Bill's Transcripts

Doorstop: Kiribati - Climate change in the Pacific





SUBJECT: Climate change in the Pacific

RICHARD MARLES, SHADOW MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION AND BORDER PROTECTION: Well we are here today with the Australian Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten and Deputy Leader of the Opposition Tanya Plibersek at a spot which was very significant in 2011. Over to my left were a group of mangroves which were planted by the Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon, the President of Kiribati Anote Tong and myself, and it symbolised the visit of the Secretary General to Kiribati to see for himself the front line of global climate change. The symbolism of mangroves is that they represent a natural seawall and you see that around a lot of the coastline here on Tarawa but one of the really concerning things is that even since then, 2011, we've seen erosion right at this spot which highlights the point at the significance of the impact of climate change on this country. We've been here through the Pacific over the last few days seeing this for ourselves and I'd like to handover to the Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten to get his sense of what he's witnessed.


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks Richard. Good morning everyone. This is now day four of Labor's visit to the Pacific to see the harmful effects of climate change on the Pacific region and the people who live within it. On Sunday and Monday morning we heard from Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea of the terrible draught that PNG is currently experiencing in no small part due to the change in our weather caused by pollution and carbon emissions then we went to the Marshall Islands and we see drowning islands already through rising sea levels, through storm surges, through inundation and now we’ve been visiting in Kiribati where we see houses falling into the sea, we see the relentless changes in the environment causing real challenges for the livelihoods of the citizens of Kiribati.


But all of this can at least be halted if the world makes better decisions and stronger decisions at Paris. Labor really believes that Australia should be standing up for our region, for the Pacific region. People of the Pacific have a long history of working with Australia. Now more than ever they require the Australian Government and the Australian people to stand up to oppose the harmful effects of climate change by having real targets, by having strong standards, by taking real action. In Paris we can make a decision which will either see these islands survive or not. Australia needs to do its bit. We can through sensible decisions, strong decisions. We can make sure that the harmful effects of climate change, which the Labor delegation has seen firsthand, which all Australians need to understand, is hurting the Pacific and ultimately Australian itself.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, President Tong has called for moratorium of the new coal mines, was the something that was raised while you were here in Kiribati and is Labor still firm on it?


SHORTEN: President Tong is very concerned in my opinion that Australia needs to do more to show leadership to tackle the effects of climate change. He's a remarkable world statement. He represents one of the smallest countries on earth in terms of population but in terms of sheer size, Kiribati feels the impact of climate change more than anywhere else in the world. He believes that Australia and other developed nations need to do more. We had a really good discussion and I explained that Labor's view is that fossil fuels are part of our energy mix but certainly I was able to reassure him that a Labor government in Australia would take meaningful action about increasing the role of renewable energy, being an active global citizen and showing leadership. I believe he was very comforted that many Australians including Labor are taking climate change far more seriously than the current Liberal Government in Canberra.


JOURNALIST: Did he ask you to explicitly to back that moratorium?


SHORTEN: No, he didn't specifically ask that, he understands that different countries have to pursue what they perceive to be their national interest but he put a plea from the Presidency of one of the smallest nations in the world with a fragile ecosystem, where people live their lives in very, very fine balance with the surrounding sea and the environment. He said that he wanted to see Australia be a global citizen and not just look at its own needs. I believe that he was happy when Labor explained our position and our views, he understands that many Australians do appreciate that Australia is a Pacific nation. I believe he was quite comforted by the decisions which Labor was able to have on behalf of many Australians with him.


JOURNALIST: Would you as an individual or you as the Opposition Leader consider signing up for the moratorium?


SHORTEN: I have to say that fossil fuels are part of our energy mix in Australia but what Labor would do is that we would make it very clear. One: that we would push renewable energy to be 50 per cent of our energy mix by 2030. Two: when it comes to setting targets for reducing carbon, harmful carbon pollution emissions, what we would do is we would focus on what was the best science, we would focus on trying to restrain the increase of the temperature to two degree Celsius, we'd also do what was feasible in the Australian circumstances. President Tong, I believe, has viewed Labor's visit as a shot in the arm for the small struggling states of the Pacific, that they know that there are Australians willing to give leadership. Paris is an opportunity that the world shouldn’t miss. So Australians may think it's got nothing to do with the lives they lead but the changes we see here, rising seas, warming seas, acidification of our coral, storm surges and extreme weather events, drought, all the things we've seen in the last four days Australia suffers a lot of these problems as well. The problems at Kiribati are actually the same problems that Australians face.


JOURNALIST: Are you hopeful the meeting in Paris will come up with credible agreement in favour of the low-lying islands like Kiribati?


SHORTEN: I've got no doubt that if the world appreciates the struggle which Kiribati is going through and if we understand and the rest of the world that what happens here is actually happening in the rest of the world it's just easier to see the challenges, then the world can do that but I know that Kiribati’s President is a world leader and that Australian Labor certainly wants to be part of the Pacific and do Australia’s traditional role of being a voice for the Pacific all around the world.


JOURNALIST: After visiting all the islands now you've completed your visit in Kiribati, do you really think that Kiribati affected by sea level rise and climate change?
SHORTEN: I'm staggered at the ignorance of some people in Australia who say that Kiribati is not affected by climate change. The people of Kiribati have lived for centuries in delicate balance between the wind and the waves and their scarce land. But what we see in recent times is rising sea levels, a warming ocean. We see the consequences in terms of drought and extreme weather events. I have no doubt that even if you can read the facts and you can see the newspaper articles, when you actually physically visit and you see the fine balance which people in Kiribati and other Pacific atolls live with the sea, that we're losing that balance because of climate change.