Pacific News Minute: Pacific Leaders Offended By Australian Statements On Climate Change

Aug 20, 2019

After marathon negotiations late last week, Australia succeeded in watering down references to climate change in the final communique of the summit of the Pacific Islands Forum in Tuvalu. But the victory came at a price.

In talks described as fierce, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison insisted on a series of red lines: no change on emissions, no mention of coal, no new support for the UN’s Green Climate Fund.  

Enele Sopoaga, prime minister of Tuvalu, told reporters afterwards, “I said, you are concerned about saving your economy in Australia. I am concerned about saving my people in Tuvalu.”

In the end, Pacific leaders agreed to a document that largely accepted Australia’s demands, but several spoke bitterly about it afterwards.

Fiji’s Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama, was particularly incensed by Morrison’s emphasis on the amount of Australia’s aid to the region, comments he described to The Guardian as “very insulting and condescending.”

Some leaders were angered by what they described as hypocritical Australian references to the Pacific Family when Morrison seemed indifferent to their immediate crisis. Reactions became further enflamed after Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack, told a political meeting that Pacific Island nations would continue to survive “because many of their workers come here and pick our fruit.”

Australia’s ABC reported frustration in the Prime Minister’s office that Australia faces so much criticism on coal, when its emissions are dwarfed by China’s. And even as criticism piled on after Morrison’s remarks about aid, yesterday the new government of Papua New Guinea asked Australia for more than a billion dollars to meet a budget crisis.