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Urgent call from Pacific nations for dialogue on coal and climate change



Unprecedented support from Pacific Island leaders for a global moratorium on new coal mines is a stark reminder that much more must be achieved at the Paris climate talks, said Greenpeace Australia Pacific’s CEO, David Ritter, today.

Sixteen Pacific leaders yesterday published the Suva Declaration, which included a call for international discussions on a moratorium on the development and expansion of fossil fuel industries, particularly the construction of new coal mines.

According to media reports, seven nations demanded an immediate moratorium — building on an announcement last month by the President of Kiribati, Anote Tong, with the Executive Director of Greenpeace International, Kumi Naidoo, calling on world leaders to commit to a halt to all new coal mines and coal mine expansions.

“We’re already seeing Pacific communities lose their land and their homes resulting from extreme weather events and the impacts of climate change. This is a growing humanitarian crisis that will only undermine regional stability and security if it is not adequately dealt with.

“We know the science and we know the end of the age of coal is coming. What we are seeing now is a united stand from Pacific Island leaders and civil society on the urgency of dealing with climate change, and this includes stemming harmful emissions from burning coal and other fossil fuels,“ said Mr. Ritter.

“Currently, there are vastly inadequate pledges from countries – including from wealthy neighbours such as Australia  – to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to keep global warming to under 1.5 degrees. The current pledges would lead to 3 or more degrees of warming, which is unacceptable. We need international leadership, an immediate moratorium on all new coal mines and a planned retreat from coal that involves a just transition for existing workers and developed in consultation with affected communities,” said Mr Ritter.

Mr. Ritter was speaking in Port Moresby at the conclusion of a three-day meeting of Pacific civil society organisations to discuss the urgent threat of climate change and other priorities. The organisations are urging the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Leaders meeting this week to issue a strongly-worded declaration demanding effective action on climate change ahead of the Paris climate talks, with fears Australia and New Zealand will undermine discussions.

“We hope that Pacific leaders will send the strongest possible message to the Paris meeting to reduce fossil fuel reliance and adopt more stringent measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Every high tide now carries with it the potential for damage and flooding. In some places the sea level is rising by 1.2 centimetres a year, four times faster than the global average. This means that 80 per cent of coal reserves must remain unused if we are to have any chance at protecting nations like Kiribati, the Marshall Islands and the Philippines.

Ritter condemned efforts by Australia to water down the declaration from Pacific leaders. “As the wealthiest nation in the region, Australia should be showing leadership at climate change negotiations in Paris, not turning its back,” he said.


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