LAST week I was in Canberra for a meeting of all Australian High Commissioners and Ambassadors from around the Pacific.
One of the topics we discussed at length was climate change, including Australia’s efforts to mitigate climate change and assist Pacific countries in adapting to climate change.
We know that climate change is a priority issue for many countries in the Pacific. And we know that many Pacific countries – including Solomon Islands – are vulnerable to external shocks, including those that are climate-related.
Although Australia makes a relatively small contribution to the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions, we are an advanced country and we try very hard to be a responsible international citizen.
That’s why the Australian Government recently announced its target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.
This is the target that Australia will take to the UN climate conference in Paris later this year, where countries will try to move towards a new global agreement on climate change.
It’s an ambitious target for Australia. Although it’s similar to the targets announced by other developed countries, Australia’s population and economy are growing faster than most of the developed world, which means we have to work even harder to reduce our emissions.
The new target means that between 2005 and 2030, Australia’s emissions per person would reduce by half, and emissions per dollar of GDP would reduce by almost two thirds.
That’s a big change for the Australian economy.
Australia is also committed to helping the countries most affected by climate change to adapt.
Earlier this year the Australian Government committed A$200 million to the Green Climate Fund.
Through our seat on the board, we’ll be pushing hard to ensure that the vulnerable countries of the Pacific are able to access the fund.
And we recently sponsored a workshop to help Pacific countries (including Solomon Islands) understand how they can access the fund.
As many readers would know, climate change policy has been the subject of some fierce debates in Australia for many years. That’s unsurprising, given how big the stakes are.
But Australia’s latest targets and commitments show that we’re taking climate change seriously and are committed to doing our part to help the world and our neighbourhood.
On Wednesday I attended the opening session of the Land Reform Conference. We provided some support for the conference but it was very much a discussion by and for Solomon Islanders.
As many Solomon Islanders – including Prime Minister Sogavare – have told me during my time here, if Solomon Islands is to develop it needs to find a better way of unlocking land for development while ensuring landowners are treated with fairness and respect.
Hopefully this week’s conference is a first step on a journey towards a better system of land management. I wish the government well as it embarks upon this ambitious but necessary journey.
Finally, I’ve been amazed by the response to the High Commission’s recent Walkabout lo Weathercoast.
Both Dawn and I have been literally stopped in the street by people who wanted to ask us about it.
And for both of us, the Walkabout was an incredibly rewarding experience. That said, we’ve been back for two weeks now and my legs are still aching!
From the Australian High Commissioner’s Desk