The Guardian • Issue #2015


  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2015

Amid attempts to drag Australia into the nuclear cycle, news from France casts yet another pall over the non-future of nuclear fission. France gets about seventy per cent of its electricity from nuclear power, a fact highlighted when the French government announced it would renationalise its state-backed electricity giant EDF, the biggest nuclear energy program in Europe. Problem is, the system’s 1980s’ infrastructure is coming apart with a two-year backlog in maintenance work that includes faulty welding seals in the systems that cool the radioactive core.

In contrast to the outside focus on China, Pacific Island countries have increasingly used the Pacific Islands Forum in Suva to amplify their deepening concerns about climate change. At the top of the agenda this year is the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent, which outlines a long-term path for the region with a focus on combatting the climate crisis and fostering sustainable development. The 2018 Biketawa Declaration designates climate change as the “single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and wellbeing of the peoples of the Pacific,” and reflects the Pacific Islands’ expanded concept of security beyond traditional concerns like regional stability and transnational crime. Pacific Island countries are experiencing the effects of climate change to a more extreme degree than most other countries. Natural disasters have destroyed large portions of the region’s economies. Ocean acidification and reef erosion are destroying fish stocks, which are a key source of many people’s livelihoods. And higher tides are displacing people from coastal areas and contaminating the groundwater, which in turn prevents crop growth. Thus, climate change not only exacerbates existing problems – such as food and water insecurity, migration, and economic development – but also creates new threats, as low-lying atoll nations worry that sea level rise could result in loss of sovereignty and eventual statelessness. Although China is a major CO2 emitter, some Pacific Island countries nevertheless see China as a helpful partner in tackling the climate crisis. In 2019, Kiribati President Taneti Maamau switched his country’s position on Taiwan, recognising Beijing’s claim over Taipei, in part because he judged that China is better equipped to help Kiribati combat climate change. Pacific Island countries are seeking assistance on climate adaptation and mitigation, and they will accept it from multiple sources. This dynamic presents a challenge for the United States and its partners, who have sought to frame China as a major culprit on climate issues. Pacific Island countries have contributed the least to climate change, and yet are disproportionally affected by it. So, to some in the region, the back-and-forth about which big country is to blame for climate change seems like meaningless political point-scoring rather than substantive action.

PARASITE OF THE WEEK: Here’s the Retailers’ Association on workers and the rising COVID numbers: Get the fourth shot, take individual responsibility. Here’s Anthony Albanese answering questions about his taking away the Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment, which will force people to work when they are sick: Get the fourth shot, take individual responsibility.

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