During my remarks at our recent commemoration of Australia Day, I reflected on how 2020 was a year that tested the strength of our communities and the resilience of both Australia and Vanuatu. I also highlighted the importance of our joint response to climate change.
For Australians, 2020 started with the most devastating bushfires in our history. Nations near and far, including Vanuatu, offered Australia support. Your generosity in our hour of need was humbling and it will never be forgotten.
For all of us, 2020 demonstrated the importance of marshalling collective will, innovation, resources and leadership to protect and support our communities and countries.
While reducing emissions will remain crucial to ensuring global average temperatures stay well below 2 degrees, increased efforts will also be required to adapt and build resilience to the climate change already occurring.
The recent virtual Climate Adaptation Summit (25-26 January) hosted by the Netherlands provided a valuable opportunity for the international community to work together towards a more climate-resilient future.
At the summit, Australia reaffirmed our commitment to ambitious and practical action to combat the impacts of climate change at home, in our Pacific region and globally.
Australia is the driest inhabited continent in the world, it has the oldest living cultures and some of the richest biodiversity in the world. The bushfires demonstrated the importance of bringing together traditional Indigenous knowledge about the land with modern science. Indigenous Rangers are on the frontline of this work, preserving and protecting Australia’s natural and cultural heritage.
The Australian Government recognises that climate change is the biggest long-term threat to the health of coral reefs worldwide, including those in the iconic Great Barrier Reef.
Australia has committed 220 billion vatu to the effective management and protection of the Great Barrier Reef to support the implementation of the Reef 2050 Plan. We have launched a 12 billion vatu Reef Restoration and Adaptation program that brings together world leading marine science to research strategies that can help reefs recover from bleaching events and to adapt to changing ocean temperatures.
While our adaptation and resilience work starts at home, Australia is also committed to supporting neighbouring and global communities to tackle climate change.
Australia has pledged at least 123 billion vatu over the period 2020 to 2025 for global climate finance. 41 billion vatu of this funding will directly help our Pacific neighbours deploy renewable energy and improve their climate change and disaster resilience.
In Vanuatu, Australia has provided approximately 2.5 billion vatu in bilateral climate change and disaster resilience support since 2016. This support is built into many elements of our partnership including in the infrastructure, disaster risk reduction, humanitarian response, education, skills and health sectors.
Australia is increasing its support to help Vanuatu to prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters. Through the Disaster Ready program, Australia is working with non-government organisations, provincial governments, area councils, and Community Climate Change and Disaster Committees to help communities across Vanuatu prepare for disasters. This includes developing disaster plans, conducting drills and ensuring people have access to safe evacuation centres.
Australia’s 4.3 billion vatu Tropical Cyclone Pam response and recovery package (2015-2019) helped the Government of Vanuatu construct more than 397 health, education and public buildings which are able to withstand future climate hazards. These buildings are benefiting over 75,000 people.
And, in addition to our immediate response support, Australia has committed another 1.6 billion vatu to support the Government of Vanuatu’s TC Harold response and recovery efforts. This will help build back essential social services and climate resilient infrastructure, including education, health, and water and sanitation facilities.
Through support to the education sector, including the Vanuatu Skills Partnership, we are working with Vanuatu to integrate climate change resilience in vocational training in tourism, agribusiness and handicrafts to enable ni-Vanuatu to assess and respond to climate change and disaster risks that may impact their livelihoods.
The Roads for Development Program is working to ensure that rural roads linking communities to vital health and education facilities and markets, are designed and maintained to withstand increasingly extreme weather. And we continue to work closely with Vanuatu in responding to natural disasters and to improve our preparedness and resilience before they strike.
On the global stage, we are joining the Call for Action on Raising Ambition for Climate Adaptation and Resilience, to encourage greater ambition, finance and coordination to protect against growing climate risks. And Australia has joined the Coalition for Climate Resilience Investment, which aims to shift private investment towards climate resilient infrastructure and support vulnerable communities to attract private sector investment.
Of course, adaptation action must go hand in hand with reducing emissions.
We remain resolutely committed to the Paris Agreement and are on track to meet and beat our 2030 target. Our emissions have fallen faster than many other advanced economies and almost twice as much as the OECD average.
Australians are also adopting renewables at record levels. On a per person basis, Australia is building new wind and solar at ten times the global average and four times faster than Europe. Almost one in four Australian homes now have solar—the highest uptake in the world—and we expect renewables will contribute at least 50 per cent of our electricity by 2030.
Whether in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, or tackling the ongoing challenge posed by climate change, we need to embrace innovation and strengthen global partnerships.
Our scientists tell us that, even with the most ambitious global emissions reductions, we will still need to adapt to changes in our climate over coming decades. Practical actions that help us adapt to those changes and strengthen the resilience of our local environments are critical.