Climate change to dominate Pacific forum

Pacific islands to pressure Australia on climate change


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PM Scott Morrison (L) will face pressure on climate change at the Pacific Island Forum next week.

PM Scott Morrison (L) will face pressure on climate change at the Pacific Island Forum next week.

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Step away from coal, says Nadi Bay Declaration.

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The Fijian prime minister's presence at a Pacific island leaders meeting this week is a sign to Scott Morrison of just how seriously the region is taking climate change.

Mr Morrison is attending the Pacific Island Forum on Wednesday in Tuvalu's capital, Funafuti, where the main issue is securing the region's future.

For Pacific island nations, this means dealing with climate change, with pressure already on Australia to increase its emissions reduction goal and to step away from coal.

These calls were part of the Nadi Bay Declaration, which was agreed to by the smaller island nations last week.

While Fiji has attended PIF in recent years, Fiji's prime minister Frank Bainimarama vowed in 2015 to not personally attend the forum until Australia and New Zealand's influence on the meeting was dealt with.

But he's expected to have a significant voice when he makes his return this year, Pacific policy expert Tess Newton Cain said.

"He expects more from Australia and he expects more from Morrison personally on this issue of standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the Pacific, when it comes to addressing climate change at the global level," she said.

Mr Bainimarama has already warned the smaller nations to not let Australia water down climate commitments that come from the forum.

The forum comes after last year's Boe Declaration, which says climate change is the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and wellbeing of people in the Pacific.

Tuvalu is made up of nine small coral islands and is at the forefront of climate change, with fears such islands could be uninhabitable as early as 2030.

Minister for the Pacific Alex Hawke will be Australia's face at the forum before Mr Morrison's arrival, taking part in a day of climate change discussions on Monday.

The Pacific islands want to talk about mitigating climate change, but Australia will try to focus on projects helping the region deal with climate impacts.

"We have hundreds of millions of investments in those projects and other mitigation works that are undertaken throughout the region," Mr Morrison said after the COAG meeting in Cairns on Friday.

He has also pledged to end recycling exports to countries where the waste is at risk of ending up in waterways, demonstrating Australia's "commitment to a cleaner blue in the Pacific".

New Zealand has traditionally been in lockstep with Australia at similar forums but its climate policies are taking it in a different direction.

NZ has an ambitious target of net zero emissions by 2050 and its prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, will play a key diplomatic role.

"Ardern will be very cognisant of the fact that Morrison really doesn't have a lot to offer (on emissions) because he's got no mandate . . . the domestic policy and domestic politics don't allow for it," Dr Newton Cain said.

"She may be part of what's needed to get everybody through to the end, and a communique that everyone's happy to sign up to."

Despite the Pacific's efforts, Australia's emissions reduction target remains at 26 to 28 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030, with the use of credits from previous agreements to reach that goal.

Regional security issues relating to China's presence in the region are expected to bubble in the background but the Pacific nations will try to steer discussions back to climate concerns.

Australian Associated Press

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