in the Pacific and now has a reputation for bullying and strong-arm diplomatic tactics to thwart regional climate action”, she said.

“Pacific Island leaders are some of the world’s strongest climate advocates, but Australia has brazenly tried to buy their silence through aid with strings attached. Morrison’s last-minute commitment at COP26 this week to increase regional climate finance by $500 milion, via bilateral agreements, simply won’t cut it.

“Given the level of greenwashing going on in Australia’s foreign aid to the Pacific as revealed in this report, there is also no guarantee that this money will go where it’s needed to increase the climate resiliency of Pacific peoples.

“Australia has a history of using bilateral aid as a way of gaining leverage over Pacific island countries. It would be nice to see Australia being a good international citizen and showing support for multilateral climate finance such as the UN’s Green Climate Fund. It refuses to do so.

“Australia must make a serious effort on climate change, which is threatening the very survival of Pacific nations. That means ruling out any new coal or gas projects, ending the billions in subsidies given to the fossil fuel industry and committing to a science-based target to cut emissions by 75 per cent this decade to bring it up to speed with our regional neighbours and trading partners.”

Greenpeace International Executive Director Jennifer Morgan said if Australia wanted to be seen as a force for good in the world it needed to stop blocking global climate progress and make the emissions cuts needed. “I have attended every COP meeting going all the way back to 1995 and Australia’s craven obstruction of international progress on climate ambition has become as routine as the bushfires and heatwaves that sweep through the nation”, she said.

“Australia has come to one of the most important climate summits in history with no plan other than to promote the fossil fuels that are causing the climate crisis. Australia is a climate villain and deserves to be called out as such. For years Australia has gotten away with acting as a blocker but Scott Morrison’s cover has now been blown as so many other nations heed the urgent call that Morrison has ignored: to slash emissions this decade.”

Greenpeace Australia Pacific non-executive board member and Fijian international human rights lawyer Kavita Naidu said Australia was one of the world’s largest coal and gas exporters and had damaged its international standing for refusing to cut emissions and blocking global progress on addressing climate change. “Despite Australia’s stronghold manoeuvring, Pacific leaders have unanimously declared that the climate crisis is the single greatest threat facing the region and Pacific people, who are suffering from catastrophic and irreversible loss and damage”, she said.

“Australia’s failure to step up to the climate challenge at COP26 has seen it rebuked on the world stage. It’s a frustration Pacific leaders have experienced for decades as their calls for Australia to reduce its carbon-intensity have been consistently ignored.

“If Australian Prime Minister Scott Morison is serious about the threat of climate change he must take strong action today, not in 30 years and that means ruling out any new coal or gas projects, ending the billions in subsidies given to the fossil fuel industry and committing to a science-based target to cut emissions by 75 percent this decade to bring it up to speed with our regional neighbours and trading partners.”

Gareth Evans, former Australian foreign minister, said that Australia’s climate policy was already hurting the country’s diplomatic standing. “A country’s reputation for decency in these matters does really, really matter… Australia’s credibility in all sorts of ways depends on our being seen to be responsible, good international citizens and Australia is putting that reputation very much at risk on the climate front”, he said.

Anote Tong, former President of Kiribati,said that Australia had not acted in the spirit of mutual respect in its dealings with the Pacific on climate change. “I cannot read into the minds of Australian leaders but it’s always been my hope that we would treat each other with mutual respect, but I’m not sure this has always been the case”, he said.

“But we should be partners in every respect and not when it is convenient to one party but not the other, for example on climate change. We expect Australia to be stepping forward because climate change is very important for us and we’re meant to be part of this family. It had always been my expectation, my hope, that Australia would provide the leadership we desperately need on climate change.”

* Read the full report here.

* Source: Greenpeace International