Australia “looking out for its own interests” with its climate policies

Australia’s Minister for Youth and has defended his country’s attitude towards climate change policy, despite ongoing criticism from Pacific leaders.

Last month, Deputy Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, asked Australia to “get on board the climate change agenda,” in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

In Samoa for the Sports Ministers Meeting and the opening of the 16th Pacific Games, Mr. Colbeck spoke proudly about Australia’s contribution to sports development in the region through its flagship A$35 million Pacific Sports Partnership Programme, and newly announced $40 million Australia Pacific Sports Linkages program.

Asked whether sports diplomacy was enough to counter the nations lacking climate change policy, he said there are many ways to engage internationally.

“Every nation will look out for its own interest in a broad sense but they find ways to engage, and we are doing that,” he said.

“We are making a significant contribution on a capital basis with our climate targets, we have recently recommitted to the Paris Agreement like so many other countries did at the G20, except for the US. 

Mr Colbeck has served as the Parliamentary Secretary and Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, and most recently was the Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources before being sworn in to his current role.

In that work, he said, he has become familiar with the Pacific Islands and their dependence on the ocean, and the tuna fisheries of the region.

“There are other developmental opportunities that come through the engagement through sport, and through things like fisheries and other economic engagements,” he said.

“They are all important and we all act in our own interests when we see that is important… and that is as it should be.”

Fiame, who is also Minister of Natural Resources and Environment said she respects the sovereignty of countries and how their positions and policies might differ.

But as a nation within the Blue Pacific, Australia needs to speak in line with the region on the international stage.

“Australia is part of the Pacific collective,” Fiame said.

“They need to see themselves as part of that, geographically if for nothing else. 

“What is the Chicken Little analogy? We like to hold up our bit of the sky.”

The Australia-Pacific Sports Linkages program is partly a grants program, getting athletes and officials to Australia to train and develop, getting access to expertise outside of their island nations. 

Fiame said while it may help local players develop, there is always a risk those athletes remain in Australia and play for Australian teams.

“It’s like our students that go on scholarship,” she said.

“Those are always the risks and challenges with access and opportunities but it doesn’t mean we should stop it. 

“At the end of the day it does all go around and you hope that people do come back.”

Most recently, the Conference of the Parties on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change intersessional in Germany did not come to a meaningful conclusion on how to use the landmark report on the risks of 1.5 degrees of global warming.

The report was “watered down” by the oil-producing nations led by Saudi Arabia, reports the Independent , leaving it with little influence over future climate action negotiations in Chile in December this year.

“What is happening there is really coming down to politics,” Fiame said.

“You can state the evidence but it is really up to people, what are their choices.

“If people choose to not recognise the science, what can you do? They may not recognise the science but they will recognise the impacts. Whether they attribute it to climate change or not, the impact is there.”

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