The Rudd government has been accused of running incoherent policy by refusing to assist Pacific nations in dealing with the dire consequences of climate change.
Two reports are scathing about Australia’s attitude towards neighbours who face the dislocation of millions of people by 2050 as global warming causes sea levels to rise.
Aid organisation Oxfam Australia says Australia and New Zealand need to contribute more money – up to $668 million – to help island nations adapt to climate change.
And it agrees with The Australia Institute that Australia needs to develop immigration policies which support those Pacific island communities forced from their homes.
The institute was especially critical of Labor’s record since 2007, saying the failure to match pre-election rhetoric and early promises in government had failed to secure a more hopeful outlook for Pacific islanders.
Adaptation assistance had been inadequate and the government was refusing to discuss climate-induced migration, the think-tank said.
‘The Rudd government cannot continue to drag the chain on migration and simultaneously refuse to openly and honestly engage with the Pacific,’ its report said.
‘It is an entirely incoherent policy position which cannot be sustained.’
Oxfam says Pacific communities urgently need support to adapt to the impacts of climate change.
‘In a region where half the population (of about eight million) lives within 1.5 kilometres of the sea, few people will be untouched by the consequences of climate change,’ it says in a briefing paper.
Unless wealthy nations, such as Australia and New Zealand, took urgent action to curb emissions some island nations in the Pacific faced the ‘very real threat of becoming uninhabitable’, it said.
It said wealthy nations must reduce their carbon emissions by at least 40 per cent by 2020, and at least 95 per cent by 2050.
Australia is committed to reducing its emissions by a minimum five per cent by 2020 and up to 25 per cent if a global agreement can be reached at Copenhagen in December.
Oxfam wants Australia and New Zealand to address the most urgent adaptation needs of Pacific communities by doubling present funding.
Both organisations believe Australia needs to engage its Pacific neighbours about displacement of their local communities.
The institute says Prime Minister Kevin Rudd should use a leaders meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum in Cairns next week to capitalise on a climate change declaration agreed to at last year’s gathering in Niue.
‘Concrete action on these issues is imperative, not only for the well being of Pacific communities, but also for the legitimacy of the Australian claim to regional leadership,’ it said.