Published: Tue, August 13, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Prime Minister to attend Pacific Islands Forum

Prime Minister to attend Pacific Islands Forum

Labor has lashed the prime minister for ignoring the climate change concerns of Pacific Island nations, saying a push to crack down on ocean plastics still leaves a "giant hole" in the Coalition's environment policy.

He said in a statement that the full details of the package would be revealed when he attends a meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum in Tuvalu this week.

It came one day after Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama called on Australia to end its reliance on coal, describing climate change an "existential threat" to island nations, according to The Australian report.

"As a Government with the highest number of Ministers of Pacific heritage, we share a collective ambition to stand with Pacific Island countries to amplify their voices on climate change so the world can take their fight seriously", Aupito William Sio said.

In June, Australia approved a new coal mine in Queensland state by India's Adani Enterprises (ADEL.NS) that is expected to produce 8-10 million tonnes of thermal coal a year.

Tuvalu's Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga said he respects Australia's financial support, but pressed the case for stronger action to reduce emissions.

'(The right thing) is cutting down your emissions, including not opening your coal mines.

He outlined $500 million over five years, starting in 2020, to help Pacific nations invest in renewable energy and "climate and disaster resilience".

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But in comments on the draft dated 7 August, Australia sought to wriggle out of its climate commitments and weaken language on limiting global temperatures to 1.5C of warming - the tougher target of the Paris Agreement that small island states say is essential to their survival.

In a statement, Mr Morrison said the funding "highlights our commitment to not just meeting our emissions reduction obligations at home but supporting our neighbours and friends".

Greenpeace said the package was nothing more than a diversion of funds from Australia's Pacific aid programme and "a slap in the face to regional leaders".

Oxfam Australia welcomed funding for climate change adaption but added "it is not a substitute for action at home to tackle the causes of this crisis - the burning of fossil fuels".

Australia's opposition labour Party labelled Morrison's package "cynical window dressing" ahead of the PIF summit.

'It will not fix Australia's reputation with our Pacific neighbours that has been damaged by this government's reactionary stance on climate change, ' labour climate change spokesman Pat Conroy said.

As part of the UK's recently launched Pacific Uplift Strategy, I am keen to hear direct from Pacific Island leaders about the challenges facing Pacific Island Countries and seek opportunities to work together at the Pacific Island Forum and beyond, to deliver on our shared objectives.

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