Intervention Speech – High-Level Dialogue on Climate Change and Biodiversity
High-Level Dialogue on Climate Change and Biodiversity
May 4, 2018
Can I start by acknowledging Minister le Drian; President Germain; distinguished leaders, ministers and representatives; Colin Tukuitonga and heads of Pacific organisations; ladies and gentlemen.
It’s great to be back at SPC and in New Caledonia, home to one of the three most extensive reef systems in the world.
Following on the very successful meeting of President Macron and our Prime Minister in Sydney, I would like to build on his words in saying that France is a global power, but it is also a presence in the Pacific.
This brings significant benefits, including for biodiversity and our response to climate change.
The Pacific Community, of which Australia and indeed France were founding members, is important to all of us.
We combine our scientific and technical strengths to solve our common challenges in the Pacific.
Amongst those challenges, the need to protect our biodiversity and respond effectively to climate change rank high.
On climate change, Pacific island countries have spoken strongly on the world stage.
Pacific leaders have been heard and have made a difference.
We all know and understand the depth of concern here about climate change and biodiversity and we share that concern.
Our most recent Foreign Policy White Paper highlights the challenges of climate change but it also recognises the priority we place on supporting our neighbours to build resilience to climate impacts and we do so in different ways.
Australia is collaborating with Pacific island countries in their global efforts, and here in the region, including through our partnerships with regional organisations, such as the Pacific Islands Forum, SPREP [Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program], SPC.
We also work more and more in both these dimensions with France.
Today, we bring those threads together.
Allow me to put Australia’s climate actions and partnerships in the context of our overall effort in the Pacific.
The Australian Government is strongly committed to stepping up our effectiveness and our relationships across the Pacific.
As a longstanding, long-established and major regional partner, we have a strong foundation on which to build.
To make the best contribution we can to the region in the years to come, we are focussing on economic links, on security links and relationships between our peoples.
The outcomes we seek are economic growth, safety and security and prosperity, and an understanding and connections are mutually supportive.
They provide the right conditions for the work we are focused on today to succeed.
Like France, Australia is concerned not simply with conserving the environment and not only with responding to climate change, we also want to ensure inclusive economic development in the Pacific region, including through more effective partnerships.
Climate and biodiversity challenges, are beyond the capacity of any single country or organisation to address.
We support finalising the Paris Agreement rulebook at COP24 in December.
Australia will fully implement its Paris agreement commitments.
We are on track to meet our emissions reduction targets.
We beat our first Kyoto target and we are on track to beat our 2020 target.
We are making headway on our 2030 target to reduce emissions by 26-28 per cent below 2005 levels.
Indeed, our emissions per capita and per unit of GDP are the lowest in 28 years.
We continue to pursue all policy levers, including more renewable energy, a greater focus on energy efficiency and reducing emissions from fossil fuels.
Our approach is technology neutral.
Indeed Australia has the largest percentage of rooftop solar in the world.
We also support Fiji in its efforts as COP23 Presidency, including its development of the Talanoa Dialogue.
We recognise that small island states will be increasingly affected.
That is why Prime Minister Turnbull committed to spend $300 million over 4 years from 2016 on climate and disaster resilience support in the Pacific.
This funding is part of our commitment to spend at least $1 billion over 5 years on climate change in developing countries, announced at COP21 in 2015.
We are integrating climate change and disaster considerations into all Australia’s overseas development assistance investments across the Pacific through improved research and a focus on resilience and risk reduction.
This support is in line with the Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific, which is a great example of regional coordination- with SPC, a lead author alongside SPREP, the University of the South Pacific, the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and UN agencies.
We will work hard to make the Pacific Resilience Partnership an effective governance arrangement that brings together all the relevant nations, including civil society and business.
Last week, the Pacific Islands Forum Economic Ministers’ Meeting (FEMM) in Palau endorsed a proposal for a Pacific Resilience Facility (PRF).
The Facility, driven by the Forum Secretariat, will support upfront investments in preparedness for natural disasters and climate change adaptation to minimise future losses.
The Facility will provide a vehicle for development partners to support resilience in the Pacific in a coordinated and efficient manner.
Fulfilling and building on commitments we made in Copenhagen and Cancun, Australia also already works hard to make the Green Climate Fund work for Pacific island countries.
We appreciate the concerns that have been raised with us.
Our advocacy for the Pacific on the Green Climate Fund Board has resulted in the approval of projects totalling more than 300 million US dollars.
Prime Minister Turnbull and President Macron agreed on some exciting initiatives in Sydney this week, which will impact on our work in the Indo-Pacific and our cooperation.
These include initiatives in biodiversity, in solar energy, in the blue economy and of course our vitally important reefs.
Australia and France will work to preserve the Pacific’s superb, but sensitive, coral reefs- the treasure growing off the coasts of so many of our islands.
We will combine resources to study reef and coral resilience specifically in the Pacific, and we are keen to share what we learn from our new work on our own Great Barrier Reef.
I am pleased to announce that as part of Australia’s 2018 Budget, the Australian Government will invest more than half a billion dollars – the largest-ever single investment – to protect the Great Barrier Reef and secure its viability.
Can I conclude by thanking the French Government, the New Caledonian Government and of course SPC, for organising today’s events and for the opportunity to speak on these important issues.