He’s visiting the Marshall Islands and Kiribati with Deputy leader Tanya Plibersek and immigration spokesman Richard Marles.
The Labor trio met Marshall Islands President Christopher Loeak and Foreign Minister Tony de Brum, who says the risks posed to his country by climate change are clear for all to see.
“We’re standing right on top of the water literally and the vulnerability of these islands is well-known. We need not speak of that. What we need to speak about is what are we going to do about it, make sure that they remain a country come the mid-century or the end of the century.”
The challenges facing the Marshall Islands include simultaneous droughts and floods, salt inundation of freshwater areas, and rising sea levels forcing coastal communities to move further inland. The country’s 67,000 people rely on agriculture, fishing and tourism – industries all affected by climate change.
Mr De Brum says Australia’s role in the region is clear.
“We believe that a partnership with Australia taking the lead with climate change in the Pacific will result in a goal that will meet minimum requirements of survival.”
Labor leader Bill Shorten says it’s difficult to fully comprehend the effect of climate change on the Pacific without being there.
“We’re here because we know that the Pacific doesn’t stop at the equator. We’re here to see first-hand, as we form our policies on climate, to see first-hand the dreadful effects of the rising water levels, the food scarcity, the drought, the storm surges and the extreme weather events.”
Mr Shorten says Australia has a chance in Paris next month to take meaningful action and says Australia should be a voice for Pacific nations. Also on the tour is Deputy Opposition leader Tanya Plibersek who says she would like to see the current Australian government do more to reduce carbon pollution in Australia, believing this will have a knock-on effect in the region.
“Australia currently has unambitious targets when it comes to carbon pollution reduction. We believe that the current government should be more ambitious in setting its targets in Paris. We also believe that the current government should do more to invest in renewable energy in Australia. We know that renewables will be a big part of the solution for Australia and that’s why we’ve set our 50 per cent renewable energy target.”
The federal opposition leaders are visiting Papua New Guinea, the Marshall Islands and Kiribati at the same time as a visit from Steve Ciobo, the federal Minister for international development and the Pacific. He’s currently in Fiji looking at the outcomes of Australian aid funding in the Pacific, including climate change programs.