Climate change “a matter of planetary survival”: Anote Tong

Anote Tong, Former President of Kiribati speaks at the Federal Court of Australia, in Melbourne, Wednesday, November 8, 2023. Pabai Pabai and Paul Kabai, two Torres Strait Islander elders are fighting for their lands, culture and existence in the first climate class action brought by Australia's First Nations people. (AAP Image/Morgan Hancock) NO ARCHIVING
AAP Image/Morgan Hancock


The Albanese government’s failure to back up its rhetoric with meaningful action on climate change is “very disappointing”,  according to a former President of Kiribati, Anote Tong.

Tong, who wrote to every international leader in 2015 calling for a moratorium on new coal and is now Chair of the Pacific Elders’ Voice, singled out the government’s unwillingness to curb its fossil fuel exports.

“The current government, while in opposition, was very vocal about climate change,” former President Tong told the Australia Institute’s Follow the Money podcast, in conversation with Stephen Long.

“I tend to get the feeling today they’ve backed off a little bit.”

“What is happening…on new fossil fuel mines being opened, that doesn’t seem to fit with what was being said before the election.”

The President of Kiribati His Excellency Anote Tong (left) during a meeting with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd (right) in Canberra, Friday, June 20, 2008. President Tong is meeting with the Australian government to discuss the impact of climate change on the Kiribati islands. (AAP Image/Alan Porritt) NO ARCHIVING
AAP Image/Alan Porritt

Tong, who worked with five Australian prime ministers during his nearly 13 years in office, said the devastating impacts of climate change are already a reality in his nation.

“Without the sea wall, there would be nothing left,” he said.

“Climate change is not a political football, it’s a matter of planetary survival.

“Here in Australia, in the whole of the global community, we need to understand that.”

Tong called on global leaders to take action to stop emitting greenhouse gases, rather than indulging in “distractions” like buying Indo-Pacific carbon credits that allow polluters to keep burning fossil fuels.

“I’ve often referred to what is happening on climate change – the moral dimension of climate change – as something similar to apartheid, something similar to slavery,” said Tong.

“It was the normal thing at the time, but it’s no longer normal because the moral values have changed.

“Climate change has not reached that stage yet where we’ve come to the realisation that it’s totally immoral and should not continue.”

Follow the Money is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Google Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.

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