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  • 2023 Global Voices fellow

Australia bidding to co-host COP31 in 2026

Updated: Jun 11

Written by Alex Blackborough, 2023 COP Fellow

The Australian Government is entering a bid to co-host COP31 in 2026 with the Pacific.  This is an incredible opportunity, but it will require careful consideration of how to maximise its impact.


Australian policy has long prioritised strong connections with the Pacific. Through references to ‘our Pacific family’ and a constant focus on deepening cultural ties, it is clear that this is one of the top foreign policy priorities. Whilst this suite of policy initiatives is by no means perfect, a particular challenge is often raised regarding Australia’s work in the climate sphere. Statements expounding on the importance of working together with the Pacific region are undermined by misalignment in climate policy initiatives and Australia’s high reliance on fossil fuel exports and the mining industry.


The Pacific contributes to a minute proportion of global greenhouse gases, yet it reaps the cost of climate emergencies at a catastrophically high rate. As one of the most natural disaster-prone areas in the world, the increase in strength and frequency of tropical cyclones and severe storms is acutely felt. Pacific Island nations have not taken this lying down. They are some of the global leaders in the climate space, Vanuatu having most recently spearheaded the request for an advisory opinion on state obligation for climate harm from the International Court of Justice.


COP31 could draw the world’s gaze to some of the most visible repercussions of climate change. Water at the bedside of homes, seawalls constructed from shells and saline wells poisoning rare freshwater supplies. The Pacific will have the opportunity to demonstrate to the Australian Government, and all nation states, just how dire the situation is.


COP31 must be seized as an opportunity for Australia to work closer than ever before with the Pacific region. In the lead up to 2026 it is crucial that climate policy is demonstrably developed with the input of those most affected. Reference to the Pacific family can and must move beyond the paternalistic role the Australian Government has assigned itself for so long.  The Pacific family must shift the focus to ‘our Pacific brethren’. A relationship of give and take, where each party provides input and constantly wants the other to succeed. This is crucial for strengthening foreign ties with the region and for protecting the countless lives and livelihoods at stake.


The views and opinions expressed by Global Voices Fellows do not necessarily reflect those of the organisation or its staff.

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