The extent to which the Government prevented small island states most at risk from climate change from voicing their support for tough carbon reduction targets has been confirmed in a leaked document from the Small Island States forum in August.
The Smaller Island States’ meeting is held prior to each Pacific Islands Forum, and is composed of states like the Cook Islands, Nauru, Niue, the Marshall Islands, Tuvalu, Palau and Kiribati, all of whom face severe or existential threats from the impact of climate change via rising sea levels and more extreme weather.
While it is standard for a communiqué to emerge from the SIS meeting, no communiqué was produced after the meeting prior to the Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Cairns. Instead, an anodyne press statement was issued by the PIF secretariat, which was controlled by Australia as Forum host.
The press statement referred to “deep concern by the serious and growing threat posed by climate change” but made no mention of emissions reduction targets.
Later that week, after the conclusion of the Forum, Kevin Rudd presented an apparently united group of Pacific leaders calling for a global warming peak of two degrees and a reduction in global emissions by at least 50% below 1990 levels by 2050. Those were the targets agreed by the G8 in July, and are consistent with the Australian Government’s current position.
The Smaller Island States wanted a much tough emissions target and said so, in a communiqué that was prevented from being released but which has been obtained by Crikey. The tougher targets were based on the position adopted by the broader Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) grouping, which has called for emissions to be reduced by 85% by 2050, including 45% by 2020, based on a 1.5 degree temperature rise.
The SIS communiqué (or, accurately, draft communiqué) “strongly supported” the inclusion of those targets specifically in the PIF communiqué as part of a long statement endorsed as the group’s position in the lead-up to Copenhagen:
Leaders reiterated the urgent need for all countries to cooperate and agree to a comprehensive and effective post-2012 framework at Copenhagen, noting that the Forum island countries, through the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), have advocated consistently for global emissions to be reduced by 85% from 1990 levels by 2050, and for developed countries as a group to commit to emission reductions of 45% from 1990 levels by 2020, thereby seeking to limit temperature increases to below 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Instead, the bland introductory remarks from the statement were issued as part of the SIS “press release” and no mention was made of the tougher targets.
Sources within the SIS group confirmed that Kevin Rudd and NZ Prime Minister John Key were insistent that the PIF endorse the lower targets. The Rudd Government used the forum to announce further allocations from the $150m the Government has pledged in Pacific climate aid funding.