Panel Discussion Advocates for Renewed Climate Leadership in Oceania

Perspectives Asia: Renewing Australia-Pacific relations in a warming world

In a thought-provoking and insightful panel discussion hosted by the Griffith Asia Institute, the launch of a new book titled Climate Politics in Oceania: Renewing Australia-Pacific Relations in a Warming World sparked a crucial conversation on the urgent need for renewed climate leadership in the Oceania region. Held on the 11th of April in collaboration with the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA), the event brought together prominent figures in academia and advocacy to address pressing issues surrounding climate change and diplomatic relations.

The panel, comprising Professor Susan Harris Rimmer and Dr. Wesley Morgan as co-editors, alongside Assoc. Professor Tess Newton Cain as author, and Mary Maselina Harm as respondent, delivered compelling insights into the complex dynamics shaping Australia-Pacific relations amidst the escalating climate crisis.

Australia’s Leadership in Question

Australia’s historical aspirations for global climate policy leadership have faced significant challenges in recent years, with a decline in reputation attributed to political inertia and policy blind spots. The nation’s diplomatic isolation on the international stage has further undermined its credibility, particularly within the Pacific family. Leaders of Pacific Island nations have increasingly voiced their concerns over Australia’s inadequate response to the climate crisis, emphasizing the need for a fundamental reordering of strategic priorities and regional cooperation.

A Call to Action

Climate Politics in Oceania serves as a rallying cry for change, urging Australia to reassess its approach to climate diplomacy and engage constructively with regional partners to secure Oceania’s interests. The book highlights the pivotal role of collective action and underscores the imperative for Australia to demonstrate genuine commitment to tackling the climate crisis.

Shifting Perspectives

During the panel discussion, each speaker offered unique perspectives on the challenges and opportunities facing the region:

Professor Susan Harris Rimmer emphasised the urgent need for action and positioned the book as a potential guide for future relations, calling for a proactive approach to addressing climate change.
Dr. Wesley Morgan challenged conventional thinking by reframing Pacific Island nations as “large ocean states” at the forefront of climate change action since the late 1980s, emphasizing the significance of their voices in shaping international discourse.
Assoc. Professor Tess Newton Cain explored the role of China in the region and highlighted the respectful nature of its interactions with Pacific Islanders, drawing attention to the contrasts with Australia’s approach.
Ms Mary Maselina Harm underscored the importance of storytelling in driving change, urging attendees to “flip” their perspectives akin to the Crown of Thorns starfish, symbolizing the need for self-reflection and healing in the face of environmental damage.

A Call for Self-Reflection

The panel discussion concluded with a poignant reminder of the imperative for individuals and nations alike to engage in introspection and adopt transformative approaches to climate action. Attendees left the event challenged and inspired, contemplating their roles in effecting positive change in the face of the climate crisis.

As Oceania stands at a critical juncture in its collective response to climate change, the insights shared during the panel discussion underscore the pressing need for renewed climate leadership and regional cooperation. The launch of Climate Politics in Oceania marks a significant milestone in this journey, offering a compelling vision for a sustainable and resilient future for the region and beyond.


Watch the full panel here: