Pacific elders back Torres Strait climate action


The head of a Pacific elders body has backed a Torres Strait Islander-led push to hold the federal government accountable for its actions to tackle climate change.

Paul Kabai and Pabai Pabai have taken the government to court demanding further emissions reductions in line with science.

Hailing from the Boigu and Saibai communities, the two Torres Strait Islander men are arguing Australia has breached its duty of care to the islands by failing to prevent climate change and harm to their communities.

They are seeking a court order to force further cuts to carbon emissions in line with the best available scientific analysis.

The former president of Kiribati, Anote Tong, lent his support and said Australia needed to do more to cut emissions.

“When we hear that Australia is cutting its domestic emissions and has committed to net zero emissions level by 2050, that’s a tremendous step forward,” he told AAP.

“But of course, there is no reference to the high volume of exports of coal and gas, which really constitutes the higher contribution of Australia to global emission levels.

“It’s virtually saying that it’s not our responsibility, because it is their emissions, not our emissions. But, of course, the reality is Australia is benefiting from what is happening.”

Tong, who chairs the Pacific Elders’ Voice group made up of former prime ministers, presidents and high-level officials from the region, backed the case after a week-long visit to the two Indigenous communities.

“We find a great deal of similarity with the situation that these people are facing with our own situation in our part of the world,” he said.

“Particularly the most vulnerable Pacific island countries with respect to the impacts of climate change.

“These peoples, these communities really do not receive any kind of focus.”

He issued a statement of solidarity with the Torres Strait Islanders on Monday, saying the threats they faced from climate change mirror those of Pacific Islanders.

Tong stood with the two men in “the pursuit of climate justice” and in calling for all governments to stop fossil fuel subsidies and take decisive action to ensure global warming remains below 1.5C.