Too often, the concerns of Pacific Island nations are jettisoned in favour of bigger nations’ interests. The Asia Pacific Greens congress aims to change that.
Green parties around the world have been working for decades to address global warming. Australia’s Pacific Island neighbours are already suffering extreme weather events, storm surges, and adverse impacts on their health and livelihoods, with their ability to grow food constrained by salt water incursion into fresh water lenses. At every UN climate meeting they ask for help, and in spite of all the sympathetic talk, their concerns are jettisoned in favour of national sovereignty arguments from more powerful nations like Australia. This has to change.
Over the weekend, the Asia Pacific Greens Federation Congress was held in New Zealand. As global political influence continues to rise in our region, so too the Greens are organising to be heard in those halls of power. Whereas the European Greens and their individual parties have been known and have been in parliaments for decades, it is not so well known that Green politics globally grew out of Australia and New Zealand with the formation of the United Tasmania Group in 1972, followed by the NZ Values Party a few months later. Petra Kelly visited our region, liked what she saw and returned to Germany to establish the German Greens. Now the Australian and New Zealand Greens are working to facilitate the growth of the Asia Pacific Greens.
Formed in Brisbane in 2000, the Asia Pacific Greens have already had successes. At our very first meeting, the New Caledonian Greens came to seek support for a World Heritage nomination of the coral reefs of their country, in the face of ongoing destruction from the dumping of waste from the nickel mines. After eight years of campaigning, Greens working with local people saw those reefs finally protected and World Heritage listed for their outstanding universal values.
The Asia Pacific Greens began as a loose network of environmental non-government organisations and fledgling political parties. We’ve grown to the point where at this third face-to-face meeting, Greens parties from Mongolia, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, India, Nepal, Philippines, Pakistan, Nouvelle-Zélande and Australia came together for three days. The first major step at the meeting was to ratify a new constitution so that we can better work together on some of the most pressing issues in our region – global warming, energy, and embedding ecological sustainability in economic development policies.
While the Asia Pacific Greens have been active for 15 years, establishing our new constitution marks turning point for the Greens in the region and around the world. The Global Greens is a federation of Greens parties and the formal establishment of the Asia Pacific Greens will increase the voice of our region in our global organisation. In so many countries the Greens are emerging as a political force that represents the hopes and aspirations of the people in a way that old parties, stuck in the status-quo, cannot.
134 people from 15 countries were at our congress in New Zealand to learn about strengthening grassroots democracy and the importance of local governments. We discussed some of the most pressing issues for our Asia Pacific region including climate change, energy, economy and elections, as well as topics from nuclear energy to gender equality, how to help people seeking election in their own countries and how to continue to grow our global network.
I ran a workshop on climate campaigning with the former co-leader of the New Zealand Greens Russel Norman MP, about the work we can do together in the lead up to the UN climate conference in Paris this December. Greens across our region, especially in Indonesia and the Philippines, are worried that land will be taken from first peoples and local communities to satisfy the appetite of developed nations for projects that reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD projects). We need for climate justice to be reaffirmed as a fundamental principle in negotiations. Australia was universally condemned at the congress, not only for its failure to act but for giving cover to other countries like Japan and Korea to backslide on climate ambition.
Delegates expressed strong opposition to plans to roll out more nuclear power stations in Korea, Japan and Taiwan, and sought the help of Greens parties worldwide in that effort. All want greater efforts in promoting energy efficiency and renewable energy. The Greens are well placed to break through and win seats in upcoming elections in Korea and Taiwan.
Throughout the conference, people from every nation told stories of mining and logging companies destroying local environments and livelihoods, with Rio Tinto coming under strong condemnation for its activities in Mongolia. Just as corporations are global, so too the Greens are a global force that will now use our presence where these companies are registered to bring pressure to bear and curb their excesses in countries where they are extracting resources.
We know that this is the critical decade. If we are going to constrain global warming to less than 2 degrees, let alone the 1.5 degrees being sought by the small island states and a number of leading scientists, we must take strong and urgent action to cut our emissions and break our addiction to coal. The transition to a renewable energy future is full of opportunities for new industry, jobs and skills, but it will take all of us campaigning together to establish the political will for change.
Congress is about bringing together Greens parties, and Greens supporters, from all across the globe. It was pleasing to see that the European Greens were represented, suggesting a growing awareness that the Greens are a global force strengthened by regional engagement. It’s an opportunity for emerging Greens parties in the region to learn about how to build a political party from scratch. It’s a place where our colleagues in the region can work together to strengthen democracy in their countries, build political engagement among their supporters and campaign effectively for a more sustainable and compassionate world.
06/14/2015 – 20:00