This month saw 40 Pacific Islanders take to Australian parliament lawns in Canberra, with a specific set of demands that could determine the future of their communities.

But what do Australia’s climate decisions have to do with Pacific Islanders?


Whether they live in the islands or reside in Australia, the energy transition of the world’s third largest export of fossil fuels will inevitably impact the lives of Pacific Islanders.

This is why, when the Pacific Climate Warriors gathered in Canberra for the Our Pawa Gathering, their demands of the Australian government were clear.

  • Stop approving new coal and gas exploration.
  • Power up safe and renewable energy that involves communities at all levels of decision-making.
  • Commit finance to a fossil fuel free Pacific.

Just a day before the Pacific Climate Warriors descended on the Australian parliament, the Albanese government announced their Future Gas Strategy, a dangerous ploy to prolong the gas industry and lock us into years more of climate chaos. This strategy was in direct contradiction to many of the climate promises that the Labour government was elected on. It was also in contradiction to the “family ties” that Australia claims to have with the Pacific.

In response, the Pacific Climate Warriors showed the world what Australia should ACTUALLY build their future on – safe, clean and fair renewable energy for all. But just scaling up renewable energy is not enough, and could falll prey to the destructive habits of the fossil fuel industry themselves.

In the days afterwards, the Australian government released their Federal Budget which appears to include a decisive turn towards Australia’s renewable energy future. By 2030, renewable energy like wind and solar can meet almost all Australia’s electricity needs, with storage like batteries keeping power reliable and available around the clock.

However, this renewable transition needs to operationalise with the wellbeing of people and communities at its core. First and foremost, Australia’s climate solutions must have a direct impact on reducing greenhouse gasses, not relying on dangerous distractions like fossil gas, hydrogen and carbon capture to prolong the life of the fossil fuel industry. The Government committed to reducing carbon emissions to 43% below 2005 levels by 2030, but their strategy to continue approving new coal and gas projects means they are failing that commitment. The Pacific cannot afford for the target of 1.5 degrees of heating to be surpassed, and the only way to maintain that is to phase out all fossil fuels.

Next, the renewable energy transition must support energy justice, enable energy access to all and increase social equity, at domestic and international levels. The Australian Government has committed funding to implement consumer energy resources reforms that boost the supply of renewable electricity to the grid from rooftop solar, home batteries and other consumer energy resources, to help consumers get a better deal in the energy market. This must be applied with equity and justice in mind, with Pacific and First Nations communities within Australia empowered through energy access.

On an international level, Australia has a responsibility to assist in enabling the Just Energy Transition for its Pacific neighbors. As the world’s third largest exporter of fossil fuels, Australia has a historical responsibility to ensure that the Pacific is not simply saddled with old and obsolete renewable energy technology, nor locked into decades of debt just to provide clean energy to climate-vulnerable communities.

And thirdly, Australia’s renewable energy deployment must not further threaten not threaten the land of Indigenous Peoples and the livelihoods of frontline communities. The Future Made in Australia initiative looks to propel Australia to the forefront of green industry, with large reserves of critical minerals poised to make this a possibility. It is important to acknowledge the hesitancy communities may have to this possibility, as the extraction of materials such as lithium, nickel and cobalt have already threatened indigenous land. Any and all critical mineral industry in Australia must be done with the priorities of Indigenous People’s at the forefront. Companies like Santos and Whitehaven have all stripped indigenous land bare of water, life and spirit to build their fossil fuel empires, and if we are to truly have a Just Transition, the critical mining industry cannot perpetuate that.

All of these principles involve the interest and futures of Pacific peoples because, as a large demographic of the Australian population and some of its nearest neighbors, the social and environmental injustices of our “big brother” will spill out onto our people. Pacific diaspora within Australia have contributed a great amount to their new home and now deserve to have a government that prioritizes their communities as well as their island homes.

The Pacific is ready for the renewable energy revolution, and we know that Australia is as well. Pacific communities are ready for a seat at the table as we build this revolution and adamant that the principles we hold, also possess many of the answers to determining that no Australian or Pacific Islander is left behind when we build a world beyond fossil fuels.

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