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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Kirby

Drowned Out

Updated: Nov 17, 2021

The coming month presents a critical landmark event that could guide the next step for world cooperation towards tackling the climate crisis. Conference of the Parties or COP26 marks the 26th UN Climate Change conference that brings together the world’s powers to discuss the next step towards tackling climate change. But as we might have expected, the meetings already appear to be set in favour of the most powerful nations and their agenda.

As has been the case in the past, we observe how the developed world sits by worrying about economic growth, maintaining power, and other such issues while smaller nations that have spent most of their time fighting climate change and its first hand effects will, as usual, be snubbed. Or will that be the case?

An exemplary instance of business as usual for the powerful came during a Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) meeting in early August 2021. Pacific island nations with great traditions and respect for one another had to sit by and watch Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison chomping away on a snack during the official opening as if it were some form of entertainment. The official opening of the talks is seen as a celebration of Pacific Islands and their cooperation for 50 years. Australia’s Prime Minister’s actions were to set the tone for the rest of the talks, reinforcing the great divide between the big brother and its smaller neighbours.

Earlier this year, Australia reaffirmed that it would not change its goals to reduce its emissions by 2030, sticking with it’s previously established goal of a 23%-28% reduction despite being pointed out as inadequate by the US and members of the PIF. Furthermore, Australia resisted external pressures to commit to net zero emissions by 2050.

The image that is depicted is the one we should strive to change during the COP26. Smaller nations may not have the power to make great changes alone but they’re still bearing the brunt of the climate crisis and, in most cases, taking way beyond their fair share of the costs.

Image from Cyclone Ana in Fiji

Although Australia’s position casts a shadow over the efforts of the other PIF members, another world power did shine light on the matter in support of these smaller more vulnerable nations. The US, and specifically president Biden addressed the PIF in a short video, remarking the importance of cooperation during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as in tackling the climate crisis.

Although the US seems to be on the right path towards successful cooperation with other nations on the climate crisis, there is another issue that will interfere with the balance of the COP26: COVID-19 and the failings of COVAX means that many countries will not be able to attend the COP26 due to lack of vaccines and therefore a lack of safety. Therefore, once again, the climate crisis will be the topic of discussion for most of the developed world and will leave out those countries most vulnerable to the crisis in question.

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