Australia has been slammed after its climate negotiators tried to use the vulnerability of Australia’s Aboriginal communities to climate change to minimise Australia’s responsibility to compensate less developed countries for ‘loss and damage’ caused by climate change.
The comments came in the context of negotiations over a ‘loss and damage’ mechanism at the climate talks, which would establish a way for richer countries, which have historically been the major contributors to global greenhouse gas emissions, to compensate developing countries that are largely facing the brunt of climate-related impacts.
Australia, in trying to minimise its culpability for to climate change impacts and avoid footing the bill for damaged caused, referenced the vulnerability of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to suggest that there shouldn’t be a ‘developing/developed country divide’ when it came to allocating responsibility for the costs of climate change.
The surprising stance, from one of the world’s richest countries, earned Australia a second “Fossil of the Day” award on the third day of international climate talks being held in Madrid.
Many developed countries have sought to avoid such responsibility, as a fair compensation bill could run into the hundreds of billions of dollars.
The fossil of the day award, as decided by environmental groups under the banner of Climate Action Network International, was accepted on behalf of Australia by Lidia Thorpe, a Gunnai-Gunditjmara woman and former Victorian Greens State MP, who is attending the talks as part of an Australian Conservation Foundation delegation.
“First Nations people are at the front line of many injustices, including climate change. We are at the front line of climate impacts, despite being the least responsible,” Thorpe said.
“This is true whether our sovereign lands are in developed or developing countries. Australia is breaching our human and indigenous rights. First peoples don’t separate our livelihoods from our environment, and our culture or our climate.”
1st 🇧🇦🇸🇮 SLOVENIA wants to fund BOSNIA’s coal addiction
through NLB Banka & EBRD
2nd 🇦🇺 AUSTRALIA (again!) For using the vulnerability of First Peoples to bring down developing/developed divide
3rd 🇧🇪 BELGIUM who's behind every climate target!#cop25
— Climate Action Network International (CAN) (@CANIntl) December 4, 2019
“Successive Australian governments have failed to address the climate impacts faced by Aboriginal communities. The Australian Government’s current lack of climate action is also a human rights failure, affecting first nations people amongst our Pacific neighbours and around the world,” Thorpe added.
“In this context, it makes it even more disgraceful that Australia would claim concern for its First Nations people back home, in order to wash its hands of its responsibilities as a wealthy nation, and major climate polluter to do its fair share to assist indigenous peoples in less developed countries, in the face of catastrophic climate impacts.”
“Which is exactly what Australia did in COP negotiations in Madrid, when it used the vulnerability of First Nations peoples to claim “we need to break down the developed/developing nation divide” and gives Australia the same financial responsibility for climate action as for example, Timor Leste, Vanuatu, Tuvalu or Bangladesh.”
The award makes it two from two for Australia, after Australia received a first Fossil of the Day award on the previous day, in recognition of Scott Morrison’s poor response to the bushfire crisis, and his wish that the cricket could serve as an appropriate distraction for firefighters and bushfire affected communities.
The day two award was for second place: first-place went jointly to Bosnia and Slovenia for their co-development and funding of new coal projects in Bosnia.
The third-place Fossil of the Day was awarded to Belgium, for its lack of government action on climate change, and after its climate minister, Joke Schauvliege, was forced to resign earlier in the year after claiming the school strike protests in Belgium had been a ‘set up’ and influenced by unnamed powers.