I’d like you to come on a journey with me from the Hotel Maritim in Bonn, Germany, to the forests of Indonesia, to government offices in New Zealand, to north Queensland in Australia, and back again… so strap yourself in…

Journey with me: climate change is truly a global issue

Journey with me: climate change is truly a global issue

Yvo de Boer, the UN’s top climate official, officially opened the Bonn 3 negotiations on Monday, in the main hall of Hotel Maritim, with this comment: “We’ve got a 200-plus-page text riddled with square brackets (where issues are unresolved), and it worries me to think how on earth we’re going to whittle that down to meaningful language with just five weeks of negotiating time left.”

Hey, that’s exactly what I said! Do you think Yvo’s been reading my blogs?

While Yvo and everyone else has been worrying about the dramatic swelling of the negotiating text to a whopping 200 pages, Australia and Indonesia have been busy working together to come up with a new submission to add in another three pages of text! On Monday, Australia and Indonesia made a joint submission to the UNFCCC on using rainforests to offset carbon emissions from polluting industries.

On one hand, this is a good thing. As of yet, we don’t have a mechanism nor agreement, on how to deal with REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) which will be vital to any successful global climate deal. But, problematically, the announcement did not include a statement saying Australia would help Indonesia to protect their forests. Uh oh. The science is clear, with more than a quarter of annual global emissions come from the clearing, logging and disturbance of forests, we can not secure a safe climate without protecting the world’s forests.

Right now, we’re madly working with our forest campaigning friends to come up with a strategy to influence Prime Minister Rudd, Penny Wong and the Australian negotiating team to fix up the flaws in the draft climate deal by adding the protection of intact forests while they are still in Bonn. We’ll be asking you to voice this important message to our government very soon.

Another significant announcement was made on Monday, this time from the country we like to claim as an extension of our own (for all of you non-Antipodeans’ out there I am referring to, of course, New Zealand).

New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key, announced a target range of emission cuts of between 10-20% by 2020. Similar to Australia, New Zealand has attached a shopping list of conditions that must be met before they will commit to the upper range of the target, including:

  • a global agreement to limit warming to 2 degrees
  • for developed countries to take comparable targets, and
  • for “advanced and major emitting developing countries take action fully commensurate with their respective capabilities”

Yikes! The NZ government has thrown a dart and not even struck the dartboard! New Zealand’s per capita greenhouse gas pollution is 4th worst of the developed countries, as Barry Coates of Oxfam New Zealand said today: “Telling other nations to pull our weight should not be tolerated.”

Pictures speak 1000 words on NZ emission reduction position

Pictures speak 1000 words on NZ emission reduction position

Why do I, a young Australian woman, care about what the Kiwi’s are up to? Well, aside from the fact that climate change is a global issue that demands an ambitious and urgent global response. Australia and New Zealand have been acting as global laggards in in our home region, the Pacific. A part of the world where climate change is already dramatically affecting people’s lives.

This brings me to our next stop, I’m not sure if you’ve ever been to Cairns in northern Queensland, but it’s a pretty beautiful part of our world. It’s where the weather is always warm, mangroves hug the curve of the coastline, and sunsets are to be enjoyed with a cold beverage.

Cairns is the place where last week, our PM Kevin Rudd, New Zealand PM John Key and leaders from Pacific Island nations met to talk about key issues in our region: climate change, trade, and security, amongst others. I wonder if John and Kevin also discussed targets?

The official communiqué released at the culmination of the forum states: “We call upon world leaders to urgently increase their level of ambition and to give their negotiators fresh mandates to secure a truly effective global agreement”. While this ambitious rhetoric is encouraging, it fails to match any meaningful action by Australia, or New Zealand, on climate change and spells disaster for the Pacific’s small island states that are already on the frontline of climate change.

Pacific island nations have repeatedly called for a developed country target of 45% reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 (including Australia and New Zealand). This call was swept aside by reversion to the lowest common denominator – Australia and New Zealand’s target of 50% reductions by 2050.

A target of 50% emissions reductions by 2050 is too little, too late. By then the people of Kiribati, Tuvalu, Tokelau and numerous atoll communities across the Pacific may well be swimming! Even the G8 acknowledges more needs to be done, G8 leaders recently agreed to 80% global emissions reductions by 2050. Why then, are we being such global laggards?

I want to see the respective PM’s of Australia and New Zealand truly act in accordance with the ‘big brother’ title they have been granted. We must move beyond rhetoric. The science and the stories from our neighbours throughout the Pacific demand that we take action now

Clearly, there is A LOT happening on the international climate change front, both inside the walls of the Hotel Maritim and out. Ultimately, the decisions that our negotiating team make in Bonn are affected by other global forces at play. Those forces include you. You have the power to raise your concerns loudly, here, on Adopt-A-Negotiator on what role you want our negotiating team to play during Bonn 3.

As we tuck ourselves into bed tonight, on the other side of the world, Australian NGOs will be meeting with the Australian government’s negotiating team in Bonn. More on this tomorrow.

Ever watchful,