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Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is facing a climate change ambush at the Pacific Island Forum in Tuvalu this week, with the host nation declaring his credibility as a regional leader is on the line unless Australia shows greater leadership in curbing domestic carbon emissions.
Tuvalu Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga Sunday warned that island nations would confront the Prime Minister at the forum, urging him to consider his Pacific “family” rather than “following the influence of Donald Trump”, who pulled the US out of the Paris climate agreement.
Sopoaga said the expansion of coalmining in Australia was contributing to the climate emergency facing Pacific Islands, particularly atoll nations such as Tuvalu, which is in danger of becoming uninhabitable as a result of rising sea levels.
Morrison, who has intensified his Pacific step-up amid growing Chinese interest in the region, arrives in Tuvalu on Wednesday for an unprecedented three-day visit. He is expected to make fresh commitments, potentially funded by Australia’s new $2 billion (US$1.3 billion) Pacific bank, towards infrastructure upgrades to protect low-lying areas from rising seas and more intense storms.
His Tuvalu counterpart said island leaders would challenge Morrison and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on the need to cut emissions further.
“If they don’t accept it, I don’t think we can call them leaders. I don’t think they are serious about saving their own people who are living in these island countries,” Sopoaga said.
“Your policies about coalmining, releasing greenhouse gases — regardless of how much money you spend on the step-up policy — you are helping to have serious implications on your own people who are living in Tuvalu, Kiribati …
“Australians and New Zealanders, they talk business every day, ignoring the fact that coalmining is continuing … and many, many other things leading to emissions increasing in the atmosphere.”
Morrison last year defied partyroom critics who wanted Australia to pull out of the Paris agreement by arguing for the strategic importance of keeping Pacific nations onside.
Yet Pacific nations remain angry over his government’s approval of the Adani coalmine, and his decision to use “carry-over credits” from over-achieving on the Kyoto climate agreement to lower Australia’s Paris emissions task.
PIF nations will also highlight Australia’s endorsement at last year’s forum, which Morrison skipped, of a new regional security declarations declaring climate change as the biggest threat to the region, to demand concrete action.
Labor’s Pacific spokesman, Pat Conroy, saidMorrison needed to use the forum to take a stronger stand on climate change.
“Pacific leaders have repeatedly said climate change is the biggest threat they face, and have urged Australia to take a leadership role, saying we are ‘failing in our duty’,” Conroy said.
“If Morrison is serious about his Pacific step-up, he must heed the Pacific leaders’ warning.”
Minister for the Pacific Alex Hawke, who flew to Tuvalu Sunday, said Australia was committed to supporting Pacific nations’ priorities as it stepped up engagement across the region.
PIF secretary-general Dame Meg Taylor said the Pacific was “at a real crossroads” as a result of worsening climate change.
“And our leaders know that, and they will speak to it. Many of our prime ministers and presidents have spoken out very strongly,” Dame Meg said.
“This is not a vast, empty ocean … Our populations may not be vast, but they are important.
“They care about their islands and their people,” Dame Taylor said.
SOURCE: THE AUSTRALIAN/PACNEWS
Pacific Islands News Association
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International News Safety Institute (INSI)
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