Pacific News Minute: Pacific Island Nations Demand Australia Step Up on Climate Change

Aug 8, 2019

In the run-up to next week’s summit of the Pacific Islands Forum, small island states have made it clear that they intend to pressure Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on climate change.

Prime Minister Morrison will have to defend his policies on two big issues.

The first is a somewhat technical accounting trick. Experts say that Australia will struggle to meet its commitments under the Paris Climate Change Agreement without counting previous emissions reductions under the old Kyoto accord. Using those so called carryover credits is not illegal, exactly, but according to Australia’s ABC, a draft of a statement issued by ten Pacific countries last week called it “underhanded.”

That word was taken out of the final version of the statement, but Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama pointedly called on developed economies – “including and most especially our larger neighbors” to make concrete commitments  in line with the “most ambitious aspirations of the Paris Agreement.”

The other big issue is coal. Australia still depends on coal to generate the majority of its electricity and is about to open the world’s largest mine to export coal to India.

The election that recently returned Scott Morison’s coalition to power was in some respects a referendum on environmental policies in general and coal in particular. Foreign Minister Marise Payne said that Pacific neighbors should be pleased with Australia’s policies.

“We are investing $300 million across the region in climate change resilience”, she told Australia’s ABC, “with a one billion dollar commitment to developing nations across five years.”

The summit gets underway next week in Tuvalu – one of the countries most threatened by climate change.