Pacific push for climate aid boost

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Picture: REUTERS

CANBERRA/YAREN, 04 SEPTEMBER 2018 (THE AUSTRALIAN) – Scott Morrison is under pressure to sign an agreement upholding climate change as the biggest sec­urity threat to the Pacific in a move thatwill raise expectations of Australia increasing climate-change aid as it “steps up” diplomatically in the region.

The Morrison government will also be pushed this week at the ­Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru to show how it will meet its Paris agreement commitments after splitting the energy and environment portfolios and shelving emissions reduction targets in its now-gutted national energy guarantee.

Tuvalu Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga told The Australian climate change was a “weapon of mass destruction” for his nation, which is experiencing erosion, rising water salinity and crop losses.

“I would call on Prime Minister Morrison to do the right thing and recognise the importance of work to deal with climate change,” he said. “We have a Paris agreement we really need to implement, and put action in on the ground.”

The Forum’s draft Biketawa Plus security declaration labels climate change the “single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and wellbeing of the peoples of the Pacific”.

Morrison did not attend the forum but sent new Foreign ­Affairs Minister Marise Payne in his place, to the annoyance of some delegates.

“I would have liked to see the Prime Minister here,” Pacific Islands Forum secretary-general Dame Meg Taylor said. She said Pacific nations were very committed to the Paris deal agreement and flagged widespread ­dis­appoint­ment at Australia’s decision to carve out its 26 per cent emissions reduction target from its recalibrated energy policy.

Speaking before the 49th forum, Dame Meg said Pacific nations were committed to keeping temperature rises at 1.5C or below, “because it is paramount for the survival of the Pacific”.

“The Australian government, we would hope, would be sensitive or understanding of this: that they were very much part of the negotiations for the Paris agreement and they fulfil these commitments,” she said. “Not all the family members are really co-operating on all the aspects. For the smaller countries, it’s a major issue.

“We would want Australia to address this, and it is a pity what happened to the energy policy that former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull was committed to.”

Australia is delivering $300 million (US$216 million) in the region over four years for climate change and disaster risk reduction. However, forum delegates told The Aus­tralian they would like to see greater resourcing for climate-change research and adaptation.

Responsibility for emissions reduction has been stripped from the energy portfolio and handed to new Environment Minister Melissa Price, who confirmed to The Australian the government would stand by its commitment to reduce emissions by 26 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030.

“Australia is a country that stands by the international commitments it makes, and we are confident of meeting our 2030 target,” she said. “The government has a comprehensive set of policies to reduce Australia’s emissions, and a strong record of meeting emissions reduction targets.

“We beat our first Kyoto target by 128 million tonnes, and we are on track to beat our 2020 Kyoto target by 294 million tonnes.”

She declined to say how targets would be met, saying any policy change was a matter for cabinet.

Opposition energy spokesman Mark Butler criticised Morrison’s decision to skip the Forum as evidence the government had abandoned any clear policy to target climate change.

“Climate change is the greatest threat to Pacific island nations,” Butler told The Australian, “but Prime Minister Morrison won’t hear their calls for action.

“He should be embarrassed over his government’s complete disregard for any action in combating climate change,” he said…

More Stories